Welcome back, even if you're not named Kotter.
From the "Talks too much" studios, the mailbag is open and receiving visitors.
SEC asked and answered
We covered the UT questions Monday (and expanded on them in today's TFP http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2014/aug/26/greeson-major-questions-face-youthful-vols/).
Now let's review the entire SEC. (Programming note: We'll have questions for UGA on Wednesday and UTC on Thursday. Deal? Deal.)
As always, we'll list these in our personal power ranking:
Alabama: Do they need anything more than adequate quarterback play from the two-headed enigma that is Jacob Coker and Blake Sims? This is the deal. It's not who will be the Tide QB1, it's how much will they need from him. The answer is not much considering the talent levels every where else. Still, for Alabama to have national title intentions there will be a moment or three that the quarterback will have to make a season-changing play. And if we don't know who the starter is, it's impossible to gauge if they will be ready.
Auburn: Can the Tigers repeat the magic of 2013? We believe Auburn will be a better football team this fall on the field — much better at wide receiver with Jaylon Denson healthy and judo-transfer Duke Williams; year-older across the defense at all levels and a more experienced Nick Masrhall back at quarterback — but not as good in the standings. There's simply no way a team can get that many breaks in back-to-back years.
South Carolina: Is Dylan Thompson ready to be the guy? We think so. Dude has gotten quality experience — and while that experience came in most cases with Conner Shaw injured and waiting to return — experience still counts for something. Plus, the Gamecocks are sneaky salty across the lines of scrimmage — always a good thing in the SEC.
LSU: Will the freshmen be ready this quickly? We think running back Leonard Fournette will be the national freshman of the year. That said, if the quarterback questions aren't answered positively quickly — Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings will play in the opener against Wisconsin — that may not be enough.
Georgia: Can the Bulldogs survive the injuries, suspensions/dismissals in an early crush? Georgia has dismissed what likely was 3/4s of their starting secondary in the offseason and the team's two best deep threats are hobbling. Not exactly the best way to enter two of your three toughest games right out of the gate. Still, if the Bulldogs survive the Clemson-South Carolina swing in the first three weeks, the sky's the limit.
Ole Miss: Whatcha got Hugh Freeze? Freeze now has as much talent as the Rebels have had in recent memory — a tribute to the glorious recruiting haul of 18 months ago. They also have expectations — and a favorable schedule — to match. If 10 wins is a reasonable goal in the toughest division in the sport, then Freeze has done a lot right. Now we'll see if he can run with the lead dogs.
Mississippi State: Can Dan Mullen get some respect? The Bulldogs coach keeps plugging along in one of the sneaky/historical runs in school history. Now with an experienced and talented quarterback in Dak Prescott — whom Mullen compares favorably with Tim Tebow — MSU also has high hopes.
Missouri: What can the Tigers do for an encore? It's hard to see a repeat after winning the East in its second year in the SEC, since Missouri has to replace a ton of skill-position guys, including former No. 1 overall national prospect Dorial Green-Beckham, who was booted from the team this spring.
Florida: How hot is Will Muschamp's seat? It's nuclear and the results of September can go a long way toward changing the perception and path of the program, since a slew of nationally renowned prospects like the Gators but are waiting to see how the year plays out. Uneasy times for Muschamp and Co., which has to rebound from the worst season in Gainesville since 1979.
Texas A&M: Can the defense be any worse? No. No it can't. And without Johnny Football, the defense will need to answer a few challenges from a year ago, which means they will answer a few challenges.
Tennessee: If the over/under is 18 on number of freshmen who play for the Vols, would you take the over? We would.
Arkansas: Which Arkansas will it be? Yes, the Hogs went doughnut-and-8 in the SEC in Bret Bielema's first year, but they were much more competitive in the second half of the season. It's hard to see Arkansas going 0-fer in the league again this year. (If they do it's hard seeing Bielema getting real comfortable in Fayetteville.)
Vandy: Can James Franklin be replaced? We'll see as Vandy tries to continue its most successful run in the modern era. Those shoes are large, huh, Derek Mason.
Kentucky: If the Wildcats struggle this fall, will Mark Stoops continue his torrid recruiting pace as he tries to rebuild UK? We think so, because Stoops has been a recruiting ace everywhere he's gone and continues to get UK into conversations and circles among prospects that previously would never have considered Lexington.
OK, here we are, after a weekend in which Michael Sam's sack made some guy on Twitter famous because he declared bankruptcy for pledging to buy the world a drink if Sam sacked Manziel and did the money finger salute. (Side bar: This will lead to a run on off-the-wall promises on social media that will never be fulfilled until the fad becomes tired — which is now so let's skip that middle step. Deal? Deal.)
Here are a couple of other NFL items of which we can't explain:
First, the concussion issue continues to be a mired and murky quagmire in which the NFL can't seem to find footing.
Wes Welker was concussed — again, a great verb — over the weekend, and it is reportedly his third brain injury in the last year or so. Now that the black shroud of league indifference has been at least somewhat lifted publicly — you can debate whether the league wants to end concussions or end its legal responsibility for those with concussions and we'd lean toward the latter — the ball is in Welker's court. And if Welker decides to play and gets another concussion and, in a worst case scenario, is in need of serious and long-term care before he's 50, is the league responsible for that now that we all are aware of the dangers of concussions?
If Welker decides to play, then that becomes his personal decision, right, and the league, while committed to honoring its long-term care for all players, would be somewhat absolved? And if that's the case, the Roger "Rope-a-Dope" Goodell's shadow-boxing campaign against concussions has worked magic for the league's long-term bottom line.
Secondly, Matt Prater, the Denver kicker who has issues with drugs and alcohol, recently violated the league's substance abuse policy by having a few beers at home.
OK, we get that.
Dude is in the program and needs to honor the program. So he now faces a four-game suspension for having beers in his den. Yes, it's negotiated into the bargaining agreement and that's fine.
Then let's get violence against women in the CBA, too, because hiding behind a work-place piece of paper about a star football player whose name sounds like Tay Tice is flawed, hollow and wrong.
And yes, the video makes a world of difference because we for far too long have ignored this problem, but let's decide to stop the indifference here.
A few beers = four games. Hitting a woman = two games. And to go even a step further, Brandon Merriweather, the Redskins safety, has been suspended two games for a helmet-to-helmet hit on another NFL football player.
Some how the suspended math of the NFL's discipline leads to suspended belief when comparing the penalties and the punishments.
The NFL, it's fantastic. Hey, maybe we should tinker with how long the extra point should be.
Next move for Tiger
Tiger Woods fired Sean Foley as his swing coach.
We get it. Tiger's been moved to the old toys pile. He's Woody to Rory's Buzz.
Now, former coach Butch Harmon says Tiger doesn't need a coach.
OK. We tend to agree.
Tiger needs to get healthy. Completely healthy.
And then go back to the lab, like Rabbit in 8 Mile.
And who really tells Tiger what to do any way?
This and that
— Richie Incognito appears to be cleared to return to the NFL. We feel better about the league already. In truth, Incognito got black balled for half a season because he was mean to a teammate. Ray Rice…., well you know. And yes, this is the baseline for every discipline decision ever until the league takes a stand against violence against women.
— Giancarlo Stanton hit a three-run shot in the Marlins' 7-1 win over the Angels. Dude is still 24 years old and now has 150 career homers — four short of Dan Uggla's team record. He also has 722 strikeouts — 12,004 short of Dan Uggla's career total. (Sorry. Felt like we needed to do that.)
— Side note: Stanton is one of 12 big leaguers to get to 150 homers before turning 25.
With personal fav Breaking Bad walking into the sunset with another Emmy, let's trot out a Rushmore of TV dramas.
Go — and yes, Breaking Bad is definitely on there and may be far left (and the other three spots may be taken by HBO shows).
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 ...