5-at-10: Sal Sunseri's real first name, college football madness and the coaching search starts
A ton to get to, so from the "Talks too much" studios, giddy-up...
Apparently the state of Tennessee has outlawed tackling — and made third-down stops a class-C felony. And let every man, woman and child know that the Tennessee Titans and the Tennessee Volunteers are willing to follow those laws to the best of their abilities.
Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (54) celebrates with Julius Peppers (90) and Tim Jennings (26) after Urlacher returned an interception for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in the first quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Nashville.
The Titans were humiliated Sunday by the Bears in a 51-20 decision that was not that close. It was 28-2 after the end of the first quarter, and the Bears had something like 56 yards of offense because the Titans wanted to show how charitable they are in every phase of the game. (Maybe the Titans thought Superstorm Sandy hit Chicago and they wanted to make the Bears feel better.)
The Vols escaped Saturday with a 55-48 win over Troy that felt as safe and secure as a time-share investment with the Madoff folks. Each team posted more than 700 yards and the Vols got the game-winner from Marlin Lane with 85 seconds left to play.
Maybe our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer is on to something when he suggested that everybody's coach-crush Jon Gruden may be able to coach both Tennessee teams. Or maybe the Titans and the Vols will get into a bidding war over Chucky's services.
Either way, there likely will not be a bidding war over Sal Sunersi's services in the near-to-immediate future, and certainly not as a defensive coordinator.
Sweet buckets of missed tackles, opportunities and assignments, the defensive numbers from Saturday will make those that bleed orange, bleed orange from their eyes. (And if you watched the game with a Tennessee fan, you now know that Sal is Sunseri's middle name — his full name has to be "Stupid A-- Sal Sunseri" because it was repeated over and over again by Johnny Vols Fans everywhere.)
Troy got 34 first downs, 721 total yards (496 passing and 225 rushing) and converted 10-of-19 tries on third down. And this was a Troy team that lost to Florida Atlantic last week and had never scored more than 34 points against an SEC team before Saturday. Troy topped the 34-point plateau with a TD midway through the third quarter and it was the fourth consecutive possession in which the Trojans scored a TD — something that had not happened since 2008.
This was Troy, which is 0-15 against SEC teams since beating Mississippi State in 2001. And had it not been for some record-setting work by quarterback Tyler Bray (530 passing yards — the second most in SEC history — and five TDs) and receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter, the Trojans not only would have won Saturday, they would have routed Tennessee.
Afterward, the players were openly happy to get a win. We get and appreciate that — the pressure of being 18-23 years-old and carrying the weight of a fan base as big as the Vols Nation can be overwhelming, and the win did snap a four-game losing streak.
But the questions about the future of the Dooley administration went unanswered Saturday and the future still looks as cloudy and uncertain as before. Stupid Sunseri — but his friends call him Sal.
What a weekend
Just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in. Yes, college football delivers the goods every weekend, and the head-turning, remote-clicking craziness that was Saturday night was magical.
Let's review five things that we gleaned from Saturday's high-speed, high-energy, high-reward roller coaster:
— We had a good friend and Bama fan text us after Saturday's dramatic win over LSU that featured AJ McCarron leading the Tide to a late, season-saving TD in the 21-17 win at LSU: "Do you think they will give McCarron the Heisman tonight or wait until the ceremony?" We think they will wait — and we also think Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein still has a say in the matter — but McCarron certainly had his Heisman moment late Saturday night in Death Valley.
— The growing groundswell of potential BCS backlash is kind of scary and kind amusing. There's a real chance that the top four teams in the current BCS standings (http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/polls?poll=4) will finish the year unbeaten, which means Alabama will no doubt finish No. 1 and the talks are that Oregon likely will pass Kansas State for the No. 2 spot and a shot at the Tide in the title game. (There's also the real possibility that Louisville and probated THE Ohio State University will be unblemished.) That means Notre Dame would finish fourth and play K-State in the Miss Congeniality Bowl. (And any fan of those three teams not named Alabama, if you think style points are not part of this, well, you're wrong. And you should know that. This is the system we're in and the business we've chosen. So escaping with a triple-overtime win against Pitt when Pitt's kicker missed what should have been the game-winning field goal hurts your case in the beauty contest that is the current BCS. Sorry, that's the way it's played and you know this.)
— Anyone who thinks Oregon is not going to put points on the board against any team — including Alabama — is wrong. The Ducks can slap score, and remember that Saturday's 62-point showing against USC was the first time Oregon needed to keep churning up points. And the Ducks did it on demand.
— Around the SEC: Florida looked flawed — or disinterested — against a Missouri team that comes to Neyland on Saturday. (Side question: Missouri scored 7 against Florida on Saturday, that means the Tigers should be expected to score 31 on Sal Suneri's UT defense, right? That's the rate of exchange, UT plus-24, considering Troy got 24 on Mississippi State and 48 on the Vols.) Auburn won a game, which is of minor consequence. Texas A&M continues to be a great story, and Kevin Sumlin looks to be a great hire (although letting Johnny Football run wild is a pretty easy coaching call; what's that play — "Johnny Football scores on two, on two, ready... BREAK). Georgia looked a lot better than we expected and put Ole Miss away impressively.
— The Fab 4 (plus 1) picks from last Thursday continued to smoke. We had Oregon minus-7 (although that line grew to right at 10 in some places, which made a rather meaningless two-point try by USC quite meaningful for those who had entertainment on the Ducks, who won 62-51) and even advised to play the over 70. We had Washington plus-5, and the Huskies won 21-13 (we also advised playing the under 53 because Cal's best player, receiver Keenan Allen, was out). We had Clemson minus 13.5, and the Tigers rolled Duke 56-20, and Vandy minus-7 in advance of the 'Dores' 40-0 win over Kentucky. We missed Louisiana-Monroe, who was a 10-point favorite and lost to La-Lafayette in a La-La-La upset. So it goes. With the 4-1 mark (we were 6-1 if you got the bonus over/under picks, but we're not counting them), we're 35-15-2 against the spread on the season. That's a clean 70 percent — if you had wagered $100 on each of our picks this year you'd be plus-$1,830 — and that's not too shabby. And if Carlo or Mo Green or any of the other reps from the Five Families want to know where you're getting tips for your entertainment investments, leave us out of it will you.
Coaching market now open
Let the games begin. Kentucky fired Joker Phillips — a UK alum who has spent 22 years with the Wildcats as a player and coach — on Sunday, roughly 24 hours after Vandy put a 40-0 smackdown on UK in a half-filled Commonwealth Stadium. (Seriously there was less than 20K in attendance Saturday, or roughly 5,000 fewer than the Wildcats drew last month for Midnight Madness, which included some lay-up drills and a scrimmage. Read that again, and here's saying the UK AD Mitch Barnhart does not include that on sales pitch.)
So UK cans Phillips, who Barnhart was close friends with, and gets the jump on the selected names that may or may not be on everyone's short list.
Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart, who beat UK in September, will get a call. So will Gus Malzahn. There will be a bunch of hand-wringing and posturing about Bobby Petrino. (OK, we'll bite: Hire him at your own risk, but you know what he is: An offensive genius who is hard to work with and when he leaves — and they all leave — he's leaving with the village burning in his rearview mirror.)
Barnhart, who posted Phillips' firing in an open letter on the interweb, may not be able to convince some of the hottest names out there to head to Lexington without money whipping them. Seriously, if you are a football coach riding the career ascent, do you really want a short-term stop in Lexington where the best you're going to do is finish fourth in the East and the last coach to use UK to a stepping stone to a better gig was Bear Bryant?
So this makes some of the hotter names seem like reaches. Would Taggart come after turning Western Kentucky into the second-best team in the state behind Lousville? Doubtful. He, like other big fish Malzahn, La. Tech's Sonny Dykes and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart (hey, it's an SEC opening, so we all know his name will get mentioned at some point), surely will have bigger hooks with better bait to bite.
So that leaves some names that may be reaches or may head-scratchers:
Petrino (unemployed): Barnhart has said Kentucky is not interested. Petrino would jump at this gig just to get back in the game — and he would have success next year if injured QB Max Smith returns 100 percent. (We almost said a second chance, but it would be more like a 14th chance for Bobby Two-Timer.)
Phillip Fulmer: The former UT coach was interested in the Kansas job, so he may be fine with going to a basketball school for a final day in the sun. Sweet buckets, Fulmer to UK would pump a whole bunch of life into the UT-UK rivalry, no?
David Cutcliffe, Duke: Another guy that has found success at a hoops-first locale. Here's saying Cutcliffe would listen if for no other reason than he'd love another crack at the SEC, and at 58, he has the security and knowledge of knowing that in five years, he can call it a career if it doesn't work.
Dan Quinn, Florida defensive coordinator: Guy is doing work with the Gators and in his early 40s, this could be a home run. Remember the longtime former Gators defensive coordinator that was skipped for a few jobs? Yeah, Charlie Strong turned out OK for Louisville, huh?
Because it must be mentioned:
Joker Phillips in 2-plus years at UK — 12-23 overall, 4-19 in the SEC, 0-1 in bowl games;
Derek Dooley in 2-plus years at UT — 15-19 overall, 4-17 in the SEC, 0-1 in bow games;
The coaches are 1-1 against each other.
This and that
— Mizdirection won the Breeders Cup. And yes, horse racing is a rare entry into the 5-at-10. That said, Mizdirection is co-owned by Jim Rome, the national sports talk radio host and former ESPN talking head. Here's saying Jim Everett did not bet on Mizdirection. Here's the clip of Jim Everett going after Rome, who called him "Chris" for much of his NFL career http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxoC8znWrD0&feature=fvwrel.
— Bobby Hebert was ejected from the press box at Tiger Stadium during the Alabama-LSU game for too much cheering. No real comment needed here, other than we expect the volume got Hebert just as much as what he was cheering because dude is tough to understand.
— There are a few big-name baseball free agents out there, including Josh Hamilton. Hey Braves, go get Hamilton and move Jason Heyward to center. That would be awesome.
— There will be a 14-year-old Chinaman playing in the Masters this April. Guan Tianlang, who is in the eighth grade, won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship to punch his ticket to Augusta National http://www.cbssports.com/golf/story/20820174/chinese-eighthgrader-youngest-to-qualify-for-masters and did it with some big-time golfing slacks. What were you doing in the eighth grade? We barely had the chutzpah to ask a girl to hold hands, never mind putting a peg in the ground on the first tee at golf's mecca with millions of eyes on you. How far right is that first tee shot going. "Gambling is illegal at Bushwood, and Guan never slices."
— Big offensive showing for the Mocs on Saturday. We refuse to say, "Wait till next year," simply because that has become such a foul refrain for Johnny Mocs Fans everywhere, but the returning pieces for Huesman and Co. are pretty impressive, no?
It's a free-for-all Monday, so enjoy the platform.
Need some starting points, OK:
If you had your pick between the quarterbacks who have the top four single-game passing totals in SEC history, who are you taking between Eric Zeier (544 yards in 1993), Tyler Bray (530 on Saturday), Rohan Davey (528 in 2001) and Jared Lorenzen (528 in 2000)?
Did Sal Sunseri just make another bad defensive adjustment or did he just order breakfast? We think the former.
After record-setting performances Saturday, and what figure to be huge Novembers for each, what are the odds that Bray, Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter return for their senior seasons? We put them at Bray — 1-in-5 (and that may be low considering the stock of other highly ranked quarterbacks Matt Barkley, Logan Thomas, Geno Smith and Tyler Wilson appears to be slipping); Patterson 1-in-15; Hunter 1-in-20 (dude is the highest-ranked receiver by Kiper and McShay and has a first-round grade; plus after injuring his knee last year, he knows the possible ramifications of coming back)?
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 ...