Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban

Spurrier lobs a coupla barbs Saban’s, UGA’s way

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If you’re looking for a solid indicator of how Steve Spurrier feels about his ball team’s prospects for the upcoming season, just listen to the Ol’ Ball Coach talk.  Specifically, listen to how the South Carolina head coach talks about — or take jabs at — the opposition.

Using that theory, and based on one interview, Spurrier is feeling pretty damn frisky about the 2012 edition of his Gamecocks.

In a wide-ranging talk with ESPN.com SEC blogger Chris Low, the OBC was asked about his counterpart at defending national champion Alabama and a change in schedule involving Georgia.  Like a middle schooler with a pair of pigtails dangling in front of him, Spurrier simply couldn’t resist giving a little tug to both.

First, when asked about his thoughts on Nick Saban and the job he’s done at Alabama:

““He’s got a nice little gig going, a little bit like Calipari. He tells guys, ‘Hey, three years from now, you’re going to be a first-round pick and go.’ If he wants to be the greatest coach or one of the greatest coaches in college football, to me, he has to go somewhere besides Alabama and win, because they’ve always won there at Alabama.” 

That’s right, Spurrier tweaked Saban by comparing him to Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, who’s roundly criticized on most fronts for bringing in five-star recruits as one-and-done’s before they shuffle off to the NBA.  Three Tide players — Trent RichardsonDont’a Hightower and Dre Kirkpatrickleft school early for April’s NFL draft.  The Gamecocks?  Spurrier had two make the early leap — Alshon Jeffery and Stephon Gilmore.

Of course, picking that particular nit wouldn’t much faze Spurrier — who may or may not have been shirtless for the interview — or impact his decision to mildly tweak Saban with a Calipari comparison.

As if that weren’t enough, Spurrier in that three-sentence quote said, in essence, that just about anybody could win in Tuscaloosa, conveniently forgetting the likes of the two Mikes — Shula and DuBose — as the prime recent arguments against his thesis.

And, believe it or not, that wasn’t even the biggest tweak of the conversation.  Rather, Spurrier saved that for long-time rival Georgia when asked about the UGA-USC game being moved to later on in the season from its normal slot the second weekend:

“I don’t know. I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”

Somewhere, Stephen Garcia is having himself a good chuckle.  And a lukewarm PBR.

Someone else having a good chuckle?  The man in charge of the program the barb was directed at.

“How bout that. I think that’s funny. That sounds like Steve,” said an apparently amused UGA head coach Mark Richt, who sports a 4-3 mark against the Bulldogs’ SEC East rival since Spurrier became head coach.

Love him, hate him or utterly despise him, the game of college football’s a better one when the OBC is involved — and yanking chains.  Somewhat related to that topic, Spurrier also addressed how long he intends to stay on the sidelines with visor in the fully-cocked position.  As usual, the 66-year-old coach (he’ll turn 67 April 20th) wouldn’t pin himself down to a precise timeline for stepping away, although he did hint to a high school recruit that he’ll be around for a few more years.

““I used to think 60 [when he would retire]. When I was 55, I’d say four or five more years. When I got to 60, I’d say four or five more. And when I got to 65, I started saying three or four more. I’ll tell you what. We had a good-looking quarterback come through on Junior Day, and I wrote him a letter and said, ‘If you come here, you might extend my coaching career two or three years.’ ”

Here’s to hoping that career extension comes with or without landing the unnamed QB prospect.

Josh Sweat should be good to go for FSU vs. UNC

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 24: Josh Sweat #9 of the Florida State Seminoles runs with a first half interception against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Derwin James is still at least a couple of weeks or so away from returning from his injury, but Florida State will likely get a talented defensive player back on the field this weekend anyway.

When asked Thursday if defensive end Josh Sweat will be available for the North Carolina game this weekend, Jimbo Fisher responded, “oh yeah.” Sweat sustained a meniscus injury in practice leading up to the Louisville game in Week 3 and, after it limited him in that contest, underwent surgery to repair the damage shortly thereafter.

At the time, the prognosis for a return was 1-2 weeks. Sweat missed the win over USF last weekend, but could see the field this weekend as he’s practiced the past couple of days.

“Healing really well, looks great” Fisher said in quotes distributed by the team. “We’ll see [Friday] morning, but [the knee] looks great.”

Sweat started nine of 13 games as a true freshman last season, and started the first two games in 2016 before the knee issue surfaced.

Greg Ward Jr., to Heisman voters: ‘Psssttt, I’m still here, don’t forget’

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1) runs past Connecticut defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi, left, en route to a 30-yard touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Deservedly so, most of the Heisman focus these first four-plus weeks of the 2016 season has been squarely on Lamar Jackson and the stunningly phenomenal season the Louisville quarterback is putting together. There are others, though, who merit mention.

Case in point? Greg Ward Jr.

In No. 6 Houston’s Thursday night 42-14 romp over UConn, the quarterback completed just over 84 percent of his passes for 389 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 65 yards and two scores for good measure. The win was the Cougars’ eighth in a row, with the last loss coming Nov. 21 of last year to… these very same Huskies.

On at least one occasion in avenging the loss, though, Ward Jr.’s sterling completion percentage got a little help from one of his receiving friends.

The latest virtuoso performance, which included his third 300-yard passing game of the season, pushed Ward Jr. to 1,503 yards of offense (1,325 passing, 178 rushing) and 13 total touchdowns (eight passing, five rushing) in four games while also battling a lingering shoulder issue. For comparison’s sake, and you know we’re not alone in doing so, Jackson will enter Week 5 with a statistical ledger that’s straight from a teenager’s video game: 1,856 yards of total offense and a ridiculous 25 total touchdowns in his four games.

While it’s still quite a ways down the road, Ward’s Cougars and Jackson’s Cardinals will square off in what’s shaping up to be a monumental mid-November Thursday night game that could go a long way in determining not only the Heisman race, but helping to shape the playoff picture as well.  In between, voters, don’t forget about the kid from Houston.

Report: Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel undergoes surgery, out as long as a month

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:  Sojourn Shelton #8 of the Wisconsin Badgers, Vince Biegel #47 of the Wisconsin Badgers, T.J. Edwards #53 of the Wisconsin Badgers react to a interception during the second half of a game against the USC Trojans in the National University Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Just in time for their toughest stretch of the season, No. 8 Wisconsin may be without one of the team’s most important defensive players.

Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel is set to miss the next several weeks after undergoing surgery to insert a screw in his cracked foot.

“He’s been playing on it for the last couple weeks, and it was bothering him a little bit,” Biegel’s father Rocky told ESPN. “He had X-rays last night and confirmed it was cracked. He either plays on it, and then if he breaks it, then he’s going to be out for eight weeks. Either way, he’s got to have surgery on it. So he can keep playing until it breaks or try to go through the season with it and try to fix it. At any time, he could break it all the way through. It was just a crack and they’re just putting a screw in it. It’s a very, very minor crack.”

No matter how minor it is, losing Biegel for as long as a month is a huge blow to a defense that has been among the best in the country this season. Wisconsin does have a bye week after traveling to No. 4 Michigan on Saturday but also have to play No. 2 Ohio State and division rivals Iowa and Nebraska to close out October.

Biegel has nine tackles on the year and a sack but is among the most experienced players on the team having played in 46 games at Wisconsin, including 32 starts. Redshirt freshman Zack Baun is expected to take his place.

If there is one bright spot for head coach Paul Chryst and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox however, it’s that the Badgers’ linebacking corp is one of the best in the country. Still, as good as Jack Cichy, T.J. Edwards and T.J. Watt have been this year, they’ll have to step up their games with an imposing schedule coming up.

Houston missing four starters for AAC matchup against UConn

SAN MARCOS, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Duke Catalon #2 of the Houston Cougars runs against Brandon McDowell #6 of the Texas State Bobcats at Bobcat Stadium on September 24, 2016 in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Houston is looking to avenge their only loss of the 2015 season on Thursday night against Connecticut but the Cougars will have to do so a little short-handed.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the team is down a whopping four starters and a key backup against the Huskies: starting linebackers Tyus Bowser (head injury) and Matthew Adams (coaches’ decision), running back Duke Catalon (head injury), cornerback Brandon Wilson (lower leg) plus backup tight end Alex Leslie (ankle injury).

Catalon has already missed a game this season and is arguably the biggest loss for the team as that will force them to rely on quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (who missed last year’s game) even more against UConn. The transfer from Texas is averaging 4.7 yards a carry on the year and had a big game against Oklahoma in the opener.

Coach Tom Herman and the sixth-ranked Cougars still should be able handle their business at home against a conference foe but the mounting injuries this early in the season are starting to get a little concerning if you’re a Houston fan.