published Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

5-at-10: SEC power rankings, AFC division breakdowns, Braves stink and Birthday bonanza

What a glorious weekend. Right? Right.

And if you missed Monday and want to discuss who won/lost the weekend, well feel free and check in on Press Row from 3-6 p.m. today on ESPN 105.1 FM.

From the "Talks too much" studios, let the game-playing begin.

SEC asked and answered

We are going to rank the SEC teams on how they looked in Week 1. This is a power of perception ranking, and remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder (record and Saturday's opponent in parenthesis).

1) Texas A&M (1-0; vs Lamar, 7:30 p.m.)

  • photo
    Georgia's Todd Gurley, right, runs the ball in their game against Clemson, Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 45-21.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Was that destruction of South Carolina about the good A&M did or the bad Carolina did? The answer is some of both but we know this: You can't underestimate the explosiveness of the Aggies offense after losing three first-round offensive players to the 2014 draft and watching A&M shred the Gamecocks. We have frequently said that Nick Saban is worth every penny of his $7 million salary. Maybe we need to start looking at how Kevin Sumlin — who has fashioned an offense that makes stars of whomever is pulling the trigger — is worth every penny in his $5 million deal.

2) Georgia (1-0; off)

Is Todd Gurley the Heisman front-runner? Yep. And know this, while Georgia has a slew of talented backs and strives for balance offensively, the Bulldogs staff needs to remember to feed the beast. If you have four really nice cars, but one of them is like Knight Rider's KITT, well, nice cars are nice, Todd Gurley is KITT — dude can do it all.

3) Auburn (1-0; vs. San Jose State, 7)

Can Auburn average 45 points per game? We think yes, if not more. The Tigers got 45 against a better-than-expected Arkansas effort and did it in a variety of ways. Know this: Auburn ran for a touch more than 300 and passed for a touch more than 290. How's that for balance?

4) Alabama (1-0; vs. FAU, noon)

Is this a quarterback debate, discussion or dilemma? It's still up in the air at this point but the longer Alabama ventures into the season with two starting QBs will be the more apparent that they have 0 starting QBs. And yes, Blake Sims was better than OK Saturday, but he was just 1-of-4 on throws longer than 15 yards.

5) LSU (1-0; vs. Sam Houston State, 7:30)

How good can the Tigers be? We don't know and neither does anyone else. LSU is deep and talented and has potential stars all over the field. That said, if Les Miles doesn't call the fake punt in the second half to flip momentum and get his team jumpstarted, LSU does not rally to be Wisconsin. So there's that.

6) Mississippi State (1-0; vs. UAB, 2)

With all the other higher-profile games around the conference, was Mississippi State's domination of Southern Miss the best overall performance? Possibly — a 49-0 win over Southern Miss that wasn't that close — but the fact remains that Southern Miss is awful. Still, these Bulldogs handled their business and are going to beat someone they're not supposed to this year.

7) Ole Miss (1-0; at Vandy, 4:30)

What did we learn about the Rebels? Opening on the grand stage of Thursday night in the Georgia Dome, we learned Ole Miss may have more talent than any recent version of the Rebels roster in a generation. We also learned that Ole Miss fans will ride the mercurial ways of quarterback Bo Wallace more so than any ranked team in the country.

8) Tennessee (1-0; vs. Arkansas State, noon)

Was that fun or what? You bet it was. Tennessee looked faster than it has in a decade. It looked like a team that had actually practiced some defensive principles, something that was apparently not allowed during the Dooley tenure. Yes, the paltry rushing numbers are cause for concern, but after the best — and most fun — UT showing in recent memory, can we not just enjoy the good for this one week. There are plenty of potholes and concerns down the road — the quick, undersized defensive front that worked against Utah State will be a liability in SEC play for one — but let's focus on the good.

9) Kentucky (1-0; vs. Ohio, 3:30)

Speaking of overachieving in week one, what is UK's ceiling now? Well, after torching an overmatched UT-Martin team, the Wildcats looked the part of potential spoiler. Nice showing in the Year 2 opener for Stoops and Co.

10) Missouri (1-0; at Toledo, noon)

What did we learn from the Tigers' 38-18 win over South Dakota State? Well, that Missouri may have lost more than we thought.

11) Florida (0-0; vs. Eastern Michigan, 4)

Was the rainout a good thing for Florida? We say no, especially since the new offense of OC Kurt Roper could use every chance to work through the kinks before the SEC slate starts.

12) South Carolina (0-1; vs. East Carolina)

What was that? We're still not sure.

13) Arkansas (0-1; vs. Nicholls State, 4)

Will Arkansas be better? We think so. The offense will be better than expected, but the defense is thin. We know this from being professionally invested in the ways of the UT program — this is a tough league in which to rebuild.

216) Vandy (0-1; vs. Ole Miss, 4:30)

What's on the Rushmore of debuts? We'll go Ishtar, Kevin federline's debut album "Playing with Fire," and Derek Mason's coaching debacle that completely erased the James Franklin era. Wow. It was that bad.

———

NFL

The cuts came and went. Johnny Football is what the Browns told him to act like — a back-up quarterback. The preseason passed without major injury, which is a great thing.

Now, it's go time in the NFL. We'll breakdown the AFC today, the NFC on Wednesday and look to the individual awards and playoff projections on Thursday. Deal? Deal.

AFC East: There are few organizations in sports as consistent as the New England Patriots. Sweet Odin's Raven, forget pencilling them in as the East champs, you can do it Sharpie, cover it with liquid cement and bury it in a time capsule that says "True until Brady and Belichick retire." This is the ACC — there's one really good club and no matter how much you try to talk yourself into believing that Miami or Buffalo/Clemson or the New York Jets/UNC could contend, they can't. And they won't.

AFC South: No team will get more universal preseason prediction love than the Indy Colts. That has everything to do with luck, as in a) Andrew Luck; b) the luck to play in a rebuilding league that is always rebuilding and c) well, the luck to have six games against the QB accounting firm of Fitzpatrick, Locker and Henne.

AFC Central: Quietly, and way behind the NFC West, this is one of the best divisions in football. Cincinnati has a closing window to make the most of the division's most-talented roster since Andy Dalton's affordability-to-talent metric is about to flip in the opposite direction and for the Bengals to make some difficult roster decisions that the Steelers and Ravens did to afford their quarterbacks.

AFC West: Denver is the class of the division — and the conference — on paper considering last year they had the sport's most productive offense and added some major pieces (Demarcus Ware and Aqib Talib to name two) to a defense that should be better. Plus, Denver's two best linemen missed most if not all of last season with injuries and suspensions. Seattle's roster may be the best 1-to-53, but Denver's starters are the class of the NFL. As for the rest of the league, here's believing that Oakland quarterback Derek Carr will be the class of this rookie class of signal callers.

Thoughts?

————

Braves

Uh, what was that?

  • photo
    Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, in Atlanta.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Braves faced four Phillies pitchers on Labor Day and got the same number of hits as you, me and Danny Struggla got. Bagel. Bagel-of-the-day in a 7-0 loss to Philadelphia.

The good: Hey, the Braves walked five times and Jason Heyward stole three bases. Yes, this is officially the Upwards Baseball moment of the good, the bad and the Uggla. We are praising walks. Yay.

The bad: Well, the Braves truck out 12 times. They allowed three unearned runs. Their perceived ace allowed nine base runners and two earned in less than seven innings (not truly bad, we guess, but still). And that was just Monday. Check these numbers over the weekend: In their last 27 innings the Braves have scored 1 run — on an Evan Gattis solo homer; in that stretch, they are 20-for-95 with 31Ks and are 1-17 with runners in scoring position

The Uggla: After a 14-14 August, the Braves are mired in a four-team wildcard melee. Atlanta is seven back of the Nationals and that looks like a tall order all things considered — mainly since the Nationals' run differential is +108; Atlanta's is +19. Atlanta is a1.5 back of San Fran and Milwaukee and half a game ahead of Pittsburgh. As for Danny Struggla, well, still no word on the wires about his whereabouts.

———

This and that

— Houston signed J.J. Watt to a six-year, $100 million extension. Huge money for a defensive end. Quick rewind — because we love the draft; you know this — and if we had to repick the top-10 of the 2011 draft (which is going to be fondly remembered as time passes) and staying close to player of need when possible:

  • photo
    Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

1) Carolina — Cam Newton (they drafted Newton, and you could make an argument that they could take a slew of these guys, but none of the QBs in this draft are better than Newton and considering their defense is stout as is, they have to address QB)

2) Denver — JJ Watt (they drafted Von Miller, who has been very good, but suspension- and injury-plagued)

3) Buffalo — Robert Quinn (they drafted Marcell Dareus)

4) Cincy — A.J. Green (they drafted Green)

5) Arizona — Patrick Peterson (they drafted Peterson)

6) Atlanta — Julio Jones (they drafted Jones, although as porous as that defensive line is, a guy like Cam Jordan would be awesome too)

7) San Fran —Richard Sherman (they drafted Aldon Smith, who has been good when he can stay out of trouble)

8) Tennessee — Colin Kaepernick (they drafted Jake Locker, and a vote could be made for Andy Dalton, too)

9) Dallas — Tyron Smith (they drafted Tyron Smith)

10) Jacksonville — Andy Dalton (they drafted Blaine Gabbert)

— The Ryder Cup captain picks will be announced today. We think Tommy Watson will go with Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and we're leaning to Brandt Snedeker, but could see Chris Kirk or even Ryan Moore. We think Paul McGinley will go with Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. We also think if there was a spread on this think it would the Euros by like 4. (And that's, like, a bunch.)

———

Today's question

Adolph Rupp (would have been 113) and Terry Bradshaw (66) share a birthday today with Eric Dickerson (54).

We're going to give you the option of three birthday-related questions — and if you want to participate in all three, great.

Rushmore of men's college basketball coaches in honor of Rupp?

Where do you rank Bradshaw all-time among NFL QBs?

Rushmore of best running backs ever?

Go.

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 ...

5
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.
Buschleague said...

5-Mailbag: How many seasons go by before Malzahn is on an NFL sideline? Bradshaw is 2 or 3 as far as big game winners, overall top 5 for sure. Rushmore: Brown Dickerson OJ Sanders

September 2, 2014 at 11:39 a.m.
MocTastic said...

Buschleague - a great running back that many thought was one of the best of all time but had very short career, Gale Sayers.

September 2, 2014 at 11:47 a.m.
Buschleague said...

MT-Sure, right there with Earl Campbell and Terrell Davis. Hard to leave off Payton too.

September 2, 2014 at 12:01 p.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring, I was just a frosh in '81, so I remeber well being gutted by USC then Georgia the first two weeks on the road. Vols put a 42 noting pasting on Colorado State. Vol fans were placated for the moment. I'm gratified with Sunday's effort, but I fear this W portends nothing about the Vols place in the SEC.

Of course, certainly and hell yeah, I would trade all my tortured memories of the last decade or so for a win against Florida.

Greatest Signal Callers ahead of Terry Bradshaw (in no particular order: John Unitas, Slinging Sammy Baugh, Dan Marimo Dan Fouts, Joe Namath, Elway, Montana, Tom Bradey, Otto Graham, Drew Brees, Brett Farve. Let's throw Roger Staubach for a gut reaction.

September 2, 2014 at 12:10 p.m.
chas9 said...

I'll go (any order) Rupp, Wooden, Coach K, Smith. Wouldn't argue with anybody who wants to swap Pitino or Boeheim for Smith.

Good list of how SEC teams rank, beauty-wise, though I'd leave out The Gators (DNQ). Six out of top seven are from the west, which sounds right, though Flo-rida will crack that bunch in time.

As will The Cocks. Looked to me more of A&M is great than the real USC is lame.

Agree that UT and UK are neck and neck. Would love to have Tennessee's defense and Kentucky's offense.

Stoops and Company do appear to have arrived in year two, but their schedule is murder. Should help The Cats that Muschamp's minions will have played only one game when they meet UK.

Surely the swamp lizards can't weasel out of re-scheduling the Vandals game to their mutual off date just before the Gawga cocktail party.

September 2, 2014 at 12:40 p.m.
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