published Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

5 at 10: NFL's Best/Worst, SEC Championship game and Urban Meyer returns to coaching

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is seen during the third quarter of an NFL football game between the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants in New Orleans, Monday, Nov. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is seen during the third quarter of an NFL football game between the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants in New Orleans, Monday, Nov. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

Great Monday gang. Almost to 30 comments, which would be awesome. Awesome in its awesomeness.

From the "Mama McNabb stage here at the Al Davis Studio," here we go...



NFL Power Poll

There are three positions that determine certain sports: The NFL is a quarterback driven league, college hoops is a point guard driven league and baseball is a pitching driven league (at least the regular season is and the playoffs are who's hot top-to-bottom).

Anyhoo, if you know and understand that, gauging the NFL — both its strongest teams and its weakest — becomes a little more clear, a little more easy. Not to say that a bad team with a good QB (we're talking about you Philip Rivers) is better than a good team with a bad QB, but it's a lot closer than you think. Where the QB scale does tip, though, is for teams with even or close to even records. Let's discuss, with a focus on the most important position in sports:

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    Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) huddles the team against the Detroit Lions in the first quarter of an NFL football game in Detroit, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Top 5

1) Green Bay: The best team has the best quarterback who is playing the best of anyone. Coincidence? Not hardly.

2) New England: After a sloppy loss to the New York Giants, the Pats were 5-3. Three straight wins and three straight games scoring 34 or more points have the Pats at 8-3 and in control of the AFC East. We think you know why — because Tom Brady is the coolest Brady ever — even cooler than cousin Greg Brady's alterego Johnny Bravo http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lqjumhQNEp1qfacmco1_500.jpg.

3) New Orleans: You know what Drew Brees needs? A theme song. What about the great line from "Strokin" but we sub out the Clarence Carter with "Drew Brees, Drew Brees, Drew Brees.... Ah, stuff, Drew Brees." Who's with us?

4) Pittsburgh: Big Ben is a level below the three QBs above, well, that is in most categories other than Super Bowl rings.

5) Baltimore: Edges San Francisco since the Ravens exposed San Fran on Thanksgiving night.

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    Indianapolis Colts quarterback Curtis Painter sits on the bench next to receiver Reggie Wayne after throwing an interception during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Bottom 5

28) Miami: Be it bad luck or bad coaching the Dolphins are plus-6 in point differential through 11 games but are 3-8. Oh, wait, maybe it's bad quarterback play.

29) Jacksonville: When your QB controversy is between Blaine Gabbert and Luke McCown, well, your choices are limited.

30) St. Louis: The Rams are -130 in point differential, meaning through 11 games they average losing each game by 11-plus points.

31) Minnesota: Christian Ponder shows flashes, but without Adrian Peterson, this offense is Percy Harvin and his band of merry misfits.

32) Indianapolis: Gross



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    LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle (2) runs past Alabama defensive back DeQuan Menzie (24) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

SEC championship

Our crack college football ace David Paschall is in his element right now. It's the week of the SEC title game and Paschall has two stories in today's TFP. Here's a look at 20 years of SEC title games (SEC title game in 20th year of dazzling) and here's a look at LSU's pursuit of the SEC title as well as the BCS title (LSU working for 'two rings').

LSU appears to be a well-rounded juggernaut. They have ways of scoring in a variety of ways. They have the Honey Badger, and we all know he doesn't care. They have an improving senior quarterback, at least one NFL receiver, two powerful running backs and a salty offensive line. They have the second-best defense in the country.

They also better come to play in Saturday's game against a Georgia team that has won 10 straight, has arguably the nation's best sophomore quarterback in Aaron Murray, has a defense that has gotten better week-to-week and will have a home-field edge in the Georgia Dome.

Will it be enough for Georgia to pull the upset? Not likely. But every time there appears to be a mismatch on paper, we know a wise man who always says, "That's why they play the games."



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    Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski shouts instructions to his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

College hoops hodgepodge for $200, Alex

That's "An album cover" Mr. Connery.

Seriously, college basketball is trying its best to wiggle into the public eye. There are a bevy of big-time matchups this week:

No. 4 Duke at No. 2 Ohio State is tonight; No. 7 Wisconsin at No. 5 UNC is Wednesday; a sneaky Georgetown at No. 12 Alabama game is Thursday; No. 9 Florida at No. 3 Syracuse and No. 19 at No. 6 Louisville is Friday; and UNC plays at No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday. We're dealing with a lot of stuffs and dunks and high-quality hoops.

That said, last night's showing by two of the in-state programs was somewhat puzzling and somewhat promising, if that makes any sense.

Vandy lost in overtime to Xavier. The Commodores squandered a 10-point lead and were outrebounded 51-33 without center Festus Ezeli. Xavier is not exactly chopped liver — the Musketeers are ranked No. 11 in the country — but this is supposed to be the best Vandy team in a generation and they've already lost twice at Memorial Gym. That said, here's saying that the 'Dores will be noticeably more physical when Ezeli returns and that the early-season struggles may help get this talented team's attention heading into SEC play.

Tennessee went on the road to Oakland, which is just as you expected, outside of Detroit. The Vols played in a purgatory they called a gym and Oakland got lots of drives 12-feet and in. Seriously, the UT defense made Reggie Hamilton look like Reggie Theus. Hamilton scored 35 points and was one of four Oakland players in double figures in a 89-81 win over UT.

But know this, these Vols are going to fight every foe they face, and that's saying something. Look at it this way: Oakland beat UT 89-82 last year. That was in Knoxville and with a UT team ranked No. 7. So after all the Bruce Pearl implosion and fallout, going on the road against a tough Oakland team with far less talent, the Vols are one-point worse by comparison. That's reason for optimism, right?

That said, let's all agree that UT forward Jeronne Maymon needs more than five shots — the number he got Monday night. Maymo went 32 points, 20 rebounds the last time the Vols were on the floor, and that kind of beast needs to be fed. Period.



This and that

— We said Monday that we would not mention the professional basketball league that sounds like Tin Sea Hay, and we won't. But there was a New York Times story about a certain pro sports labor negotiation that was fascinating. Apparently the owners of the league got the players reps to agree to a roster amnesty act, meaning that when or if the Tin Sea Hay starts BID-ness next month, each team can wipe one suffocating contract off its salary cap. The players will still get paid of course — the players always get paid, and in this case they will get paid twice, once to leave their current teams and then a much smaller, more fair contract for a new team — but the teams get huge salary cap relief.

— Not surprisingly, Alabama coach Nick Saban says the two best teams should play for the title as opposed to conference champions. In other news, the 5-at-10 says the best 5-at-10 should be given $3 million, the Wal-Mart folks say the nation's top two stores should get all the Christmas business and the Heinz reps say the nation's top two best ketchups should be the only ones allowed at picnics and, well, you get the idea.

— Is Boston about to hire Bobby Valentine to manage the Red Sox? Really? Is Spy's or Jefe's head about to pop off? The answer in each case is, "Yes, yes it is."

— The UTC basketball programs begin SoCon play this week. The TFP will have some conference preview stuff later this week, but here's our Mocs hoops ace David Uchiyama's story on the Mocs scuffles (UTC coach John Shulman 'not proud' at 2-4). And BTG was right yesterday, there is some justifiable hand-wringing going on in Mocs Nation right now.

— How about this for a sportsmanship banquet and reunion gone sour? Enjoy (Joe Kapp - Angelo Mosca fight). Yep, that's two 70-year-old dudes refusing to bury the hatchet and dropping the gloves. (Side note: That's a pretty stout right from Joe Kapp.)



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    Florida coach Urban Meyer and his wife Shelley Meyer, right and daughter Gigi Meyer, left, celebrate after the Gators beat Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla. Meyer is stepping down as coach after the Gators appearance in the Outback Bowl. (AP File Photo/Stephen Morton, File)

Today's question(s)

Now that the charade that is the Urban Meyer hiring is behind us — and truth be told a couple of websites, including the site SportsbyBrooks.com have been reporting Meyer was a done deal for more than a week — we have some questions:

— Why was Nick Saban hammered about denying he was leaving Miami for Alabama and then leaving any way and Meyer is given a free pass for not telling the truth all last week before taking the job Monday? Hey we get it, Saban was coaching an NFL team so he wanted to steer the attention away from the Alabama job and Meyer wanted to try to be fair to the current OSU coaches and players going into their rivalry game with Michigan. Is it really that hard for someone to say "I have no comment at this time," when asked about a possible coaching job?

— Maybe Meyer got all the family time he needed in 10 months, and maybe he has recharged his batteries, but is the 5-at-10 the only one that thinks Meyer comes across looking at best like a phony and at worst like someone who didn't want to face the SEC without Tim Tebow?

— The term dream job is all well and good, and the 5-at-10 believes we're lucky to have a pretty dreamy job, thank you very much. That said, why did Lane Kiffin get so much grief for leaving Knoxville for his "dream" job and Meyer gets none for leaving his "family time" for his "dream" job?

— And if THE Ohio State University and Florida meet in the Gator Bowl as a lot of folks forecast, will Meyer be on the sideline?

Seems like Meyer got treated with some serious kid gloves throughout the entire process. Thoughts?

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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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.
eljefe said...

30 comments. No too shabby. As for Booby V. (yes I meant to spell it that way) I am very dismayed. I understand all the arguments for a "strong presence" in the clubhouse but this is way past insane and well on its way to the intentional destruction of an institution. The only possible solace is I will only have to suffer his ineptitude as a manger and not his irrational analysis on Baseball Tonight. Lord, save your servant.

I refuse to come around to the idea Alabama deserves to be in the Championship Game unless LSU loses to Georgia. If you cannot handle your business at home you do not get a Mulligan. Sorry Nick, thanks for playing. Go crush some hapless opponent in a bowl game and prepare better for next year.

You cannot blame Miami's problems on their quarterback but you can sure argue he helped them implode. They stink as a team. Period.

Meyer is yet another of those "squeaky clean" appearing coaches that is probably biting the heads off rodents and sacrificing virgins when the cameras are off. However, since he is a media darling we don't think about "what we don't know." Saban is brash and in people's faces. He was hammered because it was a slow news day and he was so direct in his denial it was lcear he was lying. The better question is why would you want to coach in the NFL when you could be revered as a diety on a college campus?

November 29, 2011 at 11:41 a.m.
chas9 said...

5er--You've earned your keep any day you brighten ours with a Clarence Carter "Strokin'" mention. But don't quit your day job. You're no lyricist. You can't plug in one syllable names for two syllable names and expect it to sound right. "Peyton Manning" works rhythm-wise, not "Drew Brees."

I agree with every word of your comments on The Vols and Vandy. It's all about Festus (All-Name team shoo-in). But I had to agree with Pat Forde's comment last week: "I'm not impressed with the state of Tennessee" right now. I remember when the state had four or five worthy of some ranking, but at present it's hard to do a top tenn list worthy of the name.

November 29, 2011 at 11:41 a.m.
compspeed said...

Hammer meet nail on the option of "No comment" by Meyer. I read with close scrutiny Meyer's comments last week that were a non-denial denial. He was careful in his phrasing. I'm sure it could be said he didn't really lie...but he didn't tell the whole truth either. In my book it's the same as lie. Not as bad as Kelly when he left Cincy for ND, but still pretty lame.

November 29, 2011 at 11:48 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Jefe —

Bringing the hammer, post-Turkey Day style. Great stuff, and you are so right about Bobby V. — if he gets the job he won't be on ESPN nightly. With all due respect to Red Sox Nation, this really needs to happen for the rest of us. Red Sox Nation made a deal with the devil to win the 2004 World Series (and to rally from 0-3 against the hated Yankees), it's now time to pay the fiddler.

Meyer can assume the role of THE coach at THE Ohio State University and embrace THE tradition of beating a bunch of plodding Big Ten foes and then getting spanked in the BCS. So it goes.

9er —

Thanks for the shoutout, and that's the absolute ceiling of our musical skills. In fact our 4-year-old is quite fond of saying, "Daddy, please stop singing," and everyone in the family nods their heads.

The Top Tenn is going to be a chore a month from now when half the teams in the poll is each four games under .500. That said, Vandy got some chops and Martin has the Vols playing hard, and that's enough right now.

Compspeed —

Lame is a good word for it — and good call on Kelly, we forgot about him.

Meyer has been eyeing this job since the Tressel stuff started, which was not that long after he "needed time for the family." No one this side of Clark W. Griswold has gotten his fill of family so quickly.

Hey, we got no beef with some dude accepting a job that pays up to $40 million, that's not the issue. The issue for the 5-at-10 is the double standard that Kelly and Meyer got compared to Saban and Kiffin.

— 5-at-10

November 29, 2011 at 12:07 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

I'd rather have the ghost of Eddie Kasko managing the Sox instead of Bobby Valentine and his fake mustache.

November 29, 2011 at 12:21 p.m.
Cjoyner said...

So, what's the line on Coaching v. Family Time? I've got Family Time as a 14-point underdog. Personally, I think it must be recruiting. You've just got to get out there and get a better class of family, some kids with the right tools, a dog with more upside ...

November 29, 2011 at 1:07 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Sweet buckets of Big Papi sweat and John Lackey Ale, we had completely forgot about Bobby V's fake 'stache.

If a dude who tried the fake 'stache routine gets another big-league managing job — and a plum big-league gig at that — and Ryne Sandberg can't get a MLB job, we've reached a place in which retreads run the world. Jack McKeon, Bobby V., et al., it won't be long before Sweet Lou Pinella gets another interview. Hey, if you want panache Red Sox, hire Phillip Welman, at least his circus act is new and creative — the fake 'stache is so 1950s slapstick.

— 5-at-10

November 29, 2011 at 1:09 p.m.
jgreeson said...

CJ —

Exceptionally well played.

According to our sources in Vegas, family is actuall a 16-point underdog, and the over/under on "holidays missed" is a strong 3.5.

As for recruiting a better class of family (Simply loved the "dog with more upside" line), well, rivals.com already has the Meyers as a 4-star group. Maybe Urban can find a 5-star family in Florida — you know families from Florida have a little more foot speed — or a sleeper family from Texas that can come in and contribute immediately.

Maybe a JuCo family from the midwest that is ready by Easter.

Sweet Memories of CBC that's good stuff.

— 5-at-10

November 29, 2011 at 1:15 p.m.
fechancellor said...

The case for Tyler Bray?

http://stats.washingtonpost.com/cfb/players.asp?id=190222

TYLER BRAY 144.8 1983 YDs 17 TDs

Yes, the production went down against SEC opponents, but Bray could just as well improved if he was around for the entire season. What was missing, in the main, was any type of consistent run support. With 200 ydg. of run support, once a Tenn staple, this kid could go viral. Bray is a perfectly serviceable QB for TENN in the SEC.

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20111125/SPORTS0601/311250051/Vols-receiver-Da-Rick-Rogers-imagines-bigger-stats-Tyler-Bray

"During Bray’s five-game absence, Rogers had just one score and averaged 74.6 yards and 4.6 catches compared to an average 104.8 yards and seven catches and eight total TDs in games with Bray."

Da'Rick could be NFL caliber as he supports his quarterback and team instead of trying to tear it down like T.O.

What Bray and Da'Rick both lacked this season was any dependable run support at all.

http://espn.go.com/college-football/statistics/team/_/stat/downs/sort/firstDowns

Just a stat to toss out there...

Compare South Carolina and Tennessee, the top two teams in 4th down attempts.

TENN 4TH DOWN: 11 of 28 39%

SC 4TH DOWN: 20-28 71.4%

November 29, 2011 at 1:27 p.m.
memphisexile said...

We have to wonder if Meyer really had any problems in the first place, or if he really just wanted a way to get out of the Florida job without looking like he quit because Tebow graduated. His last year there was not too good. My thinking is that if he really had stress/heart problems from coaching, going to Ohio State is not going to help that problem. He quits after one year. If all that heart/family stuff was just bull, then I am guessing we will see it reappear if he has a bad season or two.

November 29, 2011 at 1:28 p.m.
jgreeson said...

FE to the C —

Bray has strong numbers and looks like he has an NFL arm. That we can agree on. Physically he looks the part. But so did Jonathan Crompton.

What is less than certain, though, is how well he performs against big-time competition because because of timing and injury the best team he's faced was an unsure Georgia team.

Your point about a stout running game is a good one — AJ McCarron looks like a stud passing against defenses that have nine guys in the box trying to stop Trent Richardson — but this team's forte is throwing it. And that pass-first approach helps boost his numbers, too.

In the end, we believe that the jury is still out on Bray — he could be good, he could be average — and next year will be huge, Huge, HUGE for him. (And for his head coach.)

Exile —

The next three years will be interesting at THE Ohio State University, especially when we learn what the NCAA decides to do with them.

— 5-at-10

November 29, 2011 at 1:52 p.m.
Livn4life said...

Simple on why Saban was hammered and Meyer given a pass; Urbie works for ESPN. We know the homerism they show consistently. Plus this is THE Ohiostateofchaos!

November 29, 2011 at 1:56 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Livin —

The 5-at-10 fully endorses your post. The ESPN tie is tough to ignore and there's no denying that the only major part of college sports they do not run is the big SEC game every week and Notre Dame.

Everything else, they have a vested interest in.

And rest assured, THE Ohio State of chaos will be used again. Well-played indeed.

PS — About today's column, we never said Dooley should be canned right now. Although here's saying that 2012 is a MONSTER season for the entire program. And your question is the one for which we don't have an answer: If Dooley is not the guy, who is? There's not a clear choice — at least not one that is certain to take it.

— 5-at-10

November 29, 2011 at 1:58 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Not that I'm one to hold grudges or anything (shut it, 5) but the whole charade of getting run and then sneaking back into the dugout behind the fake glasses and stache was such an affront to the authority of the umpires - not that there aren't umps who seem to enjoy their authority a tad too much - that Bobby Made Up Holiday for Guys to go running to the Florist shoulda been Ndamkoung Suh-ed.

But if you recruit the dog with the upside, do you also have to take his friend who scratches and licks himself too much as part of the package deal?

November 29, 2011 at 2:01 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Bobby V is a clown, and not in an entertaining Max Patkin way.

And if you really need a 5-star dog that is a difference maker (here's saying the big-time dogs all want to wear No. 2... wait, scratch that... wait, oh nevermind) you may have to take one of the dog's dawgs. Or worse yet, maybe find a Collie-ball scholarship for one of his female dogs. (You liked that one didn't you?)

And you know what they say about recruiting: When you lie down with dogs, you end up getting fleas with tattoos and you start wearing sweater vests... oh forget it.

— 5-at-10

November 29, 2011 at 2:22 p.m.
Cjoyner said...

I'm the street agent for a cousin who is a real run-stuffer if Urban is looking for size.

Meanwhile, behold the power of the SEC! The commish of lowly Conference USA reports his conference likely will be bumped from the Liberty Bowl to the highly prestigious BVAA Compass Bowl (formerly the Papajohns.com Bowl in B'ham)to make room for an SEC also ran like Mississippi State. That means my beloved USM Golden Eagles with their 10-2 record aren't worth sacrificing the TV time for MSU and their 2-6 SEC record. If true, this is the second time the SEC has refused a trip to Magic City. The moral? Big beats good any day. Now, excuse me while I Google BVAA to better inform my righteous anger.

November 29, 2011 at 2:30 p.m.
Livn4life said...

I agree on the jury still being out on Bray. I love the guy as a Vol fan but still he has not proven himself against the tough tough teams on the schedule. My projection is if no running game develops next year, he will have a tough time with the big opponents they need to compete against. But what do I know, I live in NGA!

November 29, 2011 at 8:33 p.m.
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