Remember the Friday mailbag, and if you have a non-coaching search question, we could use one.
From the "Talks too much" studios, it feels so good to be back at the Dexter Lake Club, we're going to do a tune for you now entitled Shamalama Ding Dong, so hit it...
Fab 4 picks
It's a fair time to review some of the basic rules of our picking procedures since we violated one of the main ones and got beat using another. And remember, we only pick games for entertainment purposes only, and considering we're 47-20-2, it's been an entertaining year.
Mississippi State wide receiver Chad Bumphis (1) fights off an attempted tackle by Tennessee defensive back Justin Coleman.
1) When a line looks too good to be true, it usually is. Hello Mississippi State getting points against Ole MIss and losing out right last week.
2) Ride the hot hand. Utah State was 11-0 against the spread going into last weekend and beat Idaho 45-9. Utah State was giving 38, so for the second time this year a meaningless Trey Farquhar field goal in the second half allowed Idaho to cover a 35-plus point line. (Farquhar's field goal on the last play of the game in a 52-13 loss to BYU pushed Idaho within the 40-point spread.)
3) Nothing is due except babies, postage and library books. If you think so-and-so is "due" a good performance, sorry. Just put the phone down, hand your entertainment funds to your significant other and spend the afternoon stress-free.
4) If the line is less than 7, do not take the underdog unless you think they are going to win the game. On bigger lines and over/unders ask yourself how many would it take for you to feel comfortable taking Auburn over Alabama? Would you feel safe with Auburn plus-44? Maybe. And since the line was 34, any time you can find a game that has a 10-point swing between line and comfort, you have to ride it.
There you go. And here we go.
West Virginia minus-20 against Kansas: It's also important to remember that you can best against teams as much as betting on teams. This is doubly true here. A senior day for a Mountaineers team that has underwhelmed for the last month against a 1-10 Kansas team that is ready to put the equipment up.
Hawaii minus-5 against South Alabama: OK, rule one that you know you have a gambling problem is you're betting on NFL preseason games. That said, there is a lot of opportunities to make extra entertainment on picking preseason games. We'll cover that later. As for the Hawaii-South Alabama, that's a comparable idea since this is two really bad football teams — Hawaii is 2-9 with wins over Lamar and UNLV; USA is 2-9 with wins over Nicholls State and Florida Atlanta — and a game that will draw a negative Neilson ratings. But we're not wagering which games will be entertaining; we're wagering entertainment. And the fact that this game is in Hawaii and will kickoff at 11 p.m. Eastern is worth way more than five points between two equally bad football teams.
Oklahoma State minus-4.5 at Baylor: Baylor is playing as well as anyone. But look back at the affects coaching rumors have had on Louisville and Texas Tech and Florida State in recent weeks. Baylor's Art Briles is considered one of the front-runners for the Arkansas job, and we like the cut of the Cowboys' collective jib. Side question: If you met a guy named Art Briles, would you expect him to be A) a football coach; B) a general contractor; C) a barber who could have some cool shop names like Hair Art or Briles' Styles; D) Your State Farm guy, Art Briles, who likes doing the Discount Double Check a little too much.
Louisiana-LaFayette minus-8 at Florida Atlantic: Hunch No.1
Northern Illinois minus-6 against Kent State: Hunch No. 2 (Hey we got to keep moving, right.)
Alabama defensive backs Robert Lester (37), Dee Milliner (28), and Will Lowery (29) celebrate after intercepting an Arkansas pass in a September game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MICHAEL WOODS
SEC title game
There is a ton of talent headed to the Georgia Dome on Saturday. Heck, the teams are going to be pretty good too. Kidding, kidding.
Seriously, we talked earlier this week about how many future NFL first rounders will be on the field: We'd set the number at 12 — Bama's Dee Milliner, Chance Warmack, Cyrus Kouandjio, T.J. Yeldon, D.J. Fluker, Amari Cooper for sure and there could be more among the youngsters; Georgia's Jarvis Jones, John Jenkins, Alec Ogletree, Shawn Williams and Todd Gurley and there could be more among the youngsters.
But the growing buzz about this being Georgia's time and how good and ready the Bulldogs are... We're not buying it.
Georgia thinks they belong in this game; Alabama knows it. Week-in, week-out Alabama takes everyone's best shot and remains standing — well, unless Johnny Football is involved and the stars are lined up and A.J. McCarron throws his only two interceptions of the year.
Alabama now has been favored in 40 consecutive games, laying seven against Georgia. And the 7-point spread is the closest line Alabama has had all year — and joins Alabama minus-7.5 at LSU as the only single-digit spreads this season. (If you think we'd buy the half and put a little entertainment on the Tide, well, you're right.)
We're hoping this will be a classic slugfest, a back-and-forth football classic. We're fearful though that it's going to get twisted early and Alabama gets rolling.
Call it Hunch No. 3. (And yes, it was cemented when Aaron Murray declined media interviews this week, which screams nerves to us and that's never a good feeling to get from your quarterback.)
Coaching search, the next day
OK, unless we missed it there has not been an outlandish report that the UT boosters have offered Jon Gruden an island in Chickamauga Lake and a stake in VW and Pilot and a chance to have an office in that big golden thing they built for the World's Fair.
We have had our first report/counter denial in this silly season.
There were reports from a couple of big-time reporters in Alabama that Auburn interviewed Charlie Strong. Strong emphatically denied those reports. So it goes.
We spent a lot of space here the last couple of days on Gruden and the UT search. Let's spend some time on each of the five big openings out there:
We thought Gruden was 50-50 earlier this week. Truthfully. Now, it's more like 1-in-3 and maybe lower than that. We still believe the Vols are trying everything physically — and even fiscally — possible to land Gruden, but it's hard to know. Here's the names we're hearing most frequently, in order:
Al Golden, Jimbo Fisher, Charlie Strong. (Side note: These opening have made for entertaining sports talk radio around these parts this week. Even causing the 5-at-10 to pull the Ford over last night when a caller on SportTalk told Quake, Cowboy Joe and Dr. B (he's a doctor after all) that he'd heard that Gruden was coming and bringing Raheem Morris as his D.C. and Andy Reid as his O.C. Yes, that scenario would mean the UT Vols would have three former NFL head coaches on staff.)
Every conversation we've heard has included Bobby Petrino. And as we wrote in a text to a former fraternity brother who knows a few folks down there when discussing the potential/likelihood of hiring Bobby P, "As an Auburn grad that makes the 5-at-10 sad; and hopefull. Does that make sense?" It makes perfect sense. As does the inevitable end of wherever Petrino lands.
We think it's Briles' gig to lose and have thought that way for a while, but who can really know what's going on in Arkansas. For crying out loud they have known they were going to run John L. Smith since the La-Monroe loss in September. The Hogs should have landed the biggest fish available by now since they had the most time to put a deal together. Now, at the 11th hour they got played and out-manuevered in the matters of high-finance and corporate negotiations by Les Miles. LES MILES! Getting duped by Les Miles is like getting beat in Trivial Pursuit by Carl from Sling Blade. That can't happen, and it really can't happen at the 11th hour. So AD Jeff Long and Co. are so barren of ideas and a plan that on Tuesday, after a 12-hour work day someone threw out the idea of, "Hey let's make Les Miles say no. What's the worst that can happen?" Who thought this was a good idea? Here's the worst that can happen: Now every other candidate knows they were not your first choice and that happens everywhere, but that information can't get out. Second, you look like bumbling goofs, which is never a good thing, but is especially bad when a sizable chunk of your fan base already wants to rehire the coach you fired for lying to you and breaking state laws. On a real note, we've heard James Franklin's name more than once, too, and we're a believer in what James Franklin can accomplish.
They need to go ahead and hire Sonny Dykes. It would be a good move and the Wolfpack would get arguably the hottest name on the market, despite being no better than the fourth job open.
Here's where we think James Franklin could be a major league player. Dude has won with Vandy's academic requirements, he can do work at Cal. If we're the Bears, we ask him what it takes and we make it happen.
This and that
— Longtime friend of the show Choptalker sent along this gem http://www.nola.com/saints/index.ssf/2012/11/atlanta_airport_workers_report.html Yes, apparently the Saints' team charter was egged when it arrived in the A-T-L for tonight's hotly contested tackle football game between New Orleans and Atlanta. We normally avoid pro picks, but we like the Saints and the 3.5 tonight. Call it hunch No. 3.
— The Braves ponied up $75 million for five years of B.J. Upton, who will replace Michael Bourn in centerfield. The presence of Upton's right-handed bat in the Braves lineup will offer some welcomed and needed balance. Upton hit.248 with 28 homers and 31 steals last year. He does not figure to fill Bourn's role atop the batting order, so there likely still could be another minor addition or two — maybe a speedy left-fielder to bat leadoff; maybe a journeyman third baseman and leave Martin Prado in left anf give Andrelton Simmons a shot at batting first. Either way, it's kind of nice to see the Braves write a check again. Yay.
— The baseball Hall of Fame ballots arrived to voters this week, and you could hear the controversy before the envelopes were opened. In recent years, guys with Hall of Fame numbers like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro and possibly even Jeff Bagwell have been hedl out for being caught using steroids or being rumored to have. Well, here come the heavy hitters of the steroid-era as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and even Mike Piazza are on the ballot for the first time.
— Nice win for Duke against a tough Ohio State last night. The power players have power this year. That's pretty profound right there. Duke is 3-0 against Top 5 teams; the rest of the free world is 0-30.
It's a free-for-all all week, so discuss.
We have two questions for you running with the theme of the week.
First, in the coach-search realm, what's your worst nightmare of a hire for UT or Auburn? And state which team you're a fan of, becuase we think it would be interesting to see what Alabama and Georgia fans hope doesn't happen at those locations. (Side note: "Hire Saban" is not going to happen — in either direction — so move along and find another answer.)
Earlier this week, in honor of the death of J.R. Ewing, we asked for the most identified character-actors in TV history. What about in movie history? Who are the guys and gals that had the most iconic/identifiable roles that when you see them, you say, "Wow, that's Luke Skywalker."
And remember, guys like Pacino, who was Michael Corleone and Scarface, and Harrison Ford, who has Indiana Jones and Han Solo, have more than one so it's not the direct Mark Hamill = Luke Skywalker.
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 ...