Guys, it seems crazy, but each week continues to pick up speed. Sweet buckets, Will Wade and the Mocs basketball team start practice on Friday. Wow.
Remember the Friday mailbag — we have a spot or two — and anything is fair game.
From the "Talks too much" studios, we'll take a Diablo sandwich and a Dr Pepper. To go.
Braves still have some fight. Literally. The bench-clearing brawl that led to ejections in the first inning in a 4-0 loss to Milwaukee could be a sign the Braves are focused and aggressive.
It also could be a sign that they are wound too tightly.
Either way, after Carlos Gomez took a leisurely stroll filled with some yapping after his first-inning homer off Braves starter Paul Maholm, Atlanta catcher Brian McCann was waiting for Gomez at the plate. He blocked the plate and gave Gomez some choice words about respecting the game and lip readers sure saw some advice that may have included some shirt etiquette, because there was a lot 'Tuck' discussion. May have been some quilt tips too.
Anyhoo, the spirit and the fervor of the emotion can be viewed however you desire. Is it a good thing? Maybe. Is it a bad thing? Maybe.
What is undeniable is that with four days left in the regular season, the Braves now trail the St. Louis Cardinals for the top spot in the NL and home field advantage. Plus, if the Braves finish as the No. 2 seed, they would see a rested Dodgers team in round 1 rather than a spent winner of the one-game wildcard play-in.
The marathon race to play into October is done. The sprint to position the Braves in the best possible place for extended October success is in full tilt.
5 to look for in the SEC this weekend
1) LSU or Georgia, who you got?
We have yet to reach October, and the Georgia Bulldogs are taking a third swing at a top-10 foe. We said earlier this week that a Georgia win positions the Bulldogs to be the top one-loss team in the country at the end of the season if they run the table. That's a good thing. An LSU win almost assuredly sets up the Tigers' trip to Tuscaloosa as a BCS semifinal. Of all the even matches across each position — Mettenberger vs. Murray, Hill vs. Gurley, Beckham vs. UGA's deep receiving corps — here's a name to know: Craig Loston. Loston is a fifth-year senior safety that returned to LSU for moments like this.
2) Are the kiddie Rebels ready for primetime
The Ole Miss Rebels have cleared every hurdle so far, relying on a big-play offense with quarterback Bo Wallace and 5-foot-8 speedster Jeff Scott and a slew of new faces. The Rebels have won road games against then-ranked Vandy and then-ranked Texas. This is a group that is feeling good and has Ole Miss fans giddy enough to forgive Peyton Mannin. Well almost. That said, feeling good and beating pretenders is a far cry from winning in Tuscaloosa. Alabama is 3-0 and the No. 1 team in the county. The Tide have a certain irritable quality about them because they have not played to their normal levels of expected excellence. If Alabama brings its A-game, the Ole Miss run will come to an abrupt halt. If the Tide continue to mix melancholy with mediocrity, there could be Hotty Toddys for everyone.
3) Florida's depth will be tested — just not this week
Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel is done for the year. All-American candidate defensive tackle Dominique Easley is done for the year. So is tackle Chaz Green, receiver Andre Dubose and linebacjer Matt Rolin. Will Muschamp is dealing with a lot of stuff, and while candlesticks make a nice gift, there's work to be done. Travis Murphy will get his first start at QB1 Saturday in Lexington and after a nice rebound in his relief stint in the U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi UGLY first half against Tennessee, Murphy looks the part. Easley's void will be tougher to fill.
4) Johnny Football's road show
Point spread mysteries aside, Johnny Manziel will take his show on the road for the first time this season when the Aggies visit Arkansas. Always embracing controversy and the spotlight, Johnny Football's numbers last year during his Heisman-winning season away from College Station were impressive. In seven road games, Johnny Hotshot was 153-of-226 for 1,991 yards and 14 TDs with only four picks passing and ran for 974 yards and 13 TDs. Dude loves the big stage, huh?
5) How many empty seats will be in Neyland Stadium
Another cupcake lunch-time feast for the Vols, there are some concerns that there could be huge blocks of empty seats in the student section. Maybe they need to announce to the student body that Nathan Peterman is not going to play. To his credit, Butch Jones has said he needs to do a better job of selling the Vols to the students. Either way, Vols fans everywhere — be them undergrads, graduates or just lifelong followers — are starving for something to believe. Also, with a devilish October on the horizon, this may be the last chance for the Vols to celebrate a win for a while.
Fab 4-plus-1 picks
In entertainment venture capital circles this week, there seems to be a Baby Ruth in punch bowl. (Cue Carl Spackler: "What's the big deal?")
The only line that has been posted on the interweb for Texas A&M's visit to Arkansas is the Aggies minus-3. If you can find someone who takes that line, you need to immediately stop what you're doing, buy a ticket to Vegas (where you can wager legally) and take every available red cent to your name and enjoy a jumpstart on your retirement.
There is no posted line on this game even as late as this morning, and the questions about Arkansas' quarterback situation do not seem to merit the delay. Something seems to be rotten in Denmark. Or Vegas, College Station or Fayetteville for that matter. Know this: We are not picking this game because we do not have a number on it. But if you can find it under Texas A&M minus-10, you have our full support to put all your discretionary entertainment out there.
As for the picks, well, picking games has been kind of a hobby of ours for years. And we're off to a liquid-hot start. Our percentage is not as high as the famous/infamous Izod, the regular Wednesday picker on SportTalk with Quake, Dr. B (he is a doctor after all) and Cowboy Joe. Izod is a legit 5-0 against the number so far this year, and his 100 percent accuracy is better than our 79 percent. (Hey, God bless our Auburn education, huh?)
To the games other than Texas A&M at Arkansas:
BYU minus-23 vs. MTSU: Other than the three-named BYU linebacker (Kyle Van Somethingorother) and the local kids on MTSU's team, we do not know a single matchup. Here's what we do know: MTSU traveled to South Florida last week and now travels to Utah on a short week for Friday's game to face a BYU team steaming off a loss to rival Utah last week. This is a BYU team that beat Texas by 19. Do you believe Texas is only four points better than MTSU?
Pittsburgh-Virginia over the 51.5: Gross game, but again, we are not picking the best games to watch. We are picking the best entertainment investment opportunities.
Florida minus-13 over Kentucky: Yes, the Gators are banged up to the n-th degree. Still, Florida over Kentucky is like death and taxes, And stomach issues after cheap Mexican food. Maybe if the Wildcats play a wide receiver at quarterback... Nope. Welcome to the party Travis Murphy and enjoy the ride.
Boise State minus-27 against Southern Miss: The Eagles are traveling across the country for a 10:15 p.m. Eastern kick. This one screams of 56-10.
Duke minus-10 over Troy: Buy the half here just to be safe, but the Sun Belt looks incredibly week this year, as Troy and Arkansas State have started to flounder. If Duke can score 55 on Pitt in the pouring rain, you feel good about them putting up half a hundred on the Trojans, right?
Last week against the spread: 4-1 — Stupid Clemson
On the season against the spread: 15-4-1
This and that
— Damon James was died from a helmet-to-helmet in a high school football game earlier this season. His Buffalo-area team announced it will cancel the rest of its games. Tragic story.
— There is a stew about a potential NFL uniform violation committed by players using UnderArmour clips to keep the shield locked on their helmets. Cam Newton is one of the chief perpetrators named. How is it in the NFL we hear more about uniform violations than PEDs? Must be that no one is using PEDs, right? RIGHT? The NFL is a master of rope-a-dope.
— Todd Helton's exit was supremely cool. In his final home game in Colorado, Helton caught the ceremonial first pitch from his daughter, got the first base bag (and wow, how antiquated is that term since it's been decades since bases were actually bags) and a horse. Then he goes yard in his first at-bat of the game. Good times.
— The framework for the college football playoff invitation committee is being finalized. It will resemble the college basketball selection committee with 12-18 members, and executive director Bill Hancock said that number would skew to the lower end. Invites are being extended. As for the polls or a comparable RPI, well, Hancock nipped that in the bud by telling reporters, "There will be no computer standings involved. The committee will make the decision, just like NCAA basketball."
There are several circling questions/topics.
We know Stuck will riff on the Braves, and we are looking forward to it.
We also know that Friday, the PGA will announce their player of the year. Who you got?
We know the 49ers and Rams play tonight in the John Brodie/Vince Ferragamo Bowl. Sneaky big game for the visiting 49ers after back-to-back losses. Side note: Like the 49ers minus-3 and buying the half.
This could very well be an open-mic day. Calgon and Chas9, take it away.
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 ...