published Thursday, December 12th, 2013

5-at-10: Fab 4 picks, title game questions and will Saban leave

Folks, the mailbag is lacking so far this week. Maybe it's the post-college football blahs, but we still need a couple.

From the "Talks too much" studios, better late than never and better never than dead... or something like that.

Fab 4-plus-1 picks

We are still crafting the bowl contest and we are pledging a 60-percent rate against the spread. So there's that.

Still, with only one college game on the slate this weekend, we're going to look around and see what else we can pick. Our nose? Check. Our lunch? Check. Sporting events? Absolutely, but remember, it's for entertainment purposes only.

We finished the regular season 50-40-1. Last year we went 41-21-1 during the regular season, which shows clearly that more can be less. (Side note: We went 35-17 against the number in bowl games and late-season NFL games last year. Our total against the spread for the last three seasons is now 194-108-6. Not too bad, but we need a rebound. Side note, part II: Looking back to get our record against the number we stumbled across this prediction last January: "Auburn — These Tigers could be the surprise team in the league next year if new coach Gus Malzahn can turn one of the quarterbacks into a functioning asset." Hmmm.)

So to the picks.

Navy minus-13 over Army: In one of the true great rivalries and environments in all of sports, the annual Army-Navy game takes center stage Saturday afternoon. We're in because it's football and because we're not going to stand here and let you bad mount the United States of America. Gentlemen. Also, Navy sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds is a dangerous weapon in the Midshipmen's option look.

Denver minus-10 over San Diego: The Broncos are smashing people. And there still is motivation on the table for everyone involved. Denver has not secured the home-field edge. Heck, it has not even secured the division. Also, Peyton Manning is chasing one of the best seasons in all of sports history. And he'll likely get another chance to tell his cold-weather critics where to put the, "Manning can't play in sub-32-degree temperatures."

Kansas City minus-4 at Oakland: The Chiefs get after the quarterback. The Raiders would like to have a quarterback. Yes please.

Saints minus-5 at St. Louis: The Rams also get after the quarterback. Are they changing the state slogan of Missouri from "The Show Me State" to "The Show Me a Pass Rush State" this weekend? Wow. Still, a dynamite pass rush can work well against underprepared or overwhelmed QBs. Saints trigger man Drew Brees is neither of those.

New England minus-2 at Miami: Yes, we are down with some road favorites. And we even like the power teams from the NFC West coming East for 1 p.m. kicks. There are teams that are playing for bigger things and there are teams playing for themselves. We'll take the bigger things. And the better quarterbacks.


Manning the Magnificent

As the Denver Broncos sprint toward AFC home-field advantage, Peyton Manning will quickly and emphatically explain that the number of wins is the only stat for which he cares.

And we know he means it.

Still, Manning is closing in on arguably the best single season in NFL history. It started with a 460-plus-yard, seven-TD season opener and it has continued to collect steam. Here are the records Manning has within reach:

Passing yards: Manning is on pace for 5,565 yards, which would top Drew Brees' record total of 5,476 in 2011. This one could be tough because Denver plays three stink-tastic teams to close the season and may not need to throw a great deal to beat the Chargers, Raiders and Texans.

TD passes: This one seems like a dunk. Manning has 45 TD passes and three games to top Tom Brady's mark of 50. Done and all-but done.

Passer rating: This is a stretch. Manning's rating is 114.5, which is good enough for fourth all time. It would take a magic act to get to Aaron Rodgers' record of 122.5.

MVPs: The record is four. It's held by Manning. And it's a no-brainer he'll add No. 5 this season, which would be a new league record.


What's next

Want to know the true definition of sports void, the vacuum created when one season ends and we start on another before we're completely ready?

Look at the RGIII story. (Side note: RG 3-and-10 to equal the Redskins record is good stuff.)

Seriously, the Redskins are relevant how? When was the last time — beyond the social ripples of their mascot choice — that the Redskins were even in the top third of NFL discussions.

But with college football ending, the Heisman being a dunk, the NFL races starting to crystalize and the basketball seasons in their infancy, sports talking heads (of which we can be somewhat guilty possibly) have dissected the Washington meltdown almost as much as the political talking heads have.

Side question: Are we guilty of talking about the RGIII-and-10 mess even if we're talking about how silly it is to talk about it?

Here's a thought: What happens if Kirk Cousins wins the final three games? It's a big shot for Cousins, who will replace RGIII, who has been shelved by coach Mike Shanahan, who wants to get fired and who wants to show the world there is a dysfunctional relationship between RGIII and owner Dan Snyder, who likely is going to hire his eighth coach in 16 years as the Redskins chief.


This and that

— Now the reports are that Texas is prepared to fire Mack Brown. Today figures to be judgement day, and we'll say it again, unless Texas has a plan in place to land someone better than Mack Brown, who went a very Fulmer-esque 158-47 with one national title in 16 seasons, the Longhorns may fall into what is forever known as the UTumble after replacing a successful veteran head coach.

— Baltimore safety Matt Elam said the Ravens are going to get physical with Detroit wide out Calvin Johnson, who Elam said was "pretty old." Elam also complimented Johnson, the best wide receiver in football history not named Jerry Rice, but the lasting sound bite will be "pretty old." enjoy Monday night Matt when Megatron goes for 11 catches for 220 and three TDs.

— Baseball is looking for approval from owners and the MLB players union to ban home-plate collisions. We're not sure how to feel about that. Thoughts? On one-hand, we have had it at lower-levels of baseball for years, so it likely could be a culture change that we don't miss in a decade, not unlike 'spearing' in football. On the other hand, if we're going to sanitize and safety-ify every game, well, why don;t we just play XBox tournaments? Oh yeah, we may get carpel tunnel from the controllers. Stupid controllers.

— Wow, talk about opposite ends of the spectrum: BCS title tickets are approaching the $525 mark on Stubhub. Heck the parking passes are $65. And then there is the Titans-Cardinals ticket in Nashville, which is going for $3 on Yes, for roughly the price of a $5 footlong at Subway (plus tax) you and a buddy can see Arizona-Tennessee on Sunday in Nashville.


Today's question

  • photo
    Alabama head coach Nick Saban celebrates with his team after the BCS National Championship college football game against LSU on Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans. Alabama won 21-0.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The mailbag still has open space.

If you need talking points, and we're going to open this one up for the listeners on Press Row on ESPN 105.1 starting at 3 p.m. today: Best single season in sports history?

Also, we said earlier that Calvin Johnson was the best received in football history not named Jerry Rice. Is Calvin Johnson a better player than Rice just without the chance to play 15 years with Joe Montana and Steve Young in the perfectly suited Bill Walsh system?

Does Saban go?

Is RGIII a top 10 QB in the NFL? Better yet, would you trade Joe Flacco for RGIII?

Is Manning's season the best in football history? Best in sports history? It's on the short list right?

about Jay Greeson...

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 ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
jomo11 said...

Looks like Jimmy Sexton, Saban's agent, is driving this media frenzy. I think its 50/50 Saban goes but it is 100% that Saint Nicky is going to get a dumptruck load of cash. As for Mrs. Saban, you got to think that Sexton set up that Wall Street Journal interview. And regardless what Saban decides, this is all good for Sexton, who represents several other coaches as this Texas sweepstakes will just help set the new, new market for coach's salary.

December 12, 2013 at 10:26 a.m.
MocTastic said...

Saban goes.

Manning best season ever? Remember, rules have changed to protect QBs and inflate the offense. Some guy named Babe Ruth had seasons where he had more home runs by himself than all the other teams had as a team combined. Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double one season: 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game. Wilt Chamberlain had a season where he averaged 50.4 points per game. Bob Gibson in 1968 had a 1.12 ERA with 13 shutouts allowing one or zero runs in 24 of his 34 starts. These are all above Manning this season in my pantheon of great sport seasons.

December 12, 2013 at 10:35 a.m.
sportsfan said...

Jay - I got a few minutes, so here's a mailbag query for you. What's your Rushmore of sports memorabilia that you would like to display in your mancave if money wasn’t an issue?

December 12, 2013 at 10:47 a.m.
chas9 said...

For the bag: Today is Virgin of Guadalupe Day in Mexico, where you can ask for anything you want from The Virgin. What should the football fans in Mexico Norte wish for?

For those who came in late, Mack Brown was born in Cookeville, where his brother Watson currently coaches. Mack won at UNC, so they figured he could win BIG in Tejas. Since they love Tarheels coaches, maybe they'll go for Butch Davis, who'd work cheap.

Say it ain't so, Joe, was my first thought about banning plate collisions. They are a time-honored tradition. But my second thought is that catchers have it tough enough, and it's a shame when talented players' careers are cut short. In ten years (or 20) we won't miss it.

My own worst moment on the diamond was while taking a throw at first (in proper position) having a mean-spirited batter/runner at full steam lay a strong forearm shiver into my chin, only to claim he was entitled to try to knock the ball loose. What he did was a rules violation. The rules were (and are) different for a play at home, but I think it's time to change them.

Ask Ty Cobb what he thinks of the proposed change. He stole home 54 times. (No record of how many catchers he bowled over and/or slashed with his sharpened cleats in the process.) For perspective, Rickey Henderson only did it four times.

I'm not a fan of Willie Cauley-Stein's new blond do. Blond worked better on Rodman, but the wilder colors looked better, even on The Worm. If you're not gonna go natural, you gotta go BIG.

December 12, 2013 at 11:15 a.m.
chas9 said...

From yesterday: What announcers are we forgetting? Jim McKay, Harry Carey, Dick Button, Harry Thornton.

UK's roundballers may be the best freshman class ever, and may become the nation's best team by March, so how come attendance is down at Rupp thus far? It's declined every year since 2009. Then it averaged 23,868 for the first seven games, now only 21,799. Of course, most schools can only wish for 21,799.

December 12, 2013 at 11:24 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

I can't remember a similar 3-10 team getting as much ink as the Deadskins that wasn't based in New York. So a team going nowhere is benching its still-recovering from knee surgery quarterback, with a lousy offensive line in front of him, while it plays out the string with a meaningless game this week, a game that might mean something next week and a game that likely won't mean squat on the final week of the season.

And this is a hot topic?

Single greatest season in sports history ... might fall to two guys whom I don't like at all and would rather see die in car fires. But their names rhyme with Wiger Toods and Gayne Wretzky.

Chas9, you went all figure skating maven Dick Button on yes? Wow.

December 12, 2013 at 12:36 p.m.
MocTastic said...

Chas9, I can't speak for the Wildcat fans of UK, but this system of replacing 6 or so top players each year is not fan friendly in one way, you never get to feel like you know them, to watch them come in as a freshman, mature, and go out as a senior. About the time UK fans figure out who they are without checking their program they are gone to pro ball.

December 12, 2013 at 12:44 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

It may be the softball parent in me but I have never liked allowing the baseball catcher to be steamrolled. He has some protection with his gear but it's not allowed on the other bases, why at home?

The NFL and ESPN try to build stars sometimes at the expense of covering the lesser teams/cities. It is annoying but expected that the Griffin story would be overblown.

December 12, 2013 at 1:09 p.m.
chas9 said...

Farewell to Darrell P. The perm was a mistake, but he had a good career. Don't know anybody in these parts could match him. Ron Burgundy wishes he was as good.

Spy--The Button mention was with tongue firmly in cheek. Just like to stir things up sometimes. Not a fan of men in tights.

December 12, 2013 at 1:13 p.m.
WilliamRscott said...

Sir BI Spy IV,

Your thoughts on Doc's Garden Party last night? Mine: we will never see something like that again for a coach that has been away less than a year. Advantage: Boston.


December 12, 2013 at 1:58 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Hey chas, if the eyes of Texas are cast upon former UNC coaches, I don't know that Carl Torbush or John Bunting are doing anything significant right now. Torbush is coaching somewhere. I just forgot - or simply don't care to remember - where.

December 12, 2013 at 2 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay, After the Mocs got skunked out of the playoffs, I've all but shutdown the football camp. I just simply don't care.

I am happy to the degree that I'll be home to attend the Dr. Pepper Classic and the women's home game against Waffle House U. However, if you're bent on a mailbag letter, I'll throw this out:

We all know the Dr. Pepper Classic is not a major tier college tournment. But given the fresh blood in the adminstration and the program, could there be a push to bring in more "recognizable" programs to help put butts in the new seats? While Mocs vs. Middle Tennessee I believe will draw a respectable crowd, I don't forsee any interest in Grand Canyon U. (Who the hell are they? The fight'n donkies?)

December 12, 2013 at 2:01 p.m.
WilliamRscott said...


Torbush is the coach-in-waiting at the school-in-waiting...ETSU.


December 12, 2013 at 2:02 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

We went to the Darrell Patterson ceremony today and they showed some old-school promo ads. Ron Burgandy, eat your heart out.

Now, easy... we're a fan of Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

BiB —


LB —

We can see that about the parental aspect for sure.

MT —

Excellent list. Ruth out-homering every team in the league is awesome. So was the triple double for the Big O.

Gibson's season was mound-aided.

We'll still rank Byron Nelson winning 11 tournaments in a row and 18 in 1945.

MT —

Very good point.

9er and Sportsfan, you guys are in the mailbag.

And Spy, who is Gayne Wretzky, and is his daughter hot?

December 12, 2013 at 2:17 p.m.
BIspy4 said...


Thanks for the Torbush update. Had lost track of him.

It was apparent coming back to Boston wasn't easy for Doc. Of all the Boston fanbases, the Celtics fans are easily the most forgiving and accepting. To them, you're a Celtic for a day, you're a Celtic for life. Look how they embraced former Laker Shaquille O'Neal.

5, that's Janet Jones' daughter. I have long been suspicious of her paternal genetic makeup.

December 12, 2013 at 5:28 p.m.
mcpell3 said...

Can we get a Saban to Arkansas St rumor started?

December 12, 2013 at 9:14 p.m.
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