published Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

5-at-10: SEC questions and answers, NFL power poll, NCAA change

From the "Talks too much" studios, me fail English, unpossible.

SEC asked and answered

1) Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC)

Was it injury or indifference that slowed Alabama in a sluggish 31-6 win over Colorado State? It was some of each. Without receivers Kevin Norwood and Amari Cooper, Tide quarterback AJ McCarron was blah-tastic during the game and downright grumpy after it. Side note: This is where we are with Alabama and its atmospheric level of expected excellence. Think of it this way, the Tide are the No. 1 team in the country with two 25-plus-point blowouts and a road win over a top-10 conference rival and all we can see is Alabama's flaws. Somewhere Nick Saban just smiled.

Saturday: vs. Ole Miss, 6:30 (ESPN)

2) LSU (4-0, 1-0)

How young is too young? LSU landed a commitment from Dylan Moses, who is still three-plus years from graduating high school. The 15-year-old, 6-foot-1, 211-pound linebacker with 4.46 speed in the 40 picked LSU over a host of the nation's power programs. He was first offered before he started the eighth grade and said at the time playing for LSU was his lifelong dream. What were some of the others, getting his braces off and getting a learner's permit? Egads.

Saturday: at Georgia, 3:30 (CBS)

3) Georgia (2-1, 1-0)

Is Georgia — and Aaron Murray in particular — ready for the national stage and the chance to get back into the national title picture? ESPN College GameDay is in town for the first time since Alabama visited Athens and trounced the Bulldogs in 2008. (It was so bad that before Alabama, the last visitor to Georgia to inflict that much damage was Gen. Sherman.) Fairly or not, Murray has been nagged by the "can he win the big one" question throughout his record-setting time in Athens. He can end those whispers for good Saturday, because this is definitely a big one. Plus, if Georgia wins and runs the table, this one would make them the most attractive one-loss in the country.

Saturday: vs. LSU, 3:30 (CBS)

4) Texas A&M (3-1, 0-1)

How is this just a 3-point spread? Johnny Football is rolling — he threw for 244 and ran for 102 in last week's cruise-control win over SMU — and the Aggies have scored 40 or more in each of their four games this season.

Saturday: at Arkansas, 7 (ESPN2)

5) South Carolina (2-1, 0-1)

Will the Gamecocks be ready for a potential upset special Saturday? Following a bye week, South Carolina visits an unbeaten Central Florida team for a noon kick in the bright Florida sun. The Knights have a big-time offensive player in power back Storm Johnson, who averages more than 100 yards per game, and an underrated quarterback in junior Blake Bortles, who has completed 50-of-70 throws for 816 yards with seven TDs and only one pick.

Saturday: at Central Florida, noon (ABC)

6) Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0)

Are the Rebels ready for prime time? They certainly have embraced every challenge so far, considering Ole Miss has road wins at Vandy and at Texas (and when did we enter the bizarro world where the win at Vandy is likely more impressive than the win at Texas — Mack Brown it's time to go). Bonus question: Which of the talented freshmen will make the biggest splash against the top-ranked Tide? We'll go with Laquan Treadwell, the tall wide receiver who faces an Alabama secondary that has had trouble against tall wide receivers. Well-played Hugh Freeze, you actually have us excited about Ole Miss-Alabama.

Saturday: at Alabama, 6:30 (ESPN)

7) Florida (2-1, 1-0)

Is Jeff Driskel this college football generation's Wally Pipp? Quick history lesson: Wally Pipp was the starting first baseman for the New York Yankees and was feeling under the weather. He sat out one afternoon and was replaced by some young go-getter named Lou Gehrig, who started and starred in the next 2,100-plus consecutive games. Flash forward to last Saturday when Driskel was hurt early against Tennessee. Enter Travis Murphy, who certainly looked the part and will have his chance to prove his merit since Driskel is done for the season with a broken leg.

Saturday: at Kentucky, 7 (ESPNU)

8) Missouri (3-0,0-0)

How good is the Tigers offense? Pretty stout so far as the Tigers conclude their preconference drills this weekend. Missouri is in the top 25 in passing yards per game and rushing yards per game and ranks No. 8 nationally in points per game at 47.0. Plus, former super recruit Dorial Green-Beckham is becoming a current super receiver with 17 catches for 239 yards so far.

Saturday: vs. Arkansas State, 7:30 (CSS)

9) Auburn (3-1, 0-1)

Is there a better time for a bye week? After the physical toll that a trip to LSU can present, Auburn gets an off week in advance of the Oct. 5 game against Ole Miss, which has to play Alabama on Saturday. This is the Jadeveon Clowney of off-weeks.

Saturday: Open

10) Arkansas (3-1, 0-0)

What was that Arkansas? The Hogs were up 24-7 late in the third quarter at Rutgers and left the Garden State with a 28-24 loss. Some one get Bret Bielema on the blower and let him know this is the SEC and SEC teams put games like that away. How many Badgers fans tweeted 'karma' to Coach Bielema's wife after this one?

Saturday: vs. Texas A&M, 7 (ESPN2)

11) Tennessee (2-2, 0-1)

Did the UT coaching staff treat the video of the first-half debacle against Florida like the 'Wolfpack guys' in "Hangover" viewed the photos from the Vegas trip? Here's hoping that they looked at it. Discussed it. Then burned it. Ouch-standing. The only thing worse than the Tennessee offense on Saturday was Verne Lundquist, who was determined that Butch Davis coaches the Vols and that the teams' rosters were apparently just suggestions about which player was wearing which uniform. Bonus question: How bad must freshman Josh Dobbs and Riley Ferguson been in practice last week for Nathan Peterman to be the choice? Wow.

Saturday: vs. South Alabama, 12:21 (WDSI)

12) Vandy (2-2, 0-2)

Can the offense find its way? Amid turmoil and distractions, the Commodores needed a monster fourth quarter last week to put UMass away. Vandy led 10-7 and had less than 250 yards of total offense entering the final quarter before pulling away against the Minutemen. Maybe if they were the 60 Minutemen they would have fared better.

Saturday: vs. UAB, 7:30 (FSN)

13) Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1)

How does Mississippi State have two quarterbacks better than anyone on Tennessee's roster? After Tyler Russell was injured, Dak Prescott has stepped and looked the part of a future star for the Bulldogs. Dude is a hoss in the run game. Russell was cleared for contact last week; Prescott however appears to have little intention to make this an easy decision.

Saturday: Open

14) Kentucky (1-2, 0-0)

How is Kentucky attracting a nationally ranked recruiting class? Great question, and Lexington Herald-Leader reporter Jennifer Smith looked into that very issue last weekend and reported that a big part of it is assistant coach Vince Marrow, who is a lifelong friend of head coach Mark Stoops and apparently is a world-class charmer on the recruiting trail.

Saturday: vs. Florida, 7 (ESPNU)


NFL Power Poll

1) Seattle: The Seahawks have the league's best defense, the league's best home-field advantage and the league's best scoring differential. Add that up and you're starting at a team that's going to be tough to keep out of the Super Bowl.

2) Denver: Tuesday night ESPN debuted its documentary on the Manning family, football's first family. Through the first three weeks of the season, Peyton Manning has been putting on a weekly clinic, throwing for 12 TDs and leading the Broncos to a perfect start.

3) New Orleans: This bunch looks motivated after last year's wasted season because of BountyGate. The Saints welcome Miami to the Superdome for a Monday night game that looked like a stinker before the season but is a match-up of 3-0 teams.

4) New England: Tom Brady's band of merry receivers and collection of can-you-name-that-guy is staggering. OK, can you name the colleges of New England's top four receivers, the unimpressive quartet of Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins? If you guessed Kent State, Marshall, Texas Tech and Cincinnati, respectively, you were correct.

5) Chicago: The Bears have a top-10 defense against the run, but will have to do without defensive tackle Henry Melton, who tore his ACL against the Steelers on Sunday night. Side note: There has not been a lot of Jay Cutler belly-aching lately, which tells us the uniform baseline truth in sports — winning cures everything.

Bottom five

28) Pittsburgh: Let the record show that the Steelers are bad. And, while we are quick to say you can't win in the NFL without a good quarterback, you can't win in the NFL with only a good quarterback either. That's magnified by the Steelers and the Giants — teams with multiple-Super-Bowl-winning QBs — being among the league's dregs.

29) Tampa Bay: This is like the Yankees and the Celtics being good. Sports just seems more in balance when the Tampa Bay Bucs stink.

30) Giants: The debut of Manning documentary shows all three of the Manning brothers growing up in New Orleans. We know that Peyton is putting on a clinic. Well, little brother Eli's play so far ranks somewhere between a noogie and a wet willie on the enjoyment scale. We're one more stink bomb from getting into wedgie territory.

31) Minnesota: Granted the Jags are the worst team in the league, but the Vikings are not going down without a fight. Consider the following: The Vikings lost at home to a Cleveland team that was reeling after management pulled a Rachel Phelps and dealt their best player. Also, how bad must Christian Ponder be if he is completing less than 60 percent of his throws with five picks and only two TDs through three games considering he is throwing with every defensive player in the building looking at stud duck running back Adrian Peterson? Seriously, can we practice a play-action pass?

32) Jacksonville: Want to know the most misleading team stat in the NFL? How about passing yards allowed? The Jags are in the top 10 against the pass because they are 0-3 and have lost by an average of 21.3 points per game. So, teams do not need to pass against the Jags, a fact made even more clear because the Jags are dead last against the run.


NCAA change

We all know the NCAA is broken.

Be it the paying players discussion or safety or enforcement or what have you, the model must be changed.

It's so obvious that even the master of the obvious — NCAA president Mark Emmert — is expecting an overhaul.

"I think the board anticipates a lot of change," he told reporters Monday night in Texas. "They're going into their October and January meetings expecting to look at a whole different governance model for Division I. So it will be significantly different."

Change for change's sake can be a reckless proposition. That said, the current model is no longer acceptable to almost everyone invovled.

Where it goes from here will shape college sports as we know it. It also certainly will lean toward giving the bigger programs whatever they desire for an agreement to stay within the fold.

For the first time, the NCAA needs the power programs more than they need the NCAA and that sets up for a one-sided negotiation.

It will be interesting.

This and that

— The Pirates clinched a playoff spot Monday night in Chicago. The Braves also clinched their postseason bid at Wrigley. If Les Miles is to be believed, and LSU's Death Valley is the place where opponents' dreams go to die, then Wrigley Field is the place where opponents' come to flourish.

— Wow, Pacman Jones is back in trouble. No way. Sure it's just a disorderly conduct misdemeanor, but man, this cat may be the thickest-skulled guy in town.

— Nice update on B.J. Coleman from TFP ace Johnny Frierson here. Enjoy.

— As the QB turns for the Vols, as Downtown Patrick Brown shares here. Justin Worley is back in the starting role for South Alabama, and with Nathan Peterman having hand surgery, the back-up job will be on one of the true freshmen, Josh Dobbs or Riley Ferguson.

— Did you see where a North California youth football league has put into its rules that coaches could get fined by as much as$200 for beating foes by more than 35 points? Wow.

Coach: "Take a knee boys."

QB: "But coach, it's the first quarter."

Coach: "Yep. We need to run some clock before we start scoring."

Today's question

Feel free to weigh in on any of the above. That's how we roll.

If you need an extra talking point, well, OK:

The Manning documentary does not appear to be in the 30-for-30 series — it's an SEC film — but that still gives us a chance to discuss the best of the 30s. Thoughts?

Also, if you were elected NCAA czar, what's the very first thing you are changing? Can be huge can be small, but what is the one pet peeve from an institution that is infested with pet peeves?

And don't forget Friday's mailbag.

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 ...

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.
MocTastic said...

If I was the King of NASCAR? Oh boy, lots of changes. I would return it to the roots, where a "good ol boy" could race on a given weekend. First, get back to having "stock" cars. I would race cars that people can actually buy on Monday morning. Granted they would have to have safety changes such as roll cages, no glass that can shatter, fuel cells, etc, but they would be and look like the cars we all drive.

Next, get rid of teams. One man (or Danica) and one car, no spotters, no radios.

NASCAR started as the race car series of and by and for the common man, now it has morphed into a gigantic industry controlled by media types and doesn't resemble the NASCAR of old. Remember when a local racing hero could show up and qualify on a Sunday? Forget that now.

Also, no free entries into the race. You show up, you qualify, and you race. If you blow an engine or wreck during qualifying, you don't race if you dont have another car ready to go immediately. No getting in because you were in the top 35 in points the previous season.

So many more is the yellow light thing...when the wreck is cleared, let them race, who cares if some cars are still in pit row, that is luck, sometimes you win, sometimes you don't.

Another thing, why must there be 43 cars in the field? In the old days sometimes they had more, sometimes less. A smaller track such as Bristol should have fewer cars, a track such as Talledega can have more. Have the number set per what makes sense for the individual track.

They have let NASCAR morph into something totally alien to what it's roots were. Blow it up and return to the roots I say.

September 24, 2013 at 10:15 a.m.
jgreeson said...

MT —

Great rant. Excellent in fact, and we agree with almost all of them. We would allow for spotters though. And radios, if for no other reason than that's the most honest answers most of the drivers offer.

Now, what about the NCAA?

Thanks and we'll hit enter and listen.

September 24, 2013 at 10:19 a.m.
chas9 said...

Today's TFP headlines providing more comedy material for JMC--Couple caught on video having sex while driving down the highway and Wild pigs on the ATL streets scaring folks. Of course, Coach Bielema's wild pigs scare nobody.

Last week Jay reasoned that based on stablished lines, the oddsmakers think Auburn's better'n Tennessee. Apparently, using Florida as the measuring stick, they also think UK's better'n The Vols (13.5 point dogs vs. 17). I love the progress The Cats are making, but 13.5 is not enuf for me. Surely The Gators will be more productive after working with Lou Gehrig full time for a week.

Next year's class recruited by Vince will be elite, but this year's is pretty good, too, as witnessed by the huge number of freshmen making big plays for Big Blue.

Did anybody notice that little Ohio put the same kind of licking on Peay that The Vols did? That and WKU's downward spiral don't make Tennessee look any better.

But West Virginia is so bad they make UK and UT look like nearly flawless Bama.

September 24, 2013 at 10:25 a.m.
Stewwie said...

Jay, does your entertainment broker have a hypothetical line on Broncos-Seahawks on a neutral field? I'm interested to see who would be favored and by how much.

The bookies ought to put together a Vegas Poll for both the NCAA and NFL polls. For the NFL, establish point spreads for each team against the other 31 teams in hypothetical matchups on a neutral field. Whoever is favored in the most matchups is the #1 team in the poll. Next most-favored is 2nd best and so on. For the NCAA, maybe do this with only the top 25 or 30 teams since doing it for all 120+ FBS teams may get crazy (though computer assistance might make it easy).

September 24, 2013 at 10:36 a.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

The spread adjustment is misleading.

Home-field advantage is worth at least 3 points in Vegas' eyes, so the adjusted lines on neutral fields for Florida would be Tennessee +14 and Kentucky +16.5.

Still, at this pace UT-UK may be a toss-up come November.

September 24, 2013 at 10:38 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

JG; Minna-san,

There is nothing on this 5 & 10 that really jumps out at me. But I did read G-dawg's post during a commerical break for Sleepy Hollow last night.

I appreciate you offering credit where credit was due. This is a turnaround team to say the least and will be enjoying watching them locally here in the Big D.

Speaking of which, we touched base on the whole "Mean Green vs. Green Tide" in the Battle of the Greens and guess whose playing Tulane at 2:30 this Saturday? Yep.

I decided to watch it as suppose to Tennessee vs "Another Cupcake U." -.- Yep, I really want to seeeeee that.

On the "plus" side, And then Chat-Town vs. the other GSU on their website. Good times..good times.

September 24, 2013 at 10:54 a.m.
mrspud said...

This just in from the Weather Channel....Hell has frozen Pirates have made the playoffs! Woohoo! I might have to break out my Willie Stargell star hat.

NASCAR: I agree with Moctastic's points with one adder: Expand the chase field to start with but cut it down each week like the FedEx in golf. If you don't make the playoffs you shouldn't be in the post season.

NCAA: They get paid now. How can anyone argue that 4 to 5 years of college tuition, books, lodging and food doesnt' equate to already being paid for their services? If you change it it will get crazy since only the schools that can afford to pay will get the players. Would we have a salary cap situation like MLB for the SEC schools to offset the UTC's of the NCAA? Oh my head is spinning!

Go Bucs!

September 24, 2013 at 11:12 a.m.
jomo11 said...

I hope the Mocs can win Saturday, however Waffle House University . . ahem . Georgia Southern is VERY good at home and have not lost very many conference home games. . . will be very though and if the Mocs lose it wont be critical as long as Mocs take care of Wofford in a few weeks

September 24, 2013 at 11:15 a.m.
MocTastic said...

What MrSpud said, if NASCAR wants a post season, I agree, start with maybe 36 cars, eliminate 1 or 2 a week. Maybe not have the Cup last 10 races, but maybe only 6 or so, but that is negoitable.

September 24, 2013 at 11:20 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

The other thing about the spread- the Gators are without Driskell and everyone saw that awful first half against Tennessee. That's probably worth three to six points right there. Kentucky would have been about an 18-20 point underdog last week more than likely if the game had been played last week. Now heading into this week, the spread has shrunk. And the game is in two different locations as 5er points out. WKU's downward spiral doesn't make UK look good either. Ohio's licking on Austin Peay wasn't just as good as the Vols (45-0 compared to 38-0), but it was better than Vandy's (38-3 compared to 38-0). What we've really learned is that Vandy and Tennessee are about equal...for better or worse. Vandy also only lost to Ole Miss by 3 points in Nashville. So Vandy is close to Ole Miss. And Ole Miss is ranked heading to Tuscaloosa this week. Hmmm......

Regardless, I really think the SEC has a rotten bottom that are very close (Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas, and Mississippi State). Missouri is one level up all by themselves at this point. Ole Miss and Florida are a level up from that. Then comes South Carolina and Texas A&M a level up from that. Then comes the top crust, that I think may be three of the top five teams in the country- Alabama, LSU, and Georgia. That's the current tier system. I know Auburn was OK at LSU, but they barely beat Mississippi State at home the week before, and Mississippi State is either 12th or 13th in every SEC power ranking I've seen. So I have a hard time really believing in Auburn at this point. Of course, tiers can switch as the year goes on. We'll all keep our eyes on it.

UK could really beat Florida this weekend. If the Vols have a QB in the first half, then they could have won at Florida. Honestly, with UK at home, they really should make this a close game. Murphy's adrenaline was pumping on Saturday. First road SEC start? May not fare as well. Huge opportunity for the Cats. Go Cats!

September 24, 2013 at 11:25 a.m.
chas9 said...

Stuckey--Be careful. You'll make Jay mad putting The War Eagle down in the sludge with that other motley bunch.

Actually, you have it about right, but I'm not sure I follow your point about how bad The Gators were in the first half with Driskel. Wouldn't that mean the spread would be bigger with Supermurphy?

I agree about home field advantage, but I just can't let myself believe a Bluegrass miracle is gonna happen.

September 24, 2013 at 12:01 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

As bad as the Bama beatdown was during the last Georgia "blackout" - more like black eye or left black and blue - one young Steve Spurrier did something no one else has done tween the hedges (and I will not dare to venture to guess what else has been accomplished there). Hang a 50 in the opponents total on the toteboard.

September 24, 2013 at 3:17 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

Excuse me while I play the role of Captain Obvious, but that Peyton Manning is a pretty good quarterback. I watched most of the Broncos v. Raiders last night. My other football related entertainment options were limited to watching Keyshawn "Just Give Me The Damn Tap Shoes" Johnson performing routines on Dancing with the Stars. No thank you. Peyton threw 37 passes last night with only 4 incompletions. The statistics wonks that keep track of everything determined that all four incompletions were either dropped or defended. Basically, everything Peyton threw last night was right on target. Peyton of course sees room for improvement.

In other NFL news, Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones was hit over the head with a champagne bottle by an angry stripper named Sweet Pea. Sweet Pea can expect a call from Roger Goodell's office as she hit a defenseless receiver and targeted the head. A four-week center stage ban and a hefty fine, payable in singles, seems about right. Ray Lewis is on record as saying this happened because of a leadership void in Baltimore resulting from his retirement. Shut up Ray. If memory serves correct, you had some off-the-field issues of your own.

September 24, 2013 at 3:28 p.m.
jgreeson said...

GD —

Was Ray on record as saying this was a leadership void or did he pull the Sgt. Schultz routine: "I know NOOOTHHHing."

Dude's not going to rat out his homies after all.

Spy —

Spurrier... The man that everyone loves to hate, right?

That escalated in a hurry.

9er —

Stuck can have his rankings. It's like Pitino's pressing defense — 'No harm no foul.'

Stuck —

You stink. Whattya mean having Auburn with the dregs? We're on the Gus Bus. Toot, toot.

(Kidding, kidding. Mostly.)

Jomo —

You're having a fine week. Waffle House University? Do the teachers say, "Hi welcome to Waffle House," when every student enters?

Spud —

Congrats to the Bucs. Those old Pirates unis were awesome. We loved, Loved, LOVED Dave Parker. Arguably the best No. 39 in sports history.


We were intrigued with the Sleepy Hollow premise. What was your review?

September 24, 2013 at 4:01 p.m.
Stewwie said...

Jay, did you catch my question in my 10:36 a.m. post?

September 24, 2013 at 4:24 p.m.
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