Gang, feel free to weigh in on the SEC festivities this weekend. Or the question below. Hey, hit us with a mailbag question, while you're at it.
From the "Talks too much" studios, do you blame Milli or Vanilli?
SEC Watch List
This a monster weekend for college football across the dial. We're stoked. Heck, we may start knocking back Co-Colas right now. HICCUP.
1) Is Auburn ready for prime time?
The Tigers may be the most improved team in college football, which is not as hard as it sounds since they were historically bad in 2012. Now the Tigers get a chance to face Johnny Football and the Aggies, who completely and totally torched them last fall. Not the same Tigers, but the same — if not better — Johnny Football. Auburn's offense has been much better, as expected since Gus Malzahn returned. The defense, however, also has been much improved under Ellis Johnson. Are they ready for a "Here's Johnny" moment? Hard to know, but every Auburn fan we know is thankful to be looking forward to Saturdays again.
2) Is UT ready for more than getting close
Hey did you know that UT almost beat Georgia? Man, the Vols' 34-31 overtime heartbreaker against Georgia two weeks ago has become the most noteworthy loss since 'Dewey defeats Truman.' Now, the burr in the Big Orange saddle returns to East Tennessee with a South Carolina team that has flipped a switch from "what's going on" to "now that just happened." Connor Shaw is gutsy and tough and smart. Running back Mike Davis is a bell cow. UT all-star tackle Tiny Richardson has done the one thing even the great Steve Spurrier has not been able to, and that's motivate Jadeveon Clowney. Maybe getting close will be another orange feather in Butch Jones' cap, all things considered.
3) Arkansas goes from frying pan to Tuscaloosa fire
If South Carolina beats you by 45 at your place, how ugly will Arkansas at Alabama be. And the Hogs' 52-7 home loss to South Carolina was a little misleading, since Arkansas actually scored first before the Gamecocks closed on a 52-0 run. Also misleading was Alabama's 48-7 thumping of Kentucky, considering the game was tied 0-0 after the first quarter because Alabama fumbled twice inside the UK 5 and dropped a potential TD pass. Karma indeed.
4) Is Missouri ready for prime time
If the Auburn Tigers are not the most improved team, the Missouri Tigers certainly are. After an injury-riddled 5-7 2012, Missouri is 6-0. Yes, losing quarterback James Franklin in last week's big win at Georgia hurts. But please do not mention injuries around Florida, which has been ravaged by monster, season-ending pains to a slew of its season-bending monsters. So, a new quarterback against Florida's three potential NFL first-round cornerbacks. The official spread (for entertainment purposes only of course) is Florida minus-3. The unofficial over/under on Florida pick-sixes is 2.5.
5) Which key Georgia player will get hurt this week
Aaron Murray has played bravely as all of his proven offensive pieces have fallen around him. The Georgia defense has managed to stay healthy, which is a lot easier in tackle football when you avoid contact as much as the Georgia defense has this season. (Side note: Some how, "Have fun and stay healthy" seems more like a mom's mantra than a defensive coordinators, no? That, Todd Grantham is always thinking outside the box. Here are some more potential defensive chants that Grantham may employ for his under-achieving group:
Let's hug it out.
Turnovers are overrated
Like Upward Basketball, we want to make sure everyone gets a chance to score
We look good getting off the bus
Who's got any others?
Fab 4-plus-1 picks
Even when you have entertainment only on the line, the risk involved with gambling is magnified by the settings and the situations of college football. So it goes.
Last week, the Fab 4-plus-1 picks had the feel of a perfect week. One late score to cover and one fourth-quarter rally that turned a 20-point fourth-quarter lead into a miracle cover, and we finished a disappointing 2-3. We're still better than 60 percent, but the last two weeks have been a challenge.
In truth, we blame ourself for ignoring something we said in September. On Sept. 5, we wrote this as the Ducks went to Virginia: "Oregon minus-21 at Virginia: The Ducks and UCLA are going to be our go-to teams this year. Well, at least until they give us reason not to."
We have under-picked the Ducks and the Bruins all year. They are a combined 11-0 against the number this year. Each is a scary pick this week because the two teams play next week.
Miami minus-8.5 over UNC: This one is tonight, and Miami has the world in front of it. UNC, however, has the weight of the world on its shoulders. A fast start for the Hurricanes will help ease the UNC players and crowd into the prolonged funk that has plagued arguably the biggest disappointment in the ACC. A fast start for the Tar Heels could energize the Thursday night experience. Here's saying the Hurricanes start quicker than the Heels.
Texas Tech minus-6 at West Virginia: Kliff Kingsbury has become a rock star with the Red Raiders, and for good reason. The former Tech all-star quarterback has energized the offense and helped two quarterbacks throw for more than 400 yards in a game this season. West Virginia has improved since its stink-pants start, and the noon kickoff in the couch-burning capital of the free world is a plus. But Dana Holgorsen is no Kliff Kingsbury. Heck, Dana Holgorsen is closer to Cliff Clavin.
South Carolina minus-7 at Tennessee: Managing the bye week may be the single most underrated part of regular-season college football coaching. Going into the bye on a high can be a great thing for moral. It can also be a difficult thing if you team spends the better part of two weeks hearing how great they did and how close they are to turning it around and how... Well you get the idea. And yes, there is reason to have pause here: The renewed energy in Knoxville, the fact that South Carolina played as well as it can last week, the rested Vols. But here's the tie-breaking match-up: Connor Shaw vs Justin Worley — Shaw is 22-4 as a starter; Worley had a good second-half against a bad Georgia defense. And Mike Davis, the underrated South Carolina rusher who will be the hammer that Todd Gurley was supposed to be two weeks ago.
Alabama minus-28 over Arkansas: Is there anything more pitiful than clubbed baby seals? Yes, yes there is. Opposing offenses that are completely one-dimensional coming to Tuscaloosa to face Nick Saban's Tide. Arkansas completed four passes last week against South Carolina. FOUR. Heck, Arkansas only attempted 13 passes against South Carolina, and that was a game that was 52-7. Wonder if Bret Bielema and those Big Ten folks have heard of this crazy forward pass thing that all the young kids are talking about.
UCLA plus-7 at Stanford: Stanford is better and irked and UCLA has Oregon on the horizon. You know what? So what. UCLA has lottery picks at quarterback and at linebacker. We have ignored the Bruins for too long, only making entertainment off them twice in a perfect 5-0 start. We're here, we're clear, get used to it.
Oregon minus-38 over Washington State: WSU Mike Leach is a pirate. Great. Oregon offensive guru Mark Helfrich is a wizard. OK, if a pirate and a wizard went toe-to-toe, you have to go with the wizard, right? Gandolph against Captain Jack Sparrow? Merlin vs. Black Beard? Henry Potter vs. Captain Hook. Know this, in a 60-minute football game, Helfrich the Good and the Ducks average just less than a point and just more than 10 yards per minute. Tick, tock, tick, tock.
(Yes, there are 4-plus-1-plus-1)
Hey Jim Irsay, shut it down. Deal? Deal.
Irsay, the owner of the Colts, unloaded some quotes to USA Today this week about how he wished that Peyton Manning's time in Indy had produced more than one Super Bowl. Some around Peyton — and some former Colts personnel like GM Bill Polian — took offense to the comments.
OK, to be fair, Irsay said some very similar stuff in the offseason to The AP. It was no-big-deal stuff then. Now, it's a deal because Manning returns to Indy on Sunday night.
Now Irsay is giving more interviews and trying to explain himself and clarify and what have you. Jim, pack it in for the rest of the week, OK? Denver coach John Fox called your quotes out in large part to deflect the attention off his team and Manning. Genius play in truth. (When was the last time John Fox and genius were used in the same sentence that wasn't, "That John Fox sure is no genius.")
Here's another tip: If you feel you need to explain something or clarify a comment to someone, Twitter is not the ideal platform on which to do it.
Make a phone call. Talk to Peyton. Then when the reporters ask Peyton about it, he says, "Jim and I spoke and we're good. I have no other comments about it."
Done and done.
This and that
— Want to know how special the Colts going from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck for two-plus decades of quarterback goodness? Ask the Minnesota Vikings, who will had the ball to Josh Freeman on Monday night, which will make Freeman the Vikings' 11th starting quarterback since Daunte Culpepper left the team after 2005.
— Rest in Peace actor Ed Lauter, who was an all-star 'that guy' actor who appeared in more than 200 movies and shows and roles that ranged from a background guy in Talladega Nights to the quarterback for the guards team in the original "Longest Yard. Dude's acting career started in 1971 on Mannix for crying out loud (was that a good show 9er and Spy — we were 1) and will continue after his death since he is in some movies that have been completed and not released.
— Dodgers and Tigers win in the LCS. So the Dodgers head back to St. Louis down 3-2 and hand the ball to the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw. The Tigers and Boston are tied 2-2 with game 5 tonight and Jon Lester going for the Red Sox and Anibal Sanchez scheduled for the Tigers. Good times, and good baseball.
— One college study has concluded that Oreo's are more addictive than cocaine. Do with that as you please.
— Irving Fryar, the former Nebraska star and former No. 1 overall pick, has been charged for being a part of a loan scam.
Remember the mailbag and fire away.
OK, we have heard the 13 names on the college football selection committee. And we heard the hubbub about Condi Rice. (Hey Pat Dye, why are you talking? And remember the Twain thought about it's better to have folks think you're a fool than to open your trap and prove it to them.)
We're fine with the 13. The only way it could have been better is if they had asked the 5-at-10 . Or StuckinKent. Whatever.
So next year, those 13 will decide which four teams will play in the college football playoff.
But let's spin this forward, while spinning it current. There is a potential world-class logjam on the BCS horizon. The BCS will be released Sunday, and there could be six major college programs finish unbeaten in Alabama, Oregon/UCLA winner, FSU/Clemson winner, Ohio State, Baylor and Louisville. Yes, Missouri could too, but c'mon.
So if we had six unbeatens this year, Alabama and Oregon would play for the title and never the 'twain shall meet. If those six finished unbeaten next year with a four-team playoff, who gets left out? Louisville for sure because of their TSSAA-type schedule, but you could make a hard argument that Baylor deserves it more than Ohio State.
And in the future, when there's people making the picks rather than computer rankings, what would happen if the 13-person committee was charged with picking between a one-loss major conference champ or an unbeaten Louisville for that fourth spot? The computer says one thing, the people could say another.
And, how long before the field becomes eight?
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 ...