published Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

5-at-10: Special teams, special guests and special pressure

We're here. You know what day it is. Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike.

We're also speeding into a full-blown glorious college football weekend. Giddy-up.

Gang, remember the mailbag — want to see some different topics broached, hit us with a question.

From the "Talks too much" studios, as special guest 38 Special told us, you gotta hold on loosely, but don't let go. 

Nick Saban's special pressure

  • photo
    Alabama's head coach Nick Saban walks the sideline.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

According to emails obtained by the AP, University of Texas representatives who spoke with Nick Saban's agent, Jimmy Sexton, esquire, detailed the conversations.

The emails alleged that Sexton said Texas was the only job Saban would consider leaving Alabama for, and that Saban's supreme success caused the 62-year-old, four-time national champion to feel "special pressure."

Uh, "special pressure." That's not like Navin R. Johnson's special purpose in "The Jerk" is it? No, we didn't think so.

What we do know is that Saban meets with the media today — on the SEC teleconference first and then in T-Town — and with the annual slugfest with LSU on the horizon this weekend, we feel 100 percent certain Saban is going to embrace questions about Texas and his "special pressure" like a python embraces a mouse.

We feel rather certain that the congenial and patient Saban will show up at today's press conference more than willing to discuss the Texas circus yet again. (Did the sarcasm come through there? Good.) In fact, if Vegas posted any odds on a Saban blow up today, we'd risk a year's entertainment on it.

And in some ways, his reaction will be understandable, considering this is about nothing he said or did, and it comes three days before the regular season's annual talent tilt against LSU. If you buy into conspiracies, the last time Saban had to address this was before the Texas A&M game. Hmmmmmm.

Since we doubt NIck will discuss this, let's go to erstwhile 5-at-10 trusted friend and enthusiast, Pretend Les Miles, and ask him about pressure. Les, whattta you know (real quotes from Les from thequotablelesmiles.com):

• "If that would have happened, the pressure would have been squarely on our opponent for the first time in the evening."

Huh? Can you explain? Is it a destiny-thing?

• "We do not rely on faith or destiny. Those things are made. They are not looked to or hoped for."

So what are you saying? Would you like to start again?

• "The start may not have been as significant as more as maintained a consistent edge and a competitive edge."

Uh, OK. Anything else Les? Do you think there is a special pressure coaching in the SEC that could cause coaches to look around?

• "That may be the reason. It may not be the reason."

God bless Les Miles.

————

Thursday night must-see TV

OK, NBC crafted a two-decade TV destination, starting with Cosby and Family Ties and Cheers back in the mid-1980s that became Must-See TV that lifted the peacock network to the top of the mountain for years.

Good times.

This week, college football trots out a must-see TV package that not only commands our attention, it will make the BCS picture either more diabolical or more clear. Are we clear? Yes. ARE WE CLEAR? Crystal.

Oregon faces Stanford in a rematch of last year's game that kept the Ducks from the BCS title game. Oregon speedster De'Anthony Thomas expects the Ducks to score 40 on Stanford. ESPN bucket head Brian Griese thinks Stanford can slow the Ducks. (Uh, how, exactly? Tell them the game is Friday?)

Not to be outdone, Fox Sports 1 has Baylor-Oklahoma in a scoring fest that could last well into Friday morning.

And of course we all know about the Alabama-LSU tussle Saturday night. Here's the road map as we see it in BSC terms:

Oregon's final three games after Thursday — at home vs. Utah; at Arizona; at home vs. Oregon State. The Ducks will be at least 21-point favorites in each of those games.

Alabama's final three games after Saturday — at Mississippi State, at home vs. UTC, at Auburn. The Tide will be at least 15-point favorites in each of those games, depending on what AU is come the Iron Bowl.

Baylor's November stretch is more demanding, considering the Bears still have Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas after Oklahoma's visit. 

And as hard as Baylor's march is, that's how simple THE Ohio State's and Florida State's trek is. 

So here's the deal, and we say this with all knowledge that the process of elimination that is the final month of the college football regular season seems to cull the herd more times than not:

If Oregon gets through Thursday night, the Ducks will have all-but reserved a spot in the BCS title game.

If Alabama gets through, the Tide have the minor irritation that is the Iron Bowl left. (And an SEC date with a wide-eyed Missouri, an undermanned South Carolina or an injury-riddled Georgia does not scare Alabama in the least. Not when there's all that special pressure down there.)

So FSU fans need either Stanford or LSU to deliver, and THE Ohio State fans likely need both Oregon and Alabama to lose to have a shot.  And since this is the best weekend for those things to happen, it becomes Must-Believe TV, too.

————

Numbers that count

One of the things we need to do more here at the 5-at-10 is just present some eye-popping stats that, well, make our eyes pop. (Side question: 'Pop' is a dangerous word when you make your living with words. Add an extra 'O' in there and it can get messy. Which reminds us of our first gig in Newnan, Ga. We had not been on the job long and wrote about a high school basketball practice between "the shirts and the skins" but we left the 'R' out. Take out the 'R' and re-read the sentence. Yep, that was a bad day for sure. Where were we?)

These numbers serve a couple of purposes — a) they are good talking points and b) you can dazzle your friends with them, unless they read the 5-at-10, too, then you'll need to source the info. You know who you are.

15-0 — We know Spy sees that and thinks back to the glory days of Georgia Southern football. No, this 15-0 is Nick Foles TD-to-interception ratio. Yes, that Nick Foles, the Eagles QB who has earned himself a sizable raise with a near flawless month in Chip Kelly's offense.

718 — That's an average night for the Baylor offense in terms of yards. The Bears average a national-best 417 passing and 301 rushing. Buckle up Sooners. 

14.6 — Number of rebounds Dwight Howard is averaging with Houston. OK, multiple choice: Dwight Howard was a disaster in L.A., but with the Rockets, Howard looks:

a) Healthy

b) Interested

c) Motivated

d) All of the above

As with most questions, when there is an "all of the above" you almost always have to choose it. That said, the two fan bases out there that can support the new and renewed Howard are the Rockets — the team that he is transforming into a title contender — and the Celtics — the team that takes the most pleasure in the steamer he left floating in the L.A. bowl.

50 percent — That's Stephen Curry's 3-point percent on 36 3s through four games. Another former SoCon sharpshooter, Kevin Martin, is hitting 60 percent of his 3s. Did the NBA start requiring teams to run 'Fire' at least three times a quarter?

————

This and that

— Let's break from this regularly scheduled football Wednesday and tip the headband to our man, the one, the only LeBron James, who with a putback dunk early in Tuesday night's win over Toronto reached double figures in scoring for the 500th consecutive games. James' streak is the longest among active players in the NBA and he joins MJ (866 games), Jabbar (787 and 508 — yes he had two streak of more than 500 games), Karl Malone (575) and Moses Malone (526) as the only players to reach 500 consecutive games with 10 or more points.

— We're going to need a ruling on this considering it's Wednesday, but here goes. We like Ball State minus-20.5 tonight. As Lloyd says, "We like it a lot." Should that count as one of Thursday's Fab 4-plus-1 picks, and know this, the entertainment has been risked either way. We're bearing down this week on the Fab 4, considering last week's up-and-down 2-3 mark puts us at a respectable 29-20-1, which is a touch under 60 percent and well behind last year's 70-percent clip. Quack, quack, quack. We feel a 5-0 coming.

— In the great circle of NCAA irony, how's this one: From high atop the newest and most expensive college sports complex anywhere, Oregon officials suspended basketball sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter for selling shoes the program provided them, a fundamental and basic NCAA violation, Still, that the Oregon officials, in the palace Nike built by selling shoes, had to discipline players for selling Nikes seems ironically poetic and poetically ironic. Call Bill. Bill Shakespeare? No, not that mother scratcher, Bill Parker.

— We said this before and it's becoming more apparent, but the hazing and bullying involved with Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin in the Miami Dolphins locker room is only going to get worse before it gets better. The newest shoe to drop is a report that Miami coaches asked Incognito to "toughen" up Martin last spring. We said Monday, this would likely cost every coach in Miami his job, and that seems more likely than ever now. What a sad turn of events.

————

Today's question(s)

Let's stay special today with a slew of special questions.

What was your favorite holiday special growing up?

Best 38 Special song?

What's going to be the 'special' phrase — remember this is a family-oriented, interweb-based sports column — Nick Saban's going to use over and over when asked about special pressure? (Our guess is something of: We're only worried about the pressure of getting back to another BCS title game, and that starts with LSU.)

How concerned are you about UTC's special teams come Saturday, and how good has UT kicker Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike Palardy been.

Discuss. It's an extra special hump day.

about Jay Greeson...

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 ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
MocTastic said...

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Fill Finley. Repeat, Fill Finley. Be there.

To get you in the mood, a little Christmas music from a Bing Crosby special of the past

November 6, 2013 at 10:11 a.m.
jgreeson said...

MT —

Little Drummer Boy is our all-time favorite Christmas tune.

You had us at hello.

The 5-at-10 clan may very well make the trek to Finley on Saturday.

Any tailgate tips from you regulars?

November 6, 2013 at 10:31 a.m.
MocTastic said...

JG stop by JoMo11's tailgate, southwest corner of the north parking lot.

November 6, 2013 at 10:33 a.m.
chas9 said...

Special pressure? Hold on. I'm coming.

And if Baylor gets through unscathed, they're in the top four. No?

Texas voters in effect voted for the wrecking ball to take down the eighth wonder of the world. No word on what Miley will wear as she rides it down.

Yesterday, too late for me to respond, Jay observed that UK has "to have the best recruits every year because they stay one year." That's 100% true most of the time. And mostly true 100% of the time.

But there's a good chance four really good bigs from this year's team (Lee, Willis, Dakari & Poythress) will be back next year. Each of them would be certain starters on almost any SEC team. And they'll be joined by two bigs ranked in 2014's top ten players, so that'll be two years in a row with the nation's best frontcourt.

Question for Friday: Can The Mocs match the 10 points The Vols racked up against The Red Team?

Howard's 17.4/14.6 is excellent, but I'll take Davis' 22/12 for The Pelicans.

Speaking of spelling traps, back in the day when ink on newsprint could bleed over, some papers disallowed FLICK for fear the second and third letters could run together.

November 6, 2013 at 10:38 a.m.
Stewwie said...

[Should that count as one of Thursday's Fab 4-plus-1 picks...]

I vote yes.

[ESPN bucket head Brian Griese thinks Stanford can slow the Ducks. (Uh, how, exactly? Tell them the game is Friday?)]

It doesn't seem as outlandish of a statement simply because the Cardinal were able to stop them last year. But Oregon is clearly better this year so it's safe to say that they'll score more than 14 this time around.

[How concerned are you about UTC's special teams come Saturday.]

Pollard hasn't had the pressure put on him this year yet, but he'll be an important contributor for these next 2 games. His prior history doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence (especially when the kicks are from 40+), but we can all hope that he's now prepared himself enough for the big moments if/when they present themselves.

[Did the NBA start requiring teams to run 'Fire' at least three times a quarter?]

Ouch. I've been pleased with how well the shooting has improved in the league over the past few years. Part of that is simply putting better shooters on the floor. Part of THAT is a result of the rules changes from 10+ years ago to open up the game and reduce the physicality. I'm not sure that guys like Martin, Curry, and Redick would have made it in the NBA 10-15 years ago for that reason. Now college basketball is in that same boat the NBA was in...low scoring games, physicality trumping fundamentals, bad officiating, etc. But if the NBA can turn things around for the better, maybe the NCAA can as well.

November 6, 2013 at 10:42 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

I'm not as concerned with special teams as I am the fact there is the huge question mark involving Keon and now Gunner. I know Marques has stepped up tremendously but in order to beat Wofford we're probably going to need someone as big as Keon who can move the pile. Marques is my height and sized up with the other players is one of the shortest (but no doubt strongest) on the team. T-Rob needs to be able to get super-open otherwise it's going to be another slobberknocker like last week.

Saturday is predicted to be mostly sunny with clouds at a high of 64. Definitely football weather. Given the numerous flatscreen set-ups at the pavilion and a noon kick-off, anyone wanting to watch Tennessee/Auburn before the Mocs game can easily do so. No excuses people for not showing up!

Charlie Brown Christmas is still a classic even though it's dated by today's standards. If the Peanuts gang were in 2013, the scene where the kids rip on him regarding the tree would be classified as bullying, CB may or may not shoot someone before turning the gun on himself and there may or may not be numerous talking head shows milking this on CNNMSNBCFOX.

And then there's Facebook.

One we talked about last year and I'm glad 5&10 is passing the tradition on to the next generation is Emmett Otter's Judgeband Christmas.

November 6, 2013 at 10:44 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Like in the line in "Jerry MaGuire" . .Saban's "word is like Oak" . . " I will not leave LSU for the NFL". . ." I will not be the Coach at Alabama, Im staying in Miami". . . . "i will NOT go to Texas" . . . hmmmm

November 6, 2013 at 10:47 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent — You think Baylor-Oklahoma is going to take 4.5+ hours? Kickoff is at 7:30 on that one. Oregon-Stanford is at 9:00.

Here's your most likely losses by team to teams that no one will see coming:

Oregon gets by Stanford and stubs their toe at Arizona. Arizona is better than people think, especially at home. And isn't that the place that top teams normally lose? Oregon could also lose in the Pac 12 Championship Game to UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State or (lo and behold) USC. USC upsets Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship Game, forcing USC to hire Orgeron and send them back into the tank for a couple of years? Irony, oh sweet irony!

Ohio State could lose to Indiana. Why? Because the Hoosiers put up buckets of points and can match OSU's offense. Will they stop the Buckeyes? No way. But a couple of TO's and Indiana may be able to pull off the shocker. Michigan State may also be able to give them a real tussle in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Alabama doesn't have one. It's either LSU or it's Auburn or it's the SEC Championship Game. They could lose in any of those three places, but it will not be an end-all upset to lose any of them.

It's hard to come up with a scenario for Florida State to lose one. At Florida? Perhaps. I guess I'll go with that one. To Duke in the ACC Championship Game? That would be a stunner to end all stunners. Yes, Virginia Tech has the defense to beat them. Miami might be able to put it all together and beat them, but I would find that more shocking than Duke.

The last major unbeaten is Baylor, and let's be honest. If they lost to any team left on their schedule, it wouldn't be a shock. That's a tough schedule the rest of the way.

This is what I'm saying. Unbeatens will fall before the end of the year. Likely three out of five. Let's just eliminate Baylor (even though I think they would beat Ohio State head to head). At least two of the other four will more than likely fall before the end of the year. Why? Because, despite what we see with our eyes in terms of dominating performances by all these teams, they are still college kids and still don't play at their highest level each and every week. My bet is on Alabama and Florida State playing for the championship, with Oregon, Ohio State and Baylor having no one to blame but themselves.

November 6, 2013 at 11:25 a.m.
chas9 said...

MT--On principle I object to Christmasing before Macy's Day, but that is a cool clip.

Stuckey--Let's NOT eliminate Baylor. I like 'em. And I like The Sparties to beat THE Buckeyes.

November 6, 2013 at 11:35 a.m.
chas9 said...

If Puig driving 97 mph in front of the police services building isn't reckless driving, what is? The prosecutor "wants to treat everyone fairly," but I'd say some of us are more equal than others.

November 6, 2013 at 11:41 a.m.
MocTastic said...

Chas9 I agree, but JG brought up Christmas...should wait until Turkey Day, so its JG's fault.

November 6, 2013 at 11:47 a.m.
chas9 said...

The 5@10 has praised Mizzou's wide receivers, but I don't recall their Auburn-grad coach Pat Washington getting his due praise. He's very good and I wish UK could've held on to him.

The Cats have just one interception this year, so Saturday's tilt could get ugly.

November 6, 2013 at noon
Stewwie said...

JMC,

Huitt is our other "move the pile" runner.

High of 64 on Saturday, but if you sit on the home side, you'll need to dress like it's 44. The sun disappears pretty quickly from that side during late season games. Then the cold breeze flows off of Lookout, ricochets off of Parkway Towers (or something like that), then gives us a strong chill in our seats.

November 6, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay-

Forgot about that. Hadn't been to a late season game in a long time.

November 6, 2013 at 12:30 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Gang —

Everything is my fault. You know that.

But in the glass is half full realm, shouldn't I get credit for everything, too.

Discuss.

We'll be back and take it from the top.

And if you're worried about a chill at a college football game, may we suggest putting a little antifreeze in a flask.

Never the twain shall meet.

November 6, 2013 at 12:53 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent

9er-

Baylor is the team I'm rooting for out of the bunch. Just such a tough closing stretch. If I'm going to sit here and say three out of five unbeatens are going to lose, I almost have to include Baylor as one of the three.

I'll pulling for Baylor- just like I was pulling for Kansas State last year. We saw how that turned out. (Losing by a bazillion to Baylor.)

November 6, 2013 at 12:53 p.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring, the .38 Special A Side with which I'm most familiar is "Rock-N-Roll Strategy." Refrain is thus...

"Got the windows down and radio up, it's a rock-n-roll strategy" That's not a strategy, at best, it's a tactic. A Mr. Microphone might have been the best strategy."

Saban, as we read, is quietly assembling his class of 2014. Some pieces of this class will fill needs and see the field quickly. I believe Saban wants most is to catch the Bear, Can't see Saban leaving that to coach a startup next year.

Now, what I can believe is Saban's agent discussing what Saban acolytes currently coaching is a fit for Texas, like a Dabo Sweeny

November 6, 2013 at 12:56 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Best holiday special ... had to be Bob Hope when he brought out the All-American team every year.

Best 38 Special song ... Chain Lightning or Wild Eyed Southern Boys. Maybe even You Keep Runnin Away.

On the Miami coaches, this isn't junior high. If dude wasn't tough enough, then cut him loose. Make him someone else's problem. You think Belichick would have asked his minions to do that? Nope. He's quick to send someone packing.

15-0 ... the Spy weeps. Especially since the home schedule ends this weekend, well in advance of Thanksgiving, for the Eagles. All those years of one, two, three, even four home playoff games and as many as 10 home games each year because of that are now long gone.

And did anybody - anybody - go out on top like Erk did? Perfect season and win the national championship at home in front of the largest crowd ever in your stadium, a home attendance record that still stands to this day.

November 6, 2013 at 1:03 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Teddy Ballgame went out like the rock star that he is — launching one into the bullpen at Fenway in his last professional swing.

FE to the C —

We concur. We don't think Nicky Ballgame is headed anywhere.

Stuck —

You can pull for Baylor. We're pulling for the Auburn Tigers to shock the world. And from the first-year value, according to USA Today, here are the salaries of the first-year head coaches in the SEC:

Bret Beilema — 5-plus million

Butch Jones — 4.8 million

Gus Malzahn — 2.44 million

Someone's gonna get a raise from that group. Would you like to guess whom?

Jomo —

The human head weighs 8 pounds. Well most of them. Our noggin' goes about 15 or 16.

More to come.

November 6, 2013 at 1:23 p.m.
MocTastic said...

Didn't Saban get a bump in pay sometime after January? That would explain his agent making calls....

JG, looking at those salaries you posted. Honestly, its obscene. That is not what college is supposed to be about. Kids graduate, or leave, college with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, yet we support a system that pays men millions of dollars to coach a game while a teacher who is trying to teach that football player some mental skills makes a tiny fraction of what the coach makes. Sad commentary on our society. Salaries should be capped at the average of the school's full profressors.

November 6, 2013 at 1:27 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5, and you know much in high esteem the Splinter is held in the Spy household, that was his last game - but there was still a week left in the season. Ted sat the rest of the games out. It doesn't tarnish his swan song but it just leaves a little empty feeling.

November 6, 2013 at 1:47 p.m.
jgreeson said...

MT —

At the core of your debate, we can agree.

That said, the president of the University of Alabama has said point blank that Nick Saban is the single best investment in the history of the school.

In fact, the school can afford as many teachers — and what they make — in large part becomes of the funds Ole Nicky Ballgame generates.

Dude gets a monster salary, but the great ones are working on commission. He's a rain maker, plain and simple.

As for Bret Bielema, well, karma has been most kind indeed.

And it's not the salaries that are huge game-changers, it's the mistakes — the bad hires and what not — that put everyone in a pickel.

November 6, 2013 at 2 p.m.
chas9 said...

MT--I agree it's out of whack.

Head coaches at top schools have disproportionate salaries the way CEO's of top corporations do. The market for their rare skills drives up their paychecks. CEO pay has gone up WAY faster than workers' pay. It really makes no sense, but how can you stop it?

Maybe the football programs should spin off to become separate businesses and colleges only have Division III type sports.

November 6, 2013 at 2:08 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From StuckinKent, who is still a friend of the show

For Auburn to do it, you need a lot of unbeatens in front of them to fall, and maybe for Oregon not to lose to Stanford, but someone else. I think if Auburn beats an unbeaten Alabama and a once-beaten Missouri (or twice-beaten South Carolina that just beat Clemson), then they will be ahead of most one loss teams- with a Pac 12 champ being the biggest threat to them. So maybe an unbeaten Oregon and Auburn winning out, with FSU, Baylor and OSU all losing is what Auburn is most rooting for. Not impossible, but not in the realm of what I'm rooting for this week.

I mostly cheer for chaos at this time of year in college football. With Mocs basketball tipping off, I'm rooting doubly for Chaos.....

November 6, 2013 at 2:18 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

Saban is feeling a "special pressure." Perhaps he just needs to take a shirt.

For holiday specials I will go with those old Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation shows. "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer." "Frosty the Snowman." "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." They are dated, but classics usually are.

I never could really get into .38 Special so I will cast my write-in vote for "Flirtin' With Disaster." It's a Molly Hatchet song, but deserves honorary mention in any discussion of Southern rockers. Plus, no one has ever cranked up that song and then made a few wise decisions and proceeded to get in bed at a reasonable hour.

November 6, 2013 at 3:26 p.m.
sportsfan said...

Jay - for the mailbag...if the 5 at 10 got pulled over for bumping up against the century mark on the speedometer on the backside of midnight, would the outcome in court be the same as an unnamed former Lookout? If Saban wins another championship, why wouldn't he go to Texas for the massive payday?

November 6, 2013 at 8:29 p.m.
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