Remember the Friday mailbag — we have one spot open — and hang on, we have a lot to cover.
From the "Talks too much studios" here we go...
College football lists
We have been dedicated to providing a college football list every day to get you, the loyal 5-at-10 reader, ready for the water cooler chat that is college football season. In fact, we hope we arm you with at least one tidbit because we know the value — at least in the South — of being able to communicate in the language of college football.
Let's look at this another way: The out-of-control college football culture is greatly to blame on the fan bases everywhere. We demand success — and methods and practices can frequently be compromised — and we demanded it yesterday. And if there's one feeling that is more deeply felt than the pride and pleasure of victory for Johnny College Football Fan, it's the angst of seeing your rival/opponents succeed while your team flounders.
Our trash-talking culture has matched our need for immediate returns. This is not a good thing, but it's true.
Don't believe it? Answer this: When your team plays college football on Saturday, and the game is tight, and your boys pull it out, what's your strongest emption? If your being honest, it's relief then excitement and enjoyment. Know why? A big part of it is because you don't want to show up Monday and hear your buddies or your co-workers give you grief (and no, buddies and co-workers are not the same thing).
So with that in mind, here's a top-five list of college football storylines to dazzle the water cooler crowd. Enjoy. You're welcome.
1) Penn State takes the field for a season opener with a head coach not named Joe Paterno since 1965. If it feels like a long time, it's because it is a long, Long, LONG time. Remember 1965 was the same year that Medicare was finally passed by LBJ, the St. Louis Gateway Arch was completed and the Voting Rights Act guaranteeing black people the right to vote becomes law.
2) Notre Dame is going to be a player on the national scene again led by a defense that's pretty salty. In fact, several high-profile programs like the Irish — Tennessee, Ohio State and Texas to name but three — figure to be much improved this fall.
3) Speaking of Tennessee, here's a factoid about the Vols' season-opening opponent that needs to be known: The N.C. State Wolfpack have three offensive linemen with more than 26 starts each and more than 100 career starts across an offensive line that will be tough.
4) In eight days there are two games on Thursday night to keep an eye on. The SEC opener between South Carolina and Vandy — which will feature a meeting of two of the SEC's top three running backs — in Nashville and BYU hosting Washington State in Pirate Mike Leach's return to college football. (Side note: Washington State receiver Marquess Wilson had 1,388 yards on 82 catches as a sophomore last season and those number will likely increase.)
5) For all the talk about the rest of the nation ending the SEC's strangle-hold on the BCS trophy, well, we'll still take the SEC and take our chances. Consider the following: The SEC has half of the top 10 — Alabama at 2, LSU at 3, Georgia at 6, South Carolina at 9 and Arkansas at 10 — in the AP poll. Plus that dominance sees little end. SEC newcomer Texas A&M is currently ninth in the national Rivals.com recruiting rankings. That seems good right? Well, that's good enough for No. 9 in the country and No. 6 in the SEC. Buckle up everybody, cause it's going to be a wild ride.
Fantasy football strategy
We have received a few questions this week about fantasy football. And we're going to have some pretty sizable responses in Friday's mailbag. (If your draft is before this weekend, and you have a specific question, give us a shout.)
That said, we felt the need to get a couple of fundamental draft policies out there. Hey, we love the draft — even a fantasy draft. You know this.
1) Know your league's rules. This seems obvious, but it's often overlooked. How many points are a TD pass worth? Is it 3? Is it 6? That can be the difference between taking a QB in round one or in round 7.
2) Know the injury report. Repeat ghost rider: KNOW the injury report (and who is signed and unsigned for that matter). Don't be that guy that takes Maurice Jones Drew with the seventh overall pick and thinks it's a steal (MJD is currently not in camp, but taking him in the third round would be a steal, for what that's worth). You've been warned, because this happens every year at every draft we've ever attended.
3) Even if the ghost of Mark Moseley is on the board, never, Never, NEVER take a kicker until the final round. (And if there's someone left on the board you really like, draft him instead and pick up a kicker on the waiver wire before week one.)
4) Be ahead of the curve. If you get to round four or round five and the run on tight ends has not started yet, start the run. Take Graham or Gronk and watch as everyone else snaps up a tight end in order and then when your next pick comes up, you're back where you started.
5) If the curve has started, stay away. If the run on tight ends or defenses starts and you are a pick or two away and can still get value, jump on. But if you're five picks away, don't take Tony Gonzalez or Jermichael Finley in round five when you could easily get comparable value five rounds later.
Baseball postseason pace
OK, the baseball season is long and you have to trust it. We said that all summer, and we have believed it for a long time.
That said, things are starting to get tight with six weeks left in the regular season.
There are but two division races that have leads of two games or fewer. The White Sox — who got a grand slam from Kevin Youklis to beat the Yankees last night (yeah, Bobby V., Youk is washed up, huh?) — are two up on Detroit; San Fran is 1.5 up on the Dodgers after winning 4-1 last night.
But the wildcard standings are tighter than the bolts on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Five NL teams are within eight games of wildcard-leading Atlanta. It's getting close.
OK, remember that there will be two wildcard teams from each league this year, and those teams will play a one-game, winner-advances play-in game.
Buckle up folks, the marathon looks like it will become a sprint.
(Side question: Any other Johnny Braves Fans out there starting to get a little nervous?)
This and that
— The autopsy on Junior Seau showed no drugs or alcohol in his system or any initial signs of brain damage.
— Reds farmhand Billy Hamilton has topped Vince Coleman's minor league stolen base record with his 146 steal. His record-breaking stolen base on Tuesday night was his third in the first three innings of Pensacola's game against Montgomery. He needed only 120 games to reach 147 steals. Read that again. Now know two things: First, he will be a high-dollar fantasy baseball player next year (and if you have a keeper league, when he gets called up in September, move Heaven and Earth to get him); second, this kid could really change the NL playoff chase and postseason as a pinch-runner. And if you think a key stolen base can't change anything ask any Red Sox fan you know about Dave Roberts and watch them smile and remember his steal against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.
— Donna D'Errico has abandoned her search for Noah's Ark. Yes, that Donna D'Errico, who was a "Baywatch" cast member, a Playboy playmate and married to Nikki Sixx for nine years. Quick question, was our world ready for the fallout if Donna D'Errico had found Noah's Ark, and landed the greatest historic finding of all-time? Wouldn't that be like Pamela Anderson messing around in the kitchen and curing cancer? Either would be excellent, of course, but the head-scratching would have historic. Let's just move along.
Which is the worst team to be a fan of?
We're not talking about being a Penn State fan right now — which would be tough. Or even being a fan of a perennial loser. No being awful is OK compared to being occasionally close and frequently tortured.
We believe that often situations and teams pick fans as much as fans pick teams. Maybe your old man was a Yankees fan so you started following them. Maybe you liked the Dodgers uniforms (guilty) as a kid and that made you bleed Dodger Blue. Maybe you liked the way Pistol Pete played so you became a Jazz/Hawks fan (if that's you, well, sorry).
So if you were touched by the hand of fate and became a fan of a team, which team would be the worst? We're asking this because the L.A. Clippers — the team that amazingly has assembled a fair amount of talent for the first time in a long while — have received news that Chris Paul had offseason surgery like teammate Blake Griffin because of injuries suffered while playing for Team U.S.A. And if that's not enough, the Clippers ascent has again been over shoadowed by the Lakers, who have added Dwight Howard. The Clippers are cursed. Period.
So, what's the Mount Rushmore of worst teams to support? Clippers for sure. Cubs for sure. Hawks. And maybe the Arizona Cardinals.
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 ...