Remember about Friday's mailbag.
From the "Al Davis Studios," here we go...
Reason to believe
We consider SportTalk's Dr. B (he's a doctor after all) to be a friend of the show. He's a good dude, part philosopher, part instigator, part comedian, but all-in-all he gets the 5-at-10 seal of approval.
The good Dr. is an unabashed UT fan. It's part of his charm. And when he asked on Wednesday's show for a reason to believe that the Tennessee Vols and freshman quarterback Justin Worley could beat South Carolina on Saturday it got us thinking. Is there reason to believe this Tennessee team without Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter has enough firepower to beat even an above-average foe, nevermind No. 14-ranked South Carolina?
What has to happen? Will Da'Rick Rogers need to deliver his best game of his college career? Will Tennessee's defense need to score twice? Will the Devrin Young Heisman campaign, circa 2013, start Saturday?
It's hard to know what it will take for this Tennessee team to start moving the chains and scoring points. Heck, the offense has struggled so much in the last three weeks, the band has forgotten some of the notes to "Rocky Top."
Well, let's take passion and pride out of this and look at what UT is facing. This is the fourth Top-10 defense nationally the Vols have faced in successive weeks, and South Carolina has a defensive front that is as good as anyone's, LSU and Alabama included.
So, anyone confident yet? Well, let's look at the bright side and try to find some positives:
The running game has improved in recent weeks, Rogers is a bona fide playmaker and Young could make something happen in the return game. Plus, South Carolina without Marcus Lattimore is not going to be confused with an offensive juggernaut any time soon.
Here's the way to feel confident Dr B: Pressure Connor Shaw. Earn your check Justin Wilcox, because field position and turnovers are the only way to put Worley in a position to succeed. And if he can succeed early, and he can gain some confidence — and more importantly have his teammates gain some confidence in him — then the crowd and the moment can become the reason to believe. Plus, remember this is a South Carolina team that won 14-12 at Miss State for crying out loud, and Ole Miss is terrible.
So that's what we have. Feel confident. Johnny Vols Fan? Yeah, neither do we.
Fab 4 (plus 1) picks
Well, it appears the lines makers have officially gone into "Oh Yeah, well, how about this..." mode.
There are a bunch of spreads this week set right on those magic numbers of seven or 10 or three or 14. And to make matters even more difficult, Vegas has put their finger on the pulse of the betting community and is daring bettors to ride their favorites. In fact this started last week with LSU and Alabama giving up obscene amounts of points — and covering by the way. It continues this week with a couple of eye-popping numbers.
The over/under in the Oklahoma State-Baylor game is right at 80. Yes, 80! (Wonder if Mike Gundy would toss out, "I'm an OLD MAN! I'm 80!" Moving on.)
Somehow Clemson is giving Georgia Tech only 3.5. Yes, that's unbeaten Clemson and a Georgia Tech team that has lost two straight.
The "So you think you know the SEC trio" of games with a 10-point spread: Auburn by 10 over Ole Miss; Arkansas by 10 over Vandy; Miss State by 10 over Kentucky.
We're dealing with a lot of stuff this week. Well, remember that candlesticks always make a nice gift... Let's get 2. (Heck let's get all 5).
On the season we're 24-13-1, and 11 games over .500 against the spread is nothing to sneeze at:
South Carolina minus 3.5 at Tennessee: Each team is using a QB that was scheduled to hold a clipboard back in September and each team's best play maker is on the shelf for the season with ACL injuries, so here's saying the first team to 14 wins. And since the Gamecocks have the nation's No. 7-ranked defense and UT is turning to true freshman QB Justin Worley for his first career start, here's saying that the Gamecocks will be the first one to 14. And to 24. And that will be more than enough against these Vols. As always, buy the half as insurance. (Side note: The total of 43.5 seems mighty high.)
Auburn minus 10 against Ole Miss: This is the classic "No one is as bad as LSU makes them look" line. Auburn wins pretty easily.
Clemson minus 3.5 at Georgia Tech: Buy the half of course, and yes this feels like a HUGE trap bet. But if they trap us here, so be it, and hopefully they'll respect us in the morning.
Duke plus-15 against Virginia Tech: The 5-at-10 seldom takes the points. Very seldom. But, Virginia Tech is 1-6 against the spread this year. That's worth noting.
Plus one game
We've had success just putting Alabama here and moving on. Alabama is off this week, however, so we'll have to reach for a game that features the nation's best team that is not in the SEC West:
Stanford minus 7 at USC: This seems crazy and Beetlejuice (AKA Lane Kiffin) has a way of hanging around against superior competition and making it tight. But here's saying Andrew Luck has had it up to here (raise your hand above your head) with all this "Matt Barkley is as good as Andrew Luck" talk. Buy the half of course, and here's saying the Cardinal trucks the Trojans.
OK, do you know how sometimes those random movie lines some how become part of your day-to-day communication with certain friends. One of our longtime buds frequently uses this line: "We're going to need more FBI guys." — Dwayne T. Robinson of the LAPD in "Die Hard." (An under-quoted movie by the way and arguably one of the five best action movies of all time, but that's for another discussion on a day with less to discuss.)
Anyhoo, when the 5-at-10 saw that the U.S. Senate was starting to get into the conference expansion mess, for some reason that quote from Die Hard (delivered by Paul Gleason, an all-time "That" guy actor who was in "Breakfast Club" and "Trading Places" among his many titles). Really, as bad as all this conference land grab has become, we now need Federal help? That's where this is?
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. (AP)
Well that's just great. Amazing, huh?
Well, if the tradition-bending, rivalry-ending results of the conference expansion talks to date have not turned your stomach, the New York Times reported Wednesday that U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has lobbied Big 12 officials to include Louisville in expansion plans.
That Louisville and West Virginia are scrambling for life boats really makes the Big East look like the Titantic. And if you think the Big East is not a blink of an eye away from being the world's best basketball-only conference consider that it appears Louisville is bringing in its congressional help in an effort to TAKE the opening that was believed to be West Virginia's in the Big 12.
The Big 12 dance has not officially started because Missouri has not officially joined the SEC, but once the Tigers do, then the positioning and posturing begins. And while this has the feel of two drunk guys hitting on the last single girl in the bar at 3 a.m., the first round has to go to Louisville — they brought a senator into the mix for crying out loud.
Looks like West Virginia may need some more FBI guys.
This and that
— The World Series gets back to work tonight. With no dog in the fight, we're rooting for a Game 7 as we always do. (Although Game 7 would be on Friday and we'll be on a high school football sideline so nevermind.)
— The NBA and its players met for 15 hours Wednesday. Looks like someone has decided to get serious about the talks. Hey maybe Bryant Gumble(head) can come in and clear some things up for everyone.
— Hey Terrell Owens, we may have some stringing opportunities available here at the TFP if you don't get any other offers in the coming days. Can you send us some references?
With Alabama and LSU off this weekend before The Showdown Nov. 5, the college football spotlight can shine on several other schools around the South.
Here's the question for you: Are you confident in your team heading into this weekend?
Why or why not?
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 ...