From the "Les knows best Studios," here we go...
Texas A&M fullback Jorvorskie Lane (11) runs past Baylor linebacker Joe Pawelek, bottom, and Dwain Crawford (1) on his way into the end zone for a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Waco, Texas. Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008. A&M's Evan Eike (65) looks on. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Expansion ball starts to roll
Texas A&M is headed to the SEC, and it appears almost impossible that Baylor's threat of a lawsuit will not prevent it.
When — not if — Texas A&M leaves the Big 12, this will start the move toward the 14- and 16-team megaconferences that will dominate college football. Again, this is not an "if" deal as much as a "when" deal.
Here's one spit-ball projection as to how it could shake-out:
SEC East: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and West Virginia
SEC West: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Miss. State, Missouri, Texas A&M
Current 12 teams and add Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and BYU
Current 12 teams and add Kansas, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Louisville
Current 11 teams (with Virginia Tech heading to the SEC) and add UConn, South Florida, Central Florida with the possible spots for two more.
Everyone else will be jumbled into an NCAA field for football, not unlike the NCAA tournament, although it will feel more like the NIT.
It's coming, gang, and the biggest question is not if but whether the rest of the schools have the strength and the where with all to force Notre Dame and Texas to join the fold so they can broker the TV rights deals together.
Because expansion is not about competition or classification as much as it's about market shares and money. In a perfect world, we could stay where we currently are conference-wise and look to tweak the BCS system. But all the hand-wringing and calls for playoffs jumpstarted the conferences to be aggressive and perform the sports version of the California Gold Rush of 1849.
Let's move along before our heads pop off.
Alabama coach Nick Saban, right, watches Alabama quarterback Phillip Sims (14) and AJ McCarron (10) warm up before an NCAA college football game against Kent State on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
The 5-at-10's Fantastic 4
Last week we offered our top four college football picks of the opening weekend and went 3-1. (We won on Miss. State covering and Alabama covering and going over the total and lost of TCU, which lost outright to Baylor).
Not bad, but that should be the baseline:
Here are this weekend's Big Four:
— The over/under on the Mississippi State-Auburn game is 56.5. Yes, those two teams combined to score 99 points last week and surrendered a total of 52. Someboday may need to get an extra column on the scoreboard. (Needless to say we love the over, and it's hard to believe these were the teams that played to a 3-2 gross-fest three years ago.)
— Whether we're drinking the UT Kool-ade or not will not be know until the Vols head to the Swamp on Sept. 17. That said, it's hard to believe the UT passing game that has one of the nation's top receiving tandems in Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rodgers, is only a six-point favorite at home against Cincinnati. Did basketball season start?
— South Carolina is a three-point favorite at Georgia. Georgia may have more need; South Carolina has more Lattimore.
— Here's a wild one. Look for Oregon to take a measure of revenge against a Nevada team that does not have anywhere close to the size or the speed to stop the Ducks. The numbers from this one could get obscene.
Last week's Fantastic 4: 3-1
This season's Fantastic 4: 3-1
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Chase Daniel (10) before an NFL preseason football game against the Tennessee Titans at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
We're saving our individual awards picks for Friday (hint: there may be a mailbag question about them) but let's gauge the NFL season, which starts tonight when the Saints visit the Packers.
Quick point before we pick the division winners: Have the Tennessee Titans had a better 10 days in the last three years than the two weeks leading up to kickoff? They resigned running back Chris Johnson, who clearly is their best player. Then AFC South foes Indy and Jacksonville announced that their starting quarterbacks will be Kerry Collins and Luke McCown, respectively, because Colts star Peyton Manning won't be ready for the opener and after the Jags released starter David Garrard. Depending on how long Peyton is on he shelf, these Titans could make a run at the division title. (Yes, we have long agreed with SportTalk's Dr. B — he's a doctor after all — that the Titans are going to have to fight to win more than six games, but that was before we learned that four of those games could be against the quarterback stylings of Collins and McCown.)
The AFC South appears determined to give the NFC West a run for its "worst division in football" title.
OK, let's get to the predictions:
AFC division winners: Patriots, Steelers, Texans, Chargers
AFC wildcards: Jets, Ravens
NFC division winners: Falcons, Eagles, Packers, Rams
NFC wildcards: Saints, Cowboys
AFC title game: Patriots over Steelers
NFC title game: Packers over Falcons
Super Bowl: Patriots over Packers
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) and Denver Broncos quarterback Adam Weber (2) watch as quarterback Brady Quinn leads the offense in the second quarter of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
This and that
— Not only did the Phillies sweep a three-game series from your Atlanta Braves without having to send NL Cy Young frontrunner Roy Halladay to the mound, the Phillies capped the series by trumping Atlanta's ace — its bullpen. Philadelphia touched up Jonny Venters for a run in the eighth to tie the game and Peter Moylan for the game-winner in the ninth for a walk-off 3-2 win.
— More expansion talk: There has been no confirmation, but after Texas A&M heads to the greener pastures of the SEC, the Denver Broncos may join the Big 12, that way Denver can utilize the true skills of former first-round pick Tim Tebow.
— Schedule update: We'll be on "The Show with Chris Goforth," on 1370 AM here in town today around 2 p.m.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) avoids Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu after making a catch for first down in the second quarter of a preseason NFL football game on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
The NFL starts tonight. You know this.
So we have two questions for you:
Who will win the Super Bowl? (And here's guessing that SportTalk's Quake and SteelerFan like the Steelers; K-Burg likes the Falcons; and JordanRules likes Jordan.)
Second, did the lockout even dent your NFL fandom? Did the offseason that wasn't affect your NFL appetite at all?
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 ...