Great job Monday gang. You came out of the holiday with an attitude and it was spot-on. Remember the Friday mailbag — we have a couple of spots open, and we have a couple of home-run letters already, including a possible inquiry that may require the 5-at-10 to wear a bra on our head.
From the "Talks too much studios," let's get this party started quickly, right...
SEC coaching flux
OK, since the first of Sunday of November, none of the four SEC openings are really surprising. Let's examine each and we'll share what we've seen and more importantly some of what we've heard.
(But before we get there, here's a word of caution for those with a program that is searching: Do not be concerned about what appears to be a slow process. It's paramount not to rush into a bad decision because of one recruiting cycle, even one that could be as special as the class Auburn has assembled. Making a rush hire for one cycle is not unlike marrying someone because they have a cool car — sure you can do it and it could work, but it's flawed in it's reasoning.)
OK, who noticed that Jon Gruden said Auburn multiple times last night? What, that's because Cam Newton played there? Oh well. The Vols have put all their initial eggs in the Gruden basket, and that basket has caught the attention of the state's top players as prep ace Stephen Hargis tells us here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/nov/27/grudens-name-only-one-creating-unified-buzz-for-ut/. The basket that is Gruden has returned interest but the biggest hurdle that we have heard about is the coin Gruden wants for his staff. As UT beat ace Downtown Patrick Brown shares here, http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/nov/27/fisher-stoops-deny-ut-interest-tennessee-vols/, the secondary names of Stoops, Fisher, Strong, Golden, et al., have pretty much all offered the classic non-denial, denial and that they all are as happy as a bug in a rug at their current locale. (Side note: The Auburn and UT openings are going to create a lot of raises for pretty good and better football coaches.) We believe Gruden is in play, but at best it's a 1-in-3 chance.
The search committee charged with finding the next coach to chase the windmills of challenging Nick Saban is comprised of Mac Crawford (former Auburn letterman who was the CEO that turned around CVS), Pat Sullivan (former Heisman winner and current coach at Samford) and Bo Jackson (all-around stud, who's pretty much the William Wallace of our generation). There appears to be an early push for Charlie Strong from what we've heard, and there will always be whispers about Jimbo Fisher, the current FSU coach who was the offensive coordinator at Auburn for a spell. Of course, our man Charles Barkley came out Monday and said he wants Bobby Petrino. We know Barkley's heart is all-Auburn and his head is way more savvy than most everyone gives him credit for, but that decision would be as turrrible as Barkley's golf swing. Side note: Trooper Taylor has been reporting to work this week and will be for the foreseeable future. If he can hold a big chunk of this Tigers' star-laden class together (Auburn has commitments from three of the top 15 players in the country) you'd have to believe he'd be a fixture on the next staff, too.
Reports have Butch Jones, Mark Stoops and a couple other names have reportedly told UK thanks but no thanks. If we were the Wildcats, we'd call Gus Malzahn or Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Klingsbury. In five years, when those guys are the hottest names around, UK fans can thank us.
It feels like the Hogs are close to naming their guy — and Art Briles would be a good hire if that's who they are looking to — but there is still a sizable part of that fan base that wants Bobby Petrino back. If that happens, it means AD Jeff Long had NOTHING to do with the hire.
NFL Power Poll
When you move past Thanksgiving, you start to look at five-to-eight teams that have a legit chance to win a Super Bowl. Injuries are part of it. So is circumstance. And the good fortune of scheduling and division. Heck, the Atlanta Falcons are a win Thursday away from having locked up a playoff spot before December.
As we start to turn an eye toward potential playoff success, there are a couple of teams on this list that need home-field advantage more than others (we're talking to you Atlanta) and there are couple that benefit more by a legit home-field edge (Patriots, Chicago and Denver come to mind). Let's get to the poll, with an added bonus of the odds of each team winning the Super Bowl, according to betvega.com:
1) Atlanta (9-to-1): Close wins in the NFL are exactly that — wins. The late addition of Jacquizz Rodgers to this offense has been a nice piece. (Side note: Who's the No. 1 overall pick in the name draft between Jacquizz, Barkevious and Jadeveon? We love the draft; you know this.)
2) Houston (5-to-1): Houston won back-to-back overtime games in a span of roughly 90 hours and now gets an extra three days to rest before coming to Nashville this week. That said, the injuries are starting to mount in the linebacking corps with Brooks Reed suffering a serious groin injury. (That sounds painful.)
3) San Francisco (13-to-2): If Colin Kaepernick continues to deliver these highlight reel moments — and it will be tougher now that the league has tape on him and can scout him — the 49ers are the most complete team in the league. That said, it's tough to put all your football eggs in a basket of guy that is named Colin and looks like Humpty-Hump from Digital Underground.
4) Denver (11-to-2): Want to know how back Peyton Manning is? He's starting to pop back up in every third commercial on Sunday afternoons. "Tune XM 60, Outlaw." And how great of a PR trade was swapping the image nightmare that was Tiger Woods for the feel-good story of the year in Peyton Manning?. Well-played Buick, well-played indeed.
5) New England (11-to-2): Hey, is that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? We thought those guys had hung it up. Well, just about the time we thought they were done, the Patriots lead the (cue Ron Jaworski) THE National Football League in scoring margin at an eye-popping plus-163, and there is no team headed to the dance that has more playoff experience than Brady and Belichick.
SEC title game talent
Alabama and Georgia play a game of tackle football this weekend. You may have heard a bit about it.
The SEC title is at stake and, what we all believe to be the birthrite of an SEC champ, a spot in the BCS title game.
There were two storylines we wanted to discuss today about this little get-together among chums.
First, we loved the fact that Florida coach Will Muschamp called out Alabama coach Nick Saban on Monday for all the pregame bellyaching Saban has been doing about, “the loser of this game is in a tough position.” Blah-blah-blah. And Muschamp, who has led the Gators to an 11-1 mark and a No. 4 ranking in the BCS poll but is on the outside looking in at the BCS title picture despite having the same record against a tougher schedule than either Alabama or Georgia, called him on it. Muschamp simply debunked Saban’s “Woe be the loser who will fall to at-best the Capital One Bowl” schtick with a simple — “We’ll trade spots with you.”
Second, we love the draft. You know this. The SEC title game will have as many as a dozen first-rounders on the field Saturday. Granted that dozen is likely over the next few years. Think about that for a second. How many NFL teams have a dozen first rounders on their roster? The 49ers do. Maybe a few others.
And while we don’t think Alabama nor Georgia could stay within four TDs of the worst NFL team, we will say this: Let us combine these two teams, and in four years it would be a playoff contender in the NFL. Seriously.
You have a potential NFL star in AJ McCarron at QB. You have two future NFL stud ducks in running backs Todd Gurley and T.J Yeldon. A slew of wide receivers led by Amari Cooper. Alabama already has a borderline NFL-ready offensive line and Georgia’s John Theus is a beast. Add Georgia’s four first-round defenders to the Alabama core and sweet buckets of nasty.
Enjoy the show.
This and that
— Titans fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer. Wow, shocker. So you're telling us that a guy that was stolen from the Hartford Colonials of the UFL couldn't cut it in the (cue Ron Jaworski) THE National Football League. That's crazy talk. Next you're going to try to tell me that rejected officials from the Lingerie Bowl would embarrass themselves on Monday Night Football. Oh, wait.
— Steve Nash is being called Gatsby by Kobe and the Lakers. That's an excellent nickname. What's your favorite subtle sports nicknames and is it us or has basketball passed baseball as the sports with the best nicknames?
— We are truly excited about tonight's ACC-Big Ten hoops challenge, and we are truly relieved that they do not have one of these in football. That'd be cruel and unusual punishment for us in the sports media BID-ness.
Yesterday we talked about Larry Hagman (R.I.P.) and his iconic role as J.R. Ewing. Well before becoming the oil man that everyone loved to hate (well, we loved to love J.R.; how many guys do you know who could pull off having bourbon and branch during a breakfast meeting for crying out loud), Hagman was also Tony Nelson of "I Dream of Jeannie."
So we need to find our starting five of the newly formed Gary Carter All-Stars. Gary Carter had his number retired by the Expos and the Mets, and not many folks get to be fondly remember as a big contributor to two clubs.
So, and we're not saying Hagman is a starter as a TV guy that had two iconic roles, we're just saying he's in the discussion.
We'll start with Ron Howard (Opie and Richie) and take Doogie Howser as Doogie Howser and that guy from "How I Met Your Mother." Maybe Carroll O'Connor gets there. Or even Sherman Hemsley.
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 ...