Big Blue Links for Monday:
▪ Ex-UK star Randall Cobb had a huge Wild Card playoff Sunday. The Green Bay Packers wide receiver caught three touchdown passes, including a Hail Mary pass from Aaron Rodgers on the final play of the first half. The Packers beat the New York Giants 31-13 to advance to next Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff at Dallas.
▪ According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Rodgers’ Hail Mary throw to Cobb sent Twitter into a frenzy. It was amazing that Cobb found a way to get deeper than the deepest in the back of the end zone on the play that put Green Bay up 14-6 at halftime. Cobb ended up with five catches for 116 yards.
▪ Another ex-UK star, Bud Dupree, put a savage hit on Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 30-12 win in an AFC Wild Card playoff game on Sunday. Moore said he had no hard feelings about the hit. The Steelers advanced to next weekend’s divisional round, where John Calipari’s favorite NFL team travels to Kansas City to play the Chiefs.
▪ My column for Monday says that Arkansas’ Jaylen Barford did Kentucky a favor on Saturday night. Unable to match the Cats’ skill level, more opponents are likely to try to use their muscle to rattle John Calipari’s young team. Arkansas didn’t slow the pace, but the Razorbacks did get physical.
▪ Derek Willis regained his shooting rhythm on Saturday night, scoring 15 points in UK’s 97-71 rout of the Razorbacks. The senior has been putting in extra time at the Joe Craft Center working on his stroke. According to Fletcher Page of the C-J, Willis picks five spots on the floor and gets down to business.
▪ The Kentucky women dropped to 10-6 overall and 1-2 in the SEC with a 77-68 loss to visiting Texas A&M on Sunday. Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator each scored 20 points, but it wasn’t enough to turn back the Aggiees. Curtyce Knox scored 26 points for Texas A&M.
▪ The ACC says it was inconclusive whether Grayson Allen returned quickly to his tripping ways on Saturday night against Boston College. Trying to fight through a screen, Allen appeared to swing his leg back at the BC player. Of course, the Duke guard just sat out a one-game suspension after trying to trip a player for the third time in two years.
▪ Monday night brings us the College Football Playoff title game between Alabama and Clemson. Pat Forde of Yahoo writes that Nick Saban’s big gamble -- having Steve Sarkisian call plays instead of the now deposed Lane Kiffin -- will either cement his legacy or diminish it. A Tide triumph and Saban ties Bear Bryant with six national titles.
▪ Mark Bradley of the AJC thinks Bama will be better with Sarkisian, not Kiffin, handling the play sheet. Alabama’s offense certainly sputtered in last week’s 24-7 win over Washington in the Peach Bowl. An interception return for a touchdown by the Tide defense sparked the victory.
▪ Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press writes that Monday night will show that college football just means more to Southerners. It’s the first time we’ve had a rematch in the national championship game since the BCS first started and was replaced by the College Football Playoff.
▪ In a Big 10 game between a pair of ranked teams, Purdue handled Wisconsin, 66-55, on Sunday. Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for his eighth consecutive double-double and 14th of the season. That leads the nation.
▪ Having to wait an extra day to play North Carolina State didn’t hurt North Carolina. The Tar Heels blew out the Wolfpack, 107-56. Roy Williams’ team led 56-23 at the half. Justin Jackson led the way with 21 points for the Heels. Freshman Tony Bradley had 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
▪ Lonzo Ball scored 21 points as UCLA cruised to an 89-75 win over Stanford on Sunday night. Fans are starting to show up at Pauley Pavilion. The game marked UCLA’s third home sellout of the season. And at 16-1, Steve Alford’s club has now passed the number of victories it earned in last year’s disappointing season.
▪ Mississippi State’s women picked up their first-ever win at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, beating Tennessee 74-64. Under head coach Vic Schaefer, MSU has built great depth, as evidenced in the second quarter, when backups turned a four-point deficit into a seven-point lead at the half.
▪ Former Arizona State guard Sam Cunliffe has transferred to Kansas. You may remember Cunliffe played for the Sun Devils in ASU’s loss to Kentucky in the Bahamas earlier this season. Shortly thereafter, Cunliffe decided to leave Bobby Hurley’s team. He will be eligible in the second semester of next season for the Jayhawks.