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From the "Al Davis Studios," here we go...
UT-Vandy with it all on the line
Vandy's rise has a lot to do with the stability that quarterback Jordan Rodgers has provided, as our SEC ace David Paschall tells us here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/nov/16/vandy-qb-has-traits-of-brother-with-packers/.
UT felt energized at practice Tuesday because Tyler Bray was back to work, as our UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown tells us here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/nov/16/vols-boosted-to-see-bray-back-at-practice/.
We have forever believed that the Vandy-Tennessee games have always been viewed as a rivalry for Vandy fans and a Saturday in November by Tennessee fans. Vandy coach James Franklin even admitted as much earlier this week.
But this feels different than any other UT-Vandy game than we can remember. Yes, Vandy was a slight favorite in 2008, but that was when Phil Fulmer was on the sideline as a lame duck and the season had already unraveled. This Vandy-UT game holds the postseason future for the Vols and could secure the postseason future for the 'Dores.
This is the biggest UT-Vandy game of our generation, and something tells the 5-at-10, with two relatively new coaching staffs trying to make upward moves in the cut throat SEC, this game will show us which program is a step ahead.
(Look below for a Vandy-UT prediction contest with a pretty awesome prize.)
In this file photo Arkansas forward Michael Sanchez (31) and Tennessee forward John Fields (25) battle for control of a loose ball as Arkansas forward Delvon Johnson (21) looks on during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Beth Hall)
It was a great early season night in college basketball. Here are some of the highlights:
— Coach K won his 903rd game as Duke beat Michigan State in Madison Square Garden to pass Bobby Knight for the most in Division I men's hoops. Three quick points: First, there's no hoops venue like the Garden. Second, it was a cool scene when Coach K and his mentor Knight got to share a postgame moment. Third, if Coach K has six more really great seasons, he might could catch Pat Summitt who is at 1,073 after Tuesday's win over Miami.
— Loved our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer's take on new UT coach Cuonzo Martin here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/nov/16/martins-hiring-appears-better-for-ut-every-day/, and we really loved the line, "I'd rather have a better player than a better play." The 5-at-10 agrees that coaches developing talent is an underrated and increasingly rare quality. But that brings us to something that we're going to try to follow all season...
— Your UTC Mocs basketball team struggled offensively at historic Hinkle Arena on Tuesday, scoring 46 points in an 11-point loss to Butler. No shame in competing with and losing to Butler, which is an established program. And hey, 42 points in that same building made legends out of Jimmy, Merle, Strap, Ray, Everett, Ollie, Rade, Buddy and Whit when Hickory topped South Bend Central. It's early, but here's a question for the Mocs Hoops junkies out there, and something we are going to follow this college basketball season in general and with our local teams in particular, what's this team's go-to play? When they are desperate for a basket, what's this team's bread-and-butter?
— Did you see — MTSU 86, UCLA — roll across the ESPN ticker last night? Wow. We discussed this a little bit yesterday, but the state of Tennessee hoops rankings may go:
— Kentucky showed off an embarrassment of talent in a 10-point win over Kansas. How good was it? Kentucky played poorly for the first 20 minutes and still beat the nation's No. 11-ranked team comfortably.
Tiger Woods tees off on the sixth hole during the final round of the Frys.com Open golf tournament, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011, in San Martin, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
We still don't believe picking Tiger Woods for the U.S. President's Cup team was the right move. Dude's the 50th ranked player in the world and he has not won since 2008 when we learned he was the No. 1-ranked PLAYA in the world. He was unstoppable from 2000-2008, but his personal life debacle and his injuries have left him resembling golf's dominant figure in logo only.
That said, Fred Couples' controversial decision to use a captain's pick on Woods has paid huge, Huge, HUGE dividends in attention. Woods will play in day one matches and he will be playing in the same group as Adam Scott and his caddie Stevie Williams, who is Tiger's former caddie and current critic after Woods fired Stevie and turned this whole thing into "As the Wedge Turns."
Anyhoo, the 5-at-10 believes this will be a true chance to see how much Tiger has returned mentally. His physical troubles have played a part in his downfall, but his mental collapse is twice as daunting and figures to be much more difficult to rebuild. Woods went seasons without missing a 5-foot putt if for no other reason than he knew he was going to make it. And we knew he was going to make. Now, no one knows.
Woods finished third last week at the Australian Open, displaying a lot of the shots and game he did before his downfall. Woods can be a great golfer again. Dude has all the shots and still hits it a ton. This week, though, is different. This is a chance to see if Tiger can be Tiger again.
Think about it this way: Before the collapse, if Tiger had been matched with a player or caddie that bad-mouthed him like Stevie has recently, Woods would have put a biblical whipping on whoever it was. And you know this.
In some ways, it's not unlike Mike Tyson's career path. Before losing to Buster Douglas, Mike Tyson was invincible because he believed he was invincible. Before the 2008 car wreck and public and physical pains, Tiger Woods was invincible because he believed he was invincible. In a high-drama moment like being paired with Scott and Stevie, we get to see whether Tiger can summon anything resembling the mental strength that made him the most dominant figure in sports for a decade. Pre-2008 Tiger would nuke Adam and Stevie; what will today's Tiger do?
This and that
— We've pushed all our chips in: These Lady Vols are winning the whole thing this season and that's that. UT is so good and so talented that last year's national freshman of the year, Meighan Simmons, is a reserve. Read that again. This is a deep and talented team that has to be supremely motivated to win one for Pat Summitt, who announced her battle with early-onset Dementia before the season.
— The NBA has cancelled games through Dec. 15 and the always-memorable Christmas doubleheader is in jeopardy. And if you don't think that's a big deal, know that it is almost always the most watched regular-season NBA game every year. The 5-at-10 has warned the NBA about the damage that is possible by being out of sight and out of mind, but did they listen? Of course not. In fact they've made matters worse by referring to the owners as "plantation owners," and that was before news was released Tuesday night that the players missed their first in-season paychecks this week. The average NBA paycheck missed was more than $220,000. That's not a year's salary gang, that's the average paycheck of the NBA players who have it so bad they can't agree on working conditions. Plus without NBA hoops on the TV, how are we going to know what the latest tattoo trends are?
— We're just going to state this as fact: Joe Paterno is in line for more than $500,000 per year in pension. After being fired for participating in a mass cover-up of sexual abuse of children. The 5-at-10's head is about to pop off. (If he's not completely senile, he should donate every check he ever gets from this day forward from the state of Pennsylvania to Darkness to Light or some other charity that is fighting to end child sexual abuse.)
— Justin Verlander was the unanimous pick for AL Cy Young. And rightly so. He's on the short list for AL MVP, which would be the first time a pitcher won that award since 1992 when Dennis Eckersley did it and the first starting pitcher since Roger Clemens did it in 1986. Interesting philosophical debate about whether a starting pitcher should be considered for the MVP since a starting pitcher only plays once every 5 games. Would you allow a situation pass rusher to be NFL MVP if he had 23 sacks one season? Verlander's numbers were through the roof — 2.40 ERA, 24-5 record, 250 Ks, 0.92 WHiP — but let's say the Tigers had sent the 5-at-10 to the mound instead of Verlander. And let's say the 5-at-10 finished the season 14-15 in those 29 decisions — we have a pretty good curve ball — the Tigers still win the AL Central by five games.
We're going big-time contest on you this week, with a big-time prize.
We want your UT-Vandy scores. Be it UT 9-6 or Vandy 31-0, we want what you believe to be the final score. The first factor will be picking the winner, then the margin of victory. We are asking for a score prediction so we can have total points scored as a tie-breaker. Remember, "Price is Right" rules are in effect, meaning that if you go over you're out. We'll try to get some of the area's "experts" on college football to play along too.
So, what do you think? Vols or 'Dores? 'Dores or Vols?
The winner will get some tickets for the Falcons-Vikings game in the Dome on Nov. 27.
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 ...