published Monday, November 25th, 2013

5-at-10: College football rewind, NFL Sunday night special, lots of questions

Wow, what a weekend. What a sports roller coaster.

Here's how big this weekend was: Brian McCann signed with the New York Yankees and it hardly made a ripple. Derrick Rose likely suffered a second season-ending knee injury and it was a whisper outside the Windy City.

From the "Talks too much" studios, in a weekend of bests and worsts, let's be at our best when they are expecting our worst. Giddy-up.

College football rewind

As Maximus Decimus Meridius asked, "Aren't you entertained?" Wow, what a weekend of college football, huh? We also believe that when your team has a bye and you can just sit back, unattached and unstressed about when your team plays or how they're going to play or whether you're going to get your chores done before kick off or whether you got enough Co-Colas on hand, well, the afternoon is more fun. So yes, Maximus, we were entertained — and we were very close to being well-rewarded in the entertainment department. More on that below.

We will merge the weekend of college football greatness with the American Music Awards.

Best individual effort: There were a slew, including Keenan Reynolds, the Navy quarterback running for seven TDs against a San Jose State defense that apparently is allergic to contact. (Yes, we had San Jose State, and yes we are a little bitter.) We'll go with Andre Williams, the Boston College running back who went for 200-bills yet again and busted off a big run to set up a game-winning field goal in the Eagles' 29-26. And can all agree that the quick, sneaky timeout right before an attempted game-winner is rarely a good idea. Ask Maryland coach Randy Edsall, who called a timeout right before the snap on a play that the BC kicker missed his kick.

  • photo
    Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (11) throws from the pocket in their NCAA football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, in Athens, Ga.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Lifetime achievement award: Aaron Murray. In a tragic, yet somehow fitting exit for the best of these snake-bitten Bulldogs, Murray's college career is done. And what a career it was. Thanks for the ride Aaron Murray, you would have made Maximus proud — and from Auburn fans everywhere, sorry about the Nick Fairley hit in '10.

Best costume: Tennessee. Are the Grays forever mothballed now that they are 0-2 and have resulted in two real gut-punch losses. Wow, that Vandy ending was a kick to the shins and completed the three-year program flip for the Commodores and the current state of the Vols. Consider the following: You weren't that shocked that Vandy won were you? If Da'Rick Rogers had not made the best play of his career two years ago, James Franklin would be 3-0 against UT. That was a bad loss — a loss that UT had two weeks to get ready for looked under-prepared.

Best entertainment effort that almost was historic: The Fab 4-plus-several picks went 4-3 last week. We're 44-31-1 on the year. We hit Duke, BC, Tulsa and Michigan State. We missed on San Jose State, which lost in there overtimes to Navy despite having several chances, over in Oregon-Arizona, which was the biggest 'Wow' game of the weekend, and UCLA, which failed to cover. And let's say a certain online sports columnist took an early afternoon flyer on a three-game Big Ten parlay and had Michigan State -7, Michigan +6 and Illinois -5.5. Three-game parlays return a 5-to-1 ratio on your entertainment dollar, so when Illinois, up 6, took a self-inflicted safety on the final play, well, that was less than entertaining.

Best reason to believe struggles happen to every college football team: Hi Florida, which lost to Georgia Southern in the Swamp on Saturday. Will Muschamp... doomed on headed for the hottest seat in college football history? And wow, what's FSU going to hang on these Gators in a half-empty Swamp that will have a few dozen thousand FSU fans and will be ringing with the Chop.

Best drama in a Heisman vote in forever: It seems like in recent years, the tumblers have clicked in the Heisman race to where there is little drama leading up to the ceremony. This year, as November dwindles, the frontrunners are sprinting to the back of the pack, and the clear leader — FSU quarterback Jameis Winston — is mired in a serious criminal allegation that is over-arcing the entire process. If we gave you A.J. McCarron or Winston right now, who you got?

Best director: We'll go Gus Malzahn. Got into a Twitter debate this weekend with TFP ace Downtown Patrick Brown and former TFP anc current 247 ace Wes "Mother" Rucker about who deserves college football coach of the year? We're on the Gus Bus; those two are riding with Duke's David Cutcliffe. Who you got?

Best FCS team not in the playoffs: Man, UTC still lives in the dichotomous world. The best season in a generation ends with sad faces and playoff dreams dashed. Hard not to be frustrated of course, but when the pain fades, this year will be fondly remembered and could be the year that a decade from now we look back on and say that was the year that turned the ship.

Any more awards you'd like to hand out?

—————

Be careful what you wish for

This Saturday also made us remember why the craziness of November is so much fun. And this coming weekend will be even better — that said, the early point spread are so tough that we may have a Fab 1 next week. Seriously.

It will continue when the four-team playoff is activated next year.

But we all realize that the four-team playoff will be short lived, and as the field expands, the drama of Saturday will be lost.

If there becomes an eight-team playoff — or goodness forbid a 16-team field — the Baylor loss is not as dramatic. The BCS stakes Saturday in Jordan-Hare would not be as great. The monster game that was FSU and Clemson six weeks ago would be meaningless since each would get in the draw.

So it goes. And in the not too distant future, there's a real chance will embrace the philosophy of H.I. McDonough, who said, "We fear the salad days are no more."

—————

NFL movements

Congrats to the Titans for a last-second win Sunday. Dallas landed a nice road win in the dreadful NFC East. Pittsburgh moved back into the playoff discussion with a win at Cleveland. Hey, the Falcons didn't lose this Sunday either (they gagged on Thursday night, remember). Good times.

We also got an eyeful of Cam Newton doing some rotten things in the first half and doing some impressive things in the second half as the Carolina Panthers won their seventh straight game with a 20-16 rally in Miami. We may have a man-crush on Cam, but the Panthers are going to be a tough out in the postseason with the league's most underrated defense, and an offense that features Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams and Greg Olsen

But all the build-up on a fun Sunday — and as cold as it was in Chatta-Vegas, it was a good Sunday to get re-acquainted with the NFL — led to a Sunday night game that was ugly and perfect and boring and dramatic and filled with enough storylines to keep Dickens busy for the better part of the next six months.

Wow, what a comeback for Tom Brady and the Patriots, who rallied from a 24-0 halftime hole for a 34-31 overtime win. Brady was awesome in the second half, completing 80 percent of his throws in a wind so strong that when New England won the overtime toss, the Pats took the wind over the ball.

It was classic Brady, who never looked lost in the moment and improved his mark to 10-4 all-time against Peyton Manning, who looked like he was having about as much fun as someone having a root canal.

More on this to come... and feel free to chime in. But wow, that second half was something that left a mark — for each team.

This and that

— Iron Bowl ticket meter: On StubHub, a ticket to Saturday Auburn-Alabama game in Auburn between the No. 1 Tide and the No. 4 Tigers is listed at $300. That's for a single. The prices start at $345 a piece if you want to take a friend.

— The early Iron Bowl line started at Alabama minus-9.5 and has already moved to -10.5. It will go higher folks, so if you like the Tide, put your entertainment to work now.

— Speaking of the NFL: The Titans currently are the final team in the AFC playoffs. Is it fair to wonder if that's a good thing? The Titans are looking a lot like the NFL's version of the Atlanta Hawks — good enough to make the playoffs every other year, no where near the top-tier talent to contend for a title. And if you finish 8-8 every year, it's going to take a miracle to fill a draft class with enough difference makers picking No. 15 in each round.

Today's question(s)

This is one of those Mondays in which we have nothing but questions. So much happened and the cosmic tumblers have clicked together to set up the biggest Iron Bowl at least since 1994 when Auburn was 9-0-1 and Alabama was 10-0 and the biggest game in Auburn ever other than the 1989 Iron Bowl.

  • photo
    University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs football head coach Russ Huesman waits as the FCS playoff bracket is announced at UTC’s University Center auditorium on Sunday.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Egads, buckle up buttercup. Here we go.

Mocs fans, how are you this morning? Tough ending to a good year, for sure. It would be interesting to see how you finish this sentence: The 2013 season was __. (We believe UTC is a playoff-caliber team. Period. That said, the numbers-crunch of the three-way tie atop the Southern Conference makes sense if Furman was the automatic qualifier, and we all can agree that the SoCon most likely was not a three-big league this year.)

Should the Braves have ponied up the five-year, $85 million the Yankees did to keep Brian McCann in the 404/770/678?

Got into a Twitter debate this weekend with TFP ace Downtown Patrick Brown and former TFP anc current 247 ace Wes "Mother" Rucker about who deserves college football coach of the year? We're on the bus with Gus Malzahn; those two are riding with Duke's David Cutcliffe. Who you got?

How big of an advantage does Alabama have in the intangibles this weekend, considering the magnitude of this game and the Tide's comfort level walking in such circles? It's huge. Think of it this way: If you were to say this is the biggest SEC game since _, three of the top five answers likely have Alabama in it. Auburn? Well, not since Cam Newton has this stage been set.

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 ...

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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...

Tough weekend for Moc fans, but as Russ said "next year starts now". And next year could be very special. Mocs could be preseason ranked in top 10. Some VERY good players redshirted because of injuries. Key skill players are all back

November 25, 2013 at 10:06 a.m.
MocTastic said...

No, McCann given his recent injuries and the fact that most catchers have declining stats in their 30s is not worth what the Yankees paid given the salary money the Braves have to work with. Spend the money on first locking up Freddie Freeman and Jason Hayward second.

With respect to the Mocs not in the playoffs. Somebody please explain to me why the Pioneer League was given an autobid? They dont' give scholarships and could not compete in the Div II playoffs. Also, a team with a LOSING record is in the playoffs, Lafayette, the college, not the city in north Georgia. Although the Lafayetter HS team might be as good. A rule change is needed in ALL sports, college or professional. You have a losing record you do not go to postseason, you go home. In this case, the Patriot League should lose their autobid this season and another deserving at-large team could go.

November 25, 2013 at 10:08 a.m.
TennFlyer said...

To borrow the brick by brick analogy of UTK for UTC from 1-11 to now. The first brick was beating anyone with a pulse - check, second brick was playing competitively with the big three in the SoCon (Wofford, Appy, GaSo)- check, beating the big three -- check with an asterisk (bad call in the Waffle House capital of America), win a conference championship -- shared check. The next brick is a playoff win and then anything can happen. Right now Russ' mailbox looks a lot better than Butch's.

November 25, 2013 at 10:14 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Kudos to you Jay, for calling out the look of unprepared by Butchy. Finally a writer is not blaming the Vols loss on Fulmer, Hamilton, Kiffen, Dooley . . . The Vols went downhill as the season progressed . . Also funny how Vol fans seem to give Dobbs a pass that they didnt give to Worley. . .53 yards passing and 2 INTs, not to mention the guy cant throw a spiral and NOT a special runner. . . . It looks like coaching is more than Slogans, and early commitments

November 25, 2013 at 10:24 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

It was a tough week, and fair question about the perception of Worley — heck Worley got it worse than Peterman, and Peterman was historically bad vs. Florida.

TennFlyer —

The check list is filling up and taking shape for the Mocs for sure. Tough for some of those defensive seniors not to taste the postseason — Wes Dothard deserved to play in a playoff game in our view.

Tough to compare mailboxes in year 4 vs. year 1 though.

MT —

Concur completely about McCann. For catchers and RBs, 30 is the new 50. And definitely concur if they lock up Freddie long term. As good as that guy is at the plate he is at least that good in the field and even better in the clubhouse. When you find talented glue guys, you have to build around them.

Not sure we agree with the winning record angle though. Didn't the Mocs make an NCAA tournament a few years ago right around or under .500?

And the Ivy League gets playoff invites without offering schollies, too.

Be mad at the call in State-Vegas or even the way the Samford game played out or the season starter, but the system is the system and we knew it coming in.

November 25, 2013 at 10:36 a.m.
chas9 said...

Either the Lady Mocs are really good or Auburn's not ready for SEC-level competition. Where would the Lady Mocs finish in the SEC?

New frontrunner for ugliest uni of the year: The ALL RED Arizona thingies. (See what Oregon started?) But that was a great play an ALL RED player made tipping the ball back inbounds to a teammate for an interception. I've seen that in the basketball arena, but never before in pointy ball.

I hate to dog my boys in blue, but I didn't like the tackle that tore Murray's ACL.

When was the last time a team's stat line read 429 rushing, zip passing? Who's having a worse year, Mark Stoops or Will Muschamp? Florida's AD says he's behind his coach 1,000%. Will should worry. Why not 7,000%?

I'm gonna set the FSU line at 40.

I'll take A. J. for the win.

VU gave up three fumbles and the Fighting Butches still couldn't win. In Knoxville. In gray costumes. Was the fake field goal a good call? (Answer: No.) Jomo's right that Dobbs is not ready for prime time.

We spoke last week about diminishing live attendance, but this is ridiculous. Did you see the empty seats in the Virginia-Miami game? Looked like a crowd of about 117 showed up. Really. I guess potential fans would rather be at the beach.

McCann going to the Yanks and us not caring reminds me of how prolific the Braves system has been in producing really good catchers the last two decades. Fans can't fall in love with 'em because next season it'll be somebody else crouching behind the plate.

November 25, 2013 at 10:39 a.m.
MocTastic said...

JG, was thinking more of the sports where you have the regular season champion getting into the postseason, such as MLB, NFL and in this case NCAA FCS football. It is set up where you have postseason tournaments, such as NCAA basketball, where you will get the occasional losing record team. But I could even buy the concept that if for example we had a losing record, but won the SoCon tournament we would not go to the postseason, but would celebrate the tournament championship. The autobid would then revert to the regular season champion, assuming of course they had a winning record. Postseason should be a reward for a season of excellance, not just a reason to make money and keep playing. The concept of 6-6 teams in FBS bowl games is a joke, they will even allow teams with a losing record if not enough teams have a winning record. The problem though is not enough teams with a winning record, the problem is way too many bowl games.

I am not mad at the system, but that doesn't make it correct. Can anybody make any rational argument for the Pioneer League getting an autobid? Until they can prove they can compete on the field, give them a consideration for an at large bid when they have a worthy team. The IVY league has shown they can compete historically, the Pioneer has not.

November 25, 2013 at 10:42 a.m.
Stewwie said...

Leave it to Peyton's teammate to blow the game for him again. It's a shame that game had to end that way.

As a fellow Moc fan, I wouldn't mind partaking in the Kool-aid that Jomo is drinking in regard to next year. The offense ought to be as good or better, but the D is losing some big-time ballers. Couple that with 2 money games next year and my too-early-prediction is another 8-4 campaign.

No surprise on the Mocs getting left out of the playoffs for reasons already discussed. Despite getting a share of the conference title, the 2013 season seems a little underwhelming.

November 25, 2013 at 11:10 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Everyone,

Great comments regarding the close-but-no-cigar year that was.

I hate to say this and ponder "What could have been done better?" Did some bad ju-ju occur since preacher-gate happened the day before the game? Or should I have bought candy for that kid selling at 9:30 at night? (There's technically not suppose to be soliciters at our complex). There's a lot that I ask like "Why can't for ONE year where we are like North Dakota State and Alabama? Just ONE FREAKING YEAR???" I'm really hurting for Gunner because if anybody deserved a ring it would be him. He helped build the defense the way Luther built WDEF radio: from the ground UP! I can take away from this year the fact we got to close out the Appy-State series with a win in Boone. I hadn't been that excited since the first time Tennessee beat Florida in the Swamp since 1972 (-3 years before my time). And a 7-4 season since Donnie Kirpatrick's first year is also a plus. We can play with the top tier schools but as Quake explained during a conversation on SportTalk 2-3 weeks ago, the FCS follows the "pattern" as suppose to the current stats. That is why saw teams with worst records then UTC still in the top 10-20s.

One thing to throw out is how will this effect recruiting? I know that may sound like a "duhhhh" question but what are the chances that prospect "X", who is two star at best but maybe ranked higher in other circles, who is heavily recruited by some of the SEC schools, decides instead to play at UTC. While we have Jacob, T-Rob, and slew of others for at least two more years, they're going to be eventually be replaced. And I want to see us go up, not plateau.

MT- SEC women's basketball (outside of Tennessee) is not up to snuff. The Lady Mocs can play in that conference and if Foster can recruit Summett-like players, The Lady Vols/Mocs rivalry may mutate into a blood feud.

November 25, 2013 at 11:23 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent

Cincinnati went 4-8 the first year under Butch. Went 10-3 and 9-3 the two years after that with two Big East titles. So, all is not lost. Dobbs is not the answer at this point at QB. He can run, but he's not a great thrower. Job is wide open. The team is so thin and young...but the players are coming, and by 2015, they will be fine.

Mocs not making the playoffs is disappointing. Next year should be significantly better. No losses to UT-Martin in the opener, please.

McCann was not worthy anywhere near what the Yankees paid him, unless it was in a "we like you because you've been a Brave forever" kind of way. I'm fine with it.

November 25, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.
MocTastic said...

JMcCook, have reason to believe that Foster will recruit simliar to Moore. He won't be going after the blue chippers, but the next level of player who are good students and can already play but with room for improvement. To compete at the UCONN/UTK/etc level consistently you have to get the blue chippers. We can and are at the level where we can bite them in the butt and occasionally win one. I wonder if the games will continue in the future with Pat and Wes both gone.

November 25, 2013 at 11:49 a.m.
chas9 said...

JMC--In the women's poll UT is #4, UK is #7, and three other SEC teams are in the top 25. Vandy just misses top 25 status. A better way to describe the league is that there's a steep fall off after the top half. I'd say it's thinner at the top on the men's side.

Good line about Luther!

November 25, 2013 at 11:50 a.m.
chas9 said...

Gawga's favored by 3 over the North Avenue Trade School. I'll take the Dawgs to beat the 'dogs by more than that.

November 25, 2013 at 12:27 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Since the Lady Mocs have not played the Lady Wildcats to the best of my knowledge, I was unaware of their ranking. When it comes to XX chromosome basketball, it's Tennessee, Connecticut, and a bunch of women's programs no one follows (not to read sexist as much as "the mindset of the American interest"). The only reason I follow Lady Mocs BB is because I am an alum but also we do have a program known for killing giants. Trust me, the women's program was a joke in my student days (pre-Wes Moore). After they beat Florida State on the road was when I started paying attention more.

November 25, 2013 at 12:48 p.m.
MocTastic said...

JMC, check out the linked list...I question your use of the word joke. The Lady Mocs back in the early 80s came in second in the women's NIT.

http://moctalk.yuku.com/topic/20316/Major-Conference-Wins-AllTime

November 25, 2013 at 12:56 p.m.
Stewwie said...

[So much happened and the cosmic tumblers have clicked together to set up the biggest Iron Bowl at least since 1994 when Auburn was 9-0-1 and Alabama was 10-0 and the biggest game in Auburn ever other than the 1989 Iron Bowl.]

What about the game 3 years ago? To me, this one has the same look and feel except the roles are reversed.

[We're on the bus with Gus Malzahn; those two are riding with Duke's David Cutcliffe. Who you got?]

Tough call but I would give the edge to Gus.

[If we gave you A.J. McCarron or Winston right now, who you got?]

Winston. Has McCarron ever been the best player on his own team at Bama? I say no. And if you're not even the best player on your own team, you shouldn't get the Heisman.

November 25, 2013 at 1:33 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5, the Rose surgery certainly has been fodder on SportsCenter this morning. It's been that, and some football game last night and that's about it.

UTC got jobbed in the loss to Southern and that turned out to be getting jobbed by the NCAA. That's shameful, and not on UTC's part. Huesman should have nothing to apologize for (except for maybe the last conference game. Hmmm.)

Florida wasn't going to a bowl anyway since at least loss number 7 was going to come this weekend. FSU's defense might outscore Florida's offense. The win over the Gators make no statement for Southern and its future. The Eagles have always had the chance to beat a FBS team (88 Florida State, 91 Auburn to name a couple and last year could have taken the lead right before the half against Georgia before a chop block call no one has seen yet on film was called).

But for a season in which there was nothing to play for from the get-go, beating a moribund Florida team in The Swamp was still mighty good. Love, love, love that the game-winner was scored by McKinnon. Great kid, great player, deserved to play in a championship game.

And how much blame do the Georgia coaches need to take for Murray's injury? They had planned to take him out and allowed him to talk them into letting him stay in. If you're gonna take him out, take him out.

Now that we're finally getting to see Andre Williams, he is a load and a load who can move. Dimitroff and Mike Smith have a lot of issues to address but that kid can solve at least one problem. Too bad he can't block for himself. Or tackle the other team.

Buddy of mine was in Vegas over the weekend. Texts me right before kickoff - who I got? I told him, for entertainment purposes only, to take the Patriots. He was in the Broncos line for entertainment purposes only when I texted him back. So ... he's killing me the first half with his texts. I tell him it's still early. He was pretty happy at the end of it.

That Brady kid might be pretty good one day.

November 25, 2013 at 1:48 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

"The Lady Mocs back in the early 80s came in second in the women's NIT."

MT- will do. However, it should be addressed I was no older then 5 at 10 junior in the "early 80s". I guess I should have been more clear regarding the time frame.

Back then, if it didn't involve Muppets (BTW, reading Jim Henson's recently released biography [christmas gift for a friend to mailed later] and it's very interesting what he helped pioneer) i.e. Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, or at this time of year, Emmett Otter, as well as other staples of 80s kids fare, I was not interested. But yeah, the women's team during my student years, not so hot.

November 25, 2013 at 1:53 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

The Yanks have overpaid for McCann. He'll be 30 when the season starts and his post all-star game splits the last three years have been a study in declining batting averages. They're almost Struggla-like. I said almost. And if he DHs, who does he move out of the lineup? The ailing Tex? The fraudulent A-Rod? The AARP-eligible shortstop? (Seriously - who retires first - Mick Jagger or Derek Jeter? I mean, Jeter was great on Beggar's Banquet and sublime on Sticky Fingers, but come on already).

November 25, 2013 at 3:09 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

Well, Georgia put together a four-quarter game that with the exception of a couple of defensive breakdowns and a muffed punt was almost perfect. Of course that was overshadowed by seeing Aaron Murray, who received as a big a reception on "Senior Day" as I can remember, leaving the field injured. Aaron will be remembered as a all-time DGD. The 2013 season will be remembered as a forgettable one. Even when things go right, they go wrong.

My biggest takeaway from this weekend in SEC football not involving the Georgia game was John Chavis and his LSU defense shutting down the travelling carnival show that is Johnny Football. The Chief managed to do something that even Saint Saban was unable to do. My guess is that Gary Pinkel and his defensive staff will spend some time reviewing the film from Baton Rouge.

I feel like I'm forgetting something, but I don't remember. I could ramble incoherently for a while or just wrap it up...Adios amigos.

November 25, 2013 at 3:23 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Great stuff today gang.

Well-played all around.

November 25, 2013 at 4:58 p.m.
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July 22, 2014 at 8:07 a.m.
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