Random notes for Thanksgiving:
▪ Saturday’s Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn has a local twist. A Richmond, Ky., twist.
As Joseph Goodman of AL.com reports, Alabama running back Damien Harris and Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham were teammates on the same Richmond Parks and Recreation 7- and 8-year-old football team.
Of course, Harris went on to make his name as a star running back at Madison Southern High School. Considered one of the best prep running backs in the nation, he signed with Alabama, where he rushed for 1,040 yards last season and has 855 yards this year, averaging 8.2 yards a carry.
Stidham, born in Corbin, began his peewee football career in Richmond before his family moved to Texas. At Stephenville, Texas, Stidham developed into one of the nation’s best quarterback prospects. He signed with Baylor before transferring to Auburn, where he has thrown for 2,445 yards and 16 touchdowns, with just four interceptions.
Harris and Stidham reconnected at The Opening, a Nike recruiting event in Oregon. They have remained in touch during college, and now they will be on opposite sidelines Saturday.
▪ This being Thanksgiving, let us give thanks for Joey Votto, who came oh so close to winning his second National League Most Valuable Player award only to lose by the thinnest of margins to the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton. In the Reds’ rebuilding process, which has tried fans’ patience, Votto has been phenomenal to watch.
▪ SEC basketball can’t help but feel cheated by the news that Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing back surgery. Rated as the No. 1 freshman prospect and considered the probable top pick in next year’s NBA Draft, Porter played all of two minutes and seven seconds this year for Mizzou.
▪ As for healthy freshmen, Duke’s Marvin Bagley is off to a fast start. Through five games, the 6-foot-11 forward is averaging 19.2 points and 9.0 rebounds in 26.4 minutes a game. Bagley is shooting 62.1 percent from the field.
▪ You can say the same about Alabama freshman Collin Sexton. Through three games, the 6-2 guard is averaging 25.3 points in 28.3 minutes a game. Sexton scored 29 points Tuesday night as the Crimson Tide survived a scare from underrated Texas-Arlington, 77-76.
▪ If I’m Chip Kelly, I’d pick the head coaching opening at Florida over UCLA. Reason 1: There are too many other things to do in Los Angeles besides watch UCLA football. Reason 2: There’s no reason why Florida should not always be good or great in football.
▪ If, as has been reported, Texas A&M fires Kevin Sumlin on Sunday, the SEC could have as many as five new coaches next season. Florida and Tennessee are already searching. Ole Miss currently has an interim coach. And Bret Bielema is on very thin ice at Arkansas after AD Jeff Long was fired.
▪ Speaking of Arkansas, the Razorbacks are supposedly going to make a major run at Auburn head coach and former Arkansas high school coach Gus Malzahn.
▪ Despite the Grumors, I can’t see Jon Gruden giving up his easy-peasy “Monday Night Football” gig to be the head coach at Tennessee. “Rocky Top” or no “Rocky Top.”
▪ I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised to see Louisville as a 10-point favorite at Kentucky on Saturday.
▪ Believe it or not, if the Bengals beat the Browns on Sunday and the Steelers a week from Monday — both games are at Paul Brown Stadium — Cincinnati would be 6-6 and right back in the thick of the wild-card race in the mediocre AFC.
▪ You can certainly make the argument that he has been underused, but C.J. Conrad’s injury will be felt these final two games. The Kentucky tight end presented a threat opposing defenses schemed to stop. With Conrad lost for the season to a foot injury, defenses can turn more of their attention to slowing Benny Snell.