SEC Watch list
Here are five SEC football-related items we are keeping an eye on this weekend.
1) Showtime for Josh Dobbs
Opportunities come when they are good and ready and frequently when they are least expected. Dobbs, the freshman UT quarterback with all the tools, gets his shot, and how he does may determine who will be the Vols starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. One thing we do like is this kid's confidence.
2) Up-tempo up for the challenge
Nick Saban has long been a critic of the high-speed offenses like those used by Auburn, Ole Miss and others. At last summer's SEC meetings, we learned that Brett Bielema was also not a big fan, questioning whether it was safe for players. Auburn's Gus Malzahn, one of the current architect's of the "lots of plays = lots of chances" approach said he thought the safety criticism was a "joke" and if other coaches were worried about safety, then maybe they shouldn;t blitz. Bielema fired back, "I'm not a comedian." No, you certainly are not, and none of the Arkansas faithful are enjoying the recent act that is Arkansas football, considering the Hogs have been outscored 104-0 in the last 115 minutes of game action. Arkansas native Malzahn and the Tigers head to Bielema's place this weekend — and Bielema's shots have continued, including reporting what he thought was incomplete game film to the SEC office. Whether Bielema's bunch is ready to back-up his bold words will be interesting to see.
3) Largest Cocktail Party, wait, scratch that
We understand the politically correctness that forced the name change of the Florida-Georgia game. It used to be known as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" and if you ever went to it as a fan, you know why. This game has been every bit the litmus test for who would win the SEC East as Tennessee-Florida over the years. This Saturday, that still applies, but considering the injuries that have ravaged these teams, the pregame buzz and trash talk has more of a Debbie Downer-meets-Lou Holtz pessimistic feel. In fact, this may be the first time that other than the diehard fans, you may need a cocktail to enjoy this one.
4) South Carolina surviving
After Connor Shaw bailed the Gamecocks out last week at Missouri, the Fighting Spurriers still have SEC East aspirations. So do the Georgia Bulldogs. In fact, all of the traditional SEC East powers are pulling for your UT Vols in a monster-mash kind of way this weekend at Missouri. South Carolina needs to handle its BID-ness, though, and that starts with a sneaky 12:21 visit from Mississippi State on Saturday. Interesting indeed.
5) Johnny Football against the Miners
How video-game-tastic can Johnny Manziel's numbers get this week against UTEP? Know this UTEP is in the bottom 10 nationally in scoring defense, allowing 38.7 points per game. The Miners allowed 59 to Colorado State for crying out loud. Now enter Johnny Stats Package and his 28 total TDs and his 3,000-plus yards of offense in eight games and the numbers start spinning. Considering this game kicks off at 9 p.m. Eastern, and the competitive nature of this one does not figure to be that gripping, we'll likely catch the score the next day. What would it take to surprise you? Aggies 70-7. Nope, that would not surprise. How about Johnny Signature? Does 500 yards of total offense and eight TDs sound about right? Over/under 500 yards of total offense for Johnny Heisman? Whatcha got?
Fab 4-plus-1 (and 1 more) picks
We have sculpted a list of guide lines as we pick games against the spread.
1) This picks are for entertainment only.
2) A line that looks too good to be true almost always is.
3) While Vegas lines are pretty spot on, remember that the spread is more about spreading the bets than the actual point spread, meaning the number is designed to have equal entertainment wagers on each side.
4) Never back an underdog unless you believe they can win outright. This year we have played exactly one underdog — Buffalo plus-2 last week at Kent St. That line became Buffalo minus-2 by kickoff. Buffalo won by 20.
4b) The exception here being Nick Saban playing a non-conference, overmatched foe and laying 40-plus points. Alabama clubs weaker SEC foes like baby seals. They tend to treat pay-check opponents with kid gloves.
5) Picking against teams is every bit as effective as picking winning teams.
6) You are picking games to make entertainment, not picking the games you think will be entertaining.
7) There's nothing due but library books and postage. Do not think, "Well, we've missed five in a row, so this one has to hit." Nope, that's why Vegas builds palaces and corner entertainment brokers drive Cadillacs.
With those in mind, we scoured this week's list of games and found six we actually like. We're 27-17-1 against the number this fall, and to be fair we had a brutal three-week stretch that included one 1-4 Saturday that we did not like anything. So it goes, but like the 5-at-10 on our website and the daily paper, the Fab 4-plus-1 picks arrives when promised.
Let's get to this week's picks (We have six games here and we'll count all six on the web version of the picks, but since we run this in the paper and the first game is tonight, we'll strike that one for the print version. Consider it a gift, and yes, our entertainment is already been booked.):
Houston minus-18 over South Florida (Thursday) — The Cougars are 7-0 against the number, and the last time Houston had this much success, Andre Ware was a terror on the field rather than terrorizing college football broadcasts. (Seriously Andre, give silence a bit of a chance.) As for this one, here's what we know: Houston scores — 42 points per game is 10th nationally — and South Florida does not — 14.3 per game is in the bottom five nationally. South Florida played last Saturday at home — getting thumped by Louisville — and now travels on a short week to Houston. This one smells of 48-10.
Oregon State minus-5 over USC (Friday) — In a record-setting year for QBs, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is outperforming them all. Dude is averaging more than 400 passing yards per game and has 30 TDs (with just three picks) in eight games. Offensively challenged USC is stout defensively in the front seven, but there are holes in the secondary. Sean Mannion loves holes.
UCLA minus-27 over Colorado — The Bruins were rolling, firmly in the top 10 before getting tripped by Stanford and thumped by Oregon. Here's saying the Bruins are running a little on red right now. And as motivated and talented as the Bruins are, comfortably laying four TDs is every bit a statement about the Buffs troubles. Colorado has allowed at least 44 in each of its four conference games, losing by 24, 27, 41 and 41 to Pac-12 foes. Remember guideline No. 6 above.
Georgia minus-2.5 over Florida — With Todd Gurley back, the Bulldogs will get a jolt of life on a once-stout-now-injury riddled offense. Florida, which now last lost starting tackle D.J. Humprhey for up to a month, does not want to hear anyone complain about injuries. In fact, between these two offenses there are up to one starting quarterback, two starting running backs, three starting wide receivers and two starting tackles that likely will be watching in street clothes. That means the first team to 17 wins, and with Aaron Murray and Gurley back together like Hall and Oates, and those windbags on the View, here's saying the Dawgs are the first one to 17.
Auburn minus-8 at Arkansas — Gus Malzahn motivated. We likey. Auburn runs the ball like a shotgun-based Nebraska — high speed with a mix of power and deception. We likey. Auburn is primarily one-dimensional by choice; Arkansas is one-dimensional by force. We likey.
Texas Tech minus-2 over Oklahoma State — Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury is a sunglasses-wearing, stubble-sporting hot shot. Dude has revived the Red Raiders by re-installing a high-flying offense that he triggered when he was a record-setting QB at TTU. Good times.
Boston Red Sox fans celebrate in the street near Fenway Park following Game 6 of baseball's World Series between the Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, in Boston. The Red Sox won 6-1 to win the series.
Congrats to Spy's Red Sox. They deserved to win the World Series because they were the best team.
And the stories about how much this team bonded and worked together and moved forward is one of the great things about sports.
Yes, this Boston team had talent, but there were teams that had as much if not more. This Boston team believed — it believed in each other and their manager; it believed in the goal; it believed in the path; it believed in the game.
This Boston team was a joy to watch, and they prevailed because they enjoyed each other and the pursuit.
This and that
— The odds have been posted on which team will win next year's World Series. The Dodgers are 5-to-1. Detroit is 8-to-1, followed by Washington (9-to-1), St. Louis (10-to-1) and Boston (12-to-1). The Braves are 17-to-1.
— More odds: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is now even money to win the Heisman. FSU quarterback Jameis Winston is right behind at 11-to-10. Johnny Football is a distant third according to Vegas at 9-to-1.
— T.O., the former UTC wide receiver who is right behind B.B. Bell and just ahead of Mr. Belding on the list of famous ex-Mocs, says racism is the reason Dez Bryant is being raked over the coals for his sideline outbursts. Owens says Bryant's reactions were no different than Tom Brady's earlier this year. We think both Brady and Bryant were immature in the moment but we want passionate guys on our team so we don't have a huge problem with either move. What we do have a problem with is the quick-draw of the race card for a lot of folks. Whatever.
— Allen Iverson said his good-bye Wednesday. Did not know how great an NBA career he had until we saw the numbers. Dude had a career 26-plus scoring average and won more NBA scoring titles than everyone in league history not named Wilt or MJ. Wow.
— The Heatles lost at Philly last night, meaning they are on pace to finish 41-41. That said, the number that popped everyone's iris was 26 — the number of rebounds Dwight Howard grabbed. We believe D12 may be motivated this season. Thoughts?
— Brandel Chamblee offered a more formal apology on The Golf Channel for Cheating Gate. Whatever. He said he went too far. To his credit, he is really not backing off what he said — your beliefs are your beliefs — but this is not over in our view.
We're all about Halloween. The Lil' 5-at-10 Jr. is Sonic the Hedgehog. The Lil' 5-at-10 Princess is going as a bat. The Mrs. 5-at-10 is going as Their Mummy. We're leaning toward going as Gus Malzahn, but we'll see.
With that in mind, here are the questions for today:
— What was your best Halloween costume as a tot? Or as a crazy college kid?
— What's the best scary movie?
— What's the scariest character in scary movie history?
— What's the best "campy" scary movie?
Discuss and remember the mailbag.
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 ...