published Monday, October 17th, 2011

5 at 10: College football, Dan Wheldon and the 2011 Fall Classic begins

LSU running back Spencer Ware (11) scores his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard run against Tennessee during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011 in Knoxville, Tenn. LSU won 38-7. At left is LSU tight end Mitch Joseph (83) and at right is Tennessee linebacker A. J. Johnson (45). (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
LSU running back Spencer Ware (11) scores his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard run against Tennessee during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011 in Knoxville, Tenn. LSU won 38-7. At left is LSU tight end Mitch Joseph (83) and at right is Tennessee linebacker A. J. Johnson (45). (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Here we go

From the "Al Davis Studios," here we go...



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    Alabama running back Trent Richardson (3) runs past Mississippi safety Frank Crawford (5) in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011. Richardson set career marks with 183 yards rushing and four touchdowns as No. 2 Alabama won 52-7. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

College football Monday morning quarterback

Here are the five things we learned from this weekend's games:

— LSU and Alabama are the class of the SEC West, the class of the SEC and the class of the country. LSU did not play well (for LSU, that is) and beat Tennessee by 31. In Neyland Stadium. Alabama went to Ole Miss and made the Rebel Black Bears look like a jay-vee team. Our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer said it well in Sunday's paper here (Wiedmer: LSU, Alabama way above rest). There's not much else for the rest of the SEC to do but get better. LSU and Alabama have dropped the gauntlet, who can step up and meet it? Until then, though, the 5-at-10 wants SEC commissioner Mike Slive to step in and force whichever team wins the SEC East to give their spot in the SEC title game to the loser of next month's LSU-Alabama game. Let's make this happen.

— Show your gold James Franklin. The Vandy coach went chest-to-chest with Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham in a heated exchange after the Bulldogs' tighter-than-expected 33-28 win over the Commodores on Saturday night. Grantham said Franklin started it; Franklin said he was trying to sort out an issue and things didn't go well. And by "didn't go well," that's translated to several cuss words from Grantham and the teams starting to do that mass of humanity dance that thankfully did not lead to a brawl. It was less than desirable, but Franklin's postgame news conference has to make Vandy fans feel better this morning: ""We just had a tough, emotional game and some things were said that I didn't think were appropriate," Franklin said. "I went to find (Georgia head) coach (Mark) Richt and didn't find him, so I found one of his assistant coaches and it didn't go well. We're not going to sit back and take it from anyone."

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    Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles (85) celebrates a touchdown with teammate Kenny Stills (4) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

— The BCS could be in real trouble this year. Yes, it seems like every season when the first BCS poll is released there are something like seven or eight unbeaten teams. This year is no exception, but the top 10 teams in the AP poll are rolling opponents this fall. The top 10 teams in the AP poll are 16-1 against the spread (ATS) in the last two weeks and 38-14 on the season ATS (and 29-3-1 when favored by 27 or less). Some of the drama will be self-policed — No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama will play on Nov. 5 and No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Oklahoma State will play to end the regular season. (And just think if Oklahoma and Oklahoma State had decided to join the SEC West. Wow, just wow.) Let's say that the winners of those two games run the table, they would meet for the BCS title. There could very well be three or more unbeaten teams on the outside looking in come bowl time. Boise State is unlikely to lose. Wisconsin is a very good team in a very mediocre Big Ten. Clemson has FSU in the rearview and the season-ending rivalry game against South Carolina just got a lot easier, which leads us to...

— Wow, what a painful week for South Carolina football. First, Steve Spurrier lashes out at a columnist for a story Spurrier felt was inaccurate, which is every coaches right. That the story in question was written in the spring makes the timing of this song and dance seem choreographed, though, especially since it preceded USC's dismissal of oft-troubled quarterback Stephen Garcia by a few hours. Fast-forward to Saturday, and all-world running back Marcus Lattimore is lost for the season with a knee injury. A season of much promise for South Carolina now looks less than hopeful.

— The Fab 4 (plus 1) went 3-2. It should have been better, but the South Carolina self-inflicted safety allowed Mississippi State to cover the spread. Yes, we know those things happen, and yes, there is no explaining it, but when a team purposely gives the other team points and that affects the outcome in gambling circles, eye brows will be raised and heads will be scratched. According to friend of the show RJ Bell at pregame.com, the safety — which was the final score in South Carolina's 14-12 win with the Gamecocks favored by 3 — cost Vegas bettors roughly $30 million bucks. Yes, 30 million with an 'M.' The 5-at-10's three wins were all recent trends that we should have been riding from the start of the season. LSU and Alabama proved the 'FIN' theory yet again and East Carolina covered against Memphis, which may be the worst FCS team in the country. On the year, the Fab 4 (plus 1) is a strong 22-10-1, but we have hovered around .500 for the last three weeks.



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    Danica Patrick walks out of a drivers meeting following the shortened IndyCar Series' Las Vegas Indy 300 auto race Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011 in Las Vegas. Dan Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, died following a crash in the event. Marco Andretti is behind Patrick at left. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)

Tragedy in sports

Indy Car driver Dan Wheldon, a two-time winner of the Indy 500, was killed in a multi-car wreck at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He was 33.

It was an emotional scene, the drivers crying openly when news started to circulate. The race was canceled, but Wheldon's peers went back out on the track and completed five laps in honor of Wheldon. Wheldon, who won the Indy 500 back in May, was participating in only his third race of the season, and was in Sunday's race as part of a challenge that could have been worth $2.5 million to himself and $2.5 million to a fan.

Wheldon agreed to start in the back of the field and if he had won, the pay out would have been the $5 million prize split between driver and a fan. Wheldon was reportedly going to replace Danica Patrick next season, and the deal was allegedly going to be signed after Sunday's race.

Wheldon was writing a blog for USA Today in the days leading up to Sunday's race. Here's one post he made Saturday: "This is going to be an amazing show," Wheldon wrote. "The two championship contenders, Dario Franchitti and Will Power, are starting right next to each other in the middle of the grid. Honestly, if I can be fast enough early in the race to be able to get up there and latch onto those two, it will be pure entertainment. It's going to be a pack race, and you never know how that's going to turn out."

Wow, what a sad day. Wheldon is survived by his wife and two sons.

Video: Dan Wheldon's peers run a 5 lap tribute in memory of him.



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    The St. Louis Cardinals celebrate after Game 6 of baseball's National League championship series against the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011, in Milwaukee. The Cardinals won 12-6 to win the series and advance to the World Series. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Baseball's lesson in balance

The World Series is set: St. Louis vs. Texas. Are these the best two teams in baseball? Maybe or maybe not.

Are these the two most balanced teams in baseball? Almost assuredly. Between lineups, starting pitching and bullpens, the Rangers and the Cardinals are no worse than good in each of those categories. And that was the difference for the last two teams standing.

Every other contender had a fatal flaw that fans, teams and even the media yahoos thought could be compensated for by an overwhelming strength in another category.

We thought the Phillies' rotation would be enough to cover their flaws. And the Yankees' lineup. And the Tigers lineup and Justin Verlander. And the Brewers' big sticks in the middle of that order. And the list goes on.

But the Cards and the Rangers are strong top to bottom. We'll take the Cards in seven, since Chris Carpenter could get three starts in the series and Albert Pujols is making a strong push for the St. Louis front office to pay him whatever he asks for.



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    Florida coach Will Muschamp, right, and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis watch near the end of a 17-6 loss to Auburn in their NCAA college football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

This and that

— More college football: The Auburn Tigers have embraced the Malcolm X approach to winning football games — "By any means necessary." Saturday night, the Tigers used an opportunistic special teams and an improving defense to beat Florida 17-6 in a game that featured seven players taking snaps for the two teams. It may have set offensive football back three years, but the Tigers kept winning close games. This time the defense — yes, the same defense that was torched the first month of the season by Utah State, Clemson and Mississippi State — kept Florida out of the end zone. And beating Florida is still beating Florida...

— Even more college football: Beating Florida does not have the same meaning it once did. Florida is 8-8 in its last 16 games; the same number of losses the Gators had in their previous 64 games when they went 56-8. Better fix it quick Coach Boom.

— It was a wacky weekend for football coaches. In addition to the Vandy-Georgia square-off, Detroit's Jim Schwartz and San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh got into a war of words and gestures after the 49ers handed the Lions their first loss of the season. C'mon guys, you're supposed to be the leaders in this environment. Yes, it's a fine line between leaders and competitors, and yes, fans of each of those teams have to take comfort in the fact that winning and losing is every bit as important if not more so to each of those coaches as it is to each fan. But, c'mon guys, be better than that. You have to be better than that. (And this hasn't even mentioned New Orleans coach Sean Payton blowing out his knee in a sideline collision Sunday.)

— Matt Kenseth rolled to the checkered flag Saturday night in Charlotte, moving into the top three of the points standings in what is shaping up to be three-car dog fight. Carl Edwards leads Kevin Harvick, who is five back, and Kenseth, who is seven off the lead. The biggest news Saturday night was the late-race crash that dropped five-time points champ Jimmie Johnson to a 34th-place finish. Johnson's bid for a sixth consecutive title looks doomed — he's in eighth place, 35 points off the lead. In fact JJ is closer to Dale Earnhardt Jr. than the points lead, and being closer to Junior is a great thing on the earnings list but not such a great thing on the points list. So it goes, JJ, it was a great run.



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    Nolan Ryan, of the Houston Astros, shown in action in this undated photo. (AP Photo)

Today's question

Feel free to throw out your World Series picks, but today's question circles on the annual moaning about homefield advantage this time of year.

Yep, the Cardinals will have homefield advantage because a collection of NL all-stars that included all of two St. Louis players — Lance Berkman and Yadier Molina — used a three-run homer from Prince Fielder to win an exhibition.

Is there a dumber rule in sports? If so what is it?

There may be a dumber rule — we'll throw a few out there around 2 p.m. — but it's hard to see a more silly rule with this much at stake.

Discuss.

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.
BIspy4 said...

Dan Wheldon got a ride on a one-race deal in May. He won his second Indy 500 in that race, beating rookie J.R. Hildebrand, who also was involved in Sunday's awful, awful wreck. There was a time when open wheel racing had dominion over American motor sports, a spot that NASCAR has held now for a decade or more, if not a generation. And if you think open wheel racing isn't popular globally, check out the sports section from an international paper. It's soccer (that ain't football, yo) first with F1 racing a close second.

Dear coaches Harbaugh and Schwartz: Decorum. Protocol. Class. Learn it. Live it. Know it. (No shirt, no shoes ... no dice).

Cinco, do not ask me what happened to the Wreck on Saturday. I know not how that loss was bestowed upon the once No. 12 team in all the land (and Alabama against Ole Miss was like watching Camden County against the Portal JV).

But on a far more glorious note, the No. 1 team in the FCS had a big fat beatdown on Furman, hanging a 50 on the Paladins. I hate Furman. All Georgia Southern hates Furman. And putting up 50 on those (insert bad word or words here) feels mighty good.

October 17, 2011 at 10:38 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show Inuyasha23 (via Dallas, Texas)

Okay Jay, Obviously, for whatever reason you hate the Rangers. Fine. I don't like Steve Barrett. However, I do believe Rangers WILL win in five.
Also, no love for Silk? I know we were playing the current SoCon doormat but if anything Silk and the rest of the "Freshmen Seven" opened up the offense to a variety of plays when compared to the routes that work well for BJ. Make no mistake, BJ is the better thrower, hands down. But Silk is the Charlie Daniels of the quarterback sneak...for now. Elon and Furman will be interesting to watch to say the least.

5-at-10

October 17, 2011 at 12:14 p.m.
memphisexile said...

I was in Knoxville last Saturday to cheer my Tigers on, and I would just like to say that the Vols fans were a classy bunch as usual. This was my 3rd trip to Neyland to watch LSU play Tennessee and it has always been a pleasant experience. The only unpleasant person I encountered was a lost UGA fan, not sure where he came from. However, Tennessee shouldn't feel too bad, the same beatdown has been administered to every team LSU has played this year.

October 17, 2011 at 1:13 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Tech's struggles at UVA stunned us. Stunned, we tell you. Bad tosses. Bad reads. Bad everything.

Sad stuff about Wheldon, for sure.

Inuyasha —

We have nothing but love for the Rangers and mad respect for team president Nolan Ryan. But with the chips down and the pressure magnified, in the big four matchups that decide most baseball games (Ace, best hitter, closer, manager), the Rangers only get the check mark in closer.

Make no mistake about it, the Mocs future is bright under Huesman. Dude knows what he's doing and the young talent at UTC is strong.

Memphis —

Didn't know you were an LSU fan. Must be a fun season this year, huh, because your boys are rolling.

— 5-at-10

October 17, 2011 at 2:25 p.m.
chas9 said...

Jay and I told you to lay the 30. LS&U covered. Has Vegas ever missed so badly?

As things look now, the SEC should rename its divisions the football division and the basketball division. (Yeah, I know BB is going to be division-less this year, but it's still funny how it breaks down at this juncture.)

October 17, 2011 at 2:42 p.m.

5-at-10 (or is that Sir 5 or Mr 10??) Every day reader, first time contributor to the discussion.
I am from Augusta. Raised on (and big fan of) the Masters, Dawgs (Dooley's, not so much Goff's), Falcons and Braves (Chief Knockahoma, Murphy and Horner). I have rooted for these guys even when it was painful.

Just wanted to know (knowing you are from Ga), if you heard about the high school coach at Hancock Central (Warrenton, Ga), having his face smashed in at an after-game altercation this past Friday.

What was it with coaches and conflict this past weekend??? Just wanted to know, how you feel coaches behavior impacts the guys that play for them and how it affects the sport and it's fans?

BTW.....I really enjoy the read. Most entertaining part of my day! I don't know if that speaks as much to the quality of your writing as it does the mediocrity of my days????

October 17, 2011 at 3:08 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Can't recall a line that was more distorted. Really can't.

As for the rules:

Most damaging bad rule: All-star game winner gets World Series homefield

Most ignored rule: The modern-day MLB strike zone. The rule book says knees to letters, but if a belt-high pitch is called a strike, the batter has a fit. Hey, the accepted rule is fine (pitchers get outside strikes rather than high strikes) let's just change the rule book and quit pretending the letters are anything close to a strike.

Best rule to break: Pass interference in college and high school is no worse than 15 yards. If you're beat, the intentional P.I. is better than giving up a TD. And as a general rule, when the smart play is break the rule, that's a bad rule.

Worst TV rule: The zoned rule on NFL games is awful.

Worst TV sports rule, part II: That Brent Musberger does the ABC prime time game. He makes our ears bleed.

— 5-at-10

October 17, 2011 at 3:23 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Chalupa,

Thanks for the kind words and for following along with the 5-at-10.

You sound like a true fan — the Braves, Falcons and Goff’s Dawgs could test anyone’s patience — and we’re in the same spot in regard to a love for the Masters. Got to play it the past April, and would tell you about it, but there are dozen of regular 5-at-10 followers who just rolled their eyes, smacked their foreheads and said, “Please, Lord, not again.”

Ues, we did see the story about the coach being attacked. What a tragedy and a travesty. And it’s part of the reason we were unhappy with the NFL guys and the Vandy and UGA guys this weekend. Those are the guys setting the examples and if their actions are immulated (and we know they are) the trickle down theory means it’ll come to some Friday night high school game near you.

Sadly, the Friday night lowlight was a day before the college and pro fireworks. It’s sad — really, really sad.

As far as how a coach’s behavior, well, it sets the boundary for a great deal of how your program will be run. There is little value placed in the “Do as I say, not as I do,” type of example and the threats of undiscipline behavior being punished from an undiscplined coach ring as hollow as a cowbell.

The folks that jumped that coach and those players at Hancock Central should be punished to the limit of the law. And then punished again.

— 5-at-10

P.S. — Here’s hoping you good luck in your brave fight against Chalupa Addiction. That is, if you are looking to fight your chalupa addiction.

October 17, 2011 at 3:32 p.m.
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