published Monday, December 5th, 2011

5-at-10: College football, bowl matchups and NFL surprises

In our 5-at-10 time together over the last 15 months, there have been numerous days where we have stretched the limits of what could be accepted as "sports." Today is not one of those times. In fact, having stuff to write about was the easy part — deciding what to leave out not as easy. So, since it's Christmas time and nothing brings home the holidays like biting an Eazy E rap: "Easily we approach the microphone because we ain't no joke." And remember the messages of love and holiday spirit that was Eazy and the whole NWA gang.

From the "Mama McNabb stage here at the Al Davis Studio," here we go...

College football Monday morning quarterback

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    LSU linebacker Ryan Baker (22) parades around the field with an SEC logo after after their 42-10 win over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

— All the hand-wringing about the BCS and the playoff and the failure and blah-blah-blah. We wrote last week about our possible playoff ideas, but here's another thought: A Flexible Plus-1 game only used when needed. Granted every new NCAA football venture needs the concept of a super committee that answers all questions and removes the cloud of doubt from computer rankings and the lack of insight from polls of all sorts. (Did you know that Stanford coach David Shaw's ballot was 1. LSU, 2. Alabama, 3. Stanford, 4. Oklahoma State? Hey, dude has every reason to feel proud of his Cardinal team, but since Alabama and OSU were separated by .009 points in the final BCS standings, maybe his program pride was the decisive margin.) The beauty of the Flexible Plus-1 (FP-1) game is it can fit to any number of situations. There are a lot of seasons that the BCS has the top two and there's not a lot of bellyaching. In those years, the FP-1 would not be used. The FP-1 could have been after the bowls in 2004 when Auburn and USC finished unbeaten. This year it could be used on the front end with OSU and Alabama playing to get to LSU. Because for all the hand-wringing and head-slapping going on outside of the SEC right now, no one is doubting that LSU is far and away the class of college football, and under the current system, the unblemished Tigers should not have to handle a plus-1 scenario or a playoff to re-iterate what we all fully know — LSU is a bad group.

— Speaking of the Tigers, the first half of their 42-10 SEC championship game was forgettable. Down 10-0 before Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu returned a punt for a touchdown, LSU trailed 10-7 at the half and had more touchdowns (1) than first downs (0). And while the No. 1 difference in Saturday's win over Georgia was LSU's supreme talent, the biggest difference in the game was Georgia's missed chances early. Four critical drops — two of which would have been for certain TDs — meant Georgia could have had a 21-0 lead instead of a 10-0 lead over the sleeping giant Tigers. And LSU certainly has enough weapons to overcome any deficit, a 21-bagel hole would have been a huge, Huge, HUGE challenge considering the run-first nature of these Tigers and how the Georgia fans were rocking inside the Georgia Dome.

— Speaking of the SEC title game, our challenge ended with a staggeringly close finish: scole023 (LSU 40-10), edged McPell (45-16) and FEchancellor (36-10). When asked about finishing second by a point, McPell may or may not have channeled his inner-Honey Badger and offered, "McPell don't care; McPell takes what he wants." Thanks for playing and keep an eye out for the first annual 5-at-10 Bowling Bonaza. It's going to be a whooper.

— Speaking of whoopers, Robert Griffin III has surged to the lead in the unofficial Heisman polls around the country. We'll break this down later, and RG III has had a big-time season, but something seems wrong that scheduling plays such a huge role in determining the Heisman winner. It should not be a "what did you do on the last Saturday of the season" type of thing. In truth, the 5-at-10 could make a pretty strong argument for or against any of the leading candidates. We'd still vote Trent Richardson, RG III and Andrew Luck in that order, so there's our picks.

— Speaking of picks, the Fab 4 (plus-1) went 3-2 on the final weekend before the bowl season. We missed on Southern Miss stunning Houston (congrats CJ, and while everyone is bellyaching about OSU getting left out of the BCS title game, Southern Miss got the biggest shaft of anyone Sunday) and as expected on Clemson. Stupid Clemson. How's this for a betting trend: The Fab 4 (plus-1) picks went 44-23-1 this season against the spread (meaning if you bet 100, say, jelly beans on each pick, you'd be 1,860 jelly beans to the good, minus the juicy fruit to the candy man of course); and we went 0-7 on Clemson picks (we had Auburn, Wake and Virginia Tech twice over Clemson; had Clemson over Georgia Tech, South Carolina and N.C. State).

Bowls filled with fruits

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    Oklahoma State fans sit on the edge of the stadium wall in the remaining minutes of the 4th quarter of an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. Fans jumped from the wall to celebrate on the field following Oklahoma State's defeat of rival Oklahoma 44-10. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Here's how crazy the bowl selection process has become — Fans outside the SEC believes there's a bias FOR the SEC; fans in the SEC believe there's a bias AGAINST the SEC. How is that possible?

We have said from the start that we believe you should be a conference champion to play in the BCS title game, but that's not the system in which we operate. The system is designed to put the two best teams on the field to decide the champion, and in this instance, the system worked.

The system worked. Period. If you want to debate that the system is flawed, fine, and you have every right to, but if the BCS goal is to put the two best teams in the title game, then mission accomplished. Alabama lost to LSU, Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State — how is this comparable? Stanford got thumped by Oregon, which got thumped by LSU. Boise State? Please.

As for the rest of the bowl games, the hubbub about Oklahoma State getting the shaft overshadowed some intriguing bowl matchups and some real stinkers. (How did Va. Tech ride a 38-10 disaster against a Clemson team that was spanked by the SEC's fifth best team a week early into the Sugar Bowl?)

Three best bowl matchups (not including the BCS title game)

Gator Bowl — Florida vs. Ohio State: We'll set the over/under on Urban Meyer references at 247, yes, 247 Urbie references. (Take the over.)

Rose Bowl — Oregon vs. Wisconsin: Fun game.

Fiesta Bowl — Stanford vs. Oklahoma State: See above.

Three worst bowl matchups

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl — UCLA vs. Illinois: First, the name is awful. Sure fighting hunger is a great goal, but what's next the, "Pepperidge Farms' Equal Pay for Equal Work Bowl" as an option? Or maybe a different catchy slogan that will be more appropriate for these two teams, which had such bowl-worthy seasons that each fired its coach. Something like the "Viagra If This Game Lasts Longer Than Four Hours See a Doctor Immediately Bowl" would be better.

Liberty Bowl — Vandy vs. Cincinnati: Yes, this is a matchup of two teams that provided 40 percent of the UT Vols' wins this season. Let's call this one Derek Dooley's favorite matchup of the bowl season.

Chick-fil-A Bowl — Auburn vs. Virginia: Auburn got its color scheme from Virginia way back in the day, and that's an interesting storyline, we supposed. Although it hardly overshadows that these two teams lost by a combined 80-14 in their season finales against their in-state rivals and had zero combined offensive TDs.

NFL updates

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    Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) runs with the ball during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

We'll go into team success more in our regular Tuesday Power Poll, but this NFL year has been dominated by the unexpected.

The Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to be a "Dream Team" and became a nightmare. (The lesson here, as always, is never let anyone call your team the "Dream Team" unless you are talking about the underrated 1980s Michael Keaton movie or the first US basketball team that included Chuck Barkley pushing on people.)

The Colts are the worst team in the league and the San Fran 49ers are in the running among the best. Read that again.

Rookie QB Cam Newton is already in the NFL record books.

The NFL lockout seems as important and forgettable as "Caddyshack 2" this morning.

But here's the craziest thing we can think of to describe this craziest of NFL seasons: Here's our NFL MVP ballot as of this morning:

1) Aaron Rodgers, who may be the first player to lead his team to a 19-0 finish

2) Drew Brees, who may smash every single-season passing record in the books (and it has a lot to do with the fact that he was the TFP Best of Preps speaker last May)

3) Peyton Manning, who proved his ultimate value by not taking a snap

4) Tim Tebow, who is now 6-1 as a starter, and, even though his QB rating may be somewhere between the dreaded David Archer and the bad Billy Volek range, all he does is win

This and that

— Tiger wins against a somewhat watered down field and the talk of his return will swirl from now until April and become a full blown Hurricane come Masters time. Hey, his first win in two years is a big deal. Is he back? No one — not even Tiger — knows that, so let's all take a deep breath, OK?

— Penske Motorsports is debating what to do with its most talented and most spoiled-brattish driver, so it's a very real possibility that Kurt Busch may be without a ride. This is also know as justice, NASCAR style.

— The Marlins have added Jose Reyes. And there are rumors that Albert Pujols could be next. And while this should trouble every Johnny Braves Fan everywhere, this could be a momentous turning point in professional baseball. Think if the Florida Marlins, based in Miami, decided to court and sign all of the stud players from the Caribbean or with South American or Hispanic descent? That would be a juggernaut and the Miami community would fill that joint. A Hispanic Yankees? Wow.

— College hoops is here and with a vengence. And we talked last week about college hoops needing that signature early-season moment, well, Saturday's Kentucky win over UNC was it and more. We're in. And after a crazy week — including Vandy's struggles — we're kind of excited to see Chas9's Top Tenn ranking of the state's college hoops sqauds.

Today's question

In a crazy weekend of sports that left us doing a bunch of Christmas stuff with one eye and the the other eye focused on the sports on TV, there were so many great storylines.

In honor of that — and our old-school Eazy E shoutout earlier — we'll have an open microphone Q and A with the host all day. Here's the format: We'll ask a question, feel free to answer it or respond with a question. We'll answer it when we come back, and we'll post new questions at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Enjoy and bring it.

Question No. 1: Is the BCS title game the right matchup? Discuss.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
jharvey1984 said...

yes and no. yes b/c as you said you have the two best teams playing for the title which is the whole idea. no b/c all the sec haters will whine about this for the rest of eternity. i just hope stanford beats okie state just so they might shut up a little.

December 5, 2011 at 10:21 a.m.
jharvey1984 said...

oh and here's my question: do you think alabama should have to beat lsu twice (as in double elimination tourney style - im joking...but only a little)?

December 5, 2011 at 10:23 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

I am puzzled by the selections for the Chick-fil-A Bowl (but at least the food is tasty). And I don't care what Marty Robbins says, I ain't going to El Paso. Shrevevegas was bad enough.

December 5, 2011 at 10:32 a.m.
chas9 said...

Top Tenn Rankings, week 4:

Another meh week in Tennessee basketball. A Top Ten in KY or NC would be more fun. Memphis and Vandy swap again at the top of this week's rankings. Though The Vols had "good losses" they drop one spot. And hold your nose. Stinker Peay knocks UTC out of the rankings. Though the Mocs are showing a pulse now. We know the perils of comparative scores, but after UTC lost by 6 to Kennesaw, we can't resist using it as a perverse measuring stick. The Hoot Owls went on to lose to Lipscomb by 23 and Belmont by 46.

1) Memphis

2) Vandy

3) Belmont

4) MTSU

5) The Vols

6) ETSU

7) Tennessee State

8) Lipscomb

9) TN Tech

10) Peay

December 5, 2011 at 10:44 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Jharvey —

Your yes and no response is pretty spot-on.

As for beating LSU twice, well, it won't matter in the BCS rankings which means the winner of this game will win the coaches' trophy. That said, let's say Alabama wins by 3, there's a real chance LSU could win the AP title by the voting of writers.

And if that happens it will mean the SEC has won seven national titles in the last six years.

Spy —

Georgia Tech-Utah almost made the "bad bowl" list. That's two teams that will not be thrilled to be there, and El Paso is in the desert but it's cold as all get out.

9er —

Strong list. These Chattanooga Mocs are a tough bunch to figure.

And if Stinky Peay knocks you from the rankings, well, you are not fresh, but your score breakdown is all the scientific evidence we need.

— 5-at-10

December 5, 2011 at 11:17 a.m.
Cjoyner said...

Alabama v LSU Part Duex? That's fine. I'm surprised neither of them wanted a piece of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl for Christmas. My question: Who you got in the Liberty Bowl? Apathy or Indifference? Indifference is a perennial favorite, but Apathy is a comer. In all seriousness, my mighty Southern Miss Golden Eagles have achieved the greatest goal of any mid-major: Disrespect. We've finally gotten good enough to feel aggrieved about being ignored and mistreated. Thank goodness. Now, will somebody please hire our coach away from us and complete the victory?

December 5, 2011 at 11:33 a.m.
jgreeson said...

CJ —

Spot-on analysis about the greatest accomplishment for a mid-major getting to the point where you have legit beefs with being overlooked.

And yes, Larry Fedora just secured his seven-figure raise by whipping Houston.

Question No. 2: If you had a choice between Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton or any other NFL quarterback with two years on less experience, who you got? (Did you see the Panthers running the option? And that sound was NFL defensive coordinators gasping for air trying to defend Cam in the option.)

— 5-at-10

December 5, 2011 at 12:07 p.m.
patrickd said...

I know this isn't the topic being discussed but I want to throw out there that Ron Santo has officially been elected to the Hall of Fame. Wish he could've been here for it.

December 5, 2011 at 12:14 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

I do think it's the right match-up but I WAS hoping for LSU to play some Yankee or West Coast team to FINALLY prove once and for all that the SEC IS THE BEST CONFERENCE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL!! And finally SHUT THEM ALL UP!....

I am very proud of SEC football...We are ALWAYS the thorn in every other conference side!

And when the others come off that field they KNOW they've been in a battle!

LSU-27 BAMA-21

December 5, 2011 at 12:20 p.m.
jgreeson said...

P-Davi —

This is said with nothing but respect for Santo, who was loved by some folks we have a great deal of respect for, but...

He does not belong in the Hall of Fame as a player. He was a .277 career hitter that never finished better than fourth in the voting for an MVP.

ERidge8 —

The rest of the country is gonna' hate. That's fine. Maybe they can take solace in the fact that they finally found a way for an SEC team to lose in the BCS title game.

So there's that. (And you get mad props for the earliest title game score, because you know we're going to have a contest, so you're 100 percent in and win all tie breakers. Well played indeed.)

— 5-at-10

December 5, 2011 at 12:25 p.m.
Cjoyner said...

5@10, I'd have to say Tebow, but only because I've been convinced that winning is important.

I've liked Tebow ever since he led that rag-tag group of rebels in a direct assault against the Death Star.

December 5, 2011 at 12:33 p.m.
Cjoyner said...

As for Santo, nobody is going to be happier than Dale Murphy.

December 5, 2011 at 12:35 p.m.
memphisexile said...

Whether it is right right matchup depends on whether you are picking the most deserving team or the best team. Personally, I think Alabama is better than OKST. However, I feel like Alabama had their chance, and after the performance OKST had last Saturday they are the most deserving. The BCS picks the best team, so we have an all SEC title game. As the resident Tigers fan I would be happy watching LSU play either team.

I was trying to come up with an Easy-E lyric of my own to add to the fun, but I am somewhat stumped for a line that is acceptable for a family friendly newspaper....I may need to go break out my old cassettes and do some reasearch.

December 5, 2011 at 1:24 p.m.
memphisexile said...

Also, Andy Dalton. Running QBs get hurt. See Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham, etc. Tebow is looking good against some pretty bad competition. The Panthers have not exactly been winning many games. Bengals are looking pretty good. Love it or hate it, the NFL is a passing league and for long term success you need a pro-style QB. Over the years there have been no shortage of athletic quarterbacks who can run, none of them have had long term success unless they changed their style and became more of a passer, see Donovan McNabb.

December 5, 2011 at 1:28 p.m.
patrickd said...

Ron Santo was a 9 time all-star. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

By the way, Chipper Jones is a 7 time all-star.

December 5, 2011 at 2:01 p.m.
jgreeson said...

CJ —

Yes, Dale Murphy's Morman lunch just got a touch tastier.

And Tebow was some kind of tough with a light saber, too.

Exile —

The Eazy E cassette was played multiple times in the 5-at-10 high school ride, and you're correct there are not many lines that can be repeated at a family-oriented, Interweb-based sports column — "Cruisin' up the street in our '64...

You're "Better than deserving" breakdown has tons of street cred.

As for Dalton, dude has been super impressive (and that fact shows the value and insightfulness of those draft QB specials with Jon Gruden, who loved Dalton). That said, the league has never seen a running QB with Cam's size.

PDavi —

Just because the guy was popular withe fans or played at a position that was weak by comparison for a decade or more does make him a Hall of Famer. Santo may be a Hall of Famer as an all-around dude, but as a player no way. Dave Concepcion was a nine-time all-star, does he belong in the Hall? How about eight-time all-star Lance Parrish or nine-time all-star Bob Johnson (no the other Bob Johnson)?

The Hall of Fame should be rarified air, the elite of the elite. When someone asks if so-and-so is a Hall of Famer, and you have to pause for a second to consider it, then the answer is no they are not a Hall of Famer. It's just that Eazy-E.

Question for 2 p.m. — Does Ron Santos deserve being a Hall of Famer?

— 5-at-10

December 5, 2011 at 2:25 p.m.
Cjoyner said...

With you, 5@10 on All Star ballots being a poor indicator of HOF worthiness. And, with respect Patrickd, I assume you are not comparing Santo and Chipper. Looking at just one stat (runs created), Chipper is 26th in MLB history, ahead of some no-names like Honus Wagner, George Brett, Paul Molitor and Al Kaline. Santo, a great player, is 115th. Runs created is not a deciding factor by any means, but we could do this all day. I'd say Santo is a bubble pick, but that's what the vet committee is there for. But if he gets in, Murphy should be there. And what about some other comparables, like Gary Gaetti, Chili Davis or Bobby Bonilla? Are they HOF worthy?

December 5, 2011 at 2:33 p.m.
patrickd said...

Cjoyner, with all do respect, that's the only hard stat in favor of Santo being a HOF'er so pay no mind to me abusing it accordingly.

December 5, 2011 at 2:45 p.m.
Cjoyner said...

Understood, Patrickd. Baseball stats are funny. Those that make our point are the most important stats. The rest are garbage. :)

December 5, 2011 at 2:50 p.m.
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