Do not forget about Friday's mailbag where we answer your questions — there's still room available.
From the "Drunken Moose Studios," here we go...
LSU coach Les Miles, tight end Deangelo Peterson (19) and defensive tackle Michael Brockers (90). (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Fab 4 picks
Sweet Tommy Grab Your Shine Box, we felt the "Goodfellas" love this week. There were something 12 games we liked going into Saturday's college football schedule, and that's when trouble happens, folks. Yes, we're 10-2-1 against the spread through three weeks (for entertainment purposes only, mind you). That means the big thing is picking the games we like the MOST for the Fab 4 (plus 1).
That said, we can't pick 12 games unless we start calling this segment the Dynamite Dozen. Alas, it's the Fab 4 (plus 1) so we have to stay where we are and do what we do. (P.S. — If we could, we'd throw in one more coach's cliche' like "We play like we practice," and "It's all about blocking and tackling," but that would cause Spy to spit up in his mouth.)
— Houston minus-32 against Georgia State
— Notre Dame minus-5 at Pittsburgh
— Florida minus-19 at Kentucky
— LSU minus-5 at West Virginia
— The add-on game if you feel lucky (punk) is Georgia minus-9 at Ole Miss
So there you go, although we must admit that (if you're interested) we like Alabama (minus -10), Auburn (minus-33), USC (minus-3), Mississippi State (minus-20), Miami (minus-12), Michigan (minus-10) and Wisconsin (minus-whatever you can find against South Dakota).
Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Anthony Varvaro (38) stands on the mound as Florida Marlins' Logan Morrison, right, rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Braves' backing up
Sweet Spaghetti Junction, the Braves are imploding. Atlanta has a 1.5-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals with six games to play. The Cardinals, who trail by a single game in the loss column, play today and have seven games left. TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer details it here (Braves may be done as collapse continues), including pointing out that the Cards have the easier schedule down the stretch.
There is no single issue to the collapse, unless you count "The Braves are falling apart," as a single issue.
The bullpen is spent. There apparently is an unofficial team rule that all hits must come with the bases empty. The starting rotation has been carved up by injuries, leaving Tim Hudson, a collection of 22-year-olds and Derek Lowe, who has a the $15-million salary which makes him arguably the most overpaid pitcher since Mike Hampton — and that's saying something.
It's part Fredi Gonzalez — that the bullpen is spitting oil and at times look like they are refusing to answer the phone — and it's part not Fredi. He's not the guy that's grounding out to second with runners on second and third and two out.
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Derek Lowe, right, hands the ball to manager Fredi Gonzalez, left, as he is relieved in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Florida Marlins in Miami, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011. The Marlins defeated the Braves 4-0. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
It's part Derek Lowe, who is being paid like an ace and pitching like midseason call-up, and that may be unfair to midseason call-ups.
It's part nature of the game — slumps are everywhere, and this is a really bad time for a slump to sit on the chest of like the every Braves player. Ever. (Heck, the hitting has been so bad and so across the franchise that here's saying at this February's fan fantasy camp, the former Braves will have a hard time scratching out three runs. In fact, Dale Murphy just grounded into a 6-4-3 DP in his kid's little league game.)
What we have here now is a failure to execute, and that tension creates a pressure vacuum that is self-replicating (just trust us, and try to remember that sentence — it will impress your buddies). As each missed chance passes and each fruitless at-bat multiples, the pressure and the need compound. Basically, the Braves are in a glass case of emotion, and the Cards are the mean man who punted Baxter.
Atlanta Braves' Tim Hudson pitches against the New York Mets during the first inning of a baseball game on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Here's what they need:
— Tim Hudson has two starts in the remaining six games. He must deliver in each.
— A new team rule needs to be invoked that just because the pitcher throws it does not mean the Braves have to swing at it. We're one more free-swinging game away from the opposing pitchers throwing one into the stands and seeing if every Braves player other than Chipper may take a hack at it anyway.
— Get a lead. Treat the first inning like the eighth. Get Michael Bourn on and play ABC baseball. Try playing from the front for a change and see if that doesn't ease the glass case of emotion a touch.
— Pray. Hey, little Divine Intervention never hurt, and yes, we think Jesus Christ can hit the curveball.
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe answers questions during a news conference at their headquarters on Tuesday, June 15, 2010, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/Cody Duty)
This and that — college football edition
There was just too much stuff to get to today, gang, so we pulled out the never-before-seen double This and That. Enjoy.
— OK, this is officially it. After Nevin Shapiro, the locked-up former rogue booster that claimed to provide NCAA-forbidden benefits to as many as 72 Miami football players, told his story to Yahoo! Sports, Luther Campbell has filed a lawsuit claiming Shapiro "slandered and defamed" him. Yes, Luther Campbell, AKA Luke Skywalker, who was the frontman for the former rap mega-group 2 Live Crew, has sued for slandered and is seeking more than $15,000 because, as the lawsuit states, Shapiro falsely accused Campbell of "illegal and immoral behaviors relative to college-age kids." Yes, the man who made his career with borderline illegal raps and a truckload of immoral behavior is now suing for those very charges. The 5-at-10 doesn't know whether to make a joke or quote a fortune cookie. We're just going to stop now before our head pops off.
— Looks like Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is being shown the door. That means two things: The Big 12 again has a chance to survive (we don't think it will, but Oklahoma reportedly said that Beebe had to be cut loose for the Sooners to even consider staying in the Big 12, and without Oklahoma there's no Big 12 — more like a Big 1 and the Gang); it also means that whoever takes that job better be good at kissing babies and making nice. Wow, that may be the biggest paper-chair job in sports, the commissioner version of being Steve Spurrier's offensive coordinator — yeah, it looks good on the business card, but that's about all it means.
— Two points from TFP college ace David Paschall strong realignment story (College football realignment could impact SEC schedules): One, the league has to be smart enough to do everything in its power to protect the old-school rivalries, right? (But the great Auburn-Tennessee rivalry was a victim of the last expansion in 1992). Second UT coach Derek Dooley used "Paradigm" in a quote, and used it correctly. Somewhere, Les Miles just ate grass. SEC football, baby, it takes all kinds.
— Now apparently East Carolina has applied to the Big East. Hey, the 5-at-10 has decided we're going to apply to join the SEC. Unless there's some sort of fee involved, and if we can't expense it, well, we're still weighing our options.
Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Alfredo Aceves, left, and designated hitter David Ortiz react as they sit in the dugout after they were defeated 6-4 by the Baltimore Orioles in a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
This and that — regular edition
— While the Braves fans have had plenty of hand-wringing to do, Red Sox Nation has been equally stressed. (And for friend of the show BIspy, being a Braves fan AND a Red Sox fan must be like sitting through a tax audit — painful and joyless.) Boston has a 2.5-game lead over Tampa Bay and the Anaheim Angels of Greater L.A. County than includes the valley but not Hollywood Hills — the south part anyway. Crazy times indeed. (Side note: The meltdowns of the BoSox and the No Knocks ((your Atlanta Braves, kind of catchy, huh?)) aside, these wildcard races would be far less interesting if they expanded the playoffs. Just say no baseball. It's a long season and you have to trust it.)
— Loved the numbers in prep ace Stephen Hargis' story (South Pittsburg-Signal Mountain game should feature plenty of offense). Wow, the two top scoring offenses in Tennessee since the start of the 2009 season — and Signal has scored fewer than 20 points exactly zero times in its program's history. Buckle up folks and break out the abacus, there's going to be some points put on the board.
— Longtime up-and-down Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, who played through broken ribs to lead the Cowboys to an overtime win over San Francisco on Sunday, says it hurts to laugh. After his series of big-moment miscues in recent years, Cowboys fans everywhere know EXACTLY what that feels like.
— The NFL injury report is spinning at full tilt. There's Romo and Mike Vick this week. We know the Colts have been doomed by Peyton Manning's neck and the Chiefs' cellar-dwellar status has been all-but-cemented with Eric Berry's season-ending ACL tear. You can't win without stars, but you can't have too many stars and have depth in a salary-capped league. Somewhere an NFL GM is nodding and just dropped two Alka Seltzers in a Bloody Mary. (Of course, our man Pretend Al Davis thinks that's a sissy move because it's after 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, which means it's time for three fingers of Gentleman Jack. Neat, if you please.)
Vanderbilt quarterback Larry Smith (10) scrambles for a touchdown on a 19-yard run against Mississippi in the second quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. Chasing Smith are Mississippi linebacker Joel Kight (15) and cornerback Marcus Temple (4).(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Which feel-good story most likely ends this weekend:
— Vandy's perfect start?
— The Braves' playoff hopes?
— Luther Campbell's new career as an activist and victim?
— Dale Junior's faux title hopes?
— The 5-at-10's hopes of shooting in the 70s again?
— None of the above
— All of the above
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 ...