published Monday, September 30th, 2013

5-at-10: College football rewind

Wow, what a weekend. Simply wow.

And we even went to the Hamilton County. (Underwhelmed to tell you the truth, and when did they stop putting mirrors in people's homes, because there's no way a big chunk of the folks there could have seen how they looked and still left the house. No way.)

From the "Talks too much" studios, the Lane train has left the station. And the tracks. And the college football realm.

College football rewind

Wow. What a weekend. Here are the five takeaways from a college football weekend in which Johnny Vols Fans went to bed worried about a UT team that struggled to beat South Alabama and woke rejuvenated because the K in Kiffin stands for karma.

And as we always do, it's a letter-grade college football Monday.

  • photo
    South Alabama receiver Bryant Lavender jumps over a tackle from Tennessee defensive back Justin Coleman.
    Photo by Patrick Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Vols: Do you dare believe in the first half, when the Vols took care of business and marched over and through South Alabama? Can you ignore the second half, when the Vols were hanging on for dear life against South Alabama, a team filled with players who never even received a second-look from UT coaches during the recruiting process? Of course the answer is somewhere in the middle, a balanced version of the half-full, half-empty discourse. Know this, though: UT surely does not appear ready for the October juggernaut that looms on the horizon. (Side note: The opening line of the Tennessee-Georgia game is Bulldogs minus-10.5. One question: How?) Let's give UT a C-minus, and that grade is scaled considering the competition and barely passing the final.

SEC: Monster win by the Georgia Bulldogs, who toppled an impressive LSU team without the services of Todd Gurley for most of the afternoon. And if anyone has any more "big-game" questions for Aaron Murray, well, watch the film of this instant classic before had. Also, anyone think Alabama's secondary and offensive line had heard about all the "What's wrong with you guys" questions it could stomach? Bama shut out Ole Miss and ran for 254 yards. Any more questions? Missouri is still unbeaten — the impressive list of creampuffs would make a diabetic shake — but the Tigers offense continues to click against weaker foes. Missouri put 41 points and 495 yards of offense on Arkansas State. Johnny Football is good and USC running back Mike Davis belongs in the conversation of SEC stud tailbacks. It's hard to remember an SEC this flush with talent in the offensive backfield. Georgia, Alabama, Vandy and Missouri get A's. LSU gets a B-plus for a big-time effort on the road. South Carolina gets a C-plus and views Saturday's noon trip to Central Florida as one of those classes you are happy to pass and never have to think about again. Texas A&M and Arkansas each get C-plusses (and the lines-makers get A's for setting that 12-point final in the 13-14 range — it's games like that one that help Vegas build fancy buildings and help your local entertainment broker buy fancy cars).

Mocs: Shampoo and the Mocs; wash, rinse, repeat. UTC's 23-21 heart-aching loss at Statesboro had all the trappings of the familiar UTC pattern that has been laid down and played out in the last few years. UTC needing a big win, plays well enough to win, and then one big play turns the game and the Blue and Gold are toppled. Sure, that describes almost every competitive-but-still-not-there-yet college football program. Saturday in Statesboro, there was talk of missed calls, including one on a potential go-ahead-fourth-quarter touchdown. Whatever. Here's the skinny: When will the Mocs make one of those plays to turn a tight game into a hard-fought win over a similarly matched foe? Right now, it's still kind of college football shampoo: Watch, wince, repeat. Mocs get a C, which is becoming overwhelmingly average and averagely underwhelming.

  • photo
    Former Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin looks on during a 2009 game against Western Kentucky in Knoxville, Tenn.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Lane Kiffin: Not that anyone is really surprised by this, especially after Kiffin's USC Trojans were smoked by three touchdowns by Arizona State. The biggest surprised of Sunday may be that Coach Ed Orgeron will be the interim coach for the remainder of the season. (Hsffaaklsdjfslf... Brent Schaefer.) USC is 3-2 this year and has not face Stanford or UCLA yet. As TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer pointed out here it was bad run that was destined to end badly. That said, if you scratch off Nick Saban, the list of potential USC names can't be too big. It's still a top-five national job.

Fab 4-plus-1 picks: Well, we went 3-2, completing a first month of the season in which we did not have a losing weekend. Our winners — Florida by more than 13, Boise State by more than 28 and BYU by more than 23 — were fine; our losers — Duke failed to cover 10 and the Pitt-Virginia over/under missed as badly as Ishtar or Leonard Part 6 — were part of a classic fallacy of putting too much into the previous week. In fact, we may or may not have made some entertainment back late Saturday night by taking Alabama and giving the 14. Want to know what? Because Ole Miss had been hearing for two weeks how great they were after winning at Texas. That's tough for NFL guys to handle; for college-aged players, it can be impossible. Season total for the Fab 4-plus-1 is now 18-6-1, a calm and collected 75 percent. (In other parlance, if you put a 100 entrainment vouchers on each pick this season, you'd be up $1,130 for the first month of the season.)



We'll hit the power poll on Tuesday, and yes Peyton Manning is still pretty good at tackle football.

Let's debate the merits of the two closest NFL franchise, that are surprisingly heading in two different directions.

The Atlanta Falcons are all-but cooked. Injuries and the NFL's grand scheme of everyone playing to the golden path of mediocrity — in this case, weighted schedules — have left a Falcons team built around a high-powered offense limited in its abilities and exposed on defense.

The Tennessee Titans, however, are playing better than the sum of their parts. In truth, that may be the biggest compliment you can pay a coaching staff. Sunday's one-sided 38-13 win over the New York Jets was impressive, but the glow of a surprising 3-1 start has been dulled more than a little by Sunday's injury to Jake Locker. (Side note: Yes, the odds before the season of Titans fans being upset by a Locker injury were about 50-50. But dude has improved and looked the part through the first month.) Monday morning reports have Locker missing anywhere from 4-to-8 weeks with the hip injury.

Crazy indeed.

And as good as Peyton Manning has been — dude has a TD-to-INT ratio of 16-to-0 — is as bad as the Jags have been. Jacksonville lost 37-3 Sunday at home to Indy, and Vegas has set an early number on the Jags visit to Denver in 13 days at Denver minus-28, which would be the biggest line in NFL history. (On the other end, Alabama is giving Georgia State 56.5 this week.)


Baseball playoffs

The Atlanta Braves secured the NL East title sometime in August, or there about. The Braves missed out on home-field advantage in the playoffs by a game. So it goes.

And so go the Braves. It's hard to see these Braves take down the Dodgers in a best-of-five and then likely the Cardinals in a best-of-seven in which the Cards have homefield.

That said, how great would a Braves-Pirates NLCS be. We're rooting for that if the Braves beat the Dodgers. (Hey, we grew up a Dodgers fan and still pull for them.) Also, we're pretty stoked to have three win-or-pack-the-stuff games this week. Rays-Rangers and the winner to play the Indians. Pirates-Reds. Good times

Let's go to the Braves regular-season review (we'll have our award winners Tuesday):

Hitting — C

There were some clear home runs, and Freddie Freeman looks the part of franchise cornerstone and Jason Heyward in the second half was the Jason Heyward fans had hoped for. That said, the Braves have two everyday players hitting under .185 in B.J. Upton (.184) and Danny Struggla (.179)

Pitching — A

The Braves were No. 1 in ERA (3.18), second in quality starts (102) and WHiP (1.20) and have the best closer in baseball. Now consider the injuries this group overcame — losing Hudson and the team's two best set-up guys — and the numbers are staggering. Roger McDowell may be on some managerial short lists this winter.

Manager — A

Fredi G deserves manager of the year consideration. He won't get it — Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle, come on down — but he deserves to be at the ceremony. Great year from that guy, and kindred spirit and similarly named Kenny G should write an instrumental about it.


This and that

— The NBA is reportedly changing the format to the Finals to a more just 2-2-1-1-1 set up. Longtime readers know that StuckinKent and the 5-at-10 have been on this bandwagon for a longtime, and the NBA has finally hopped on. In other news, the NBA is switching from VCRs to DVDs and may look into these crazy new CDs rather than cassettes. Good luck with that.

— Jimmie Johnson went faster and turned left better than the rest of the NASCAR crew. And amazingly, Dale Jr. was among the leaders for most of the day. Hmmm, must have been the Upward Basketball 500 at Dover. Yay, everyone gets to lead a lap.

— Now that Kiffin has been canned, the clock is on Texas and Mack Brown. We say he gets the axe too and we have two of the top 5-to-8 jobs in college football open at the same time. We'd like to be Charlie Strong's agent. Turning down Tennessee for one more year of Teddy Bridgewater and a chance at a USC or Texas job turned out pretty wise, huh?


We are littered with questions today.

Feel free to letter grade your football team of choice. Are the Falcons a dead team walking? Are the Titans playoff bound? Do the Braves have your hopeful attention or are you waiting for the disappointment? Discuss until you are blue in the face.

But if you still need another talking point, here are three:

Tina Fey hosted SNL on Saturday night, returning to the place that jumpstarted her career into the stratosphere. What's your Rushmore of former SNL characters who got the most out of their time on Saturday Night Live? We'll say Fey for sure and Farrell, too. Guys like Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers are so crazy talented, they would have made it regardless. Who else used the SNL platform to reach unexpected and overwhelming heights?

What are the top five jobs in college football?

Lane Kiffin was fired at the airport as the team bus left without him. Sure, dude deserves everything that comes his way, but do you think he got cab fare from AD Pat Haden? Maybe called a buddy? How did Lane get home in the early hours of Sunday morning coming down?

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...

With the way the Awringe is doing in Knoxville, needing a last minute INT in the end zone to get a win over a team only a few years old and just moved up to FBS, do we hear the Lane Train warming up and headed over the Rockies to Knoxville.....just have to get lying Bruce back on the bench and the Vols will have gone Back to the Future!

September 30, 2013 at 10:09 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Jay- I think you are too hard on Grade for Mocs. Tell me the last unranked SEC team that went ON THE ROAD and beat another SEC team that was ranked in the top 10 ? I think that is a pretty fair comparison.

Also at what point do the VOLS stop blaming Kiffin for last weeks Florida loss and The Oregon massacre ? My goodness He was only coach for ONE year and that was FOUR years ago ? . . . .although I have to agree Kiffin is / was a jerk and a serial rules violator

September 30, 2013 at 10:14 a.m.
Astropig said...

Look, everybody agrees that Kiffin is a weasel. No quibble there. He's all hat and no cattle with the x's and o's. Guy can reel 'em in but he can't coach 'em up. But he only had ,like, 56 scholarship players on the two deep against Sparky in Tempe. (That's less than an FCS roster) Nobody would have been able to keep the Trojan horse in the race with so few warm bodies.Kiffy will land on his feet,but USC's next coach will inherit the same problems.USC got the "coma penalty" for Pete Carrolls shenanigans,it will be another half decade before they are playing with a full deck.That might make some of these big names being bandied about look twice at the job.

September 30, 2013 at 10:34 a.m.
chas9 said...

Hey, USC, Phil Fulmer's looking for a job.

If UT had skipped Kiffin, where would they be now? No, really.

Three weeks ago I posited that our baseball season could end with nobody above .600. That has happened.

Another reason I'm smarter than I look: I picked Gawga over the Red Stick Bengals.

A reason I'm prettier than I am smart: I said West Virginia was the lowest of the low.

I know comparative scores are a trap and each game's different, but using The Gators as a measuring stick, Tennessee is just a smidge better'n UK, easily within the margin of error. And the close SALA game doesn't help the Big Orange argument. The Cats still have two quarterbacks better's Worley.

The Cats will have a better week coming up than The Vowels will. South Carolina's injury bug helps UK's chances and I wouldn't want to face a steamrolling Hairy Dawg right now.

Vegas disagrees with me. But these are the same feeble-minded fools who last Monday only gave The Hogs 3 against A&M. They have UT a ten and a half point dog, as Jay reported, and UK's getting 21. With those odds, I'll take KY and SC. That's the real, not the pretend USC.

Bad news for Kentucky is after The Cocks they have to play an Alabama team that has two weeks to prepare for them, since The Tide has a off date this week. Seriously, how can 56.5 be enough against the worst Division I team?

Peyton now has 16 passing touchdowns. No other TEAM has more than 15 total touchdowns this season.

September 30, 2013 at 10:44 a.m.
compspeed said...

I'm as frustrated a Moc fan as any there are out there. BUT after viewing to so called "ineligible receiver down field" penalty I do hope Russ gets someone fired. Check the link below and go the 3:40 mark. 9 men on or behind the line of scrimmage. One back on a wheel route out of the backfield. WR on a post route. I guess since officials never see passing in a GA Southern game they weren't sure what was happening. Awful call. :

September 30, 2013 at 11:17 a.m.
jgreeson said...

MT —

Amazingly, there are several UT fans we know who would take Pearl back tomorrow. Kiffin, not so much.

Jomo —

Not sure how good that comparison is when dealing with the validity of the FCS rankings.

That said, moving beyond the SEC equation and dealing just with UTC — this is a Mocs team that is supposed to be the best in a generation and it looks like the same bunch in each of Russ's five years. How is average unfair? This is the average.

The average used to be getting blown out. Now the average is competing and losing because of one or two or three plays. So it goes.

Astro —

No doubt Kiffin's hand was in a tough spot. But the implosion — and as you said it's going to get worse — since starting the 2012 season No. 1 has been tough. USC's 9-9 since opening last year atop the polls.

And we all knew going in that Haden was going to look for a reason to start fresh rather than keep him.

So it goes.

But we agree with Jomo in that it's time for UT fans to be done blaming Kiffin. Heck, Dooley deserves way more blame than Kiffin. And who's to say Hamilton doesn't deserve more than either of those two.

9er —

56.5 is a ton of points for Alabama, but we concur. Saban may have to start taking a knee in the third quarter not to cover. Bama's fifth string running back is either five-star freshman Derrick Henry or four-star freshman Altee Tenpenny, and each of those cats will run circles around Georgia State.

(As for your question, unranked SEC team winning at ranked SEC team — Ole Miss at Vandy to start the year. Unranked SEC team winning at top 10 — Auburn over Florida in 2007 is the last one we can remember, but there may be others.)

September 30, 2013 at 11:21 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Compspeed —

We'll watch the video.

And one call can wreck a game, there's no doubt.

But it seems over and over know that one call, one special teams gaffe, one turnover, one failed third-down, one allowed third-down, one whatever continues to plague the Mocs over and over.

Still don't think a C is unfair. It's UTC's average; granted it's taken a ton of work to get to that being the average, but so it goes.

September 30, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.
Stewwie said...

Nice move for the NBA to consider going back to a 2-2-1-1-1 Finals format. Now when is baseball going to switch?

Not sure why Pat Haden felt the need to fire Kiffin before he got back to the school. Would you have woken up to meet him at the airport at 5am instead of waiting until a few hours later? Word on the interwebs is that Kiffin put his bags on the team bus because he thought meeting Pat for a moment wouldn't be a big deal. But then Pat ordered the buses away anyway without Kiffin getting his bags back. Ouchstanding.

Top 5 most coveted jobs in college football in no particular order (excluding any effect of temporary probations/penalties): Bama, USC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ohio St. Next 5: Michigan, Texas, FSU, Penn St., Tennessee. Thoughts?

September 30, 2013 at 11:42 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

And Georgia Southern fans complain that SoCon refs have been out to get them for years.

I think Tina Fey's parlay of her SNL days is even bigger, because aside from the News, did she really do any skits? She was a writer, and a top dog writer, but she had no memorable characters from her SNL days, unlike Eddie, Mike Myers, Will Ferrell, Bill Murray, etc.

Still not big on Fredi G's managerial skills. At least this year he didn't burn the bullpen out because he didn't have to. BJ Upton, because of his relative youth, can still be salvaged. I am afraid the same cannot be said for Mr. Struggla. And after Elliott Johnson knocked in five runs yesterday, who opens at second base on Thursday (hey, Skip, somebody left their hat on second base!).

What is this NBA you speak of, 5?

September 30, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.
dawg747 said...

Ten Cup: I would give my Dawgs an A and Aaron Murray an A++. The dude has finally figured out how to win a game against adversity. He did his usual D-lineman interception in a big game but to come back and play the way he did was awesome.

As for the Mocs it was the same as always. I would love for them to win one big game just to get over the hump of not being able to. They have teased us the last few years and always seem to let victory slip away from them. I grade them with a C also because like you I say they are average at best until they get the monkey off their back of being able to beat GSU or Appy State.

As for the Falcons I say they are done unless a miracle happens. Who would have thought before the season that after 4 weeks the Falcons, Giants and Steelers would be a combined 1 and 11.

September 30, 2013 at 11:55 a.m.
GratefulDawg said...

Love us or hate us, the Georgia Bulldogs have provided some entertaining games for the college football fan to start the 2013 season. Not since 1978, a season that ended with a four-week time frame that included a 24-22 win over Florida, a 22 all tie with Auburn, and a 29-28 win over Georgia Tech has a month of Bulldog football been more exciting.

If you want to know what a "nail-biter game" looks like, watch the replay of Saturday's UGA-LSU game. We scored the go-ahead touchdown with under two-minutes to play and while there was celebration, there was also some consternation. We have to give it back to them with 1:47 on the clock and they have a timeout left. Hunker Dave from Milledgeville was calling for an onside kick. Of course if Hunker Dave coached the team, we would not have a punter on the roster as he thinks we should go for it most every time. Leonard Floyd applied some pressure. Jordan Jenkins literally threw himself at the play. And on fourth-and-ten an overthrown pass hit the turf. That was fun, but I was glad it was over. My heart got some relief, but my liver took a pounding Saturday night.

September 30, 2013 at 2:58 p.m.
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