Sidelines with John Clay

Notes: Kentucky-Mississippi State will answer questions; Jimbo Fisher vs. Saban

What impresses Matt House about the Mississippi State offense?

After practice on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, Kentucky football defensive coordinator talked about Mississippi State’s offense going into Saturday’s game at Kroger Field. Led by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, State is eighth nationally in total yards.
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After practice on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, Kentucky football defensive coordinator talked about Mississippi State’s offense going into Saturday’s game at Kroger Field. Led by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, State is eighth nationally in total yards.

Thursday notebook:

Had Tyler Horka of the Clarion-Ledger on my podcast to give a scouting report on Mississippi State in advance of Saturday’s game against Kentucky. Here, Tyler poses three questions that need to be answered by the Bulldogs when they visit Kroger Field.

Yes, Mississippi State is physical.

You’ve read and heard a lot this week about Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Now you can listen to him talking about the UK game.

My random notes column leads with new MSU coach Joe Moorhead, the former Penn State offensive coordinator who goes by @BallCoachJoeMo on Twitter. When Moorhead met his new team, he asked the players if they knew their ring sizes.

Kentucky is just 53rd in the latest Sagarin college football computer rankings.

Tip-off times and TV assignments have been set for all Kentucky 2018-19 basketball games with the exception of the Louisville game on Dec. 29. Hard to believe that the Nov. 6 opener against Duke is about six weeks away.

As Jerry Tipton reports, ESPN has released a video on former UK basketball coach Adolph Rupp and the issues of racism and integration in basketball. Actress Julianne Moore narrates the video.

Louisville (2-1) still doesn’t have an answer to how it will replace Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Bobby Petrino is switching from Jawon Pass to Malik Cunningham at quarterback when the Cards visit Virginia on Saturday.

Eastern Kentucky (1-2) plays host to Southeast Missouri on Saturday. The Naples Daily News has a story on EKU tight end Dan Paul, who has caught two touchdown passes for the Colonels this season.

When No. 22-ranked Texas A&M plays at top-ranked Alabama on Saturday, it will be the second time that mentor (Bama’s Nick Saban) and pupil (A&M’s Jimbo Fisher) have played in two seasons. Fisher was on Saban’s staff at LSU. And when Fisher was head coach at Florida State, the Seminoles lost to Alabama 24-7 in the 2017 opener.

It hasn’t taken long for Fisher to put his offensive imprint on the Aggies. Texas A&M rolled up 758 total yards in its 59-7 drubbing of Northwestern State in the opener. It gained 501 yards on then second-ranked Clemson in a 28-26 loss to the Tigers. And Clemson’s defense is considered one of the two or three best in the nation. A&M gained 530 yards last week in its 48-10 romp over UL-Monroe.

Alabama has 60 plays of 10-or-more yards this season, good enough for ninth in the nation. The Tide has scored 51, 57 and 62 points in its first three games.

So the Texas A&M defense knows it has its hands full. “They’ve opened it up more,” Fisher said. “They are throwing more drop-back (passes). There’s a larger volume of that right now in what they do. Now everybody has it on third down, but in first and second down, you’re seeing more volume of a true drop-back passing game than they did before, no doubt.”

Yes, there’s bad blood between Notre Dame and . . . Vanderbilt. After Notre Dame’s 22-17 win over visiting Vandy last Saturday, Irish Coach Brian Kelly accused the Commodores of “bad football” for cut-blocking Notre Dame players on offense. Vandy Coach Derek Mason responded Wednesday by saying, “Brian Kelly can take those comments and keep moving. If he has something personal with me, he can come see me.”

Vanderbilt plays host to South Carolina on Saturday. Josh Kendall of The State writes that the Gamecocks’ last trip to Nashville jump-started the Will Muschamp era at South Carolina. The Gamecocks were coming off a 3-9 season when they visited Vanderbilt Stadium in 2016.

Remember when Tennessee-Florida football was a big deal? Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun hopes it will be that way again. “Maybe this rivalry has slipped so much we need a trophy for the winner, maybe a moonshine jug filled with margaritas. Or maybe just a participation ribbon,” he writes.

Tennessee basketball received a big commitment Wednesday from five-star guard Josiah James. The 6-foot-6 James is ranked as the 14th best player in the class of 2019 by 247Sports. This comes after the school handed Rick Barnes a significant contract extension.

As Brandon Sudge writes for the Macon Telegraph, Saturday’s Georgia-Missouri game presents an interesting dynamic for Vince Dooley’s family. Vince was the longtime coach and then AD at Georgia. His son, Derek, is now the offensive coordinator at Missouri. Of course, the same scenario was in place when Derek was the head coach at Tennessee from 2010-2012.

Derek Dooley’s hire raised eyebrows in Columbia, but Mizzou’s offense has not missed a beat. The Tigers have gained 553, 601 and 608 yards in their first three games. Quarterback Drew Lock has thrown for 11 touchdowns, with just one interception.

“Mizzou QB Drew Lock is getting much better protection this year and he’s trusting it,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay tweeted Wednesday. “That’s leading to more consistent footwork and better decisions.”

Missouri’s defense wants to bounce back after giving up 614 yards to Purdue last week. That might be a tough ask against the second-ranked Bulldogs.

After Arkansas’ embarrassing drubbing by North Texas last week, the Razorbacks now must visit Auburn, which is no doubt smarting from last week’s 22-21 loss to LSU.

SEC football games Saturday



  • 12:00 - Georgia at Missouri (ESPN)

  • 12:00 - Kent State at Ole Miss (SEC)

  • 3:30 - Texas A&M at Alabama (CBS)

  • 4:00 - South Carolina at Vanderbilt (SEC)

  • 7:00 - Louisiana Tech at LSU (ESPNU)

  • 7:00 - Mississippi State at Kentucky (ESPN2)

  • 7:00 - Florida at Tennessee (ESPN)

  • 7:30 - Arkansas at Auburn (SEC)

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