Gators in control of SEC East after rout of Gamecocks

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Officially, The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party next weekend will hold the highest stakes the annual rivalry game has seen in years.  Provided Georgia can hold off hapless Kentucky, of course.

And, if there was any lingering doubt, Will Muschamp‘s Florida Gators are the real deal.

The latest evidence the No. 3 team in the country is in the national title race for the season-long haul came in The Swamp Saturday afternoon.  Facing a No.9 South Carolina Gamecocks squad still licking its collective wounds from the first lost of the season last weekend, the Gators deepened the open Gamecocks’ gash with a 44-11 thumping that was the dictionary-definition of a beatdown.

UF’s defense held USC to under 100 yards of total offense through the first three quarters, allowing just three field goals to go along with a blocked point after that wasn’t of its doing.

The offense “struggled” — UF scored 21 points on just 29 yards of first-half offense — but was deadly efficient where it counted — on the scoreboard.  And there was no more of a microcosm of that deadly efficiency than Jeff Driskel.  The Gators’ starting quarterback completed just 10 passes, but four of them went for touchdowns.

The Gators didn’t have 100-plus yards passing, didn’t rush for more than 1oo yards… and it didn’t matter thanks to a defense that caused the Gamecocks’ offense to melt play after play, series after series, holding USC to 1.4 yards per carry and forcing three turnovers.

With the loss, the Gamecocks essentially removed themselves from the SEC East, dropping to 4-2 in conference play with just two games remaining and all but eliminating any chance of an appearance in the SEC title game.  The Gators, on the other hand, improved to 6-0 and are firmly entrenched in the divisional driver’s seat.

With a win over Georgia next weekend, the Gators will clinch the SEC East regardless of what happens in their conference finale against Missouri the following weekend.  It would mark UF’s first divisional title since 2009.

However, if the Bulldogs were to pull off the neutral-site upset, UGA would control its own destiny, with games against SEC West cellar dwellers Auburn and Ole Miss serving as the lone remaining “obstacles” standing between the Bulldogs and their second early-December trip to Atlanta since 2005.

So, yeah, the stakes couldn’t be higher for the 90th edition — or 91st — of the WLOCP.

Tom Herman pulls California QB recruit Cameron Rising away from Oklahoma

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Tom Herman has made his share of news since his late November arrival in Austin, but Saturday evening was probably the first time his Big 12 and national rivals perked up and took notice of the new Texas head coach for something that will happen on the field of play.

The Longhorns landed a commitment from Newbury Park, Calif., quarterback Cameron Rising, which would be news in and of itself. The 6-foot-3 signal caller is rated the No. 3 pro-style quarterback and No. 52 player nationally by Rivals for the class of 2018, making him the highest-rated player in Texas’s 4-man class.

But Rising’s pledge is especially notable for where he was already committed: Oklahoma. Rising had been committed to Oklahoma since August and publicly firmed up his pledge as recently as January. “I’m extremely happy (with the decision),” Rising said at the time. “The program is so good, they’re moving in the right direction. They had a slow start but then they picked it up and it was like a warm nice through butter.”

Herman’s tweet brings up an interesting point: the quarterback Oklahoma is most likely to target to replace Rising is the other Texas quarterback pledge.

Casey Thompson, hailing from Moore, Okla., became the first Texas quarterback commitment just nine days before Rising. Beyond just living in the Sooner State, Thompson is also the son of a former Sooner and the brother of another.

In fact, Oklahoma waisted no time in reaching out to Thompson. “OU hit me up already,” Thompson told Burnt Orange Nation, but Thompson indicated Herman and company told him ahead of time Texas would sign two quarterbacks.

And in a note the Texas coaches have likely reminded Thompson of in the past 24 hours, they offered Thompson before Rising. “Me and the [Texas] coaches have a very good relationship. I knew they planned to take 2 from the jump. Their current QB room is thin!”

Oklahoma may very well retaliate to Herman’s plunder with a steal of their own. But the point is Herman has arrived in the Red River Recruiting Wars, and he’s playing to win.

LSU lands Randy Moss’s son as tight end transfer

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They say these things happen in threes, so any program employing Warren Sapp‘s son better start preparing now. Days after Ray Lewis‘s son announced a transferRandy Moss‘s has done the same.

Thaddeus Moss announced his intention to leave NC State for LSU on Sunday, doing so in a post on his Twitter account.

Moss was recruited to NC State by then-Wolfpack offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Canada tried to get Moss to decommit and follow him to Pittsburgh, but that initial refusal worked out for the pair in the end.

“He had gotten fired and I had already gotten my mind made up,” Moss told The Advocate. “He had messaged me and was telling me stuff about Pitt and this stuff. It was all of this stuff. I don’t even think I messaged him back.

“That was actually the very first thing he said when he saw me. ‘Hey, you remember when I messaged you?’ It worked out for the better good.”

Ranked the No. 6 tight end in the class of 2016 by Rivals, Moss started three games last fall for NC State. He caught six passes for 49 yards and a touchdown.

As an undergraduate transfer, Moss will have to sit out the 2017 season before having three seasons to compete for the Tigers.

Michigan meets with refugees as part of Italian Spring Break trip

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Michigan is in Rome for Spring Break and Jim Harbaugh determined an act of charity would be the Wolverines’ first item of business upon landing on Italian soil.

After landing in Rome at 9 a.m. local time, the Wolverines immediately headed to the Borghese Gardens, where they distributed backpacks filled with blankets, shirts and shorts to refugees.

“What an experience,” quarterback Wilton Speight told the Toledo Blade. “I saw on the itinerary that we were going to have an opportunity to meet some refugees, but I didn’t know it was going to be like this where we could dive into each other’s lives and teach each other a thing or two about our background, our culture, our favorite sport. It’s been a cool experience.”

And for those wondering, Harbaugh has not reduced his Harbaugh-ness while overseas. In fact, the dollar-to-euro conversion may have actually increased it.

Former Tennesse RB Jalen Hurd to play WR at Baylor, per report

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Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd will become Baylor wide receiver Jalen Hurd, according to a report from ESPN’s Jake Trotter.

Hurd announced on Halloween he would leave the Vols roster, seeking a change in position as well as scenery. After visits to Ohio State and Louisville, Hurd trekked to Waco for the Bears’ spring game on Saturday, where he indicated on Twitter afterward that he would become a Bear.

Trotter filed afterward, citing a source, that Hurd will indeed become the latest member of the Bears’ wide receiving corps.

Hurd is a physical freak that will excel at whatever position he plays. As a 6-foot-2 running back, he toted the rock 589 times for 2,635 yards with 20 touchdowns in his three seasons as a Vol. Now, as a 240-pound wide receiver (though it’s likely he’ll slim down now that he no longer has to prepare for a season of between-the-tackles running), he’ll display the skills that saw him catch 67 passes for 492 yards and six touchdowns.

As an undergraduate transfer, Hurd will sit out the 2017 season before joining the team in 2018. He will have one season to compete as a Bear.