Hey, it's a holiday week, so that means Thursday's 5-at-10 will be a top five list of . (Yes, we're still looking for ideas and you folks are smart — well most of you folks, sorry Spy — so whatcha' got?) Plus, any mailbag entries need to get in here because it's starting to fill up.
From the "Talks too much" studios, bring it.
UT still chasing Gruden
The stalk-fest that is the want of Johnny Vols Fans eveywhere to have Jon Gruden as their next football coach is approaching an unhealthy level. We had a slew of rightly thinking, grounded and educated folks fly off their hinges with every Twitter nugget or interweb morsel of intel.
Hey, we believe Gruden is way, Way, WAY more in play than we did three weeks ago. And that's a good thing for the University on several levels: It means he has interest; it means AD Dave Hart is going to make him say no (and likely say it multiple times); and it means that the UT powers that be understand the importance and the urgency of this hire.
That said, there still appears to be way too many folks — and this includes the Arkansas fans who believe that because Gruden wore a red tie last night that he's on his way to Fayetteville — that have all their eggs in the Gruden basket. (And remember what Twain said, "If you put all your eggs in one basket, you better watch your basket." Some times you win, some times you lose, some times it rains. Think about that. Rayanne, that's a beautiful name.)
There are folks who are claiming they know it's a done deal. OK. (And that's both at Arkansas and UT, for what it's worth.)
There are folks who are saying there's no way it's happening.
Either way, we'd love to be in the interview room as Dave Hart tried to convince Jon Gruden to come to the 865:
Pretend Dave Hart: Coach, thanks for taking the time. The University of Tennessee is a great place, a proud place, and we have a tradition...
Pretend Jon Gruden: Quiet down there bub. I know all about this joint. My wife was a cheerleader here. She was big-time — Andrew Luck big-time obviously — and we have a working knowledge of the University of Tennessee and the obvious possibilities are very exciting, I think. Obviously.
Pretend Dave Hart: Obviously.
Pretend Jon Gruden: Obviously.
Pretend Dave Hart: Obviously?
Pretend Jon Gruden: OBVIOUSLY!
Pretend Dave Hart: OK, let's talk turkey. We have an opening. We want you.
Pretend Jon Gruden: You need me. Obviously.
Pretend Dave Hart: Obviously. Yes, we need you. We need Tennessee football to be successful and we're willing to do what it takes. What are you thinking it will take?
Pretend Jon Gruden: Obviously a coach’s success rate is largely dependent upon those around him, not just on the field, but everyone's got to embrace a new system. And for a great system to work, I believe that you have to work with great coaches systematically. And I believe that's pretty obvious, obviously.
Pretend Dave Hart: Obviously. How much? How much is it going to take
Pretend Jon Gruden: As much as you got, and as much as you're ever going to have.
Pretend Dave Hart: Obviously. Will you do it for $6 million a year and what kind of coin are we talking about for assistants.
Pretend Jon Gruden: But to answer your question, A, it’s a great question; and B, it probably is a combination of both. Guys don’t belong in certain systems. They don’t fit in certain programs as well as they would others. I believe there are great things ahead and obviously there'd be great rewards.
Pretend Dave Hart: Obviously.
Pretend Jon Gruden: Obviously.
NFL Power Poll
There is no sport that fortuitous plays more of a critical role than the (cue Ron Jaworski) THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
There are going to be injuries. It's a fact like there are going to be tough road games, there are going to be bad calls, there are going to be head-scratching turnovers and there are going to be at least three moments that you think, "How in the name of the sweet goddess of Reese's Cups and Chocolate Chip cookies does Rex Ryan make a seven-figure salary?"
So NFL teams have to balance and/or gameplan injuries. You have to either have system that minimizes the quarterback's role or a system that does everything it can to protect the quarterback. On Monday night, the San Francisco 49ers were well-served by the former. Colin Kaepernick was excellent in what can only be described as the best and most creative run-based play-calling we've seen in a long time.
In fact, as important as injuries are, the presence of Jim Harbaugh was worth 21 points for the 49ers last night in a slugfest 32-7 win over Chicago. Harbaugh is the best football coach breathing, followed by Belichick, Saban and Derek Dooley. (Sorry, just wanted to make sure you were paying attention; seriously if you had a Rushmore right now of the best football coaches who's the fourth face? Tom Coughlin? Mike Tomlin? Chip Kelly? Discuss)
And knowing that — and the fact that Colin Kaepernick looked the part of future star — elevates the 49ers this week. To the power poll:
1) Atlanta: It has been a "Just Win" league and it continues to be a "Just Win" league, but haphazard performances like Sunday's narrow home victory over the Cardinals lead to early playoff exits. And of all the teams on this list, the Falcons are haunted by early playoff exits.
2) Houston: The defense imploded, but how many other teams have the ability to win a 6-3 run-fest and a 43-37 overtime shootout as comfortably as these Texans?
3) San Francisco: Alex Smith better get well soon or Kaepernick's going to make him Wally Pipp. The best defense in football — Chicago's lone touchdown drive was enabled by a brutal call from an official — and it's not that close. In fact, this may be the best defense the league has seen in several years considering that Aldon Smith has become Charles Haley 2.0.
4) Denver: The injury to Willis McGahee could be painful. That said, this may be the chance Knowshon Moreno needs to get jump started. Either way, as long as Peyton Manning is running the ship, the Broncos are fine.
5) Green Bay: How great is Aaron Rodgers? The list of injuries around him is staggering, and the Packers continue to make strides and win games.
More conference movement
Just let us know when all the conference shuffling is done, OK.
Maryland has voted to leave the ACC for the Big Ten. Apparently, Maryland really wants to be a part of the Leaders Division. Or maybe it's the Legends Division. Either way, that excellently awfully nonsensical B1G logo will look excellently awful on the already nonsensical Maryland football uniforms.
And speaking of football, seeing as how Maryland is being thumped up and down the field, the Terrapins will fit right in with the plod and prod style of the B1G. Yay.
Rutgers is reported to be joining Maryland in the move to the B1G, and the attractions for the Scarlett Knights are clear, and most of them center on not being in the Big Least anymore.
The attractions for the B1G and its conference power players are also clear: 14 teams; two major market additions in New Jersey and Baltimore; neither team will challenge for a football title. It's a win-win for everyone not in the ACC.
And to make matters worse for the ACC, there are some rumblings that Maryland is going to fight the $50 million buyout to leave the conference and the Terps believe they have a case.
If they can break out of the ACC and only have to pay a fraction of that $50 million, then the next wave of conference feasting will be here. In fact, the ACC will be in serious trouble and several schools like FSU, Miami, Virginia Tech and even Clemson will be in play for other leagues.
And there's a real chance that there could be a basketball super conference formed by some of the left overs from the Big East.
Just when we thought the expansion merry-go-round had settled, someone put in another 50 cents. Thanks Maryland, that's a Legendary move. Or is it a Leader move?
This and that
— Not only are Arkansas and Tennessee fight for Gruden, there will be a slew of folks lining up for the top names in this coaching silly season. Cal and BC likely will be looking for new coaches. We know Kentucky is as is UTEP. We don't what the future holds for Auburn — but we're expecting a Biblical whipping this weekend in Tuscaloosa so anything is possible. And the same handful of names are starting to appear and re-appear. Strong, Malzahn, Golden, Taggart. One thing we know for sure — there will be a slew of raises passed out this December.
— Wow, here's some more on Auburn. The 3-8 Tigers, who are winless in the SEC and have a date with pain Saturday, are led by Gene Chizik, who is the eighth-highest paid coach in the nation at a little more than $3.5 million. The Auburn staff ranks third in pay with almost $7.7 in salary, behind Texas and Alabama.
— OK, we actually paid a little attention to college hoops last night. Was that the same UTC bunch that played Kansas tough at Kansas that struggled against Troy? Is what it is, we supposed, and it's early, and they're young, and some times the ball bounces funny, and, did we leave out any coach-speak? To be fair, this is a young UTC bunch and this is November. Still, of all the teams we know and all the situations we know of, this UTC team needs to play better at home if they expect anyone to be paying attention come late January. And that's just a plain truth.
— Our UTC football ace John Frierson wrapped up the Mocs football season nicely here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/nov/20/mocs-not-satisfied-with-6-5-seasons/. And we stand by what we said Monday — it's playoffs or bust for UTC in 2013 considering the pieces it returns. Period and end of discussion.
There is a documentary set to air Wednesday on the Investigation Discovery network that makes a case that O.J. Simpson didn't kill his ex-wife or Ron Goldman.
Granted, the Investigation Discovery network is hardly 60 Minutes, but the claims by Clay Rogers say that his brother Glen — a convicted murderer who has been sentenced to death in both Florida and California. (OK, we'll bite, if Glen Rogers is sentenced to death in two states, does he get the gas in one state and to ride the lightning bolt in the other? What's the order on that? Who gets dibs, and it seems that the state that gets to kill him first would have to let the other state get first choice on their method, right? Could this be a two-team death penalty draft? We love the draft, but you know this.)
Anyhoo, where were we? Oh yeah, O.J. Think about if O.J. actually didn't do it. Wow. Granted Fred Goldman — Ron's dad — has released a statement saying that he believes the evidence still overwhelmingly shows O.J. did the killing. Still, if he didn't — and he was acquitted after all — the whole world would owe dude a big, fat, "Uhhh, about that... yeah, our bad."
Are we ready for that? If O.J. actually did not kill those folks, would that not be the worst case of misplaced blame ever? Is there even a close second?
What would be the most widely accepted belief that turned out to be bogus in sports history? Lance was clean? Ryan Leaf?
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 ...