Remember Friday's mailbag and enjoy the final week of summer. Sigh.
From the "Talks too much" studios, tigers love pepper; they hate cinnamon.
SEC intrigue — sort of
We head into a college football weekend of blah so staggering that ESPN's College Football Gameday is heading to North Dakota State. (Major props to JMC for pimping the NDSU program from the very start. Well-played indeed.)
That said, there are two SEC games this week that will serve as extreme measuring sticks for two first-year coaches.
Butch Jones and the Tennessee Vols are a 17-point underdog at Florida. Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers are a 17.5-point underdog at LSU.
Butch and Co. had a Custer-sized chance heading across the country and facing an Oregon team that is going to pants a lot of folks. That loss was more about Oregon than Tennessee, and even those with the deepest tinted orange glasses can buy that.
Saturday is different, though. Saturday — even as a 17-point underdog — is against a Florida team that has tortured Tennessee fans for a generation. And this is not exactly a Florida juggernaut, especially offensively.
For Auburn and Malzahn, Saturday's opposition is tougher as is the challenge, so the fact that the visiting Tigers are the same longshot as the Vols screams Vegas believes Malzahn's club is further along than the Jones' gang.
A large part of that perception has to be the positive steps Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has made in the first three weeks and the stagnation of UT counterpart Justin Worley to the point that the Vols were re-auditioning for the part of QB1 this week.
Still, for each of the new coaches at programs starving for improvement in the cut-throat realm that is the SEC, Saturday is a fair litmus test for each.
Which team has the better shot at keeping it close? Discuss, and we'll share our answer around lunch.
Not at the table Carlos.
Bo Pelini believes Nebraska fans will forgive his off-the-cuff, off-the-record rant that was taped a few years ago about bandwagon Cornhuskers fans that included a couple of choice words that would make George Carlin's ears perk up.
We agree about fans being able to forgive the occasional frustrated rant, especially when it was delivered in what was perceived to be a private moment.
But Pelini's biggest hurdle right now is whether or not he has peaked with Nebraska, the program being a top-half team in a mediocre Big Ten and little more. Even though Taylor Martinez has somehow been allowed to play college football for like 12 years — feels like dude has been in college as long as the 5-at-10 was, and we took a couple of junior years and a redshirt or three — what was the last highlight for Pelini and the Cornhuskers?
And the timing of the release of this rant could not be much worse, considering it comes on the heels of Nebraska turning a 21-3 lead into a 41-21 loss at home last weekend against UCLA.
The audio tape and Pelini's cussing language will not sink his ship; the video tape and the Pelini's coaching limitations will.
Which leads us to the very real possibility that we could go into the offseason with USC, Texas and Nebraska jobs open. Sweet coaching raises and rumor milling madness, are we ready for that?
We say you bet. And Gus Malzahn is off the market.
Do you know if the hotel is pager friendly?
Baseball enters the final stretch — we have always believed that baseball is background music until the 'er' months — and there are several teams fighting for the two wildcard spots in each league.
If the season ended this morning, in the AL it would be:
1) Boston (magic number 3)
Wildcard play-in: Tampa Bay at Texas
If the season ended this morning, in the NL it would be:
1) Atlanta (magic number 4)
2) L.A. (magic number 2)
3) St. Louis
Wildcard play-in: Cincy at Pittsburgh
The rest of the division leaders have magic numbers of more than five.
The AL wildcard standings are:
Tampa Bay and Texas tied with identical 82-68 records.
Cleveland is 82-69 and a half-game back. Baltimore is two back and Kansas City and the Yankees are 3.5 back. Each team has 11 or 12 games remaining.
In the NL wildcard, the Pirates are 1.5 up on the Reds, who are 4.5 ahead of the surging Nationals.
God bless the 'er' months. And put your pants back on; we feel uncomfortable having to ask twice.
This and that
— How are we into preseason NHL? Technically, it's still summer until Sunday. E-gads.
— You guys know how much we love Barkevious Mingo and how we believe Barkevious was put on the fast track to being an NFL first-rounder by his parents giving him the name Barkevious. There simply are not many accountants or dentists walking around with Barkevious Mingo, C.P.A., or Barkevious Mingo, D.D.S. on their cards. Meet the tennis version: Tornado and Hurricane Black. (Side point: You have to be careful very careful with girls' names, though, because you are could be headed to center court or center stage. Right Spy?)
— We keep a particularly close eye on the odds and the spreads and the things that affect the world of gaming — for entertainment purposes only of course. This has the makings of a historically one-sided weekend, considering Miami is a 60-point favorite over Savannah State — only the third 60-plus-point pick ever (FSU -65 over Savannah State last year and Hawaii -60 vs. Northern Colorado in 2007), according to RJ Bell of pregame.com.
— We mentioned it Monday, but the Vegas guesstimation for Johnny Football's late TD to cover the spread against Alabama was a $5 million windfall for the house in Vegas. That's why they build those really nice buildings. You probably get this a lot... did, um, the real Caesar live here?
— The Atlanta Falcons are banged up to a point that they are likely going to be catching 3 at Miami on Sunday. We are worried about Mike Smith, Matty Ice Ice Baby and the rest. That said, we fully endorse the idea of throwing the ball to Julio Jones 20 times a Sunday. Dude may look kind of funny, but we believe he's the best wide receiver on the planet not named Calvin Johnson. Julio Jones needs a nickname. Now we know for sure we just added two more guys to the wolfpack.
Play along with any of the above of course. And remember the Friday mailbag and know that just about any thing is fair game. (Keep it clean Spy. Ew, Alan did you just eat sofa pizza?)
Feel free to weigh in about who will be the hottest name on what could be the hottest college football coaching market, maybe ever.
But if you still need a talking point, let's go to any of these three 'should' stops:
Should the NCAA pay athletes?
Should the PGA quit taking calls from Johnny Golf Fan about this rule infraction or that improper impediment?
And the StuckinKent special, Should the Pirates and the Royals make the World Series, would you watch?
Discuss. (I should of been a cop.)
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 ...