Heading into the holidays, we're pretty stoked. We still have a spot open in Friday's mailbag, and since we'll be in and out of the office a bunch next week, we're always looking for some top five lists to fill the void.
While you ponder, let's get to it. From the "Talks too much" studios, time to make the doughnuts.
Fab 4 picks
We're ready for round two of the bowl picks. As you know, we're committed to picking every bowl game, and we're going to do it against the spread. Remember that gambling is illegal at Bushwood and we never slice, so these are for entertainment purposes only (wink, wink).
The Fab 4 picks were 51-21-2 during the regular season against the spread — that's a load of extra holiday entertainment for those that followed along. We started 2-1 in bowl picks last Saturday. Let's do work.
Brigham Young running back Jamaal Williams (21) outruns Georgia Tech defenders Quayshawn Nealy (54) and cornerback Louis Young (8) for a touchdown in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Atlanta, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
BYU vs. San Diego under the 48.5: This game hinges around which team can do best what it does best. San Diego State runs the ball; BYU has allowed more than 120 yards rushing only once this season (and that was to Notre Dame, and if memory serves, Notre Dame was pretty good this year). So, while we'll begrudgingly take the Cougars (and buy the half down to -2.5) we like a quick-moving, run-alot slugfest. Somewhere in the 20-17 ballpark.
Ball State plus-7.5 over UCF: Ball State was a better play that we realized this year. The Cardinals were 9-3 against the spread and 5-1 as an underdog. We also like the under-61 here. There will be some entertainment at stake on this one.
Louisiana-LaFayette minus-4.5 over East Carolina: Not unlike the Utah State pick, the Ragin' Cajuns have been one of the teams we've followed closely this year. Among the highlights for this La-La bunch is the fact that when they win, they pull away, so we'll take the over too. Seven of their eight wins this year were by 13 points or more. This figures to be No. 8.
Boise State vs. Washington under the 45: Washington's turnover troubles make us reluctantly like Washington plus the 5, but the under is the better play here. Plus, the extremely low total of 45 is smack dab in the middle of the "If a line looks too good to be true, it usually is," rule.
Storylines of the year
We got some nominations yesterday, but we're still looking for more thoughts on the local sports stories of the year. In this Sunday's paper, the TFP will have a really cool Year in Review that is 32, full-color pages and is pretty outstanding.
Let's open the nominations for local sports awards to the group. And by local we mean stuff in the 150-mile radius from the heart of the 423 — Nashville, Atlanta, Knoxville, most of the SEC, etc.
Let's discuss (with some of our top picks added):
The overall story of the year — Steven Fox, B.J. Coleman getting drafted by the Packers, Lady Mocs beating Lady Vols, Derek Dooley's crash-and-burn in Knoxville, Chipper's swan song/Braves playoff run/infield fly call
The high school sports story of the year — Ringgold baseball makes inspired run, Ridgeland football falls one game short, East Hamilton football surprises, Clifford Kirk retires/returns, Catherine Neely inducted into national high school sports hall of game
What storyline surprised you the most —
What storyline did you nail — (Personal picks here, but no one nailed a story more than Jomo calling the Vols as a five-win team and saying from the start that Sal Sunseri — SAAALLLLL!!! — was going to be a big disappointment.)
Local sportsman of the year — Fox, Beth Keylon-Randolph, Pat Summitt, Coleman, Joe Smith
Local high school sportsman of the year — Mark Mariakis, Catherine Neely, Hal Lamb, Brent Tucker, Moose McGary.
Two weeks until the dance
Heading into the penultimate week of the NFL regular season, we have two questions:
First, do you like the word penultimate as much as we do? It's pretty boss.
Second and more importantly, what do we know about the NFL playoffs?
While we can't answer the first one for you we're happy to help with the latter.
In the NFC we know — Atlanta has clinched the South, Green Bay has clinched the North and San Francisco is in the playoffs. The 49ers can clinched the West with one more win and the Falcons can clinch home-field with one more win.
The East is a mess with Dallas, Washington and New York each at 8-6. Seattle is 9-5 and leads the chase for one of the two wildcard spots. Along with the three teams in the East, the Vikings and the Bears also are 8-6.
In the AFC we know — New England has clinched the East, Denver has clinched the West, Houston has clinched the South and Baltimore has clinched a playoff berth. Houston can clinch home-field advantage with one more win
The Colts are in with one more win and the Bengals can clinch a spot by beating the Steelers on Sunday.
We know more than we did and we know that ultimate answers will not be found on the penultimate weekend. (Sorry Spy, had to go for one more.)
This and that
— Duke is pretty salty. Newly minted as the nation's No. 1 team, the Blue Devils are experienced and deep — two luxuries that are more and more rare in today's college basketball.
— From the "No duh" department, what do you make of this headline: "Jets to try to trade Sanchez." Was your first reaction, "Who wants that guy?" or "Good luck with that."
— We were able to swing by SportTalk for an hour Wednesday and had a blast as usual. Someone called and try to make a case that Sal Sunseri — SAAALLLLL!!! — was a good coach who was getting bum rap for the Vols' struggles this past season. Well, OK. That may be true, but whatever the case, coaches and quarterbacks get the credit for success and the blame for failure. And as Meyer Lansky said, "This is the business we have chosen."
— From the files of sometimes a change does everyone some good, look at the UT offensive line situation from the last 18 months. Sam Pittman did work for the Vols in 2012, turning one of the team's struggling areas into a strength after taking over for Harry Hiestand. As for Hiestand, who was much-maligned during his two years in Knoxville, well, he's had some success this year coaching the improved offensive line for Notre Dame. (Seems that we read somewhere Notre Dame was having a pretty good year. We need to look into that.)
We're still looking for your favorite Christmas songs in this year's bracket. Whatcha' got?
Also, there was an interesting point someone made on The Twitter last night. Sean Price threw out there: "Brittney Griner must be 30 by now," and we realized Griner, the Baylor all-world basketball star, has moved into contention for the Stan White/Steve Taneyhill Mount Rushmore of college athletes who played for what seemed like 14 years.
Who else would you like to nominate for consideration? It felt like Eric Zeier was at Georgia from 1992 to 2001 before giving way to David Greene who just graduated. Allan Houston played basketball for the Vols for roughly 12 seasons. Others?
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 ...