published Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

5 at 10: College bowling and Pro bowling for some, and SEC schedule

  • photo
    FILE - In this file photo taken Nov. 19, 2011, Illinois defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, right, and head coach Ron Zook voice their disapproval with a call during an NCAA college football game against Wisconsin at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. Koenning, named interim head coach after Zook was fired Nov. 27, has turned down an offer to stay at Illinois as coordinator. He will leave after coaching the Illini in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against UCLA on New Year's Eve. Zook was replaced by Toledo head coach Tim Beckman. (AP Photo/The News-Gazette, Rick Danzl, File)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

We're back. We'd say we were rested, but a Grinch-style bout with the mother of all stomach bugs hammered us over the holidays. Seriously, we lost 12 pounds. At Christmas. So it goes.

But we're back, and while we missed some stuff, there's no time to look too far back.

From the Mama McNabb Stage at the Al Davis Studio, here we go:

College bowling for some

OK, raise your hand if you have watched three quarters of any one bowl game so far (CJ barely counts since his beloved USM Golden Eagles played one of the better games last week). Keep it raised if you have watched more than a half of more than one game.

Yes, it's been that bad. And that's coming from a college football junkie and BEFORE the bowl season's worst matchup — the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl has UCLA vs. Illinois in the bowl season's only game that includes a team with a losing record (UCLA is 6-7) and two interim head coaches. Nice.

Amazingly, the games have been somewhat competitive — six of the first 10 have been decided by a touchdown or less — but the lack of indifference has been stunning. Heck, reports have Lou Holtz watching a Sylvester and Tweety Christmas special rather than the FIU-Marshall showdown. (OK we made that last one up.)

The first 10 days of the bowl season has produced the following conclusions:

Best player: Have to go with Kellen Moore here, but we're willing to admit that it's a career award. Dude was the starting QB for 50 wins in his career at Boise State. Read that again, and enjoy it, because it's hard to believe you'll ever read it about anyone else.

Best effort: Wow, Jordan White put on a show in Western Michigan's loss to Purdue. White caught 13 passes — including a left-handed, one-handed miracle grab on a poorly thrown post pattern between three Purdue defenders — for 265 yards and a TD. There were several other eye-popping efforts, but White did his against two- and three-man coverage all game.

Worst effort (team): Hey, thanks for picking up the comp gifts there Arizona State. Talk about phoning it in. And remember, this was a team that thumped USC in October. Yes, the same USC that right now is the buzz of college football without being in a bowl game.

Worst effort (player): Vontaze Burfict, the Arizona State junior linebacker, was a preseason All-American. He's ranked as a first-round pick athletically in next April's draft. Yet, he didn't start because of discipline reasons in this year's bowl game. Hey, discipline issues happen everywhere, from college football teams to professional organizations of all genres. But remember, Burfict was disciplined by a staff that was coaching its last game with ASU. And if you are disciplined by a staff in its final game after being fired, well, you are the nerd in the punch bowl. And right on cue, on the first series when Burfict entered the game, he got an unsportsmanlike penalty. Nice.

—————

Pro Bowling for some

When we were on SportTalk last week, Dr. B (he's a doctor after all) was spot-on that San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh will be the runaway winner of the NFL Coach of the Year. And after leading the 49ers back into the playoffs and to a 12-3 record, Harbaugh deserves the spoils of victory.

That said, we'll still put the job that Mike Munchak did with the Titans against anyone. Granted, we were among the biggest critics of Munchak's hiring, but we were wrong. Dead wrong. And while Harbaugh has the 49ers in the playoffs with Alex Smith as his quarterback — something that did not seem possible before Harbaugh arrived in the Bay area — Munchak was just as impressive.

Consider this: While Harbaugh had eight 49ers picked for the Pro Bowl, zero Titans were picked and Munchak still has them in the playoff picture heading into the final week of the season.

Among the Pro Bowl picks that were noteworthy:

Big rookie impressions: Oso's man A.J. Green made the Pro Bowl, so did fellow rookies Von Miller and Patrick Peterson. Cam Newton is an alternate, and likely will make the trip since one of two of the NFC quarterback picks — Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers — likely will be getting ready for the Super Bowl that week. And after watching the 49ers push the Steelers around two weeks ago, we're wondering why San Fran rookie defensive end Aldon Smith, who has 14 sacks this year, was not picked.

Biggest snub(s): Matthew Stafford has the Lions in the playoffs for the first time since Barry Sanders was known as a running back and not as the dad of a high-profile recruit; Marshawn Lynch was a monster, and he is the only person to rush for a TD against the 49ers this season (read that again, and know that we're heading to the last week of the regular season); 49ers linebacker Navarro Bowman probably deserved to be picked every bit as much as Patrick Willis, which is scary because Patrick Willis is a monster; Steelers safety Ryan Clark was robbed — he's been a huge part of the league's best pass defense and Eric Weddle was picked ahead of him; Washington was terrible, but linebacker London Fletcher led the league in sacks and was not picked, which is like leading the league in hitting and not making the baseball All-Star Game.

—————

SEC schedule

The SEC schedule is due any day this week, and Georgia and Tennessee fans have a lot riding on the outcome.

Hey, everyone knows the SEC West rules supreme right now. It's not unlike the latter half of the 1990s when the league was fighting for third behind UT and Florida. It goes in cycles. But right now, with the weighted schedule, the SEC West is so dominant it affects the hierarchy in the East. Think about it, which West foes that the teams in the East play likely will have a big hand in determining who will be the favorite in the SEC East.

Look at 2011 — Georgia got hot and went on a great run, but that run would not have been as successful without the cakewalk through the West the Bulldogs received this year. Georgia swept Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn and was the only East team to go 3-0 against the West during the regular season. A big part of that was that the other three West teams Arkansas, Alabama and LSU finished the regular season 33-3 and those three losses were to each other.

And each of those West warriors figures to be highly ranked again next fall, so avoiding them on the new-look SEC schedule that includes one fewer cross-divisional "at-large" team is paramount. For Georgia, which will be among the most-talented teams in the East next fall and retains its traditional matchup with Auburn, avoiding LSU or Alabama is key. For Tennessee, which is locked in with Alabama, avoiding LSU and Arkansas would be classified as a rare good break for the Vols.

—————

This and that

— Louisville's Rick Pitino said Tuesday that he's going to coach through the end of his current contract, which runs out in 2017, and call it a career. Pitino, who has the Cards in the top 5 heading into tonight's matchup with Georgetown, has had a rocky couple of years. Say what you will — and there are a lot of jokes that can be made at his expense — but Pitino has shaped the modern version of successful college hoops coaches. Go recruit more big-time players, play full speed all the time, if they foul out or leave early so be it, and take your chances. Plus, Pitino deserves a whole bunch of credit for recharging Kentucky, and whether you love or loathe the Big Blue, college basketball is a better place when Kentucky is relevant.

— Sweet buckets of cliches like the rich getting richer proving to be 100-percent accurate: Did you see that Gunner Kiel, the top-rated high school quarterback in the country, committed to LSU? Wow, like the Tigers really needed him. Les Miles, you're a grass-chewing, quote-bending, hat-stretching son of a gun.

— We sang our praise of Mike Munchak earlier, and it appears the Titans are going to have to fight to keep him. Reports from State College, Penn., have Munchak, a former Penn State All-American, as the top candidate to replace Joe Paterno as the Nittany Lions head coach. If he wants it, Munchak would seem to be a great choice. Wow, has there ever been a tougher job to step into in the history of college sports? Dealing with the fallout from the evilness that was Sandusky and the indifference that was JoePa and Co., following the legend that was JoePa in every other football regard. Filling Wooden's shoes at UCLA was tough; picking up Bear's hat in Tuscaloosa seemed impossible; grabbing Munson's or Ward's microphone appeared daunting. But this is all of that combined.

— We promise to have updated stats on the Winners/Losers Bowl-a-palooza by this afternoon, and we're working with the Web team to have everyone's picks posted in a neat and organized way by week's end.

— Hope everyone had a great Christmas and got what you wanted. Thanks for bearing with us during our time off and the mini-5-at-10s. We're back at it through the rest of the week, though.

—————

Today's question

For the rest of the week, we're going to look back at the 2011 year, and we want your view.

Sure there's only two days and a mailbag left, but the mailbag is going to have a few questions about the year in review, too. So it goes.

Today, we want to know your athlete, coach and team of 2011. They can all be on the same team. They can all be from different sports. None of them can be Derek Dooley, however.

Let's hear it.

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 ...

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jharvey1984 said...

Schedule just released: Aug. 30 South Carolina at Vanderbilt

Sept. 8 Auburn at Mississippi State Florida at Texas A&M Georgia at Missouri

Sept. 15 Alabama at Arkansas Florida at Tennessee

Sept. 22 LSU at Auburn Kentucky at Florida Vanderbilt at Georgia Missouri at South Carolina

Sept. 29 Ole Miss at Alabama Arkansas vs. Texas A&M Tennessee at Georgia South Carolina at Kentucky

Oct. 6 Mississippi State at Kentucky Arkansas at Auburn LSU at Florida Georgia at South Carolina Texas A&M at Ole Miss Vanderbilt at Missouri

Oct. 13 Alabama at Missouri Kentucky at Arkansas Auburn at Ole Miss Florida at Vanderbilt South Carolina at LSU Tennessee at Mississippi State

Oct. 20 Alabama at Tennessee Auburn at Vanderbilt South Carolina at Florida Georgia at Kentucky LSU at Texas A&M

Oct. 27 Ole Miss at Arkansas Texas A&M at Auburn Florida vs. Georgia (Jacksonville) Kentucky at Missouri Tennessee at South Carolina Mississippi State at Alabama

Nov. 3 Alabama at LSU Missouri at Florida Ole Miss at Georgia Vanderbilt at Kentucky Texas A&M at Mississippi State

Nov. 10 Texas A&M at Alabama Arkansas at South Carolina Georgia at Auburn Mississippi State at LSU Vanderbilt at Ole Miss Missouri at Tennessee

Nov. 17 Arkansas at Mississippi State Ole Miss at LSU Tennessee at Vanderbilt

Nov. 24 Auburn at Alabama LSU at Arkansas Kentucky at Tennessee Mississippi State at Ole Miss Missouri at Texas A&M

December 28, 2011 at 10:22 a.m.
jharvey1984 said...

looks like UT caught a break in avoiding LSU and the pigs, but having FL and GA out of the hole will be tough. Still thinking on the "of 2011" question.

December 28, 2011 at 10:25 a.m.
jharvey1984 said...

feel like I got to go with brees for athlete, coach of the year goes to franklin with richt getting the honorable mention, team of the year: seal team 6

December 28, 2011 at 10:40 a.m.
Bdub13 said...

Athlete of 2011 - Drew Brees. He broke a 27 year old record, how many other athletes this year can say they did that?

Team of 2011 - Japan Women's Soccer. As much as I would have loved to have seen team USA win the Women's World Cup Final, no other country needed that victory more than Japan at that moment. Combine that with how Japan played in that game given what was going on in Japan and I think they are as deserving as any team this year.

Coaches of 2011 - Mike Krzyzewski/Pat Summit. For me it was a tie between these two.

Coach K is here for breaking Knight's record of most Division 1 wins. In today's win now mentallity, and coaches changing every 4-5 years, that record may never again be approached.

Summit is on here because after she annouced that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, she could have stepped down and not a single person would have thought less of her. She didn't, and that just speaks volumes of the type of person she is, and the drive and determination she has.

Both of them are also my coaches of 2011 because admist all the scandals in college athletics in the past year, they have run clean, successful programs for decades.

December 28, 2011 at 11:12 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Here's a post from the other thread (not sure why there were two 5-at-10s):

Cjoyner said... My beloved Eagles survived their trip to paradise, with UNC-bound Coach Fedora looking ridiculous in the lei I assume he was forced to wear at gunpoint. Nice crowd shots. Looked like a church on Super Bowl Sunday.

While most of these bowl match-ups (including the USM-Nevada tilt) are who-cares fiascoes, a hat tip to the bare-knuckle brawls put on by the baby Louisiana teams UL-Lafayette and La. Tech. UL-L took San Diego State out in the New Orleans Bowl, while TCU came out flat and nearly got its clock cleaned by La. Tech in the Poinsettia.

Must be all the gumbo they eat. Is Louisiana the new Florida?

December 28, 2011 at 11:30 a.m.
Cjoyner said...

Took a wrong turn at Albuquerque, I guess.

December 28, 2011 at 11:37 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Gang,

It's good to be back.

Jharvey —

Seal team 6 is the call of the year. As Uncle Buck would say, "It's in the books" and there's no debating it.

As for the schedule, wow, Auburn's even number years (2012, 2014, etc.) SEC schedule will be loaded with must-see home games. Arkansas, LSU, Georgia and now Texas A&M at home. Wow.

Bdub —

The Japan's women soccer team is a strong call for the runner-up award. Sorry, everyone is playing for second after Seal Team 6.

Brees is a good start. Coach K and Pat Summitt are always good picks. So is Franklin, JHarvey, considering what he did in Nashville.

Cjoyner —

The neckware for Fedora was silly. So it goes. And the crowds have been awful at almost all of the bowls. We have to trim the herd folks. We need 20 percent fewer bowl games. At least. If there are 35 right now, think of the improved matchups and games if we had 28 or fewer.

And there has always been talent in Louisiana. So much so that the fact that LSU was a non-factor in the 1990s speaks to the level of coaching fail of DiNardo, Hallman, et al.

— 5-at-10

December 28, 2011 at 11:40 a.m.
chas9 said...

At least Tennessee gets Missouri and Bama at home. Kentucky plays Missouri and Arkansas on the road.

I posted before the bowls start that there would only be three games worth watching, so your indifference is no surprise to me.

December 28, 2011 at 12:43 p.m.
chas9 said...

And speaking of the very relevant Big Blue, a question for the Friday bag:

How badly will KY beat Pitino's puppies? And what will Anthony Davis' blocks plus rebounds plus points toatal be?

December 28, 2011 at 1 p.m.
Cjoyner said...

I'll do some also-rans for 2011

Athlete: Peyton Manning. If you are an Indy player not named Peyton, you don't matter.

Coach: Bobby Cox. Braves players loved No. 6 about one game more in 2010 than they did his replacement in 2011.

Team: Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley. Working together they continued to bore the few remaining fight fans. Meanwhile, in an alternate universe where boxing matters, Pacquiao-Mayweather thrilled.

December 28, 2011 at 1:02 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Athlete of the year - Rory McIlroy. Edges out Novak Djokovic.

Team of the year - LSU football. They did what they say can't be done. And them boys was thirsty in Atlanta.

Coach of the year - Claude Julien, Boston Bruins (sorry, no LaRussa. No way. Can't stand him.)

December 28, 2011 at 1:41 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Dooley UT finally caught a break — dropping Arkansas is removing an almost sure loss.

We'll say there will be more than three (and yes, we're counting the awful Auburn-Virginia matchup, but we'll watch it nonetheless), but it's way closer to your number than we thought.

As a UK fan, how do you view Pitino?

CJ —

Manning is a great call. No player has ever benefitted more by doing less than Manning this year.

Bobby Cox, huh? Here's guessing that Fredi Gonzalez never got that Christmas card from the CJoyner compound, huh? Nobody has burned through a honeymoon (and a bullpen) like Fredi G.

They still have boxing? Wow, who knew?

Spy —

No, yes, and we'll take your word for it. Although we won't give it to LaRussa either.

Here's the 5-at-10's votes:

Athlete — Aaron Rodgers. Yes it may be a bit contrite, but dude still had a HUGE year.

Team of the year — After Seal Team 6, we'll take the legal teams that saved the NFL (and even the NBA) season(s). Seriously, what would the fall have been without the NFL? Do we even have a guess at what it would have been like? Would ESPN have gone black. Would Ron Jaworski combusted (which may have been a good thing)?

Coach of the Year — Les Miles, LSU. Dude dealt with a bar fight. He handled three players — including a Heisman finalist and his leading rusher — getting suspended allegedly for synthetic pot, whatever that is. He did all this and ran roughshod against the toughest schedule in the toughest divsion of the toughest league in the country. Chew all the grass you want Les, you've earned it.

December 28, 2011 at 2:14 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5er,

Glad you're feeling better. I can see Rodgers and particularly Miles. But Seal Team 6 does not exist. We cannot confirm nor deny any such entity as Seal Team 6. And if we told you the truth, well ... you know the rest.

December 28, 2011 at 2:54 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Fair point. And as always, the first rule of "Teams of the Year" is: You do not talk about "Team of the Year."

— 5-at-10

December 28, 2011 at 3:07 p.m.
j17davis said...

I thought this was actually about bowling, idiots.

December 28, 2011 at 3:23 p.m.
chas9 said...

5er--Ricky P. ranks between Eddie Sutton and John Calipari in my book. I'm not among the Wildcats who either love or loathe him. It hurt more when Bear Bryant left UK. Any coach is entitled to leave for another job of his choosing. And he did it with more class than The Lane Train or others we might mention.

As a coach, he's hall of fame. As a porn star, hall of shame.

December 28, 2011 at 3:27 p.m.
jgreeson said...

j17davis —

The 5-at-10 laughed out-loud at this. Welcome aboard, and yes we can occasionally called an idiot.

9er —

That last sentence was gold. "Gold, Jerry."

Good return day gang.

Going to have a column on how the Vols schedule sets up a Great-8-or-hit-the-skates Dooley type of year in 2012.

— 5-at-10

December 28, 2011 at 3:40 p.m.
j17davis said...

lol, glad I could make someone laugh lol

January 9, 2012 at 10:19 a.m.
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