Gang, there's a metric ton of stuff to cover, so let's get to it.
College football rewind
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, center, finds a hole between Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins, left, and defensive end Garrison Smith during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012.
OK, how crazy was this weekend? Georgia looked like Georgia State. Florida State looked like Florida Atlantic. Florida looked like Florida under Steve Spurrier, and Steve Spurrier's South Carolina team looked like Florida under Steve Spurrier.
There is so much to get to, we couldn't trim to a Rushmore or even a top five in 10 words or less. Yes, we are trying the never-before-attempted 10-in-5 — 10 things in five sentences or less. And if we go over on any of them, consider the rest of this week's subscription to the 5-at-10 on the house.
1) It's Alabama and everybody else: Sorry Oregon, sorry West Virginia, sorry South Carolina. Each of you looked good Saturday and all of you have nice wins on the resumes and deserve to be in the top 5. But Alabama is the most complete team in the country and the Tide handle their BID-ness with the intent, the precision and the effectiveness of a team of Navy SEALS.
2) Who's doubting the Geno Smith train now? Smith, the West Virginia quarterback lit up Baylor nine days ago, passing for more than 600 yards with more TD passes (8) than incompletions (6). Saturday, Smith took the Mountaineers traveling road show to Austin, Texas and put half a 100 on the Longhorns. Smith went 25-of-35 for 268 and four TDs and is completing a cool 81.4 percent of his passes (166-of-204) for 1,996 yards and 24 TDs with 0 picks for the 5-0 Mountaineers. Any questions?
3) It's tough sledding in the SEC for fans: Nice wins for struggling Vandy and Arkansas. Painful losses for Missouri and Auburn, and the fan bases of each are struggling with the circumstances. The pain is especially tough for Auburn, which is 1-4 overall and 0-3 in the league and the Tigers' season is basically done before Columbus Day. Ouch-standing.
4) Tough sledding in the SEC for game-pickers: How about these numbers — the silly TFP sports editor went 2-4 on SEC games straight-up in the "Can You Beat Jay?" contest and the Fab 4 picks (plus one and plus another one for Dr. B — he's a doctor after all) went 5-1? Know the game the Fab 4 (plus one) picks missed? Georgia.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o (5) celebrates with teammates after they defeated Miami 41-3 in an NCAA college football game in Chicago, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012.Photo by Associated Press
5) More on the Fab 4 (plus one and plus another one for Dr. B — he's a doctor after all): OK, the 5-1 mark — had K-State covering the 24 (check, won 56-16), had Notre Dame covering the 13 (check, won 41-3), had the under 44 in LSU-Florida (check, Gators won 14-6), had the over 70 in West Virginia-Texas (check, WVU won 48-45) and had Clemson covering the 10 (check, won 47-31) — moved us to a pretty impressive 21-10 against the spread on the season. So, let's say you had been in Vegas reading the 5-at-10, and had wagered say $100 on each of the picks, you'd be up a cool $1,000 right now. And even more surprisingly, a year after going 1-8-1 in games involving Clemson, we're 3-0 picking the Tigers this year, including Saturday's late TD to cover against the reeling Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
6) What to make of Jimbo Fisher and the FSU Seminoles? Primed to run the table until the regular-season finale against Florida in Tallahassee, FSU was picking up steam as the "it" pick to face Alabama in the title game. A second-half meltdown against NC State — which fought like poet warriors and played so far about its head, the Wolfpack's noses are still bleeding — and those FSU title dreams are all but dashed. That season-opening win over N.C. State looks a touch better this morning, huh Johnny Vols Fans?
7) The college football season is the most painful, most joyous, most dramatic and most confounding playoff system in sports. That's why it's the best — and for Auburn fans, the worst — regular season in sports. Every game means so much, and now Johnny Bulldogs Fan, Johnny Tigers Fan, Johnny Seminoles Fan and all the rest need help from rivals and/or strangers. And for those of us who follow Auburn or Georgia Tech, it's time to re-seed the yard. Excuse us.
8) Let's talk Auburn: How bad was Saturday's 24-7 meltdown to an Arkansas defense that entered the game ranked in the bottom five in defense but produced five turnovers and eight sacks? Well, on Sunday night at an event, Johnny Tide Fans were offering their condolences, and there's nothing worse than pity from your rival. Sweet buckets of frustration and fury. So it goes in the rough and tumble SEC — some days you're the bug, some days you're the windshield. That national title in 2010 seems like a lifetime ago, no?
9) Let's give out five quick kudos for the first six weeks of work in college football: Kudos to Mississippi State, which is 5-0 for this first time this century. Kudos to Florida, which is back in the national title picture six weeks removed from starting the season with an uneven win over Bowling Green that had a lot of Jhorty Gator Fans wondering quietly if coach Will Muschamp was in over his head. Kudos to Notre Dame, which is now firmly in the title picture and has a defense that can play with anybody. Kudos to Bill O'Brien, the Penn State coach who started 0-2 but has led the Nittany Lions to four straight wins and is managing an almost untenable situation as well as could be imagined. Kudos to David Cutcliffe, who has the Blue Devils at 5-1 overall, a perfect 2-0 in the ACC and a win away from the school's first bowl trip since 1994.
10) There are 14 unbeaten teams in the AP top 25, and nine of them are in the top 10. There are a lot of expected programs among that list, but the biggest surprise has to be the 5-0 La. Tech Bulldogs, Derek Dooley's former program, who are ranked No. 23. Speaking of Derek Dooley...
Let it begin — Tennessee at Mississippi State
Hope all the Johnny Vols Fans enjoyed the bye week. As we've discussed before, the bye week is excellent.
It's 10 a.m. Monday morning, roughly 131 hours from the kickoff between your Tennessee Vols and the unbeaten, 19th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs.
We have listed a litany of "big game" this year for the Vols.
• The opener against N.C. State was big because of the offseason of unrest, and Tennessee passed with flying colors.
• The Florida game was big because it was the SEC opener and because it was Florida. Tennessee failed.
• The Georgia game was big to see how UT would compete and fight on the road against a more talented foe. Tennessee passed by fighting to the end even if they fell a touchdown short on the scoreboard.
This is different on several levels. Be it perception, be it false views or orange-tinted glasses, be it the caste structure of the SEC.
The biggest difference about this week, though, is the hard numbers of this game. Look at the schedule — Tennessee is 3-2 and, barring injury, figures to be mid-sized to heavy favorites in its final four games against Troy, Missouri, at Vandy and Kentucky. Tennessee will be sizable underdogs against Alabama and South Carolina later this month. If those expectations hold true, that leaves Tennessee 7-4.
The swing game is Saturday against Mississippi State, and the appearance and feel is dramatic in the swing between 8-4 and 7-5.
The other thing that makes this game really intriguing is it will feature the league's best cornerback — Johnthan Banks — against the league's best wide out in Justin Hunter.
And one more thing. This is the best chance for Derek Dooley to end the most familiar number on his resume — he's 0-12 against ranked foes as UT's coach. He could bury that bagel forever Saturday.
Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones (10) fields a ball hit by St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina during the inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta. Molina was out at first.
Playoff baseball rocks. As bad and marathonish (yes, we made that up) as the MLB regular season can be at times, playoff baseball is entertaining.
And entertaining does not always equal smiles. Take the Braves' season-ending exit Friday night.
Here's a check list of DON'Ts for adult guy sports fans:
• Don't wear a jersey. Trust us. There are a few exceptions, but they are very rare — Yankees fans get a pass because there are so many of them at a Yankees game, you feel out of place without one, proving yet again, the basic playground rule of when in doubt conform.
• Don't talk during the National Anthem. It's a bad example and disrespectful.
• Don't cheer when someone gets injured. Yes, we're talking to you Kansas City Chiefs fans.
• Don't paint your face. This one needs no explanation.
• Don't get a team tat. Read the previous rule and now imagine never being able to wash it off.
• You really should never throw things on the field. It's juvenile and stupid. But if you feel compelled to throw something on the field, DO NOT throw a full beer. For the love of goodness, that's stupid and wasteful. And at pro ball parks, an $8 beer is not uncommon, so you're basically throwing 10 bucks out there because of a bad call. And that makes sense how?
Granted, this one played out on the terrible infield fly call that was a central part of the Braves' season-ending loss in the wildcard game Friday. It was a bad call and a big play. But so were the trio of errors the Braves made and the mental mistakes they made. It was a fun year that ended too soon, but that's the description for almost every baseball team except the World Series champs and the Boston Red Sox this year. (Side note: The wildcard round gets a monster thumbs up from the 5-at-10. Any extra one-and-done moments in sports is a good thing and it made a true reward for winning the division.)
Here's an update of each of the Divisional Series, and remember this is the final year of the controversial 2-3 format where the lower-seeded team hosts the first two games:
Oakland trails Detroit 2-0: The A's had the better record and had to go to Detroit. Now Oakland is behind the 8-ball and will have to win three straight — including one against Tigers ace Justin Verlander — to advance.
Washington leads St. Louis 1-0: Nice win for a Nats team going on the road in the first playoff game since 1981 for the franchise. Game 2 is this afternoon.
Yankees lead Baltimore 1-0: New York bombs Baltimore closer and hands the ball to Andy Pettitte tonight. If that works, maybe Ron Guidry will pitch later this week.
Reds lead Giants 2-0. Good-night San Fran. Thanks for playing.
This and that
— NASCAR invaded Talladega on Sunday. (Two quick things — If you have not been to Talladega, you need to go; when you go buckle up for a full-tilt party that is open like the Waffle House (all day, every day) and traffic that will make your hair fall out.) It ended with a guy in a fast car avoiding the big wreck and crossing the finish line. Hey, we used to be a big NASCAR fan. We still pay attention to it today, but the sport is struggling on the lines of being predictable and being plain. Can you name the highlight of the season? Well other than this women who has a back tat of Dale Sr. making the ascent to Heaven. We wonder how much a thing like that costs? Our silly fraternity ankle tat is about the size of a quarter, is one color and it cost $30 in 1990. That thing on her back has to be the size of a basketball, in full color and had to be done after 2001. Side question, what are the odds this Nascar Girl's name is relatively familiar, ends in a vowel and is spelled differently than expected. Maybe Ashli or Tifanee or SanDee.
— We'll have our full NFL breakdown on Tuesday, but the Tennessee Titans may be the worst team in the NFL. And Chris Johnson has now rushed for less than 25 yards in four of the Titans' five games this year. OUCH-standing. The Titans' minus-93 point differential is the worst in the NFL — 20 points worse than Jacksonville, which lost 41-3 to Chicago on Sunday.
— Shout out to Spy's Patriots. Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning always makes for good TV. Well, except when the stink-pants Titans are playing a late afternoon game against the mediocre Vikings and the Chattanooga-area is forced to watch the Titans. Who made that call?
A security official shouts to fans to not throw trash on the field during the eighth inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta. The Cardinals won baseball's first wild-card playoff, taking advantage of a disputed infield fly call that led to a protest and fans littering the field with debris to defeat the Braves 6-3.
What's the biggest story line of the weekend?
Here are the runners-up:
Andrew Luck is better than we thought, and that's saying something since before the draft (we love the draft — you know this) we said he was the best prospect since Peyton Manning and was more athletic. Luck led the Colts to an emotion comeback win over the Packers on Sunday.
Playoff baseball rocks. College football rocks. The NFL rocks. This is a fun time for sports.
Which makes the winning storyline from this weekend a loser. Fans are out of control. Period.
OK, sports teams are a big part of lives. And the word fan comes from the word fanatic.
But this is getting out of hand, right? Let's look around:
Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel, who has played poorly this season, gets knocked out and the home fans cheered.
We saw the Braves-Cards game and the cascade of things people threw on the field after the bad infield-fly call.
Now a story out of Athens has UGA linebacker Christian Robinson saying on social media that after the Bulldogs' lopsided loss at South Carolina that the house Robinson and Aaron Murray share was rolled and egged.
Gang, we all want to win. But as much as you think you have invested in whatever team is your favorite, it's a fraction compared to what the players and coaches on those teams have put in to win.