Gang, hope you are stoked for a weekend that could be fantabulous. We are.
We also hope that you have used the link here on the TFP website to listen to Press Row. Or that you are listening from 3-6 on 105.1 FM locally. Good times. (And if you have any trouble with it, please let us know.)
Without further ado, or further I do or even further redo — and we're stopping there — let's do work.
From the "Talks too much" studios, tell 'em 'bout it Jo-Jo.
Fab 4-plus-1 picks
Gang, the pickings are slim and we need to close quickly after a less-than-entertaining 4-6 mark with our online picks last week. We're 48-37-1 against the number so far this year. Now as we all know, these picks are for entertainment only, but let's assume you invested 100 entertainment vouchers on each pick, you'd be 720 entertainment vouchers to the good (including the entertainment commission for your local entertainment brokers; and with most things we encourage buying local when possible. Remember gang, piracy is not a victimless crime).
So it goes, and in truth it should be a lot better. We got too cute after a fast start. We abandon two primary rules too frequently: We ignored the fundamental creed that lines that look too good to be true normally are and we did not ride hot horses to the finish. If you had bet on Auburn (10-2 vs. the spread), Missouri (11-1 vs. the spread), Duke (9-2-1 vs. the spread), FSU (10-2 vs. the spread) and Wisconsin (9-2-1 vs. the spread after starting 9-0-1) all year, that quintet went 49-9-2 against the line this year. That's enough entertainment to handle Christmas — through like 2016.
That said, four of those covering machines face off this weekend, and we can see reasons to support each side. So we're not going to support any. (Of those, Duke catching 29 points caught our eye, but the number-crunching does not compute. Check this: The line has gone FSU -27 to FSU -29 despite almost 70 percent of the action being on Duke. So the guys who make their living doing this want the action on Duke — if 70 percent of the action is on the underdog the line should get smaller not bigger. So Vegas wants the public's entertainment on Duke, and when Vegas wants your money on one team it's because they want your money.)
Auburn-Missouri over 58: Fast turf. Big play offenses and defenses. High stakes for each, so the playbook has been flipped from "wide open" straight to "ludicrous speed." We expect each to play fast, and we expect each offense to play well. That means points. Lots and lots of points.
Ohio State minus-5 over Michigan State: Strength on strength when THE Ohio State offense plays the Michigan State defense. Blah on blah when the Spartans' offense goes against the Buckeyes' D. It's the strengths that will decide it, because in truth, the Spartans can't get much beyond 24 points without freaky scores. So ask yourself, will the Buckeyes and that juggernaut offense get four TDs? We say yes, since their lowest output of the season was 31 against Wisconsin.
Central Florida minus-10 over SMU: The Knights are talented and tough — and quarterback Blake Bortles has emerged as a potential first-round pick according to ESPN draft guru Todd McShay. With a BCS bowl on the line for UCF — and George O'Leary would have been a coach of the year contender without the extraordinary runs by the winning firm of Malzahn, Pinkel and Cutcliffe — here's saying the Knights handle their BID-ness quickly and efficiently.
Fresno State minus-3 over Utah State: Utah State has four losses, but those are to the two Pac-12 teams and Boise State and BYU, so it is better than its record. Fresno State is coming off its worst performance of the season. In the 1+1+1=14 world of betting, that means Fresno State rolls.
Montana minus-5 over Coastal Carolina: This is a shoutout for the FCS fans out there — and Maximus, we'll have more on the playoffs in Sunday's TFP. And did you notice that the last SoCon team alive gets the treat of traveling to North Dakota State for a JMC dream shot against the Alabama of the FCS. As for this pick, not all local entertainment brokers have numbers on the FCS games so there's that. There's also the trip to Montana, the weather, the crowd and the fact that the Grizzlies are extremely comfortable in the playoffs. The Chanticleers, not so much.
In the messy mess that has been the investigation of the rape allegation against FSU star quarterback Jameis Winston, there has been little news and none of it entertaining.
The breaking news Wednesday that the authorities have completed their investigation and will announce whether they are going to press charges — which would result in Winston, the Heisman front-runner and the trigger man for the nation's No. 1 team, being dismissed from school — or not is a good decision. The announcement will be at 2 p.m. today, and regardless of the decision, announcing it before this weekend, when the fate of the season and the season's biggest individual award will be crystalized, is the prudent play. We concur with a lot of what TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer wrote here.
FSU believes that Winston will be cleared, which makes sense since why would you hold a press conference to announce someone is going to be charged rather than just go arrest them and hold the press conference after the fact.
We want to believe that, no matter how much better the timing of an announcement today would be for the college football world, the correct and just decision was made, regardless of how it affects the college football landscape.
UT recruiting beat goes on
The Vols landed another major commitment Wednesday when five-star wide receiver Josh Malone — no relation to Moses or Sam Malone — picked UT over a host of power programs.
Malone is the second five-star in UT's swollen class of 33 — more on that in a moment — and he's also the second in-state five-star, joining running back Jalen Hurd.
In truth, recruiting has far and away been the high point of Butch Jones' first year, and that's a good thing. The Vols were under-manned in almost every SEC game this year, and the underachievement of an offensive line billed to be a collection of NFL players, made every offensive possession a fight.
So if you are not happy with your roster, what do you do?
In the NFL, you either hope for a draft miracle or you go free agency and hope to find a diamond in the bushes. In college, you recruit. Hard.
And the Vols have done just that and have made the most of a special opportunity that was present in this recruiting class. Considering the Vols overwhelming needs and their recent struggles — three straight 5-7 seasons is less than mediocre — landing a major crop of talent was going to be tough.
But, there were a slew of highly regarded legacies in this class, guys like Todd Kelly, Dillon Bates and the Berry twins. (And, like they say in Animal House, "legacies are generally asked to pledge, unless the legacy in question is a complete closet case... Like Fred.")
The state of Tennessee also has more talent this year — including two five-star kids for the first time in memory — than we normally see.
So the Vols are trying to rework the roster. They currently have room to take 30 signees in this class; they have 33 commits already and are expecting one more Friday when offensive lineman Charles Mosley announces his decision. Plus, the Vols are in the mix for a slew of other supremely high-profile guys.
Expect some grayshirts — maybe those new uniforms were a little foreshadowing — and expect some transfers and roster causalities come this spring.
It's a numbers game, and we all saw this season, the Vols need better numbers.
This and that
— OK, would the real UNC stand up? After losing to UAB last week, the Tar Heels topped top-ranked Michigan State and did it in relatively easy fashion. MSU coach Tom Izzo told reporters after the game it "one of the more disappointing performances of my career here." Wow, here's sayong practice at East Lansing today may not be a walk at the beach.
— Side point: Michigan State and Louisville are two athletic programs having seriously nice runs in the hoops and football right now. And Duke. (Anyone still stunned about Duke winning 10 football games in a season? Ten wins used to be three-plus years.)
— Mike Tomlin got a $100K fine for his sideline dance during the Thanksgiving night game against the Ravens that interfered with a Baltimore kick returned running down the sideline. We're OK with the fine — Tomlin's smirk and look gave the appearance he may have done it on purpose — and think he probably should have been suspended a game, but we're strongly against the Steelers losing draft picks for this. We also think the referees who did not throw a flag on the play should be a little lighter in the wallets.
— Tiger Woods talked about 2014 with reporters on Wednesday. He talked about the major championship venues, and how they set up well for the 14-time major champ (although to be fair, when Tiger's playing well every venue, from Augusta National to Sir Goony's sets up well for him). We know he's won four Masters, but he also won the British Open the last time it was at Royal Liverpool and won at Valhalla in 2000, the sites of next year's British and PGA Championship, respectively. The US Open is at Pinehurst, and Tiger finished second and tied for third the last two times the US Open was there.
— Apparently the green light has been given to a Terminator reboot. We're good with that. Plasma rifle with the 40 watt range. We'll be back.
— We told you that the top-10 lists were coming and we shared some yesterday. Today, here are the top 10 puppy names for 2013. Yep, it's a dog-eat-dog world:
6) Sophie (which was also No. 1 for baby girls)
Feel free to chime in on any of the above.
If you need a talking point, here are but three:
— Will Tiger win a major in 2014?
— Who you got in the SEC title game and why?
— Thoughts on UT recruiting?
Discuss and remember the mailbag.
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 ...