published Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

5-at-10: SEC asked and answered, NFL power poll, Vols future if Fulmer still there

Get up and get moving. There's work to be done.

Giddy-up.

From the "Talks too much" studios, we're planning on taking in Dwight Yoakam this week, so let's stay there for a while and offer, "They threw this drunk man in my jail cell, I took 15 dollars from that man."

SEC asked and answered

1. Alabama

  • photo
    Alabama defenders Jarrick Williams, C.J. Mosley and Brandon Ivory sack Mississippi quarterback Bo Wallace for a fourth-quarter safety in the top-ranked Crimson Tide's 25-0 win Saturday night.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

How bad will Saturday be? It will be as bad as Alabama wants it to be and more than likely worse. Georgia State is the worst FBS team in the country; Alabama is the best FBS team in the country. Alabama's fifth-string running back had more stars in the recruiting rankings than Georgia State's first-string offense. You do the math.

Saturday: vs. Georgia State, 12:21 (WDSI)

2. Georgia

Anyone else wondering if Aaron Murray can win the big game? Didn't think so after Murray was 20-of-34 for 298 yards and four TDs in Georgia's 44-41 win over then-No. 6-ranked LSU. Murray, who was named Walter Camp offensive player of the week for the second time this season, now has to be considered among the leading Heisman candidates, right?

Saturday: at Tennessee, CBS (3:30)

  • photo
    Georgia coach Mark Richt has a wealth of offensive weapons.

3. LSU

Does anyone doubt Mark Richt can scout quarterbacks any more? As good as Murray was Saturday, LSU starting QB Zach Mettenberger, who signed with Georgia originally, was every bit as impressive Saturday. And to be fair, tip of the helmet to LSU offensive Cam Cameron, because Mettenberger has improved more from one mediocre season to the next more than any SEC quarterback this side of Jonathan Crompton or Chris Todd.

Saturday: at Mississippi State, 7 (ESPN)

4. Texas A&M

Where will Kevin Sumlin rank on the hot list of coaches this offseason, considering we know one power program (USC) is open and there's a likelihood another big fish (Texas?) could be looking for a new coach? Being in the SEC and coaching in Texas gives Sumlin a good gig, no doubt. But if USC — and especially Texas — com calling, you have to listen. And with Johnny Football almost assuredly on the way out, how much higher can Sumlin lift the Aggies? Either way, here's saying Sumlin will get a nice pay raise this offseason, regardless of the zip code.

Saturday: Off

5. South Carolina

Is time to recognize Mike Davis in the upper echelon of SEC running backs? Yes, with this caveat — Davis is very good, but no one in the conversation is Todd Gurley. That said, Davis, who leads the SEC with an average of 127 rushing yards per game, has been extremely productive and downright saved the Gamecocks from what could have been a season-wrecking flub at Central Florida last Saturday. Looking at the SEC running backs, five sophomores — including Davis, Gurley and T.J. Yeldon — and a freshman comprise the top six in the SEC in rushing yards per game.

Saturday: vs. Kentucky, 7:30 (FSN)

6. Florida

How will the Gators' front seven handle the run-first, run-always Arkansas attack? This will be a much sterner test that last Saturday's cake walk in Lexington when the Gators allowed but 173 yards against Kentucky. Plus, this will be against one of the nation's top rushing offenses and the true absence of defensive tackle Dominique Easley will be better know this week.

Saturday: vs. Arkansas, 7 (ESPN2)

7. Ole Miss

How will the young Rebels respond to the beat down in T-town? Ole Miss went to Tuscaloosa thinking they were ready because of a fast start to the season. Alabama showed up knowing they were ready because of the familiar scars and tests they receive every week. The only way for the youthful Rebels to improve is to learn from moments of that magnitude. Lesson learned. Scars acquired.

Saturday: at Auburn, 7 (ESPNU)

8. Missouri

Is Missouri ready for SEC play? The Tigers had a five-week, four-game slow walk into conference player and ran the table with wins over Murray State, Toldeo, Indiana and Arkansas State. That's not exactly the four horseman of the apocalypse, but Missouri handled its business, averaging more than 45 points and right at 550 yards per game in its 4-0 start. The conference opener at Vandy will be a more trying chore.

Saturday: at Vanderbilt, 7:30 (CSS)

9. Auburn

Can Nick Marshall play a complete game? There have been flashes of nerves and highlights, of knowledge and headway. Marshall's play is paramount for Gus Malzahn's offense, and the junior-college transfer still has yet to put it all together. How much he improved during Auburn's bye week will be key in a game that could raise the expectations for the winner.

Saturday: vs. Ole Miss, 7 (ESPNU)

10. Arkansas

Are we ready to give Alex Collins SEC freshman of the year honors yet? With all due respect to Ole Miss' outstanding kiddie corps, Collins has been top shelf. He leads the SEC in rushing with 597 yards in five games. Dude is a stud duck.

Saturday: at Florida, 7 (ESPN2)

11. Vandy

Who's going to win the James Franklin Bowl — Vandy coach James Franklin, who has led the Commodores to its best run since before the great depression, or Missouri quarterback James Franklin, who is directing the high-flying Tigers offense. Call this a hunch, but we like Franklin in this one.

Saturday: vs. Missouri, 7:30 (CSS)

12. Tennessee

Can Tennessee keep Georgia under 50? Considering a deeper and better LSU defense was struggling to keep up with the Bulldogs high-wire offensive act, it's difficult to see Tennessee — which is 12th in the SEC in scoring defense at 26.2 points per game despite a season-opening shutout of overmatched Austin Peay — slowing the Bulldogs.

Saturday: vs. Georgia, 3:30 (CBS)

13. Mississippi State

Would you rather cross Amnicola Highway blind-folded or play a hacked-off LSU team? Tough call, right? Mississippi State is playing the "Guess who's our quarterback game." This is not like Tennessee is playing the "Who could be out quarterback" game. MSU has senior starter Tyler Russell ready to play after suffering a concussion earlier this year and his running counterpart Dak Prescott, who filled in well for Russell, ready to go. The shell game may make for some long hours for the LSU defensive staff, but it likely won't affect the outcome.

Saturday: vs. LSU, 7 (ESPN)

14. Kentucky

How does a 1-3 start get worse? Well, Saturday's trip to Columbia is the Cats' first real road trip. Hey, on the bright side, Julius Randle is the real deal, so there's that.

Saturday: at South Carolina, 7:30 (FSN)

————

NFL power poll

We vowed two weeks ago that we would know more today. We do know more, and we'll know more still two weeks from now.

What we can glean from the first quarter of the NFL season is that Peyton Manning has a pretty good grasp of the Denver offense, Jake Locker looked the part before getting hurt last Sunday, and, because of injury and desparation the Atlanta Falcons offensive huddle has a grand total of three plays — "Julio get open," Tony G. get open" and "Julio AND Tony G. get open" — which is less than ideal.

As for the power poll, well, let's look:

1) Denver: Yes, the Broncos are extremely good and are crushing folks right now. Manning's using his bevy of weapons at will and maximizing mismatches to the point that you are going to have to score 30 to beat them. Two quick points: With the emergence of Demaryius Thomas and the continued excellence of Calvin Johnson, when did we get to the point that Georgia Tech was Wide Receiver Institute? As if the Broncos offense wasn't good enough as it is, they also have the league's best return guy in former LSU speedster Trindon Holliday

2) Seattle: The Seahawks caught a break and found a way to topple Houston on the road Sunday. Ever wonder why it's the winning teams that catch the breaks and the losing teams complain about the bad breaks? Winning teams don't; they just go make the breaks happen.

3) New England: Tom Brady is the quarterback version of the great Bum Phillips quote about Don Shula back in the day. Phillips said of Shula: "He can take his'n and beat your'n and take your'n and beat his'n." Amen Bum, and hey look some no-name wide out is open and Brady found him.

4) New Orleans: The Saints Monday night beatdown of the formerly unbeaten Miami Dolphins was impressive in each phase. These Saints have a salty edge and the look. You know they got that look.

5) Kansas City: Think the Philly fans are still giddy over trading Andy Reid for Chip Kelly. The Chiefs are unbeaten. The Eagles are faltering, which leads us to...

Bottom five

28) Philadelphia: Hey, we love the fast-paced offense that Oregon and Co. use on Saturdays too. Whether Chip Kelly's attack can work on Sundays is still up for debate. Side question: If the Eagles' struggles continue, could you not see Kelly pulling a Bobby Petrino and bolting for USC?

29) Pittsburgh: Big Ben Roethlisberger says the Steelers are terrible. Big Ben may have a future as an analyst when his playing days are done. (And if the Steelers' porous offensive line doesn't start blocking better, Big Ben's playing days may be done sooner rather than later.)

30) Tampa Bay: Ah, the Bucs. The Bucs are supposed to be in the bottom five right? And you know what really leaves the line cold, try this phrase: "Hey Bucs fans, let's rebuild and reload around Mike Glennon." Ouch-standing.

31) New York Giants: Hard to believe Tom Coughlin has two Super Bowls and likely could be a Hall of Famer. And his seat is hotter than the Macon, Ga., blacktop in July. Remember the good old days of August when Eli Manning was an elite quarterback? Nope, neither do we.

615) Jacksonville: Wow, this may be the single worst NFL team ever. A 37-3 loss at home to Indy? And in less than two weeks the Jags go to Denver and Vegas has pegged that line at a historic Denver minus-28. Egads.

————

Baseball done and starting

The baseball regular season is long and you have to trust it. Sometimes, that trust betrays you, like Lil' Danny Struggla.

Sometimes, that trust cleanses you, like now with the playoffs starting tonight with the first of two play-in wildcard games before the best-of-five first rounds starting Thursday.

Sadly, it was a season dominated by A-Rod and PEDs and head-scratching drama that covered one of the more entertaining seasons in recent memory, punctuated with one of the top-five walk-off moments in sports history. Seriously, it does not get any better than Mariano Rivera's exit from Yankee Stadium last week. Well-played indeed.

That is the image we choose to cling to as we look forward to the postseason — it's October, after all, and somewhere Reggie Jackson smiles. (Side Reggie story: We were in the Turner Field press box many moons ago, and we're at the urinal and we're doing our stuff and look over and Reggie Mr. October Jackson is standing right there. The current sports editor of the TFP had not been doing this long and we were still occasionally prone to noticing big time sports celebs, so we look over and say, "Hey you're Reggie Jackson," and he says, "Yep, and I still will be when I get done pee-ing. Want to chat outside?" Of course we did not see Reggie again. Mmmmmm-barrassing.)

As for the regular season that was, here's the awards we share:

AL MVP — Miggy Cabrera, Detroit. Dude hit for the triple crown last year and had a better year this year. Maybe one of the 10 best right-handed hitters ever. Yes, Spy, ever.

AL Cy Young — Max Scherzer, Detroit. He went 21-3 with 240 Ks and a 2.90 ERA. In a perfect world, a Game 1 World Series match-up of Scherzer and Kershaw would make things right in the world. (And the game could be done in less than 100 minutes.)

AL Rookie — Wil Myers, Tampa Bay.

AL Manager — Terry Francona, Cleveland.

NL MVP — Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh. Choice that makes the traditionalists and the stat-mongers happy at the same time.

NL Cy Young — Clayton Kershaw, L.A. Remember that run when anyone other than Greg Maddux winning the Cy Young was a surprise. We're there with Kershaw.

NL Rookie — Yaisel Puig, L.A.

NL Manager — Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh. Safest bet on the board this side of Bama over Georgia State in the money line.

————

This and that

— Texas AD DeLoss Dodds will retire in 2014. And the hits keep coming for Mack Brown, huh? Odds he's coaching the Longhorns in three months? We'll say 50-50 is generous to Mack.

— As the Heat open training camp, LeBron James says he has to get better. If does, things could be tough for the rest of the league. What are we saying? Things already are tough for the rest of the league, especially when you consider that Boston is noticeably worse and Dwyane Wade appears to be healthy and motivated. Not one, not two, not three...

— David Price was top-shelf Monday night as the Rays ended the Rangers' season with a 5-2 win in an extra special Game No. 163. Sorry JMC. The Rays now head to Boston for the next round of the playoffs.

————

Today's question

Happy shutdown day. Or sad shutdown day. Whichever fits your politics and policies.

That said, what business shutting down — other than your employer of course — would most affect your day-to-day endeavors?

If that's not your cup of tea, well, how about this: Former UT coach Phillip Fulmer was at Baylor School on Monday speaking to students. With the firing of Lane Kiffin on Sunday, we started thinking back to the last few falls.

Here's our question for you, if Fulmer had got one more year from Hamilton, where would the Vols be? Now maybe he would still have been fired a year later, but the time frame would have been skewed.

So if Fulmer had survived 2008, where would the Vols be today?

Discuss. (And Jomo, this is not blaming the current mess on anyone or anything of that nature, just curious what people think the alternate ending would have been if Fulmer had stayed. And we know for sure there would have been at least some change to the landscape because Fulmer had Tajh Boyd committed, and that turned out pretty good for Clemson, no?)

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.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent

Took yesterday off work and off the internet. It was nice. Just read both 5-at-10's, so here's some quick thoughts for you.

1) Agree about the NBA Finals. It's about freakin' time.

2) The baseball playoffs are a total wildcard. I don't particularly believe in St. Louis or Pittsburgh or Cincinnati in the NL. I really think the Dodgers-Braves winner is still the favorite in the NL. The Cardinals aren't far behind. In the AL, gotta like Detroit and Boston, but I'll be rooting for Tampa and Oakland.

3) Don't have many thoughts on the Vols, except that they have caught Georgia napping before. In 2004, Georgia looked like the best team in the country when they beat LSU the week before the Tennessee game. Tennessee looked like chumps when they got drilled at home by what turned out to be an excellent Auburn team (we didn't know at that point just how good they were). The Vols went Between the Hedges and beat the Bulldogs the following week. So you never know. College football is a funny game.

4) Regardless of record, my top five college football teams (in some order) would be: Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU and Oregon. Not sure if there's another Top 20 team in the SEC, but Texas A&M is the closest thing.

October 1, 2013 at 10:37 a.m.
jomo11 said...

I think the Vols would be in better shape if Fulmer lasted today than they are now. However, the landscape has changed. The Vols advantage of having 100,000 seat stadium has changed, almost every SEC school has close to 100,000 now. Everyone has great facilities, etc. Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and even Vandy are not the same as when Fulmer won big in 1998. Barring a hire of a Saban type coach, the lack of in-state talent will limit the Vols from being national contenders for a long time. I even sometimes wonder if Butchy is just "Derek Dooley with a better pep talk" . . time will tell. So bottom line if Fulmer was around Vols would be better than they are now, but only about 5th or 6th best in SEC

October 1, 2013 at 11:37 a.m.
chas9 said...

Jay, clearly you were right about the Falcs a coupla weeks ago, before I could see it. And your point about the leveling schedules is right on.

I asked yesterday what if The Vols had skipped the Kiffin year, which is almost the same question. I say if Fillmore was still the head honcho UT would be better than they are now, but still behind Gawga, The Real SC, and Florida.

Yes Collins is a Stud Hog, but he averages only 6.0 yards per carry, while Stud Cat Freshman JoJo Kemp averages 8.9 per. Collins has 100 attempts to Kemp's 21. Yes, I do understand it's mighty fine for a team to have a sturdy back who can carry the rock 20 times a game, so I'm not saying JoJo's better, just that UK's lucky to have him, and they need to call his number more.

Julius Randle is the real deal and he'll be surrounded by real deals. Nobody else cares on October 1, but UK's starting five will feature the best player in the league at at least four positions.

October 1, 2013 at 11:52 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Stuck —

Concur on the Dodgers-Braves winner being the NL frontrunner, but that could be wishful thinking.

Disconcur about the SEC. A&M is a top-25 team. So is South Carolina and Florida with Murphy making plays.

We'll see about Ole Miss and get a much better read on Missouri this weekend.

Jomo —

Very fair, and we likely are on the same wave-length. In truth, the teams other than Tennessee that would have been impacted the most if Fulmer had hung on would have been Georgia and Auburn. Georgia would have lost at least a couple of Peach State recruits each year because that was what Fulmer did.

As for Auburn, the Tigers likely would be in a very similar place as UT is now, because there was a lot of talk at the time that Kiffin was hired that if he did not go to UT he was on Auburn's short list.

Boyd would have helped for sure, but even with Fulmer at the height of his power, the Vols would have had little for Bama's rise, for South Carolina — which benefitted from a great three-year stretch of in-state talent — for Florida or for LSU.

9er —

Between Wiggins and Randle, we may watch a little more college hoops this year. Maybe.

Goodness knows it would be hard to watch less.

October 1, 2013 at 12:08 p.m.
MocTastic said...

What's this I hear about USC wanting to interview Butch Jones?

October 1, 2013 at 12:54 p.m.
jgreeson said...

MT —

That's just not nice.

October 1, 2013 at 1:14 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

In the conversation of sophomore studs at the running back position in the SEC, Keith Marshall may have an opportunity to remind everyone that he belongs in the conversation as well. Todd Gurley is a little banged up and is being listed as questionable for the Tennessee game. Marshall rushed for 96 yards against LSU in backup duty when Gurley left the game. Those 96 yards in the stat column were a surprise to me as I knew he picked up some yardage Saturday, but I had no idea he was approaching a 100 yard game. Of course I probably missed several things in the LSU game as, in the words of Tony LaRussa, "There's a lot of stuff going on out there."

As if Mack Brown's seat wasn't unbearably hot as is, Earl Campbell is on record as saying it is time for Mack to go. I don't think Rasputin could survive as the head coach at Texas with the AD bolting town and a legendary Heisman winner calling for his head. Any chance Watson Brown gets a call from the folks in Austin?

"Guitars, Cadillacs, hillbilly music...It's the only things that keep me hanging on..."

October 1, 2013 at 3:13 p.m.
jgreeson said...

GD —

Marshall is not among the leaders of the stud sophomores, but he's definitely in the team picture.

Uh, the only thing that could get Mack in hotter water is he pulled up in big-oil Texas to the football building in a Nissan Leaf.

"I sang Dixie as he died. But people just walked on by as I cried."

October 1, 2013 at 3:33 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

So people jump on Tommie Frazier when he offers his opinion on Pelini but nothing gets said about Earl Campbell asking for Mack's ouster.

There are few country artists I would pay to go see perform in person. So many of the current ones either sound alike, look alike or have two first names for their whole name. Mr. Yoakam is an exception.

Um, 5, the Rays head to CLEVELAND for the next round of the playoffs (Hello, Cleveland!) with that winner going to Boston. Not like I pay attention to the Sox or anything.

October 1, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From Charlotte's Web

Jay, I may as well slip my 2 cents worth in before nightfall after staying up all night to see whether we would have a government this morning. As it turns out, it really didn't matter.

Being a diehard Fulmer fan (as you know), I believe Hamilton would have had to be long gone before Fulmer would have been free to do his job. That means the Lane Train and the Dooley Kabooley would have had to serve time before he would have had a fair shake. He still today would have a tremendous psychological impact in getting the fans back in the game. And he still can coach and recruit. Butch Jones would do well to invite him for a visit before each game. Mr. Paschall's writeup about Fulmer's visit to Baylor was good reading this morning.

October 1, 2013 at 5:16 p.m.
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