Gang, there's a ton to get to so let's get to it.
From the "Talks too much" studios, we believe in the soul.
SEC asked and answered — bowl edition
1) Alabama (9-0 overall, 6-0 SEC)
Can anyone beat Alabama and stop the Tide from making the trip to the BCS title game? It's highly unlikely, but a wise man once said, "That's why they play the games." This week figures to be a cake walk even if the Tide is sleep walking. There's a real chance when UTC visits in 10 days that neither the Tide nor the Mocs starters see more than two series. Then comes the trip to Auburn for the Iron Bowl, and unless Nick Marshall is ready to throw for 250-plus, the Tide have a system for short-circuiting one-dimensional teams no matter how good that one dimension. Buckle up Bama-basjers, it looks like another holiday season colored in Crimson. Pick: BCS title game
Saturday: at Mississippi State, 7:45 (ESP)
2) Auburn (9-1, 5-1)
Where are the Tigers going to spend New Year's? Well, there is little doubt about which coach is the front-runner for league coach of the year, huh? Gus Malzahn has the Tigers staring at a New Year's Day Bowl and in control of potentially earning a BCS bowl invite if they win out. A win over Bama seems like a tall order, but handle Georgia and the Tigers make an attractive Sugar Bowl invitee. Some turnaround from this time last year when the Tigers collectively had quit on the way to a 3-9 debacle. Pick: Sugar Bowl
Saturday: vs. Georgia, 3:30 (CBS)
3) Missouri (9-1, 5-1)
Where is the second-biggest SEC surprise going to spend New Year's? Gary Pinkel would be a dunk coach of the year pick if not for Malzahn's magic. Still, the Tigers are in control of the SEC East, so they too could get to a BCS bowl game, but at the very least they can plan on a warm-weather trip. Pick: Outback Bowl
4) Texas A&M (8-2, 4-2)
Where will Johnny Football's last game be? If the Aggies sweep — some what of a tall order considering the challenges of the final stretch that are at LSU and at Missouri in the last two weeks of the season — they could be the Sugar Bowl's pick. If A&M gets swept, its still will be an attractive picks because of the star-power that is Johnny Hollywood. If the Aggies split, here's saying the Cotton Bowl gets a dream match-up of Texas A&M against Texas and the entire state tries to get into Jerry Jones' palace to watch Prince Johnny Pigskin one more time. Pick Cotton Bowl
5) Georgia (6-3, 4-2)
Where will the Bulldogs bowl? As Todd Gurley gets back into game shape and with a high-profile challenge this week at Auburn, the Bulldogs could finish on a nice run with some added notoriety. If Georgia sweeps out, the Capital One could be in play but the Bulldogs went there last year and we know bowl games like variety. Like those packs of chips in which there's always one brand that is left over in mass quantities. Add in that even if they sweep the last three, 9-3 will feel a little disappointing for a team derailed by injuries, so Georgia's ceiling looks to be Outback. Pick: Gator Bowl
Saturday: at Auburn, 3:30 (CBS)
6) South Carolina (7-2, 5-2)
Where will the Gamecocks bowl? Want a sneaky Sugar Bowl shocker — try Steve Spurrier's bunch. South Carolina's bowl range is staggering, going from potentially getting into the SEC title game to play for a spot in a BCS game or potentially going to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Spurrier's presence and a devoted fan base will make South Carolina an attractive pick, and South Carolina has a season-ending game against Clemson that could really raise their profile. Pick: Capital One Bowl
Saturday: vs. Florida, 7 (ESPN2)
7) Ole Miss (6-3, 3-3)
Where the Rebels bowl? Another strong fan base that could elevate their team, Ole Miss could easily sneak into a Florida bowl considering it could very well close the season on a six-game winning streak. Still, the season's next-to-last game against Ole Miss could determine which team goes to Florida and which team stuffs itself on Chick-fil-A sammiches on New Year's Eve. Pick: Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Saturday: vs. Troy, noon (ESPNU)
8) LSU (7-3, 3-3)
Where will LSU bowl? You now get into a point where you're looking around and wondering, is LSU really headed to the Music City Bowl and does that mean they could play someone like Georgia Tech? Yep, and yep. Very possible indeed. That said, coming off an open week this Saturday, the Tigers have a profile-raising possibility against Texas A&M and a season-ending dunk against Arkansas, if they sweep, they could elevate, but considering LSU went to the Chick-fil-A last year, they would have to jump several spots to get to Florida. Is that likely? Sure. Pick: Music City Bowl.
9) Vandy (5-4, 2-4)
Where will Vandy bowl? The greatest stretch in post-World War II Commodores has been filled with surprising moments a slew of trips to Nashville. Vandy is in line for its third straight bowl trip under James Franklin. Read that again. In fact, Franklin and the 'Dores could very well win out — vs. Ketucky, at a reeling Tennessee team and vs. Wake Forest — and be facing a real trip to Memphis or Memphis or even Shreveport. Egad. Vandy AD David Williams may need to pull a page out of the Jay Jacobs playbook. Remember when Jacobs, the Auburn AD, pre-bought all of the Outback Bowl allotment of tickets and guaranteed a big following to the Outback Bowl after Gene Chizik's first year in 2009? A similar move that secures Vandy a higher profile postseason spot would go a long way in keeping Franklin in the 615, considering if a guy can take Vandy to three straight bowl games, what could he do with USC's talent base? Or Nebraska's? Or, heaven help all of us, Florida's? Pick: BBVA Compass Bowl
Saturday: vs. Kentucky, 12:21 (WDSI)
10) Florida (4-5, 3-4)
Where will Florida bowl? Well, the injury-ravaged Gators — from the preseason depth chart, Florida has lost its starting QB, starting RB, best WR, two starting tackles, the nation's best defensive tackle, a defensive end, and two starting linebackers — have work to do to make the postseason. In fact, other than the Disappointing Bowl in 10 days when Georgia Southern visits the Swamp, Will Muschamp's Gators will need to upset either South Carolina or Florida State. Where there's a Will there's a way, right? If 2014 is this blah-tastic, we may need to change that cliche to "Where there's a Will, there's a way out the door." Pick: No bowl.
Saturday: at South Carolina, 7 (ESPN2)
11) Tennessee (4-6, 1-5)
Where will Tennessee bowl? We had the Vols 6-6 before the season. They need to sweep Vandy next week and at Kentucky the following week. It's doable, tough, but doable. And while a whirlwind holiday in luxurious Memphis or Shreveport seems a little less glamorous, well, it is. But for a young team like the Vols, those extra weeks of practice could be monumental. Pick: Liberty Bowl.
12) Mississippi State (4-5, 1-4)
Where will these Bulldogs go bowling? The postseason rests in all likelihood on the season-ending Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving. Mississippi State has little chance against Alabama, no matter how much time the Tide spends practicing in preparation for Auburn. Mississippi State should beat Arkansas the following week in Fayetteville — and yes folks there are plenty of good seats still available for that one — which means the magical sixth win that could deflect a lot of deflation from Dan Mullen's year that has been in Starkville rides on a visit from the rival Rebels. Pick: No bowl.
Saturday: vs. Alabama, 7:45 (ESPN)
13) Kentucky (2-7, 0-5)
Where will Kentucky bowl? They may take the team on a bowling excursion when the basketball team heads to the Final Four at the end of March.
Saturday at Vandy, 12:21 (WDSI)
14) Arkansas (3-7, 0-5)
Where will Arkansas bowl? The Fayetteville version of the Holiday Bowl in Hixson. Good times. Raise your hand if you knew Auburn would be six games better at this point with Gus Malzahn rather than Mean Gene Chizik. OK, now raise your if you expected Arkansas to be one game worse under Bret Bielema than the financial guru that was John L. Smith? Smile everyone. Smile.
NFL Power Poll
It's been a crazy first half of the season, no? Injuries have become a constant speed bump in determining which teams succeed and which teams disappoint. (We're looking at you Atlanta.) Contracts also have become a golden sword that swings in both directions in the cap-minded and salary-fixed NFL that makes teams spend wisely or wish they had.
It's also been dominated by controversy, starting first with the concussion debate that has echoed across all levels of football and moving recently to the locker room culture that made offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito the most recognized non-quarterbacks in the NFL.
So it goes, but the league is still sports' monolith, attracting more eyes and attention than almost all other sports combined. Quick: Who won the World Series? OK, we know you know it was Boston, but you had to ponder it a moment, even though it was played three weeks ago. OK, now, what's Kansas City's record? Yep, a perfect 9-0, a mark that will be supremely tested when the league's most opportunistic team visits the Denver Peytons and the league's most prolific offense.
1) Kansas City
4) New England
5) New Orleans
31) Tampa Bay
The Braves sleight of hand
We talked some yesterday about the Braves moving from downtown Atlanta to south Cobb County in an unincorporated area that like all things in the metro area is just another suburb of Smyrna.
The move is in grand total about 15 miles, but it's 15 monster miles that really send waves through the entire metro area.
It signifies the city of Atlanta values the Falcons more than the Braves, or at least the Falcons facility more than a baseball facility. This is good business considering a domed football facility get the state football championships, the SEC title game, Final Fours, the Chick-fil-A Bowl, concerts and potentially a Super Bowl. No brainer.
It also means that getting to Braves games likely will be tougher. Gang, we grew up in Cobb County and we still giggle every time some one in Chattanooga complains about traffic. Now add the Braves gameday traffic 81 times a year at the mouth of 75 and 285. And oh yeah, the next three years of construction to make all of this happen is going to be no day at the beat getting into and around the city.
What happens with the Ted? Hard to know, but it's hard to see it sticking around for very long. Man, 25 years after hosting the world, the lasting monument for the Olympics in Atlanta may be a fountain or that Billy Payne used that to become the master of the Masters.
All of this happens as Brian McCann — as Jomo calls him the heart of the ream — elects to decline the Braves qualifying offer meaning he will be a free agent. So in the course of about 10 hours on Monday, there are a lot of old-school Atlanta folks we know who surely think the city lost its soul and the Braves just lost their heart.
This and that
— Good preview of the basketball bonanza from ace TFP columnist Mark Wiedmer here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/nov/12/college-basketball-looks-to-special-night/. Ah, Weeds is truly in his element when college basketballs start bouncing. We'll watch the Kentucky-Michigan State game for sure and likely pay attention to the Wiggins-Parker matchup too, which is saying something in November.
— Professionally we do not root for teams we cover or any of that. In general we root for stories, good, rich and compelling stories to share with the area and to write as they deserve to be written. That said, the Mocs potentially hosting a playoff game, as UTC beat ace Johnny Frierson sharing here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/nov/12/utc-bidding-to-host-playoff-games/ is a good story that has a lot of story lines.
— Personally we think Yaisel Puig was hosed in the rookie of the year voting. Stupid Amnicola Highway.
— The Mocs hoops troop lost by 11 at Radford in a game that did not sound as close as the 89-78 final score.
Loads to talk about today, but if you need talking points here are a few:
- Aren't we all a victim of hazing in some form with the telling and re-telling and the hashing and re-hashing of the Incognito-Martin debacle? Egad. All we need now if for one of those cats to either have a) PEDs in their system or b) a concussion and this story will never go away. Discuss.
- Our SEC beat ace David Paschall details the growth and improvement of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/nov/12/auburns-marshall-awaiting-his-former-team/. Considering the strides the Tigers have made — they are 9-1 and No. 7 in the country — where would you put Marshall on the all-SEC listings? Surely Johnny Football has earned consideration for SEC player of the year — he may be the Heisman co-favorite right now with Famous Jameis Winston — as has all-timer AJ McCarron. So where does Marshall and Georgia's Aaron Murray rank in the discussion of postseason accolades in the SEC this year?
- UT hoops open tonight, and we believe the Vols are going to be pretty good. Thoughts?
- We talked about the budding feud between Verne Lundquist and Brent Musberger. If you could have two announcers duke it out, who are you placing in the squared circle? Discuss.
And gang, remember the mail bag for crying out loud.
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 ...