Giddy-up. From the "Talks too much" studios,
SEC asked and answered
We're at the midway point of the season. (Side questions: How does seven weeks in the summer feel like seven months and seven weeks of the college football season feels like seven minutes? How is Rhode Island an island? Discuss.)
With that out of the way, let's get to the SEC power rankings with a question and answer about each team's first half of the season.
1. Alabama (6-0 overall, 3-0 SEC)
Could the first half of the season gone any better on the field and any worse off it for Nick Saban? Barring a significant injury, no. Saban's team has improved week-to-week, and the microscope that accompanies the lofty perch and the even loftier expectations in Tusclaoosa has allowed critics to bemoan the play of the Tide's offensive line or secondary or receivers. Yet, masked in the sweat of perfection's pursuit and the smoke screen that is Oregon's gaudy numbers, Alabama is crushing folks. Off the field, the river of distractions from the big — former Tide tackle DJ Fluker allegedly accepting money from agents and HaHa Clinton-Dix getting a loan from an Alabama staffer — to the minute — Texas contacting Saban last January — have been consistent enough that Saban has not even had to fake a news conference tirade. Good times.
Saturday: vs. Arkansas, 7 (ESPN)
2. LSU (6-1, 3-1)
Are the Tigers still in the national title picture? You bet your commemorative Les Miles thesaurus they are. LSU has the monster trip to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9 ahead, and the Tigers have a bye before that game and immediately after it. If LSU can win in Tuscaloosa to run the table and finish with one loss — and considering the way the Tigers young defense is maturing and the way the awesome receivers are excelling — the only way the Tigers are kept from the title game is if Oregon (or UCLA) and the winner of Saturday's FSU-Clemson game (or an unbeaten Miami as the ACC champ) remain perfect. No way an unbeaten Louisville or even Ohio State will fare better in the computers' eyes than a potential SEC-champion LSU team with a three-point loss to at a then-healthy Georgia team. No way.
Saturday: at Ole Miss, 7 (ESPN2)
3. Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1)
Are the Aggies still in the national title picture? Don't go wagering your signed Johnny Football football on that one. In addition to winning out, Texas A&M would have to beat LSU next week, have LSU beat Alabama and hope to jump the Tide and the Tigers in the computer polls to win the West. Otherwise, there's no way a non-SEC champ will get a BCS title game invite. Bonus question: Nevermind all the offseason background noise, is there a more exciting player in college football than Johnny Manziel? Not since Cam Newton has one player been appointment TV like Johnny Football. Good times.
Saturday: vs. Auburn, 3:30 (CBS)
4. South Carolina (5-1, 3-1)
Is there a tougher team to gauge than these Gamecocks? Not really. Not when you consider that South Carolina held off Kentucky by seven at home then, after a week of national drama about Jadeveon Clowney's chest injury — seriously, that may be the most mysterious rib since Adam or the McRib (why do they shape it to look like the bones is still in the sandwich... who thought that was a good idea?) — the Fighting Spurriers go to Arkansas and wreak havoc. Connor Shaw may leave the SEC as the most under-appreciated quarterback since David Greene. Shaw is 22-4 as a starter.
Saturday: at Tennessee, noon (ESPN)
5. Missouri (6-0, 2-0)
Is there a bigger surprise in the SEC than these Tigers. No and No way. Gary Pinkel entered the season as the coach on the hottest seat; now the Tigers have already passed last year's win total and are bowl eligible. But the goals have drastically changed, and the Tigers can take a huge step toward becoming the team to beat in the East against Florida on Saturday. Wow. Granted the Tigers will have to do it without starting quarterback James Franklin — who may have been the most valuable player in the SEC's first half not named Johnny Manziel and separated his shoulder against Georgia.
Saturday: vs. Florida, 12:21 (WDSI)
6. Georgia (4-2, 3-1)
Speaking of injuries, will this be known as the season that could have been in Athens? It certainly looks that way. Season-ending injuries to three of your top four play-makers can do that. Still, it's hard to blame much of this on the Georgia offense since the defense has struggled so mightily, that the full complement of weapons was needed to win shootouts. In five games against BCS conference opponents, Georgia has allowed 38, 30, 41, 31 and 41 points. That's roughly 36 points per game. Ouch-standing.
Saturday: at Vandy, noon (CBS)
7. Florida (4-2, 3-1)
Speaking of injuries, part III, what do Gators fans say about Georgia losing some playmakers and Missouri losing its starting QB? Florida fans collective say, "Cry us a river." The Gators have lost the league's top defensive tackle (Dominique Easley), their league rusher (Matt Jones), their starting quarterback (Jeff Driskel) and a starting tackle (Chaz Green) in addition to their best kick returned and a second-stringer linebacker. Still the Gators are battling with the nation's best secondary, which includes the country's best cover guy — and a first-team all-name selection — in Loucheiz Purifoy and the nation's best freshman defensive back in Vernon Hargreaves III.
Saturday: at Missouri, 12:21 (WDSI)
8. Auburn (5-1, 2-1)
How good are the Tigers? Better than last year for sure, but we'll learn a great deal more Saturday when Auburn takes its show on the road to College Station. Each of Auburn's five wins has come at Jordan-Hare Stadium and its two SEC wins make the Tigers Mississippi state champions. Still, the offense has found options at running back — a single-season, school-record four different players have rushed for more than 100 yards in a game — and Gus Malzahn has put them in position to succeed. Plus, the Tigers survived quarterback Nick Marshall's early-season nerves and recent knee ailment. We may not know how good Auburn is yet, but if the Tigers continue to get improved play at quarterback, they may be better than we think.
Saturday: at Texas A&M, 3:30 (CBS)
9. Ole Miss (3-3, 1-3)
What do we make of these Rebels? That they are better than they were. That they are young and adding pieces. That Hugh Freeze is a fiery guy that looks the part of an SEC coach. We also know that the Rebels are two plays — someone stopping Johnny Football last Saturday night and an awesome pick-six by Auburn's Robenson Therezie the previous week — from likely being 5-1. Of course, if the Rebels were 5-1, Freeze would be among the leading contenders for every big-boy job in the country.
Saturday: vs. LSU, 7 (ESPN2)
10. Tennessee (3-3, 0-2)
Which Tennessee team should we expect in the second half? The Vols that needed a last-minute Brian Randolph pick in the end zone to escape South Alabama or the one that very well could have beaten Georgia? That's the big question for Butch Jones in his first year in Knoxville, and to tell the truth, we're not sure he knows which version he's going to get every time, either.
Saturday: vs. South Carolina, noon (ESPN)
11. Arkansas (3-4, 0-3)
Can Alex Collins play quarterback? Wow, the Arkansas quarterback situation is very familiar to, say, Auburn 2012. The Hogs completed 4 of 13 attempts in the 52-7 beatdown Saturday against South Carolina. Heck, Clinton completed more passes than that during your average fundraiser. Now the single-wing Hogs face an Alabama defense that has allowed 26 points to foes that do not have a Heisman winner at quarterback. Ouch-standing, part II.
Saturday: at Alabama, 7 (ESPN)
12. Vandy (3-3, 0-3)
Is Saturday Vandy's last swing at real bowl hopes? No, Vandy still has a foreseeable bowl path, but with six games left — and trips to College Station and Gainesville in the next two weeks — every step to six is big for every SEC program below the upper echelon.
Saturday: vs. Georgia, noon (CBS)
13. Mississippi State (3-3, 0-2)
Is Dan Mullen on the hot seat? We say yes. First, from the files of not every 3-3 is created equally, the Bulldogs' arch rivals in Oxford are also 3-3, but the Rebels could very well enter the Egg Bowl 7-4. Mullen's Bulldogs are 3-3 with trips to South Carolina and Texas A&M and a visit from Alabama before the attention turns to the Rebels. Secondly, Mullen was noticeable irate at halftime during Mississippi State's 21-20 escape against Bowling Green. Maybe that was a guy who was intense; maybe it was a guy starting to feel the pressure and desparation.
14. Kentucky (1-5, 0-3)
What was the first half highlight for the Wildcats? We'll give this one a multiple choice: A) That the Wildcats found a young running back with promise in Jojo Kemp ("Tell 'em 'bout it Jojo"); B) That the Wildcats exposed Louisville as the house of Cards that they are; C) That basketball practice has started and the Wildcats are so talented that as many as 12 NBA scouts attended a recent workout; D) All of the above. The answer is D of course.
NFL Power poll
Way to go Jacksonville. You stayed within four TDs of Denver. All of Ohio — and Vegas — loves you.
You still are the worst NFL team not involving Matt Millen since the 1970s Tampa Bay Bucs. Yes, those Bucs, the Fighting Cream-sicles who were coached by John McKay who accurately described his team with two famous postgame quotes.
When asked about his team's execution, McKay said he was all for it. After another particularly bad showing, McKay met the media with this gem: "We didn't block today, but we made up for it by not tackling."
So there you go Jacksonville. You are as bad as those awful Bucs teams on the field and no where near as entertaining as them off the field.
3) Kansas City
4) New England
5) New Orleans
30) New York Giants
31) Tampa Bay
One shining moments 25 years ago tonight
We've talked about this before, but it's worth remembering on this day. Today is one of those seminal days, a day that ranks in the upper echelon of sports moments.
It's the 25th anniversary of Kirk Gibson's magical, Roy Hobbs-esque homer off Dennis Eckersley into the right-field seats and into the lore of baseball history in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
It was one of those moments, the sporting version of having a child or getting married. You remember the smallest of details and exactly where your were. And as it was happening, you couldn't help but think to yourself, "Wow, I'll remember this forever."
As Jack Buck famously said, "I don't believe what I just saw," if you were watching as a hobbled Gibson limped the plate against arguably one of the five most dominant closers ever and delivered a chill-bump moment that crafted his legacy, Buck easily could have said, "I won't ever forget this."
So it goes and it draws a smile to know that sports can be that pure and that special. It's what brings us back and makes us watch. Sure, Fab 4 picks and fantasy teams and trash talking and school pride and all of those other factors are part of our everday sporting lives, too.
But those other factors become tangential when compared to the drama and emotion and in-the-moment magic that Gibson delivered. Or that Laettner delivered.
So let's take pause and offer our Rushmore of Forever sports moments — those that you know exactly where you were and what you were doing.
Here's our list: Gibson's homer, Laettner's shot, Wes Bynum's kick on a snowy night in Chattanooga but a magical night at the Fiesta Bowl, USA hockey in Lake Placcid. And Bynum's kick bumped Sid's Slide, which bumped Buckner's error.
Good times. What's your Rushmore of Forever sports moments?
This and that
— And doing a little research about the Gibson homer, Buck's call was so perfect. But sweet buckets, Vin Scully was pure poetry in that play. According to the interwebs, here is a sample of Scully's description of that scene:
On Gibson walking to the plate: "He's shaking his left leg, making it quiver, like a horse trying to get rid of a troublesome fly."
On the moment: "In a year that has been so improbable... the impossible has happened."
During a replay of the homer as Gibson limped around the bases for a Dodgers team that had overcome a slew of injuries and was amazingly fortunate: "You know, I said it once beore a few days ago that Kirk Gibson was not the Most Valuable Player, that the Most Valuable Player for the Dodgers was Tinkerbell. Tonight, I think Tinkerbell backed off for Kirk Gibson."
— Who wants to bet if Yaisel Puig gets a couple of pitches up and in tonight. Puig was quite demonstrative during the Dodgers' must-have Game 3 win. For what it's worth, baseball needs more energy, and Puig has energy by the dumpster truck load. Dude has fun playing the game; we have fun watching him play the game. Egads. Oh yeah the Dodgers won 3-0 to make the Cards' lead 2-1 in the NLCS. Good times.
— Nebraska and Oregon will play football in 2016 and 2017. The tackle football teams from UT and Va. Tech will race to the finish at Bristol in '16, too. Big boys vs. big boys. Good stuff.
We'd like to hear your Rushmore of Forever sports moments.
If you need another topic, well, there was a lady who became the second-biggest Price is Right winner ever this week.
What's your Rushmore of game shows. The original Family Feud is on our list for sure.
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 ...