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Aaron Torres’ Take

What Tuesday’s scandal means for the future of college basketball

(With Drew, Tyler and the rest of the KSR staff providing constant updates about college basketball’s latest and greatest scandal, resident “outsider” Aaron Torres tells you what it all means for the “big picture” of college basketball)

For years, it’s been no secret that there is cheating across college basketball (how much depends on who you listen to), but despite what the casual fan might have thought, that “cheating” doesn’t involve duffle bags full of cash and cars magically appearing in your driveway. Instead, it’s much more complex than that, and on Tuesday, fans found out exactly how all the puzzle pieces fit together. It’s a web of agents, coaches, shoe companies and middle men, all tossing money around college basketball like Floyd Mayweather at a strip club.

For anyone who didn’t see Tuesday’s story ( which is essentially “no one” at this point) 10 people involved with college basketball, including four prominent assistant coaches and one high-ranking Adidas executive were charged by the FBI on Tuesday with an assortment of crimes including bribery and corruption.

Yes, you read that correctly: The FBI was involved in an investigation into major college basketball.

For those who don’t understand the gravity of that, please understand… this story is big. Bigger than college basketball, the NCAA or its rulebook. It’s about more than NCAA Tournament bans or coaching suspensions… it’s about guys looking at jail time. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this will go down as the biggest college basketball scandal since rampant point shaving in the mid-1950’s.


Even an outsider can see it: This is the year Kentucky beats Florida

© Jeff Blake | Getty

I may be the resident outsider here at KSR (I know, I know, I’ve started roughly 11 straight articles with the same catchphrase), but you don’t need to be a UK football historian to know that we’ve got an important Saturday coming up for the Kentucky football team. You also don’t need to be a UK football historian to know that it’s been a looooooooong time since UK beat Florida. Like three decades and two different George Bush’s in the White House long, a stretch that spans the entire Spurrier/Zook/Meyer/Muschamp and McElwain eras, and then some. So yeah, it’s been a while.

But while I’d never claim to be a UK football historian, I’ll gladly admit to watching just about as much football as anyone in America on a typical Saturday, and on replays throughout the week. And after watching three straight Saturday’s of college football, and spending plenty of time studying the ancillary stuff that comes with the sport – schedules, recruiting, you name it – I’m ready to tell you one thing: This is the year that Kentucky beats Florida.

Remember, I’m an outsider, and this isn’t some “Kentucky by 60” homer pick straight out of those old Saturday Night Live/Chicago Bears skits. Ending history won’t be easy for Kentucky, and if they’re to snap this streak, it will – like every SEC game – be hard fought and come down to the little things. But unlike most years, Kentucky doesn’t need a prayer and a miracle to compete. As best I can tell, they just need to play their game.

The first and most important thing to consider entering Saturday is something pretty simple, and you don’t need to be a young Nick Saban to see it: This Florida team is awful. I’ve been watching college football for over 20 years now, and I’ve never seen any Florida team as untalented as this one. Don’t get me wrong, they have pieces, specifically on the defensive line, but not only is this not a “vintage” Florida team, I think a legitimate case could be made that they’re the fourth best team in their own state (behind Florida State, Miami and South Florida), and somewhere around the 10th best team in the SEC (if not worse). The fact that they’re somehow ranked in the Top 25 right now is a sports travesty that historians will look back on and scratch their heads about for centuries to come (slight exaggeration), like when the U.S. lost the gold medal to the USSR in the 1972 Olympics, or when John Calipari lost Coach of the Year to Tony Bennett the year Kentucky went undefeated in the regular season. None of it makes sense. Like, at all.

For those of you who haven’t been paying close attention to the Gators, it started in Week 1 against Michigan, when Florida put up just 192 yards of total offense, and where 14 of their 17 points came off pick sixes. But then it went up another level last week. While so much of the focus in Florida’s win over Tennessee was on the final play, what everyone needs to pay attention to is that the Gators had no business even being in that game in the first place.

Florida was once again out-gained and Tennessee also threw two absolutely devastating interceptions. One was on the goal line, on what should have been a simple hand-off for a touchdown, and the other was deep in their own territory which was ultimately returned for a pick-six TD. So in essence, not only did Tennessee give up six points because they couldn’t punch the ball in from the one-yard line, but they also handed Florida 14 points on the pick-six and final play of the game. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Tennessee could have won that game by three touchdowns and should have won it by double-figures. Yet they lost. As the old saying goes, “It’s great to be a Florida Gator.” Especially when you’re going up against Butch Jones.

Really though this isn’t just about Florida being bad, but – in my opinion – Kentucky being better than most people realize. Again, I’m not going full-fledged homer “We’re making the playoff, baby” mode. But I also believe that – based on what I’ve seen from them, as well as the rest of the SEC – eight wins is absolutely in play. Maybe nine if everything breaks right.

And that South Carolina game really told you everything you needed to know about Kentucky football this year. If you didn’t watch the game and just saw the final score you’d think to yourself, “Oh, what a solid win for Kentucky.” But, if you actually sat down and watched the game you saw something completely different: A game which, after the first few possessions, Kentucky absolutely dominated. Of the Gamecocks 13 points, six came on the first play of the game (literally), and the final seven came late in the fourth quarter when South Carolina basically went to a two-minute drill offense and UK went to a prevent defense. Sure UK was helped by some shoddy special teams from South Carolina, but for the most part they dominated that game in every way a team could.

More than just the final score, you know what impressed me most about that victory though? Kentucky’s poise. Again, they fell down 6-0 after less than a minute of play, and from there, you know what happened next? Kentucky threw an interception and then had a fumble on their next two possessions. The score could have easily been 20-0 after less than five minutes of play.

But instead, Kentucky does what a poised, veteran team that’s been there before does: They stayed calm. They forced a three-and-out (which was followed by a missed field goal) and the next possession forced an interception. Then they slowly went about picking apart South Carolina’s defense with a balance of short passes, runs up the middle and misdirection (right up until the end when Kentucky was trying to milk clock and they went non-stop Wildcat, I actually thought the play-calling was really good). They also played solid defense; take out that opening, 68-yard touchdown pass and they gave up under 300 yards the rest of the game. They also made the biggest plays when they needed to, including a late fourth-and-goal stop. This defense is way better than anyone gives them credit for. Don’t be fooled because of the “Kentucky” on the jersey. They can play with just about anyone.

And ultimately, the more I think about it, the more I realize that might be the reason right there why the national types (which I still consider myself) aren’t picking Kentucky to beat Florida on Saturday is, because, well… it’s Kentucky and Florida. History says Florida should win this game and Kentucky should lose. Except here’s the thing: If you simply took the names off the front of the jerseys and flipped on film of these two teams, who do you think would have the edge? Exactly. The fact that this line opened as Florida favored by five in Vegas and has been bet down to Florida favored by just 2.5 points proves that theory.

In the end, it won’t be easy and it might not be pretty. But for the first time in 31 years, Kentucky will beat Florida on Saturday.

Even an outsider can see it coming.

Aaron Torres is covering football and basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres or e-mail at He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

An eight-step guide to Kentucky winning the SEC East (it’s not as crazy as you think)

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Admittedly, I know my role here at KSR, and that’s to be the guy who gives an outsider’s take on all things Kentucky sports (specifically basketball). But I’m also human dammit, and like everyone else I can’t help but get swept up in a little football fever every once in a while. So as you can probably imagine, after watching the Wildcats beat South Carolina on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think one thing: UK is going to the College Football Playoff, baby!!

Ok, maybe that’s slight hyperbole (ok, a lot of hyperbole) but the more I thought about it on Sunday, the more I realized that big-time UK football success this season might not be as crazy as some might think. The playoff is obviously off the table (in defense of Kentucky, it was for about 115 of the 128 FBS teams before the season even began) but the more I thought about the ‘Cats and the more I thought about the overall state of the SEC, the more I realized that – as crazy as it sounds – an SEC East title is absolutely in the equation.

Is it likely? Of course not. But with the East division a smattered mess of teams on the rise but not quite there yet (Georgia, Vandy) and former powers on the way down (did you want to help Butch Jones set up a LinkedIn account, or should I?) the idea of Kentucky representing the East in Atlanta the first weekend in December isn’t inconceivable either.

Here’s an easy eight-step path to getting there:

1) Kentucky already beat South Carolina

You can’t go undefeated if you don’t win the first one, and you can’t win an SEC East title without winning a few “swing” games on the schedule. Kentucky did both to open league play on Saturday night.

I’ll save the hard-hitting analysis for Nick Roush and the rest of the football guys, but South Carolina is a good team and Saturday was a quality win. It’s also one victory to put in the bank towards that elusive SEC East title.

2) Missouri is God awful

At this point, the Tigers are unquestionably the SEC’s worst team, a club which is 1-2, and already lost a home game to the same South Carolina team that Kentucky just beat. By the way, did I mention they also fired their defensive coordinator just two games into the season, and that Barry Odom is on the hot seat less than a year-and-a-half after taking the job? Or that their 35-3 loss to Purdue Saturday was way worse than it looked considering that the Boilermakers were up 28-3 at halftime before calling off the dogs after intermission?

Point being, Missouri football is a bigger mess than Duke’s admissions department trying to get a bunch of academically questionable basketball players cleared in time for the start of the season.

You never want to “assume” any victories for Kentucky football. But at home, against the league’s worst team, it seems pretty comfortable put another check in the “win” box for UK.

3) Ole Miss will have quit on their season by the time they play Kentucky

All joking aside, I give credit to any Ole Miss player who has stuck things out in Oxford. They were sold a bogus bill of goods just to get them there (Hugh Freeze promising that Ole Miss wouldn’t get hammered by the NCAA) and then their coach got fired just a few weeks before the season. Keep in mind that even before that, Ole Miss gave itself a bowl ban for 2017, meaning that even if they went 12-0 the Rebels wouldn’t have been eligible to play in the postseason.

So yeah, Ole Miss didn’t have much to play for this season anyway, and that trend is only going to continue as the season wears on. The Rebels already suffered their first loss of the year Saturday at Cal (in a game they easily could have won) and after a bye next week, they face a gauntlet prior to Kentucky that plays out like this: At Alabama, at Auburn, Vanderbilt at home (more on the Commodores coming), and LSU and Arkansas at home before that Kentucky game. Looking at that schedule, 2-3 feels like a best-case scenario, with 1-4 likely. Going 0-5 isn’t completely off the table either (depending on how you feel about the early returns on Vanderbilt and Arkansas).

To Ole Miss’ credit, the players have handled themselves well so far this season and said and done all the right things. But by the time they see Kentucky on the schedule, they’ll be a beaten up team who is only playing for pride… pride which will have been pounded out of them by that point by bigger, deeper and more physical teams. By the time November 4th comes around, the only thing Ole Miss will be excited for is the end of the season.

This one could and likely should be another win for UK.

As Immanuel Quickley prepares for his official visit we talk to the people who know him best

For anyone who follows Kentucky basketball (which is pretty much anyone reading this website) it’s no secret that this weekend is massive for the future of the Wildcats. That’s because over the next three days Kentucky will host Immanuel Quickley, one of the top-ranked point guards in all of high school basketball on an official visit to campus. The Wildcats don’t have any players committed for the 2018 class to date – something that isn’t unusual for UK this time of year – meaning that the result of this weekend could have reverberations for this program in the short-term and long-term as well.

Obviously, most Kentucky fans are plenty familiar with Quickley by now, as the first player in the 2018 class to receiver a Kentucky scholarship offer, and also as someone who played for John Calipari on the Team USA U-19 team in Egypt this summer. But while ‘Cats fans have known of Quickley for some time now, many don’t know much about him. Which is why I decided to call up some people who do, to ask a couple simple questions: Who is Immanuel Quickley? And how would he fit in at Kentucky if he decides to commit?

Let’s start with the “who.” And when it comes to Immanuel Quickley, those who know him best can think of only one way to describe him.

“Immanuel Quickley is just different,” Jide Sodipo, the Director of Quickley’s AAU program, Team BBC said. “It’s tough to explain. I tell other coaches ‘you’ve just got to see it for yourself.’”

No matter how much you hate Louisville, try to enjoy Lamar Jackson while you can

Rich Barnes | USA Today

As the resident “outsider” here at KSR, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t “understand” the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry the way most people reading this do (although in my defense, that’s why I was hired in the first place). I didn’t grow up in the rivalry and don’t eat, sleep and breathe it 365 days a year like so many of you do. My life isn’t fundamentally altered when the Cats beat the Cards or vice versa, even if my Twitter feed is a slightly more pleasant place depending on the outcome.

But while I don’t “know” the rivalry like so many of you, one thing I do know is college football, which is why I come here today with a hope. That hope is pretty simple: While I know that no Kentucky fan (or Clemson fan or Florida State fan reading this) will ever “root” for Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, I do hope at the very least we all as college football fans appreciate him. Because in watching what he did last season, and then seeing him somehow start even better this year, I can say one thing definitively: We may never see another college football player ever do what he’s doing right now. Not just in the UK-UL rivalry. Or even in the ACC. But anywhere, at any time.

Like most everyone else reading this, I first learned about Jackson as a true freshman, but it wasn’t until his last year where Jackson put all the pieces together. Early on he was like a wild horse – all arms and legs, with all the tools, but not quite sure how to use them – but last year was the season where it all came together. Like the rest of the college football world I was captivated by him early (those eight touchdowns against Charlotte, the game where he singlehandedly shredded the Florida State defense), with every Louisville game turning into must-see TV thanks to No. 8.

Understand that it wasn’t just that the stats that Jackson put up, but how he did it, with every snap feeling like it could end up on a highlight reel that they’d show on TV the rest of the season. Every play left fans wondering, what would Jackson do next, and then when he did it, how could he possibly top it the next time he touched the ball. Only it seemed like every time he touched the ball he did. Sometimes it’d be by sprinting past defenders for 40 and 50 and 60 yard scores and others, it was flicking the ball 40 yards downfield off his back-foot like a young Brett Favre. Some others he literally leapt defenders in a single bound. And while some of the media soured on Jackson as his team struggled late, I wasn’t one of them. He was the story in college football and deserved the Heisman Trophy, even as Deshaun Watson led Clemson to a head-to-head win over Jackson and a national title. I still believe Jackson was the deserving winner to this day.

Also unlike so many others, I’ll gladly admit that Jackson flew a bit under my radar coming into the season. It’s not to say that I didn’t know how good he was, just that I doubted his ability to repeat as a Heisman winner. Understand that when you win the Heisman you come into the following season with expectation levels that are so high, they’re basically impossible to meet. I’ve seen it happen with Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston before, as well as perceived favorites like Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley as well. Let’s also remember that he lost virtually every key play-maker off last year’s team, played behind an abysmal offensive line and the defense appeared on paper to be worse as well. It was completely and totally justified to think he would take a step back this fall.

So really, that’s what’s been so crazy about Jackson’s start to 2017: Not only has Jackson been better this season than last, but he’s doing so with less talent around him. Overall his numbers (minus his total touchdowns) are up or at least even across the board; he’s completing a higher percentage of passes and throwing for more yards per game on average than last year, this despite losing his two top receivers. He’s also averaging the same number of yards per rush even though everyone knows what he can do with his feet. Not only that but he’s literally setting records which have never been accomplished before, like last Saturday when he became the first quarterback from a Power 5 school to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in back-to-back games. Really, it’s insane when you think about it in this capacity: Last season it seemed like teams forced Jackson to beat him with his arm or his legs. This year – with an extra year of film and preparation from opposing coaching staffs – he’s doing it with both.

Therefore, while it feels like hyperbole to say “we’ve never seen anyone like Jackson” that is actually, 100 percent factually correct. Looking back, there really is no one in college football who has ever been quite like him, both statistically and the style in which he plays.

The most obvious comparison – one that gets made regularly – is that Jackson is a lot like a young Michael Vick. The funny thing is that while the comparison feels right, it’s actually not even close when you look at the stats. Last season Jackson accounted for 51 total touchdowns (more on that coming), which is more than Vick totaled in his entire career playing quarterback at Virginia Tech. Just last season alone, Jackson threw for more touchdowns than Vick did in his whole career (31 to 21) and rushed for more as well (21 compared to 17). To use another contemporary example, in Vince Young’s best season he accounted for 24 total touchdowns, a number Jackson doubled in 2016. Even if you factor in change in style of play over the last decade or so, it really is incredible to see how Jackson’s raw numbers stack up historically.

Speaking of history, the best way to appreciate just how good Jackson was last season is to look at those 51 total touchdowns. It ranked as the 13th most total touchdowns in a season, a number which seems impressive on paper and is even more so the deeper you dig. That’s because looking at the list of players who have topped that number shows you that most were quarterbacks who were put in systems designed to put up points and tally touchdowns (think Sam Bradford or Colt Brennan). The only three “dual-threat” quarterbacks on this list are Marcus Mariota, Tim Tebow and Cam Newton, and Jackson joined Tebow and Newton as the only players (as I can tell) to ever tally 30 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing scores in a season.

No one has come close to tallying those numbers twice in a career, and while only time will tell if he comes close this year, one thing is certain: We have never seen a quarterback quite like him in college football and we may never again.

No matter what side of the UK-UL rivalry you root for (or if you’re a fan of another school) please try to enjoy Lamar Jackson while you can.

Aaron Torres is covering football and basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook or e-mail at He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

What’s it like to be recruited by John Calipari? We asked those who know him best

Football may be the focus on college campuses across the country right now, but quietly basketball coaches are starting to get busy as well. Sure, practice is about to start in a few weeks, but really, that’s just the story behind the story. Instead the focus is recruiting, where many of the nation’s top players are taking official visits over the next few weekends. And that’s certainly true at Kentucky, where John Calipari is already hard at work, ready to replace their current group of players, many who still haven’t actually played their first college game.

Therefore, for the R.J. Barrett’s and Zion Williamson’s of the world – AKA the two best high school players available – they will soon be indoctrinated with the most effective recruiting pitch anywhere in college hoops. Within the next few weeks Calipari will come into their homes and – like so many other high school superstars before them – explain why Kentucky is the place to spend their one and only year on a college campus.

But while so much of the focus through the years has been on Calipari, a man who is widely accepted to be the best recruiter in the game, few people have bothered to ask the question “why?” Why does Coach Cal have that title? And what does he say that lures the nation’s top players to whatever school he’s coaching at year after year after year?

It’s a question we decided to ask a handful of AAU coaches and parents of players – those who’ve actually sat in on a recruiting meeting with Coach Cal – and the answers we got all centered on the same themes. They painted the picture of a guy who is both brutally honest and intensely sincere. A guy who helps lay out a road map to the NBA, but makes no guarantees that they’ll get there.

But before he does all that, well… he’s Cal. In essence, he understands that recruiting comes down to building relationships. And nobody – maybe in the history of college athletics – is better at building them than Cal.

“No matter how long he’s known you,” said Etop Udo-Ema, the Director of the Compton Magic AAU program, who has known Calipari dating back to his days at Memphis. “If he’s known you for five minutes or he’s known you for 30 years, he’s going to make you feel like he’s known you for 30 years. That’s a skill. That’s not something you can just be. There are hardly any coaches like that [in college basketball].”


An Outsider’s View to Kentucky’s Week 1 win over Southern Miss

To quote Jim Nantz, “Hello friends.”

If you spent any time on KSR on Monday night, my new boss Matt Jones was nice enough to introduce me to you – but for those of you who aren’t familiar, my name is Aaron Torres and the new kid on the KSR writing block. As Matt mentioned, I’m pleased to join what is already a loaded group of talented writers and podcasters, meaning that really I’m just trying to be the Dominique Hawkins of this group. I know I’m not a star (even if I do have a 40+-inch vertical leap) but am happy to come off the bench a few times a week and fill an important role for my new team.

As Matt mentioned in his post, you probably best know me for my book on Kentucky hoops, “One and Fun” about the 2010 team (still available on Amazon by the way) and I also did quite a bit of writing on Kentucky hoops and football during my time at Fox Sports. However, what many of you may not know is that I actually first came on Matt’s radar way back in 2009, during that first year of the John Calipari era at Kentucky, when I attended a UK-UConn game played that season at Madison Square Garden. The following day I wrote about the experience with a special emphasis on my amazement with the Kentucky fan-base and the passion for which they followed their team (a HUGE thanks to @HillbillyinBC on Twitter for finding a link to the old article). And since then that’s who I’ve basically been known as in KSR circles: “that outside dude who knows a lot of stuff about Kentucky basketball.”

And as Matt mentioned, that is exactly what my role will be with KSR. I’m not a lifelong fan like so many of the staff and fans reading. I’m not here to provide the in-depth experience of someone who has followed UK my whole life, but instead, give an outsider’s perspective on what is relevant in the UK community. On any given day it could be a feature or opinion piece, on football, basketball, recruiting, the NBA Draft, or even why Coach K gets away with stuff no other coach in America would (trust me, Kentucky fans aren’t the only ones who feel that way).

All that brings us to my first assignment for KSR: After years of covering college football on a national level for Fox Sports – focusing on the Alabama’s and Ohio State’s of the world – Matt asked me to check out UK’s game against Southern Miss and share some thoughts.

Again, to be clear – even though I followed the team by reading KSR and other outlets – I am by no means an expert and don’t claim to be. But below are 10 thoughts on that 24-17 victory over Southern Miss. Hopefully you enjoy, but if you don’t, feel free to be honest with me and send feedback. The best place to get me is

Here goes nothing…

The D-Line was awesome Saturday

I’ll be honest: Entering my first deep dive into Kentucky football, the only thing I really knew about the d-line was that when Matt Elam committed over Alabama and other college football powers, it was a huge deal. Of course if I’m being honest, I also didn’t realize that commitment already came four years ago and that Elam is now a senior. Where does the time go?

Regardless, my biggest impression from Saturday was that the d-line was probably the best overall unit for Kentucky on the field. Southern Miss never got into a groove running the ball, and as has been widely written already, the group as a whole did an awesome job limiting Ito Smith to just 37 yards rushing (after he tallied over 1,400 last year). In essence, it seemed like virtually all of Southern Miss’ rushing yards came from quarterback carries and those were few and far between.

Also, I know that Josh Paschal isn’t technically a defensive lineman, but how about that hit that he laid at the line of scrimmage on the final possession of the game? Talk about a way to make your presence felt, huh?