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
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
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.
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."
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.
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 ...