From the "Talks too much" studios, let's go to the park to get the scoop, knuckleheads out there cold shootin' some hoops. (Also, remember Friday's mailbag — there's a spot or two open.)
And now this is happening
From 1,500 miles away, the Sports Illustrated allegations being dump-trucked on Oklahoma State seem like second-hand gossip that goes something like this:
"Did you hear about so-and-so?"
"Yeah. Not really all that surprising, I guess."
"Yeah. It likely happens all over."
"Yeah. Want to get some lunch?"
The Cowboys are facing a tidal wave of allegations that range from paying players to changing grades to a drug culture and shady recruiting practices. It's based on the testimony of more than 60 former players. You know the details.
About 6 p.m. Wednesday, YahooSports dropped two stories that allege five former SEC players received payments from a former Alabama player, Luther Davis, who was acting as a runner for agents. This is an NCAA no-no.
And while the SI allegations have an army of interviews, the Yahoo folks have a filing cabinet of documents ranging from wired money transfers to checks to airplane tickets. (Side note: If the Yahoo team sets up camp in your college's town, better batten down the hatches because Wyatt Earp's coming and heck's coming with him.)
The five players named in the Yahoo stories are former Alabama star tackle D.J. Fluker, who reportedly got more than $30,000, former Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, current Vols defensive tackle Mo Couch, and former Mississippi State players Fletcher Cox and Chad Bumphis.
To be fair and upfront, the charges seem pretty clear that this was outside parties acting on interests of agents and the players accepting those gifts. Other than not monitoring the activity or catching the perpetrators, the schools do not seem to have been alleged to have committed any NCAA violations.
That said, it is very possible that those former players could be found ineligible because of this and the games in which they played could be forfeited. For Alabama, that would mean a lot. For Tennessee, well, giving back that N.C. State win last season would make it even more difficult to find Derek Dooley's high-water mark.
In the now, Alabama coach Nick Saban met with the media Wednesday night and said he did not want to talk about the allegations. Well no kidding, but in political terms that's like John Kerry meeting with reporters and saying he would like to skip the Syria subject.
No can do, pal, this is what was carrying the news cycle.
So Saban made his statement, took a trio of questions about Fluker and the allegations and walked off. Yep, a three-and-out and we're still more than 48 hours from the kickoff of the Tide's biggest game of the season.
Sweet buckets, think we'll have anything to talk about on Press Row with Paschall from 1-3 p.m. on 105.1 FM today?
5 SEC things to look for
We could spend a day on Alabama's trip to Texas A&M, but there's a full Saturday to discuss. Look for a Tide-Aggies tail of the tape in Friday's TFP.
1) Here's Johnny!
Johnny Football spent the entire offseason embracing the star/brat pack culture that is the sexy siren of instant fame. Well, now, facing an Alabama team that helped catapult him to that lofty perch among the sports royalty of the now, can he repeat that performance and remind us how he was a star before he was a brat? Are you ready for your close-up Mr. Manziel? You better be. It's impossible to overstate this game for Johnny Merchandize. If he wins, he's a big-game guy with charisma; if he loses, he's a one-hit wonder that fell victim to the pressure. As Crash tells Nuke in the locker room, "Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You'll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you'll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press'll think you're colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob." This is Johnny's shower-shoes moment.
2) Directional game in Auburn
Auburn is 2-0 and has reason to believe that last season's debacle was an apparition. The offense has three legit running back threats. The defense has not allowed a TD in 19 possessions — heck last year it was tough to remember 19 consecutive plays in which the Tigers did not surrender a touchdown. Auburn welcomes Mississippi State to Jordan-Hare, and this is one of those games that each team expects to win. Well, expectations are one thing; results are another. The winner of this one moves north in standings; the loser will have a much tougher trek in the always tough SEC West.
3) UT has the need, the need for speed
OK, we'll say it — Top Gun was way cooler then than now. Some movies just don't hold up. You know what does hold up through time: Die Hard. And Hooisers. Make it a good one Strap. You know what Johnny Vols Fans need to hold up Saturday — Tennessee's resurgent defense. Force turnovers. Tackle in space. Make Oregon kick it a few times — punts are perfection and field goals are fine. While time of possession does not mean a hill of beans in this one — Oregon has scored an average of 62.5 points per game with less than 20 minutes time of possession on average — Tennessee running the football is paramount because you can't ask Justin Worley to win a shootout with his pop gun.
4) What channel is the Longhorn Network?
Ole Miss fans will be wondering this for most of Saturday night, since the Rebels go to Austin and will play Texas on its own TV station. Say what you will about Notre Dame, at least we know the location of its personal network — NBC is pretty common. The Longhorn Network? Not so much. We do know that those lovable Longhorns are super cute when they try to tackle people, God bless 'em. If the over/under on this game was 100, would that be too much?
5) How hungover will South Carolina be?
The after-affects of the Gamecocks' SEC-East altering loss to Georgia last week will be present, but will they be there for a possession, a half or an afternoon. We all know that you can't sleepwalk by James Franklin's Vandy teams, and South Carolina has the better roster. Still, a sluggish performance against the Commodores could be flirting with real disaster.
Fab 4-plus-1 picks
Last week we went 4-1 against the spread. We were quite please, even if it was not as good as our perfect opening weekend.
We feel the need — no, not the need for speed — to share the disclaimer that past performance does not insure future gains. And remember kids, these picks are against the spread and for entertainment purposes only. And only risk the entertainment with which you can afford to lose.
Here's this week picking tip. If you feel good about picking winners, great. But you can have the exact same success picking losers. Follow along as we make picks on four games as much because of the badness of one of the teams involved.
West Virginia minus-38 over Georgia State: The Panthers are bad. Like Sex Panther bad. There are bits of real Panthers in there. Sixty percent of the time, they lose every time. You stay classy, Morgantown. 72-10. We talk about riding hot teams, well, we're going to ride the stone cold Georgia Staters for a awhile, too.
Arkansas State minus-7 over Troy: Troy needed overtime to beat UAB at home. Arkansas State moved the ball against Auburn. We think Arkansas State is the class of the Sun Belt. We think Troy is the best football program between Montgomery and Panama City. Get you some, Spinnaker.
Louisville minus-13 over Kentucky: The Wildcats subbed out quarterbacks 17 times last week. The Cardinals have Teddy Bridgewater. Any questions?
Western Kentucky minus-10 at South Alabama: Every Tennessee fan everywhere knows the Vols beat Western Kentucky by the tightest 32-point margin in history. South Alabama? It has a home loss to Southern Utah.
Maryland minus-6 at UConn: You may want to buy the half here to be safe, but UConn lost to Towson State. We'd didn't even know Towson had applied to become a state, but there you go. This one feels like this week's 31-10, don't turn your neck and cash the check. For entertainment purposes only of course.
This and that
— If you watch Breaking Bad — the amazing AMC series about Walter White going from chemistry teach to Meth kingpin — are you happy or angry that there will be a spin center on attorney Saul Goodman called "Better Call Saul" in the works? We're cautiously optimistic.
— Gang, we spend a lot of time discussing college football, but if you need an sledgehammer thud of proof that the NFL is the sports monolith right now, well try this on for size. Here are the top 10 watched TV shows for the last week according to Nielsen:
1) Giants-Cowboys, NBC — 25.4 million viewers
2) Ravens-Broncos, NBC — 25.1 million viewers
3) Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick, NBC — 19.32 million viewers
4) NFL Thursday Night Pre-Kick, NBC — 18.03 million viewers
"Duck Dynasty," stars Jase, left, Si, Willie and Phil Robertson, and is the biggest show on television featuring hillbillies, rednecks or good ol' boys. Whatever you want to call them, they are laughing all the way to the bank. Photo: A&E
5) The OT, Fox — 17.6 million viewers
6) Football Night in America, NBC — 14 million viewers
7) Under the Dome, CBS — 11.15 million viewers
8) Duck Dynasty, A&E — 10.5 million viewers
9) NFL Opening Kickoff Show, NBC — 10.1 million viewers
10) America's Got Talent, NBC — 10 million viewers
NBC dominated the week — averaging almost double the viewers in prime time than the next closes network — and we can't name a single non-football show on NBC currently. That, friends is why the Cleveland Browns are worth a billion bucks.
— We have been on the Alabama side of this weekend's game of the century for a while. it's not among our Fab 4-plus-1 picks for a couple of reasons. First, will the background noise be a distraction? Secondly, do you know the last three QBs to beat Nick Saban — Johnny Football, Jordan Jefferson and Cam Newton. That's three alleged outlaws who can run. We're not sayin', we're just sayin', you know?
— Patriots-Jets is your Thursday night match-up, and we have heard way too much about New England's limited weapons. Hello, the Jets are relying on a rookie QB against Bill Belichick.
There's a slew of stuff to discuss today. Tons in fact.
But, since we love the draft — you know this — and recruiting is somewhat like the draft, let's make this correlation.
JaMarcus Russell is the single worst draft pick in NFL history. There is no debating that, since the best wide receiver (Clavin johnson), tackle (Joe Thomas), running back (Adrian Peterson), middle linebacker (Patrick Willis) and cornerback (Darrelle Revis) were all selected within the next 14 picks after the Raiders tabbed Russell.
Is Tyler Bray the worst recruit ever? Consider the following:
Lane Kiffin had to have Bray. To get Bray, Kiffin undercut B.J. Coleman, forcing him to transfer. Kiffin told Tajh Boyd, thanks but no thanks. Now Bray, he of the back tat, the throat slashes, the loco dance, the sideline tears, the beer-bottle throwing and enough glanced stares to fill the Dunkin' Donuts from here to Boston, allegedly took cash from agents during his time at Tennessee.
Or better yet: When the Vols return to Knoxville next week, which would get you punched faster, orange Dooley pants or a No. 8 Bray jersey?
Discuss, and gang, let's have some fun out there.
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 ...