We have a lot to cover, let's get cracking.
Alabama-Notre Dame for it all
We have one college football game left this season. It's a big one, you may even have heard of the two programs involved. We know this for sure before the ball is teed up — our SEC ace David Paschall has done work in South Beach getting the TFP readers ready for tonight's Alabama-Notre Dame title game. Kudos good sir.
We also know this, the Bowling for Bowl Success extra-ganza has been another smash hit. Thanks for everyone who played and despite a crowded leader board the breakdown is pretty simple — If Alabama wins Onetimer wins and Harold wins the bottom; if Notre Dame wins the Mrs. 5-at-10 wins and Believer wins the bottom. Thanks to all who played. Here are the scores:
Onetimer (1/0/-3/32/15) 45 — Alabama
Tiger (3/4/3/16/15) 41 — Alabama
Roadrunner (1/4/3/16/15) 39 — Alabama
SportTalk's Quake (3/0/3/16/15) 37 — Alabama
Deboman (1/8/-3/16/15) 37 — Alabama
*Mrs. 5-at-10 (5/0/9/8/15) 37 — Notre Dame
ThatIDoKnow (3/0/3/16/15) 37 — Alabama
TennFlyer (-3/4/3/16/15) 35 — Notre Dame
McPell (1/-4/-3/24/15) 33 — Alabama
5-at-10 (3/0/-3/16/15) 31 — Alabama
JVFan (-1/-2/3/16/15) 29 — Alabama
DL560429 (-3/-4/-3/24/15) 29 — Alabama
Sir Drinks Alot (1/0/-3/16/15) 29 — Alabama
Jordan Rules (-1/0/-3/16/15) 27 — Alabama
Joe S. (3/0/3/8/15) 25 — Alabama
*Dawg747 (-1/0/3/8/15) 25 — Alabama
WarEagle (-1/0/3/8/15) 25 — Alabama
OTWatcher (1/4/-3/16/5) 23 — Alabama
StuckinKent (3/0/-3/8/15) 23 — Alabama
Weena (-1/0/3/16/15) 23 — Alabama
Skunk (-1/0/3/16/5) 23 — Alabama
Hookshot (-1/0/3/16/5) 23 — Alabama
FE to the C (-1/-2/3/16/5) 21 — Alabama
Jay K (1/0/-3/8/15) 21 — Alabama
June Jones (-1/0/-9/16/15) 21 — Alabama
BlueOval (-3/-4/3/8/15) 19 — Alabama
Sportsfan (1/4/-3/0/15) 17 — Alabama
Addicted to Chalupa (1/4/-3/0/15) 17 — Alabama
StrongWilly (1/-4/-3/16/5) 15 — Alabama
Player (3/-4/3/8/5) 15 — Alabama
Orangeguy (3/4/-9/0/15) 13 — Alabama
TommyT (3/0/-3/8/5) 13 — Alabama
Green Acres (1/0/-3/8/15) 13 — Alabama
Hustler (1/0/-3/8/5) 11 — Alabama
RollTide (1/0/-3/8/5) 11 — Alabama
Junkman (1/0/-3/8/5) 9 — Alabama
Spy (1/-4/-3/0/15) 9 — Notre Dame
Jim T. (-1/0/3/0/5) 7 — Alabama
Dools (-1/0/-3/8/5) 7 — Alabama
Bluto (-1/0/3/8/-5) 5 — Alabama
Harold (-1/0/3/0/-5) -3 — Notre Dame
Believer (-3/0/-9/0/5) -7 — Alabama
As for the stuff we think we know about tonight's title game, well, let's start from the beginning:
— Notre Dame must realize success early, especially on offense. Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson needs to get his feet beneath him. Sure, both of these programs spend all year in the spotlight, but Alabama has felt the heat of the BCS spotlight in the last 12 months and Notre Dame has not. We're not saying Notre Dame needs to be up 14-0 after two possessions. We're not saying Notre Dame can't survive 3-and-out, 3-and-out and feel good about its chances. We're saying that Notre Dame — and Golson particularly — needs to find some early success against an Alabama team than can get rolling quickly. No first-quarter turnovers would be a a big first step.
— One big advantage for Notre Dame is that its biggest strength — a stout front seven defensively — will be asked to carry the water.
— We think AJ McCarron jump starts his Heisman campaign with a couple of big-time throws off play-action.
— We think Alabama's defense is going to be pretty nasty. Given more than a month to prepare in the last three bowl games, Nick Saban and Kirby Smart have crafted defensive plans that have been downright scary and borderline criminal.
— Alabama wins 17-10 and will start the season as preseason No. 1 next year too, considering what the Tide have coming back on offense.
OK, with some help of some untimely QB injuries, the 5-at-10 went 6-1 (3-1 on the games and 2-0 on two over/unders, although the under dominated the weekend).
Here's what we take away from the weekend:
— You can't win in the playoffs without a quarterback you trust. He may nor may not be an upper-echelon quarterback — we don't believe Joe Flacco is per se and we don't think Russell Wilson is there yet, either — but look around and see who's left standing. And among the top eight QBs in the league, the only ones not at practice today are Drew Brees (who had his season derailed by BountyGate) and Eli Manning (who won it all last year and watched as the limping Giants limped through December).
— After watching a fast, physical and fearless Seattle team rally from a 14-0 hole, the Atlanta Falcons have a tall order in front of them. In fact we were speaking with friend of the show Quake last week and said Seattle is the worst match-up for you Falcons because of the size and talent of the Seahawks corners and their ability to counter Atlanta's overriding strength of the NFL's best receiving tandem.
— As good as the Seahawks looked after the first quarter, it's still unknown if they win if RGIII doesn't re-injure his knee. And the questions circling about how injured was the knee and how much coach Mike Shanahan knew or didn't know are not pretty. (And if they were not worried about RGIII's bad wheel, then why was Dr. James Andrews — yes, that Dr. James Andrews — on the sideline?)
— Nice touch by the Ravens coaching staff to send Ray Lewis to dot the victory formation in Baltimore's win over Indy. The ups and downs, the good and the bad of Lewis' career aside, dude appears to be on the Rushmore of team leaders in our lifetime.
— If you're not stoked about the divisional round that features Houston-New England (-9.5) and Baltimore-Denver (-9.5) in the AFC and Green Bay-San Francisco (-3) and Seattle-Atlanta (-2.5) in the NFC then we're sorry. As for early picks, we love the favorites in the AFC and would lay up to 14 in each case, so getting them in single digits is a bonus — trust us those will not last long — and we like the under dogs in the NFC. (Sorry Falcons fans.)
— The favorites won and covered this weekend, adding another tough week to the Vegas books that have been getting beat up all season on the NFL.
SEC comings and goings
The SEC is turning over again — well other than Alabama starting the year at the top of course — because of the huge number of underclassmen turning pro.
In fact, the early season rankings for 2013 will be determined in large part by who comes back around the league (and we'll have our annual, way too early top 25 in Tuesday's TFP — got any suggestions?).
Here are the things that stand out:
• LSU has lost a ton of talent, especially on defense. The Tigers have lost nine juniors — including a punter — to the draft if you count the Honey Badger.
• Georgia's defense is going to be brand new but the Bulldogs' offense could be flat scary since quarterback Aaron Murray is returning for his senior season.
• Tyler Bray has hired an agent, so he's gone. And here's saying that all things considered, that's probably for the best.
• Florida has lost two stud defenders — safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd — to the draft and back-up quarterback Jacoby Brissett is transferring. Boom indeed.
• The biggest names still left to decide are offensive tackles: Alabama's D.J. Fluker and Texas A&M's bookends of Jake Matthews and Luke Stoeckel.
This and that
— Our college picks against the spread finished 51-21-2 in the regular season and after hitting Ole Miss minus-4, Texas A&M minus-3 and the under 72 in the Cotton Bowl, and pushing Arkansas State minus-4, we're missing 35-15-1 in the bowl season. After much head-scratching, we're taking Notre Dame and the 9.5 points and the under 41 tonight in a game we believe Alabama wins by one score.
— After multiple wind delays and restarts, the PGA Tour will try again to open 2013 with a Monday 36-hole shootout today. The wind was so strong this weekend it was blowing mark balls off the green and knocking balls off tees. The gusts were knocking players' hats off and some went without headgear — and watching Matt Kuchar without a lid was almost as strange as seeing the wind blow putts off line. So the reboot today means a 30-player field will play 36 holes for a $5.7 winner's check. Wow, that's some serious cabbage for a day at the course.
— The NHL apparently has worked out a deal to have a season. Spy, you must be stoked. The rest of you now have our permission to go right on ignoring the NHL as you normally would.
— Oregon coach Chip Kelly turned down the NFL overtures once again to stay with the Ducks, who will be preseason top-three to start next season. Sounds like Phil Knight and Nike delivered some extra zeroes, and that makes sense. But Kelly is about to get to the point where the NFL is going to to quit asking.
— Mr. Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies blasted Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl last weekend. From there, Johnny Football has been on a speed-blink tour that has filled social media with photos of him with co-eds, sitting courtside at an NBA game and even fanning a wad of cash at a casino.
It's a free-for-all Monday, so knock yourself silly.
If you want to list your Rushmore of the best team leaders in pro sports — a list on which we think Ray Lewis belongs — do it.
If you want to discuss the comings and goings from the national high school football all-star games this weekend, including the stellar play of Ridgeland's Vonn Bell, we're game.
But here's the question of the day, and since there is next-to-no drama left in the Bowling for Bowl Success extra-ganza we'll give the winner a Best of Preps basketball tournament T-shirt: What's your boldest and best prediction for tonight's BCS title game? MVP, winner, score, any of that and whomever has the best pick will get some free stuff.
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 ...