Remember your mailbag entries and to pace yourself over this extended holiday weekend.
From the "Talks too much" studios, away we go.
Gruden-mania, Day III
The level of Jon Gruden-hype from Johnny Vols Fans everywhere has taken on a life of its own. Seriously.
We've had no fewer than three people tell us point blank, "It's a done deal," and before you even think, "Well, where there's smoke, there's fire," we want to remind you about Cam Newton. No, where there's smoke there's smoke, and in coaching searches, where there's smoke there's usually a few smoke screens, too.
Here's what we know:
Gruden is obviously — OBVIOUSLY — choice No. 1. In fact, he's choice Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5 through 8, and all of the even numbers beyond that.
We know the UT athletic department is going to get some financial help from the university during the next thee years. The Vols athletics department routinely donates $6 million annually back to the school, but the school has allowed athletics to skip that pledge for the next three years. With buyouts and new contracts coming, an extra $18 million will be most useful.
Of the 10 or more former UT players, either the 5-at-10 or someone on our staff has spoken with, Gruden is respected. But Charlie Strong is far and away the preferred pick of the former players because of his familiarity with the SEC and recruiting. Just thought that was interesting.
Here's what we think:
No matter how many folks say it, believe it, or even want to believe it, Gruden is not a done deal until it's a done deal. The rumors of staff assembly and such are just that — rumors. When there is a story this coveted, if there was something truly solid it would be out there. Period. There are too many folks fighting for this one.
The Tennessee fan base has turned Gruden into a combo of the Loch Ness Coach, Coach Chuckie Norris, and Tampa Tim Tebow. Seriously, if the Vols announced they were in talks with Bill Belichick, there are some Johnny Vols Fans that would be bemoaning how Gruden was the one.
Do not sleep on Strong, Jimbo Fisher or even Bob Stoops. Seriously.
There will be no announcement this week. If Gruden really is the next UT coach, we would expect the announcement sometime next week in an effort to steal some thunder from two of the Vols' biggest rivals facing off in the SEC title game and a likely BCS semifinal.
Fab 4 (plus 1) picks
Since Thursday is Thanksgiving, we're trotting out our picks a day early. Consider it a holiday treat, like pumpkin pie or college hoops on in the afternoon. It's pretty much a win-win.
That said, we've had our fair share of success picking games this fall. We're 42-18-2 against the spread this year, and even though these picks are for entertainment purposes only, if you had put 100 entertainment dollars on each pick, you'd be up 2,200 entertainment dollars. That's some high-priced entertainment.
We try to separate the picks from the passion, and last week, making early picks cost us a couple of wins — case in point we had Oklahoma as a pick last week, and while we liked the Sooners, as Saturday approached, we liked Oklahoma State over Texas Tech more. so it goes. We say this as a caution that if the Alabama-Auburn line gets under 28 (it's currently right around 31), we'd advise taking the Tide and laying the points.
Here's this week's Fab 4 (plus 1) — and yes, we know there's only three here, but we're rushed and making them a day early is tough:
Mississippi State plus 2 at Ole Miss: Not sure how the Bulldogs are the underdog here, and that sends off warning bells. And as strong as the signs are of this being a "Lines that are too good to be true usually are" we like MSU and we really like MSU quarterback Tyler Russell.
Utah State minus-38 against Idaho: Sometimes you have to ride the hot hand, and there is no hotter hand in betting circles than the Utah State Aggies, who are 11-0 against the spread. And yes, 38 is a bucket-load of points, but Idaho is 1-10 overall and 2-9 against the spread, and one of those covers was on a field goal on the final play of a 52-13 loss when the Vandals were getting 40 points.
LSU minus-12 at Arkansas: The Tigers have something still left to play for — a 10-win season and a potential trip to the Sugar Bowl. The Hogs are cooked and were waxed against Mississippi State last week. The only two games the Hogs have covered this year were against SEC dregs Auburn and Kentucky. That seems like a bad sign, no?
More to come... (Updated Friday night)
Virginia at Virginia Tech under the 49: Virginia Tech is this year's Clemson. Last year, the Fab 4 picks finished 58-30-2 picking games against the spread, and we were 1-8-1 in picking games involving Clemson. Some might say that we should have stopped picking games involving Clemson, but never let anyone tell you that just because you're stubborn does not mean you're not willing to be be occasionally bull-headed too. Anyhoo, Virginia Tech is this year's Clemson and we're 0-4 in games involving Virginia Tech this year (had them covering against Georgia Tech, Miami and BC and had FSU over the Hokies). So it goes. We actually like Virginia getting 10.5 here, too.
South Carolina at Clemson under the 61: Speaking of Clemson, last year's prodigal Tigers have been a blessing this fall. We're 4-0 picking games involving Clemson, and our preference on the under here is based primarily on our college football ace David Paschall, who told us that going over that number would be historic in this rivalry. We countered with the fact that Clemson has scored less than 37 points once, and that was in the season-opener against Auburn without the receiver you know better as Joe the Policemen from the What's Going Down episode of "That's My Mama" Mr. Sammie Watkins. Paschall countered that the Tigers' lowest scoring game was against the worst team in the SEC. South Carolina is far from the worst team in the SEC and is the best team (and defense Clemson has played).
Bonus picks: We like Miami (minus 6 at Duke) and Ohio State (minus 4 against Michigan) on Saturday. The Hurricanes and the Buckeyes will end their seasons this weekend because of NCAA violations and will not be able to go to the postseason. We expect inspired efforts from each team.
College hoops record-breaker
At tiny Grinnell College, a Division III school in Iowa, the basketball is about offense. Forget Norman Dale's four passes before a shot, the Pioneers' up-Up-UP-tempo style has produce the two most recent individual single-game scoring records, including Grinnell's Griffin Lentsch scoring 89 last year.
Well, 89 was little more than a twinkle in Jack Taylor's eye Tuesday night. Taylor smashed just about every scoring record anywhere with 138 points in Grinnell's 179-104 drubbing of Faith Baptist Bible.
Here are some mind-bending numbers from Tuesday:
— Grinnell's hyper-frenic style forces mass substitutions; normally no Pioneers player gets more than 20 minutes. In fact 20 players saw the floor Tuesday, but Taylor played 36 minutes — the same number Lentsch played when setting the record last year. Side note: Lentsch scored seven points Tuesday. Off the bench. So yes, the Division III single-game record holder for scoring doesn't start for Grinnell.
— Grinnell had 63 points off 49 turnovers and allowed FBB to shoot 61 percent (50-of-82).
— No Grinnell player attempted more than six shots; Taylor was 52-of-108 from the floor, 27-of-71 from 3, and 7-of-10 from the foul line. Taylor had as many assists as you and the 5-at-10 did — bagel — and in 36 minutes averaged three shots a minute. Sweet buckets of IcyHot, that makes your elbow sore even thinking about it.
— Completely lost in the shuffle was an incredible night for FBB's David Larson, who scored 70 points on 34-of-44 shooting.
— Taylor is now averaging a tasty 61.7 points per game for Grinnell (3-0).
This and that
— In a tradition that is roughly 150 years old, President Obama is going to pardon two turkeys this Thanksgiving. Ingrid Newkirk, the president of the People of Ethical Treatment of Animals, is opposing the move. Buckle up. Here's what Newkirk wrote: "It makes light of the mass slaughter of some 46 million gentle, intelligent birds and portrays the United States' president as being in some sort of business partnership with the turkey-killing industry," Newkirk wrote in a letter sent to President Obama. "Turkeys do not need to be 'pardoned'-they are not guilty of anything other than being born into a world of prejudice. They are innocents who should be respected for who they are: good mothers, smart birds, and interesting animals. You understand so well that African-Americans, women, and members of the LGBT community have been poorly served throughout history, and now I am asking you to consider other living beings who are ridiculed, belittled, and treated as if their sentience, feelings, and very natures count for nothing."
Ingrid, shut your pie hole, enjoy all the Tofurkey you can stand and move along. Sweet buckets of wasted energy, we got kids hungry in the streets and we have huge organizations spending millions to compare a bird's struggles to the plights and fights for equality among human beings and worried for a turkey's feelings. Our head may pop.
— OK, Thanksgiving is a monster meal, there's no doubt. But here are some eye-popping numbers: Most Americans will consume roughly 3,000 calories on Thursday. For a normal-sized person to burn off that many calories, they'd need to run a marathon. And then run three more miles. Pass the gravy.
— UTC lost 71-63 to La. Tech on Tuesday to drop the Mocs' record to 1-4. From what our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer says here, there were plenty of good seats available. And, yes, StuckinKent, we know it's the holidays and all the other rationalizations and reasons, but crowds in the hundreds scream apathy. And we contend there is no emotion more damning in college sports than apathy.
— Congrats to the NFL for making the right call and lifting Ed Reed's suspension. It was the right call and it shows the NFL may be learning from its heavy-handed mistakes in the Bounty-Gate stuff.
— Congrats to Davis Tull, the UTC defensive end who was named SoCon defensive player of the year.
This one was to be expected.
Since tomorrow is the big turkey day and all, and since we'll have a short 5-at-10 and not that many folks will swing by, let's do our traditional, "What are you thankful for...?" today.
Here's the twist, though. Since this is a family-oriented, interweb-based sports column, it has to be sports related. And since, this is the day before the Thanksgiving Thursday that is before Black Friday that precedes Small-shop Saturday and Cyber Monday, let's give this a Wacky Wise-acorn Wistful Wednesday spin.
"We're thankful that despite the dumpster fire that is Auburn football that Jordan-Hare was still 90-percent full last week on senior day. Classy way to end."
That said, beyond our great family and friends, and the chance to live in this great country, we have a lot more to be thnakful for, and here are two of them:
We're thankful to all of you folks who make this fun to do;
We're also thankful that Ingrid Newkirk will have nothing to do with our Thanksgiving feast. Pass the turkey and enjoy the day.
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 ...