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.

Former LSU QB Brandon Harris announces commitment to UNC

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Former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris has found himself a new home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Harris announced via Facebook and Twitter he has chosen to commit to North Carolina.

“Obviously, it has been an important time for me, looking for a great situation and another opportunity to grow as a young man and as a student as well as a football player,” Harris said in his statement. “After my [official] visit this weekend to the University of North Carolina, I’m going to get that opportunity. With that being said, I’m fully committed to UNC this upcoming year and I look forward to the opportunity to play for coach [Larry Fedora] and UNC.”

Harris will be eligible to play for UNC immediately this fall after graduating from LSU this summer, and the timing may not be better for Harris. UNC is losing its starting quarterback (Mitch Trubisky) to the NFL and has a wide open spot to fill in the starting lineup as a result. But the job will not automatically go to Harris upon his arrival at UNC after missing out on spring practices at North Carolina.

Harris played in just four games last season, in which he passed for 139 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Since the season-opener against Wisconsin, Harris was reduced to backup duty and did not play in any of LSU’s seven final games of the 2016 season, including the bowl game against Louisville. Harris announced his decision to transfer in February, which was pretty much expected given how last season played out amid a coaching change.

Report: Foot injury puts Georgia WR Riley Ridley on sideline for spring

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Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley has not been practicing this spring, but it has nothing to do with his offseason misdemeanor from a couple of weeks ago. Instead, a foot injury appears to have sidelined Ridley for the spring.

According to a report from Gridiron Now, Ridley has been out due to the foot injury. When the foot injury occurred is not reported. Even if his foot was not injured, it remains unknown if Ridley would be participating int he spring, at least at this point. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has said Ridley will be internally disciplined for his misdemeanor pot possession from earlier this month.

“He’ll receive discipline,” Smart said. “We are very disappointed in his decision. We do not condone that behavior. I think Riley is going to learn a valuable lesson from this mistake.”

When Ridley may be available again remains unknown, as does what exactly the punishment to him will be from Smart. A one-game suspension is the expected result for Ridley according to the university’s student-athlete handbook.

USF DB Hassan Childs in stable condition after overnight shooting incident

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USF defensive back Hassan Childs was injured in a shooting incident overnight. Fortunately, Childs is currently said to be in stable condition, according to USF.

“We are deeply concerned that an incident occurred overnight in which one of our guys, Hassan Childs, was injured in a shooting,” a statement from USF head coach Charlie Strong said. “Thankfully, Hassan is in stable condition and being well cared for, and no one else was injured. There is an ongoing investigation of the incident and we are in the process of gathering further information.”

The shooting took place off campus, but details about the incident have not been reported.

Childs played in eight games for the Bulls last year. He recorded 16 tackles and returned two punts for three yards in a backup role.

Turner Field on schedule to be ready for Georgia State season opener

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The Atlanta Braves opened the doors to their brand new baseball stadium over the weekend to fans as the baseball team gets ready to open the 2017 season in their new digs. Meanwhile, at the old home of the Braves, Georgia State University is moving along according to schedule in downsizing and renovating Turner Field to serve as the permanent home of the football program. So far, so good, as the university fully anticipates the stadium will be ready to go for the season opener on August 31 against Tennessee State.

The job that’s being done is incredible,” Athletic Director Charlie Cobb told 11Alive. “Each and every time I walk in, I see something new being done.”

Renovation and construction at Turner Field got started in February. The entire project will be done in phases as the university plans to develop around thew football stadium for an expanding university. As far as the stadium goes, the seating capacity will be retrofitted to hold a capacity of 23,000 fans. That will be the first phase of the master plan, with a second phase to complete building the rest of the stadium and add additional seating for fans.

“We plan on doing some unique things capturing the history of the stadium, but also creating a football facility that speaks to Georgia State,” Cobb said. “One of the stories we want to tell is the fact that it went from being an Olympic venue, to the home of the Braves, and now to the home of Georgia State. I think we can write that third chapter.”

Georgia State previously played its home games in the Georgia Dome, the now former home of the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL. The Falcons are also moving into a new football stadium this season. The Falcons’ new home at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will also welcome some college football action to the stadium this season with the annual Chick-fil-A Kickoff will move to the new stadium from the Georgia Dome. This year’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff features Alabama and Florida State on September 2 and Georgia Tech and Tennessee on September 4. The SEC Championship Game and the Peach Bowl will also be hosted in the new stadium and the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game will be played there on January 8, 2018.

Georgia State may have their new home, but perhaps one day they will get to play in the new stadium too.