published Thursday, September 19th, 2013

5-at-10: 5 SEC things to look for, Fab 4-plus-1 picks, and baseball magic

Gang, we have an 8 a.m. meeting today, so the 5-at-10 is in a monster rush. Seriously monster rush. Like the Mummy meets werewolf meets Dracula monster rush.

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's do it for Caretaker.

5 SEC things to look for

The SEC rules college football, right? Well, this college football weekend is so blah-tastic that ESPN College Gameday is headed to Fargo, N.D., and unless they are looking for the best movie with a city name in it, well, that's underwhelming. (Side note: How great a thespian is Steve Buscemi for that guy to be a well-paid, in-demand actor and look like that? Dude looks like a bad dental commercial and he's making two films a year. Well-played indeed.) With that in mind, let's turn our attention to the SEC weekend that is and know that in a previous life, LSU-Auburn or Tennessee-Florida used to be a big game.

1) Who will take the Vols first snap

  • photo
    Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley prepares to pass in this file photo.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Butch Jones opened practice this week by saying the quarterback job was open. Justin Worley's performance in the first three games revealed he can be little more than a game manager, which is fine if every other part of your team is loaded but it's troublesome for a team yearning for playmakers. The Vols are assuredly the latter, and going to the Swamp is hardly the ideal place for a freshman — true or redshirted — to make his college debut. Still, the questions about Tennessee's offensive limitations mirror the lingering suspicions about Worley's physical ceiling. Paging Riley Ferguson, paging Riley Ferguson.

2) Tigers meet challenges

Will LSU be tested when an unbeaten Auburn comes to Baton Rouge? Is Auburn ready to take its show on the road against arguably the league's most impressive team? It's hard to see how, and on paper this is the perfect example of how not all 3-0 records are created equally. LSU has pounded its three foes, winning each by double digits. Auburn has won three straight home games for first-year coach Gus Malzahn, including a seven-point win over Washington State and a come-from-behind rally with a TD in the final seconds over Mississippi State. If the game is close late, maybe those tight experiences will behoove Malzahn's Tigers. But, that's an awfully big 'maybe.'

3) Do the Bulldogs and the Tide handle their BID-ness

Georgia is a 33-point favorite over North Texas. Alabama is a 40-point favorite over Colorado State. Winning should not be the question. Effectiveness and execution are the buzz words for Mark Richt and Nick Saban. How each team plays against their own expectations rather than their opponent will determine success for these heavyweights and heavy favorites.

4) Road tests for two surprising unbeatens

Of course we all expected that three weeks into the season the only unbeaten SEC East team would be Missouri. Right? Right? Well, the Tigers now carry the SEC banner to Indiana for a road game against the Hoosiers. In February -- during college hoops season -- this could lead CBS. In September it's buried on the Big Ten Network. For Arkansas, which has record-setting freshman rusher Alex Collins, a trip to New Jersey to face a better-than-expected Rutgers team is another chance to carry the league's message of dominance to the outlands. Good luck, and do not come back empty handed.

5) Now or never

Bowl hopes are flickering for Vandy and Mississippi State, two SEC programs that already have two losses and still have several serious challenges left on the schedule in the months ahead. Vandy appears to be relatively safe against a UMass team that is 0-3 and smells like a foot. Mississippi State, however, hosts a Troy team that poses some threats. Should Mississippi State win? You bet. Would the season be all but over if Troy pulls the upset? You better believe it.


Fab 4-plus-1 picks

Last week we went 2-2-1 against the spread. We were less than pleased but less than frustrated considering the number of strange plays and performances that happened. And yes, the picks as always are for entertainment purposes only.

It could have easily been a very painful weekend all things considered, and if you escape with a .500 record when things look bleak, well, that's not too shabby. (Side note: A week ago, we pledged to ride Oregon and UCLA and we did neither. Of course, they each hit. Welcome to betting folks, the cosmic ball-bouncing that is the would've, could've, should've realm of possibilities.)

There are a slew of one-sided lines this week — Miami is giving Savannah State 60 flippin' points; yes 6-0! — and more than a few less than stellar matchups. So it goes.

Still, there's entertainment to be made. We're 11-3-1 through three weeks, meaning if you dropped 100 entertainment vouchers on each pick you would be 760 entertainment vouchers to the good after drinking the juice and figuring the vig.

Let's get to it.

Clemson minus-13.5 at NC State: The more we look at this game the more it scares us. That said, no one said entertainment risks were not without a little edge.

Pittsburgh at Duke over the 50.5: David Cutcliffe can call some mean football plays. The Panthers allowed 27 points to New Mexico. This one could be close to the over before the half.

Vandy at UMass under the 54.5: The Minutemen are much slower than that on offense, scoring seven points per game through the first three — and it's not exactly a murderer's row of Wisconsin, Maine and Kansas State. Even if Vandy names the score, 45-0 covers with ease.

Missouri minus-2.5 at Indiana: At its core, this one is as simple as a bottom tier Big Ten team against a lower tier SEC team. And whichever team executes in the halfcourt better will... wait one second. Serious note: Each of these teams is in the top 10 in scoring and each averages more than 500 yards of total offense per game. The hunch here is that Missouri has more at stake.

Nebraska minus-20.5 vs. South Dakota State: Speaking of having something at stake, do you think Bo Pelini and the Nebraska coaching staff need a good performance in front of the home crowd after last week's implosion against UCLA and the leaked Pelini tapes that included profanity-laced insults against the Nebraska fan base? This one has the feel of 59-6. (Side note: This is assuredly the only match-up of Cornhuskers and Jackrabbits on the schedule this weekend. Enjoy)

Last week against the spread: 2-2-1

Overall against the spread: 11-3-1


Baseball magic

  • photo
    Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, second from right argues with home plate umpire CB Bucknor, right with umpire Dale Scott, left, and catcher Brian McCann during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, in Washington. Bucknor called a pitch a ball with the bases loaded and a full count.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Braves lowered their magic number to two with a 5-2 win over Washington. That's good news.

From the files of NO WAY, Lil' Danny Struggla had his first extra base hit since a double on July 30 and his first home run since July 25 when he hit a sixth-inning solo shot last night. Uggla went 3-for-8 in the three-game series against Washington, before that he was 6-for-72 since Aug. 1 with six singles two RBIs and 26 strikeouts. OUCH-standing.

On the serious good news front, Braves outfielder Jason Heyward took simulated at-bats Wednesday and said things went well. There is a strong feeling around the club that Heyward will be back Monday. There's no way to overstate Heyward's value to this team.

Atlanta went 22-6 from July 22-Aug. 21 when Heyward moved to the leadoff spot and raised his season average almost 30 points (from .225 to .253). Heyward was well on his way to being the NL player of the month in August, considering he was hitting .348 with an OPS of 1.040 before being hit in the face against the Mets.

Since he has been out the Braves are 13-13 and have struggled.

With Heyward, the Braves have a chance. Without him, not so much.

This and that

— Ken Norton died. He was 70. He had as much success against Muhammad Ali as anyone, and was one of the forgotten great fighters in the glory days of the 60s and 70s that was heavyweight boxing.

— We get the Cleveland Browns starting over. We get trying to acquire as many first-round picks as possible, even if it means dealing your best offensive player. How do you pedal it to the season-ticket holders? And do you really trust the Browns with extra first-round picks, since the last time they dealt in first-rounders they turned the chance to draft Julio Jones into extra Atlanta picks that became most notably Brandon Weeden. Poor Johnny Browns Fans.

— Good read from TFP golf ace David Uchiyama here about former Baylor School golfer Luke List chasing his PGA dreams. Luke will be on Press Row today around 2 p.m. on 105.1 FM.

— Crazy story of the day? Try this one in which Chris "Birdman" Andersen was played by internet scammers and led to his arrest last year for allegedly having a relationship with a 15-year-old girl. Andersen's attorney said it was a "Manti T'eo situation on steroids."

Today's question

We mentioned our monster rush earlier, and in the tangential world of the 5-at-10, that naturally leads us to...

What was the scariest monster for you growing up?

And we've always hated, Hated, HATED clowns — be them real life, the Poltergeist clown on the floor of the kid's room or Heaven forbid 'It' — so that's likely No. 1 for us. But dude, Freddy Krueger was a bad man.

We still hate clowns. And cole slaw.

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 ...

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.
chas9 said...

Richardson was not producing. The Brownies made a smart move.

The TFP reports that the Dalai Llama is coming to the ATL. What would he say to Bo Pelini?

Monday JMC used the B-word in this space, so I guess it's OK to talk basketball here in the heat of the pointy ball season.

Chris Dortch's hot-off-the-press Blue Ribbon Yearbook picks Michigan State to win all the marbles with UK second. He says Florida 7th and The Vols 20th. I'll go with The Cats' best freshman class in basketball history to win it all, though I admit Dortch is twice as smart as I am. No, thrice.

Still smarting from the Ryan Harrow disaster, Kentucky has nabbed its PG for class of 2014. He's highly-touted Tyler Ulis, who stands all of 5'8" or 5'9" at best. He breaks Calipari's streak of using tall guards and will be the Cats' first out-of-state scholarship player shorter than six-feet tall since 1950.

Taking the short guy is a sign of the shortage in the class of PG's who can play. The bidding war will get ugly. Better get yours now. UT's weak at the position, so their situation is desperate.

Try a cole slaw that's based in vinegar, not mayo. And look under your bed every night to be sure there's no clown there.

September 19, 2013 at 10:40 a.m.
compspeed said...

Scariest monster? Without a doubt, the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz, in black and white, as we saw it only once a year on TV. When I finally saw it in color they weren't near as scary. They almost looked cartoonish. But those black and white winged simians always produced nightmares.

September 19, 2013 at 10:59 a.m.
jomo11 said...

How good can Riley Ferguson be if he cant beat out Justin Worley since August ?

September 19, 2013 at 11:16 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

As Fulmer would say about the 5-star tailbacks that had to wait their turn, he has to learn to pass block.

Compspeed —

GREAT call on the monkeys. Excellent in fact.

We also were not keen on the Umpa-a-Lumpas.

Randy Newman was spot on.

9er —

What's this basketball of which you speak?

Izzo has never gotten his due. Dude is an all-timer, you know.

SEC will be better in hoops, but it would be tough to be worse than a season ago.

September 19, 2013 at 11:23 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Chase- Guilty as charged on the "B" word. But given the pre-season write-ups on how Coach Wade is handling his BID-ness, there is a sense of excitement in the house that Mac built. Tack that on with Foster's Femme Fatales and that ohhh so sweet pre-season schedule of theirs, and I say why not?

Agree with the Poltergeist clown. In fact, I don't think I ever watched those scenes when I was seven (back when it first came on HBO). I would usually bury my head between the couch pillows like an ostrich.

Huge Freddy Kruger fan. And found it rather humorous watching a marathon of "V" the series (the short-lived NBC one) on SyFy where Robert England played this meek, mild, simplton to who was the assistant of a bar/club owner who was part of the human resistance movement. This series was produced about three/four years before he would become the iconic movie monster we know today.

On a sidenote, everyone I've ever talked to who has met him in real life has said the man is class with a capital "C". No ego, no talk'n about playoffs (or whatever that stinkbug is that Cowboy Joe likes to listen to), but class.

Concur on the cole slaw. To this VERY day I don't get the whole cole slaw on BBQ sandwiches. NAS-TEEE!!

September 19, 2013 at 11:29 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Duke still going with its backup QB? They didn't exactly light it up last week against Tech's D. Cut may be able to call mean plays. But what if his players are still meek?

The Miami-Savannah State line ... well, it's too low. SSU is bad. As in cruise ship running aground off the Italian coast and we can't get it back up bad.

One of the great SI covers - Ali trying to eat with a broken jaw, a jaw busted by none other than Ken Norton, one of the best punchers in heavyweight history.

Struggla's given his contribution for the month. He can now go back to being Struggla. What's more troubling is McCann's average tumble, from .290 around the all-star break to about .256 now.

There are acid flashbacks that are weekend drives up the coast in a convertible compared to the flying monkeys from Wizard of Oz. Also scary - Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows, and not the Tim Burton-esque remake with Johnny Depp. I mean the original, creepy soap opera that spawned a couple of movies in the late 70s. That and batting against Mariano Rivera in the ninth. Scary stuff, kids. So sayeth Count Floyd from SCTV.

Stanford-Arizona State could have been a good Gameday spot. But I am OK with the love they're about to show FCS. Hope GSU gets a good mention and not for its misguided folly of going to FBS.

September 19, 2013 at 11:46 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...


For whatever reason, SCTV never aired in the Chattanooga market (or maybe it did but I don't recall where). In those days I was lucky to remember which station SNL was on (by the time I was old enough to comprehend the humor; it was back during the Eddie Murphy/Martain Short years). But I remember Count Floyd as a regular from the old Ed Grimley animated cartoon which ran for one season on NBC. I didn't know at the time that he was a carry over from another show. Funny how that works. ^^()

September 19, 2013 at 12:28 p.m.
mcpell3 said...

Clowns never bothered me until I read Stephen King's It. Good call on the B/W Flying Monkey's - creepy.

Lived in JMC's neighborhood when Ken Norton Jr was with the Cowboys. Dang good LB. Now coaching LB's in Seattle?

Read Paschall's predictions, make me lokk like I was drinking Cammy Cam Juice on the Gus Bus yesterday.

You need to try Twisted coleslaw - good stuff

September 19, 2013 at 1 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

Had Ken Norton been born in a different era he might have had a Joe Louis type run as heavyweight champion of the world. It is amazing how stacked the heavyweight division was during the 1970s. Fighters like Norton and Earnie Shavers are largely forgotten figures and in their prime could have dominated any heavyweight contender to step foot in the ring in the last fifteen years.

The Cleveland Browns traded a known commodity for draft picks. Considering the Browns history with the draft, they might as well have traded Richardson for a stack of lottery tickets and a magic 8-ball.

On the subject of scary monsters, here is a fact this is somewhat interesting and a whole lot insane: The movie characters Norman Bates, Buffalo Bill and Leatherface were all loosely based on the same guy. His name was Ed Gein and he lived in a small town in Wisconsin. I will not go into details, but as one might imagine, Gein was into some seriously demented and evil activity.

Jay, don't be alarmed, but there is a fellow by the name of Pennywise here to see you. He has a big ol' tub of cole slaw and an autographed photo of Nick Saban he would like to offer you.

September 19, 2013 at 3:23 p.m.
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