Howdy folks, welcome to the show.
It's a holiday week so buckle and pour yourself a Co-Cola and stay a while. Oh yeah, remember the mailbag — we need a couple of spots filled.
From the "Talks too much" studios, let the good times roll.
1. Alabama (11-0, 7-0)
Is any team in a generation more prepared for the big stage than Alabama? No way. In the five seasons of dominance starting 2009, Alabama has played top-10 foes 17 times and is 14-3 in that stretch and has won seven of its last eight. Side question: Is AJ McCarron now the Heisman front-runner? Here's saying Jameis Winston likely holds a slim lead, but the rape allegations are going to be impossible to judge. An Alabama win Saturday in what will be the most-watched college football game in the country this year would go a long way to making McCarron the Heisman favorite.
Saturday: at Auburn, 3:30 (CBS)
2. Auburn (10-1, 6-1)
Want a reason to believe Auburn can win Saturday? Alabama's losses since 2008 — Florida, Utah, South Carolina, LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M and LSU again — all have come against mobile quarterbacks. Most of those guys used their feet to extend plays and look down the field, but all of the guys in that selected group — Alabama is 61-7 since the start of 2008 for crying out loud — could move. There is no doubt Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall can move — he may be the fastest starting quarterback in the league since Matt Jones was at Arkansas — but will he be able to hit plays down the field? That's the biggest key we can see on this fine Tuesday morning of Iron Bowl week.
Saturday: vs. Alabama, 3:30 (CBS)
3. Missouri (10-1, 6-1)
Any one have any more questions? Nope. These Tigers are complete and supremely impressive. Missouri overpowered Mississippi, and now stands one win from a spot in the SEC title game. And figure this: With Florida resembling a dumpster fire filled with dirty diapers stuffed with Indian food, the Vols in complete rebuilding mode and Georgia and South Carolina having to replace long-time starting quarterbacks, Mizzou likely could be the favorites in the SEC next year too.
Saturday: vs. Texas A&M, 7:45 (ESPN)
4. LSU (8-3, 4-3)
Do you know what the ultimate compliment is for the state of a program? Try this: LSU will go 9-3 and play in a New Year's Day Bowl game in a full-blown rebuilding year. The Tigers had to restock a defense that lost 10 starters and are a Tana Patrick strip and some self-inflicted fourth-quarter wounds in Athens and Oxford from being right there in the mix for the national title. Still, a 9-3 run and a likely trip to the Cotton Bowl is not too shabby in a year that the defense had to be reconstructed.
Friday: vs. Arkansas, 2:30 (CBS)
5. South Carolina (9-2, 6-2)
How in the world can South Carolina be a six-point favorite over Clemson? That's easy. South Carolina has two distinct advantages that have proved immensely fruitful recently in this rivalry, which is filled with more hate and vitriol than most of us outside of its parameters know and way more than the "Palmetto Bowl" tag this rivalry carries. First, South Carolina's defensive line has dominated this game during the Gamecocks' four-game winning streak in the series. Second, the Ole Ball Coach has dominated in the coaching circle. USC's defensive line gets a slight edge over the Clemson O-line again this year — and in truth, Clemson's defensive front has been among the nation's best. But we'll alway prefer the side with a Spurrier rather than a Dabo.
Saturday: vs. Clemson, 7 (ESPN2)
6. Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3)
Want to know how tough the SEC is, part 1,208? Try this stat: The Aggies have three projected first-round picks on offense — quarterback Johnny Manziel, tackle Jake Matthews and receiver Mike Evans, who is dy-NO-mite — and will have to pull an upset in Columbia, Mo., to avoid an 8-4 season, which is likely the same record Ole Miss will post. Every week is a challenge, gang, and with that amount of talent leaving College Station, and the number of big-boy jobs coming open that A&M coach Kevin Sumlin could be a candidate for, this could be an offseason of much unrest.
Saturday: at Missouri, 7:45 (ESPN)
7. Georgia (7-4, 5-3)
Where does Aaron Murray rank on the all-time greats in SEC history? Thankfully Murray set all those amazing SEC records before his career was ended last week with an ACL injury against Kentucky. As for Murray's place in history, well, as great as all the numbers are — he's the all-time SEC leader in passing yards, completions, passing TDs and total offense — the one number that must be mentioned is 0. As in 0 SEC titles in his four years as a starter. Certainly ranking the all-time SEC quarterbacks is more than just winning games, but to counterbalance the argument, would you rather have AJ McCarron or Murray? Interesting debate for sure.
Saturday: at Georgia Tech, 3:30 (ABC)
8. Ole Miss (8-3, 4-3)
What was that? The Rebels are confounding bunch for sure. They beat LSU. They look terrible against Ole Miss. Now they face a perplexing short week against a desperate Mississippi State team that has had this one circled since September. This time last week, Ole Miss was a good performance against Missouri from likely heading to the Cotton Bowl. Now they are a bad performance in Starkville from heading to the Music City Bowl.
Thursday: at Mississippi State, 7:30 (ESPN)
9. Vandy (7-4, 4-4)
Where will James Franklin be coaching next year? Sure it could be in Nashville, but we're not betting on it. The program has hit its apex, right? A win over Wake Forest — Vandy is a two-touchdown favorite — means back-to-back eight-win regular seasons. At Vandy. Franklin is already secured of his third consecutive bowl trip. AT VANDY. So the question remains, where's he going to hang his head set in '14. Here's betting it's not at Vandy.
Saturday: vs. Wake Forest, 12:21 (WDSI)
10. Florida (4-7, 3-5)
Hot seat question 1: How many games must the Gators win next year to save Will Muschamp's job? Muschamp and the Gators have had more injuries than the Alexian field day. That is a fact, and that fact likely will get Muschamp a mulligan. But Florida State likely will drop a Biblical spanking on the Gators in the Swamp on Saturday, and injuries or no, four-win seasons are not tolerated at Florida. Here's saying the over/under for Muschamp to remain in Gainesville next year is at least eight.
Saturday: vs. FSU, noon, (ESPN)
11. Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5)
Hot seat question 2: If you are a Mississippi State supporter, and you want Dan Mullen fired, who are you going to get that is better, especially in an offseason in which the competition for hiring the top head coaches could be fierce? We think Mullen gets another year. And we think he could go a long way to flipping the feeling in the state with a win Thursday in the Egg Bowl. If the Bulldogs win Thursday, which team would feel better heading into the bowl season, a potential 6-6 MSU riding a two-game winning streak or a 7-5 Ole Miss bunch on a two-game slide? Big stakes on turkey day for Danny Mullen for sure.
Thursday: vs. Ole Miss, 7:30 (ESPN)
12. Tennessee (4-7, 1-6)
Is there a more head-scratching result in college football this year in retrospect than the Vols' upset over South Carolina? Maybe West Virginia's shocking win that has Oklahoma State on the outside of the BCS picture, but that's it. We believe that Butch has said all the right things. He has embraced rallying phrases and inspired a proud and starving fan base. He also has recruited his buzz cut off. All of those are positives and deserve to be mentioned. His Vols, however, are a miraculous Marquez North one-handed catch from being bagel-and-seven in the SEC. If North had not made that catch, the questions and impressions about this Vols season would be strikingly different, no?
Saturday: at Kentucky, 7 (ESPNU)
13. Kentucky (2-9, 0-7)
How many folks will be at Saturday's game against UT? We posed this question to TFP UT beat ace Downtown Patrick Brown, and we liked his answer: There will be roughly 1,000 folks for every degree of temperature we have at kickoff. That seems fair, and with temps expected right around 40 degrees, that means the UK-UT game will draw about 10,000 fewer than the UK spring game. If you're counting tickets, would that be more click-by-click than brick-by-brick? When grooming Smokey, do we go tick-by-tick? Is David Copperfield measured trick-by-trick? We say yes. Where were we?
Saturday: vs. Tennessee, 7 (ESPNU)
14. Arkansas (3-8, 0-7)
Hot seat question No. 3: Would you be all that shocked if Bret Bielema left in the offseason? And would Arkansas fans be all that upset? We think the answer is no to both. After he surprisingly left Wisconsin last year to come to the SEC, Bielema's first year in the best conference in the country has been nothing short of a debacle. How bad you ask? Well after the Hogs loss big at LSU, Bielema's team will be one-game worse than John L. Smith's train wreck from a year ago. Come everybody, smile.
Friday: at LSU, 2:30 (CBS)
NFL Power Poll
It's a fair time to start wondering about positioning. Teams atop the standings are fighting for position in the playoff picture and more importantly, home-field advantage. Playing at home is doubly valuable this year because of the teams involved. Look at the best teams in each conference, and each has a decided edge playing at home because of crowd and the elements. We'll examine that more in the power poll, but it's an overwhelming truth this year more than most.
As for the dregs of this NFL society, the street urchins residing in the safe underbelly of the ATM that is the NFL, a utopian business model structured on TV revenue being the bell cow and attendance being the profit source, well being bad does mean being badly financed. Heck, the NFL is such a money-maker, the Cleveland Browns are worth a billion dollars and of the 50 most valuable sports franchises, 30 of them are NFL teams.
So stinking in the NFL is still worth millions. It's also worth the chance to draft a playmaker that could easily flip the script for almost any franchise. That's another genius side ripple of the NFL's power structure: Great teams can stay great, but even the worst teams can start anew rather quickly. The least desirable position would be on the treadmill of mediocrity that results in a one-and-done playoff every third year and a river of draft picks ranging from the mid-teens-to-the-low-20s in each round.
So it goes, and with an eye on position let's go to the power poll.
2) New England
4) New Orleans
We're adding an extra bonus to this week's bottom five, since it's all about positioning. In parenthesis is where each team is currently slotted in round one of next spring's NFL draft.
28) Washington (no first-round pick; sent to St. Louis as part of the RGIII deal)
29) Houston (No. 1 overall)
30) Minnesota (No. 4 overall)
31) Atlanta (No. 3 overall)
32) Jacksonville (No. 2 overall)
Hot seats galore
The SEC asked and answered above got us thinking. And yes, that's a dangerous opportunity.
Look at the college football landscape. Now look at some of the monster jobs that could come open in the next few weeks in addition to the opening that already exists at USC.
Florida. Texas. Nebraska. To name but three.
There could be a monster rush and even the guys who have their agents just pick up the phone will likely get major pay increases.
Who are the top names out there? We think Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze will get a slew of phone calls. And Sumlin could be a guy the NFL targets.
Interesting times indeed.
This and that
— The numbers are out. Auburn is getting 10.5 from Alabama in the Iron Bowl. It's just one of several rivalry lines that are head-scratching and hard to read. This week's Fab 4-plus-1 entertainment advice feels like struggle. That said, we can see risking some entertainment on North Illinois tonight over a hapless Western Michigan team. Yes, the Huskies are laying five TDs. We believe this one will be 55-0. Seriously.
— R.I.P. Brian, the dog from Family Guy. Although somehow we feel there may be a chance the lovable/irritable pooch finds his way back into the mix. Maybe like they did in the old-school "Dallas" when they killed Bobby Ewing but the whole season was a Pam's bad dream.
— Derrick Rose is out for the year. Derrick Rose will be this generation's Ken Griffey Jr. He's going to come back and even be a good player. And when we look at his numbers, we're going to go, "Man, what would he have been if he could have stayed healthy."
— The newest college hoops poll is out, and they have rounded up the usual suspects atop the rankings. There is a noticeable plummet, though, as VCU fell from No. 10 to unranked after a rotten week. VCU is nothing without Will Wade. (Kidding.)
— Side question: Everyone makes a big who-haw about the college football polls being meaningless in September. Is there anything more meaningless than a November or December college basketball poll?
Feel free to discuss/debate any of the SEC questions.
If you want another talking point, here's one:
The Derrick Rose news is sad on a lot of fronts. Dude has serious skills and had serious upside. Like all-time point guard upside. Now, with two serious knee injuries in three years, there are serious concerns. This sounds serious. (Spy, what's our record for most uses of the same word in the same paragraph?)
Time for a serious question (see what we did there 9er?):
Who is on your Rushmore of the best that never were because of injury? We'll start with J.R. Richard, the 6-foot-8 bullet-throwing right-hander for the Astros that had a stroke in the late 70s, and add Bernard King.
Who you got?
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 ...