It's game week. Three simple words that bring a smile to everyone's face. In fact, we're so excited, we're writing the 5-at-10 while wearing our eye black. Trust us, we're stoked.
From the "College Football Rules Studios," here we go...
Auburn center Reese Dismukes picks up Ameer Abdullah after his game winning touchdown run to beat the Mississippi All-Stars in double overtime during the Alabama-Mississippi High School All-Star Classic. (AP Photo/Chip English)
Week 1 — better buy a program
Depth charts were released for a lot of SEC programs Monday as teams get ready for this week's season openers. And whether it's high school football getting better or experienced players leaving programs earlier — for whatever reasons — there is no doubt more and more freshmen are getting more and more chances at early playing time.
Among the true freshman in high-profile positions from the get-go: Auburn will start Reese Dismukes at center, Tennessee will start linebackers A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt (HERE is our UT ace "Downtown" Patrick Brown's story) and we all know that Isaiah Crowell will get a few carries for the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday.
Truth is, there are more and more impact players coming out of high school. Plus, coaches know that 99-percent of the elite players are going to declare for the draft after three seasons, so would you rather have them sit out a season and leave as redshirt sophomores or contribute in whatever fashion possible in their freshman season? Thusly, there will be more and more kids who were at prom in the spring making plays on Saturdays this fall.
That said, not all questions were answered by the newly printed depth charts. Relaxed Alabama coach Nick Saban, who loved playing games with the media almost as much as he loves tough defensive backs and soft Little Debbies, says both A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims will see time at quarterback in Saturday's full-dress rehearsal also known as the season opener against Kent State. Here's saying that, the longer this drags on, the better it seems for Sims, who seemed to be in line to be the clear-cut back-up at the end of last season.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) during the second quarter of an NFL preseason football game against the Washington Redskins in Indianapolis, Friday, Aug. 19, 2011. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Peyton Manning showed up at practice for the Indianapolis Colts on Monday after being cleared off the physically unable to perform list. And trust us, no guy ever likes to be on the unable to perform list. Let's just move along.
After spending time in the can and declaring bankruptcy, Mike Vick agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract extension with the Philadelphia Eagles. Yes, you read that correctly. From a Federal jail sentence to a nine-figure contract (with $40 million guaranteed).
Even though he was adamant that he would not start the season opener just to continue his 200-plus-game streak of consecutive starts, Manning's return to camp has to be a good sign for Colts fans in general and Manning fantasy owners in particular. If Manning can get a few reps in before the Sept. 11 opener against Houston, here's saying Manning will be in the shotgun pointing at linebackers and screaming out audibles.
As for Vick, well, we were about to go on and on about his comeback but we decided that would be a good question for the today (see below). Just know that a little more than 10 years ago, Vick was on top of the world when the Atlanta Falcons made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft, and he returned back to the pinnacle with his play last year and the extension agreement Monday.
Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee (15) dives into the end zone for a touchdown as Texas' Michael Huff (7) tackles him during the third quarter Friday, Nov. 25, 2005 in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)
And expansion talk expands again
Texas A&M is going all in by pulling out all the stops. The Aggies have informed the Big 12 that they intend to leave, according to the New York Times. The price tag on leaving that party is estimated to be around $15 million. That tells the 5-at-10 that Texas A&M has a plan, and it is almost certain that that plan includes joining the SEC.
It has to, right? We know the Aggies have had it up to the top of their 10-gallon hats with the Big 12's position of Texas and everybody else. Hey, it's natural, and it happens to everyone. The Pips got tired of playing second fiddle. The Commodores had their fill with Lionel Richie. The Jackson 5 got Michael overload. We know. It happens. (Granted, those moves didn't exactly turn out great for the Pips, the Commodores or Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon. But they went on their own instead of joining a stronger group such as the SEC.)
That said, there's no way a public institution would take on a $15-million escape clause without knowing from where the next payday is coming.
With news leaking that Texas A&M is now officially on the move, the Big 12 has made overtures to Notre Dame, which said thanks but no thanks, and even Arkansas. Yes, that Arkansas of the very SEC that Texas A&M is trying to join. There have even been reports that the Big 12 would give most of the Aggies' buyout money to Arkansas to get the Razorbacks to join.
It may be intriguing, but there's no way Arkansas leaves the comfort of of the SEC ATM to join a Big 12 that has an unknown future, regardless how high the one-time payday may be.
This and that
— Jordan Jefferson, LSU's starting quarterback who has been suspended after being charged with a felony for his role in a bar brawl in which he allegedly kicked a Marine in the face, wants to return to the team. Yeah, we're sure you do Jordan. In other news, the 5-at-10 wants world peace. And to protect the rain forests. And Mike Vick's contract.
— Hope Solo and Ron Artest have pledged to be on "Dancing with the Stars," and would join the long and distinguished list of former athletes to appear on the hit TV show. Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice and even Hines Ward have been recent contestants on the ABC show. We all know that Solo has a special place in the hearts of a few of our regulars here at the show. And Artest was a key piece in the worst player-fan brawl in sports history not that long ago, so it will be extra fun to see how he deals with criticism from the judges. That fancy-pants fellow on the end better choose his words very carefully.
— Hey, we're all for major championships in tennis and in golf. They're fun. But is there are a major sporting event that is scheduled worse than the U.S. Open tennis tournament. In case you did know, it started Monday. Yeah, right in the middle of the baseball stretch run and as we prepare for kickoffs in college and pro football. Somebody let us know who wins and be sure to turn the lights out when you folks are done.
— Sign of the times, we guess. But during fantasy football drafts of years gone by, owners always had to be aware of the dates of players' bye weeks. Well, Bengals running back Cedric Benson's bye week coincides with the start of his 20-day jail sentence he received as part of his plea deal on two assault charges. So, if scoring at home, the middle of October will read: Out — Benson (misdemeanor).
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) looks to throw a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh .(AP Photo/Don Wright)
In honor of Mike Vick coming full circle, and who has ever been on a bigger 10-year roller coaster than going from No. 1 overall pick to national pariah and punch line to jail to personal bankruptcy to NFL comeback player of the year with a nine-figure contract?
Who has made the best sports comeback?
Vick has to be on the short list, right? In fact, what's the best comeback story ever? Is it Chrysler? Is it Vick? Is it Snow White, who was left for dead — literally — before rallying the dwarves and storming the castle? What about Rocky, who we all thought was done after Clubber Lang just drubbed him in III? Who you got?
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 ...