published Thursday, September 4th, 2014

5-at-10: SEC items of interest, Fab 4 (plus-1) picks, NFL predictions, Rushmore of talent

Gang, still have a spot or two in the mailbag.

From the "Talks too much" studios, believe = achieve. Achieve = bank. Believe that.

5 SEC things to watch

After a washed away opener for Florida and Thursday night beginning that South Carolina and Vandy wished had been rained out, the SEC heads to week two with few head-turning games and fewer matchups that figure to be close.

Still, it's the SEC and there's always items of interest.

1) How does Tennessee respond to a smashing debut? The Vols took Utah State seriously and then seriously took the Aggies to the woodshed. Now, after a week of hearing how great they did and seeing they are a 17-point favorite against Arkansas State, keeping the young Vols focused and grounded has to be job No. 1 for Butch Jones and Co. Jones and his staff did an excellent job of keeping the youngsters — 21 true freshmen played in the opener and 32 newcomers saw action in the 38-7 win over Utah State — energetically under control. Keeping the Vols engaged and fighting the "We did it" view from a room full of 18-to-22-year-olds is paramount this week.

2) How does Vandy respond in a debut smashing? Entering the season the Commodores were riding a wave of success unseen in half a century. It crashed like a derailed train when Temple dropped a 37-7 win on Vandy in Nashville. Ouch-standing. Now, the Commodores host Ole Miss in the only league game of the weekend. Vandy's seven turnovers were the key factor in the 30-point loss, and certainly Derek Mason's second game won't include that many freebies. (Heck, the last sequel to offer that many freebies was Weekend at Bernie's II.) Still, Ole Miss is way better than Temple, which looked way better than Vandy. This could be a key moment for Mason; if the Rebels blow Vandy out, what is the ceiling for Mason in Nashville?

3) Will Lane Kiffin wear a collared shirt? Sure we could wonder about the quarterback rotation at Alabama, but the Tide could trot today's version of Joe Namath out there and they'd crush Florida Atlantic on Saturday. So, while there still remain some questions after a tighter-than-expected win over West Virginia last weekend, the answers will be skewed against an overmatched FAU, which gave up almost 500 rushing yards to Nebraska. That said, can someone push Kiffin from the Crockett and Tubbs collection into a normal golf shirt for crying out loud?

4) A week later than expected, will Florida's new offense be a reason to believe or another log on the fire under Will Muschamp's seat? Kirk Roper has earned nothing short of glowing praise from colleagues and throughout the preseason. It's go time now, and while Florida should pummel Eastern Michigan, the style, production and fluidity of the offense will be placed firmly under a microscope. Are you ready for your close-up Mr. Roper, who we always believed was a way-better fit than Mr. Furley on "Three's Company."

5) What will be the biggest blowout in an SEC weekend filled with them? Wait, scratch that. Let's go which of the SEC games against foes that sound like pushovers will be the closest. There will be a lot of landslides this weekend as roughly half the league plays FCS teams and several more play teams that have a direction in their name. That said, Missouri's going to Toldeo, which has former Alabama QB Phillip Ely running the show, and South Carolina can't sleep on East Carolina this weekend either. Of course, after their season-opening debacle, South Carolina can't look past East Hamilton, nevermind East Carolina.

———

Fab 4 picks (plus 1)

Week two of the college football season and we have a question for the group and an observation about week two.

First, the question: Last week when we made these picks LSU was -5 and we took the Tigers. The line moved to LSU -3 on Saturday. LSU won by 4. Does that count as a win or a loss for the picks? We are counting it as a loss here — although, since these picks are for "entertainment only," we counted it as a big entertainment win over the weekend.

Second, the observation: Coaches like to say the biggest improvements are made from week 1 to week 2. That makes sense. As for the handicappers and lines-makers, the best improvements are made between weeks 2 and 3. Week 2 for Vegas is when the handicappers have to decide the difference between a surprise team and a good or bad season opener. Like what do we make of Vandy? Was it one bad game or are they going to go 2-10? Could it be some of each? The answer is no one knows — including Vegas — and when the unknown looms that favors the prepared minds.

So focus on what you know and the teams you believe in, whether they played brilliantly or badly last week.

With that, and with the one-point loss/win for LSU, here are this week's Fab 4 picks:

Last week: 4-1 against the spread

Season: 4-1 against the spread

Arizona minus-7 at Texas-San Antonio: We like a Thursday night fun, and enjoyed ourselves tremendously last week with Ole Miss on Thursday night. UTSA has a ton of experience back and debuted in style with an impressive 27-7 upset at Houston last week. They are riding the week 2 wave of good vibes. But the USTA Roadrunners pulled that upset with six Houston turnovers and managed only 263 yards. Arizona logged almost 800 yards in a 58-13 win over UNLV. Yes, road dogs on Thursday night can be scary, but this game is off campus and at the Alamodome. Buy the half and maybe get the significant other some flowers, while you're at it.

UCLA minus-24 over Memphis: UCLA looked anemic in a lucky 28-20 win over Virginia last week in which the Bruins defense scored three TDs. But the Bruins traveled across the country for a noon game that felt like 9 a.m. for the California boys. Plus, Virginia's strength — a salty defensive front — played well against UCLA's young and fragile offensive front. Now, flip the script. This game is to kick at 7 p.m. Pacific time, which means it will feel like a 9 p.m. start for Memphis. This also seems like the number is at least seven points low because of the overreaction from week one. This feels like a 59-10 game.

Georgia Tech minus-10 at Tulane: Putting faith in Georgia Tech is normally like buying a penny stock — you might as well be flipping a coin or playing a slot machine. So why are we giving that much weight on the road no less. Three reasons: We think Tech and coach Paul Johnson are desperate. We think Tulane put a ton into a winnable season-opener that they gave away — they missed a 21-yard field-goal try in the final minute of regulation of a 38-31 double-overtime loss — and that hangover could be huge. We also believe that there's no way to get ready for Tech in a week, and Tulane spent the preseason focusing on American Conference foe Tulsa. Buckle up Green Wave, the run-first, run-almost-always Jackets, who threw for more than 280 yards in their opener, are coming.

Michigan State plus-13 at Oregon: This number is lofty. Seriously lofty. We also believe that Michigan State has arguably the best coaching staff in the country, and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has spent a considerable amount of time getting ready for an Oregon spread. And lest we forget the last time Narduzzi saw a spread attack that was rolling was the Big Ten title game last year when Michigan State upset Ohio State. The winner of this game has a leg up on the nation in the chase for the Football Four, and in a game with stakes that high, we'll take Michigan State's coaching over Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

USC plus-3 over Stanford: This is as much a hunch as it is a pick. We believe Steve Sarkisian can really coach. We believe at some point all the personnel losses will affect The Cardinal. We believe that children are the future, teach them well and let them lead way. And yes, that's two underdogs in one Fab 4-plus-1.

Check Friday's TFP for our final pick.

———

NFL season predictions

We have covered the divisional picks the last two days here at the 5-at-10.

Here's our playoff predictions, and feel free to share yours.

NFC division winners ( home-field advantage; # first-round bye): Philadelphia, New Orleans#, Green Bay, Seattle

Wildcards: Chicago, Arizona

Playoffs: Chicago over Philly and Seattle over Arizona in round one; Green Bay over Chicago and New Orleans over Seattle in semifinals; Green Bay over New Orleans in NFC title game.

AFC division winners ( home-field advantage; # first-round bye): New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Denver#

Wildcards: Cincinnati, Kansas City

Playoffs: Indy over Cincy and Pittsburgh over Kansas City in the first round; New England over Indy and Denver over Pittsburgh in the semifinals; Denver over New England in the AFC title game.

Super Bowl: Denver over New Orleans and even the biggest Peyton fan will get tired of the (Manning rematch versus New Orleans story lines).

  • photo
    New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees smiles on the sideline during an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Thoughts?

As for the awards, well…

MVP — Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, edges Drew Brees and Tom Brady

Offensive player of the year — Drew Brees, Green Bay

Defensive player of the year — Patrick Peterson, Arizona

Offensive rookie of the year — Brandin Cooks, New Orleans

Defensive rookie of the year — Ryan Shazier, Pittsburgh

Comeback player of the year — Rob Gronkowski, New England, although Julio Jones is a fine pick here too

Coach of the year — Sean Payton, New Orleans (although we think Lovie Smith and Tampa are going to do some things)

Thoughts?

———

This and that

  • photo
    Atlanta Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt (25) is greeted by Atlanta Braves first base coach Terry Pendleton (9) as he leaves the field after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies 7-4 in a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Atlanta.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

— Hey the Braves scored seven runs and won. Who knew? Check out ace columnist Mark Wiedmer's view on it here.

— Michael Sam signed with Dallas. Jerry Jones made a shrewd move there since he keeps his team's jersey sales.

— There's some tennis out there, and the rest is the ball that bounces funny. Oh yeah, Nike retained Kevin Durant in a deal that will net the NBA MVP around $300 million over the next 10 years. Wow.

———

Today's question

We're still working on one, although did you know it was Beyonce's birthday? Who's on your Rushmore of most talented people among today's current stars? Beyonce has to make that list, right?

Know who else: Mike Piazza.

Does it not feel like Piazza lost more than anyone else in the steroid era, considering his name was never mentioned during the process but now people just assume he was because he reportedly had back acne and he could mash?

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 ...

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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.
jomo11 said...

The UTK Vols and Butchy ( Coach Slogan ) should beat Arkansas State by 3 or more TDs or it would be considered a disappointment. . . . .Jay, what is your prediction as to what post-game for UTK will you guys in the media start the " we blame this defeat or bad showing on Fulmer-Hamilton-Kiffin-Dooley-Counzo " ? over/under before or after the Oklahoma game ?

September 4, 2014 at 10:26 a.m.
Stewwie said...

[Does that count as a win or a loss for the picks?]

To be fair, it should still count as a loss. You were willing to take the Tigers at -5. Plus, I'm sure there are other times when a winning pick based on Thursday's line would have turned into a losing pick based on Saturday's line.

[Offensive player of the year — Drew Brees, Green Bay]

Brees or Rodgers? I like LeSean McCoy for this award.

Love the Broncos pick to win it all.

I'm a little surprised that Pasquali is picking the upset on Sat. with the Mocs over Jax. St.

The U.S. Open has been exciting even though it's disappointing that the last American man went out in the 3rd round. On clay, I would understand. But on hard court and grass, we should be doing better than that. Anyway, here's hoping that Fed and the Djoker meet in the Finals on Monday.

September 4, 2014 at 10:31 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

This will be one of those seasons where the Super Bowl champs REPEAT...book it, take it to the bank..Seahawks are the best in the league and second is not that close...but then again everyone here thinks Peyton is entitled lol, although Eli is still unbeaten in Super Bowls heheheh...

Mike Piazza is indeed getting shafted, the guy was a next to nothing draft pick that turned out to be one of the all-time best among catchers that could hit...

Beyonce??? Beyonce??? Queen of the lip sync??? Tons of people with boatloads more true talent than her...Justin Timberlake is tops on the list, although my years will deceive, he IS the modern day Sinatra, can sing and act rather well...Top concert draw so far this year is occupied by the number two on the Rushmore, George Strait, who actually does COUNTRY music, not this insane skinny jeans crap that passes for hillbilly music today...Third, you must still include Mick Jagger on there and yes he is current because the Stones still pack 'em in each and every time they tour...Last but and a nod to the tweeners, Taylor Swift the kid can sell records, draw incredible numbers on tour, and just broke a new single on top of the charts...Then again, I could have included some of the niche artists that so-called music snobs bring to Noogaville (tongue firmly planted in cheek)

September 4, 2014 at 10:33 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

We appreciate your passion in each regard but how are you going to say UTC was a huge underdog going to Central Michigan and then UT will start lining up all these excuses about Oklahoma?

You are following the same path you criticize Johnny Vols Fans for.

That said, Oklahoma is one of the frontrunners for the Football Four, so of course they will be a three-TD favorite.

Stewwie —

American tennis is sad.

We certainly are split between Brees and Rodgers and wrestled back in forth and left Brees there because we think he'll throw for 5,000-plus but Rodgers' team will have better year and more times than not, better season = MVP, better stats = offensive player of the year. So it goes. And Shady McCoy is a fine pick too.

And we concur and are counting it as a loss, because of the same logic, if it had switched the other way, it works in reverse. So it goes.

OG —

Dude, even Whitney lip-synced. And when you are talking about someone who moves as much — and as well — as Beyonce, well, we get it.

That said, we think JT is likely far left. And while she is a supremely talented song writer, Taylor Swift is a C-singer at best. No doubt she moves records, but so did the New Kids on The Block (as you well remember, OG).

And as much as we love King George (and we do), he was brutal in Pure Country as an actor; Beyonce was money in the Austin Powers movie.

September 4, 2014 at 11:34 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

OG-

Like you, there are a lot of niche acts that get zero airplay or creditability yet they do sell-out shows whereever they go and have a loyal following to boot. Since MTV doesn't show videos anymore and the mouth breathers at Clear Channel aren't allowed to have ANY personalities, they won't say who sings what half the time. We'll leave it at that. Looking forward to the mailbag on Friday.

Jay- Did it arrive yet? Also, any push on your show for white out 2.0?

September 4, 2014 at 11:48 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

JG...I had children when New Kids broke, so no I dont remember lol...music begins and ends with the best selling act in history...John, Paul, George, and Ringo lol

September 4, 2014 at 12:03 p.m.
chas9 said...

Prepared mind or not, your LSU pick is a loss. Gotta go with the line when you "bet" it. I can't argue with this week's picks, but they are scary games. If you go 4-1 again, you da MAN.

I'll go with The Vols as closest margin among should-be-a-blowout games.

You are correct that Mr. Furley wasn't great chemistry. But the show was slipping by then anyway. And in his best roles Don Knotts was a virtuoso. Not first tier, but better than any current talent. Who cares about Beyonce or Adele?

Love jomo's prediction about future Vols' excuses.

September 4, 2014 at 12:18 p.m.
ordinaryguy said...

well said chas...these young whippersnappers (under 40ish) have no clue about growing up when there were real talents

September 4, 2014 at 12:33 p.m.
Buschleague said...

5- Ryder Cup: Captain Tom was his at his melodramatic best for the cheesy selection show. His picks were worse. Put a max limit at 1 the times a player can be selected to the roster, just take whoever the next 3 are. They earned it (sorta). Buddy system sux. If Tiger no longer intimidates anyone, this US team really scares no one.

Apparently Wes Welker takes hits in the offseason too..

September 4, 2014 at 12:45 p.m.
jgreeson said...

OG —

Interesting point about real talent.

Would Carol Burnett or Don Knotts get a shot in today's appearance-first world? Hard to know considering the attractive folks who now are comedy gurus, too.

Think of it this way: Burnett was the aces of her time. Fall down funny on so many levels with talent everywhere. Here counterpart today is Tina Fey, who love her or loathe her, is really funny, and much better looking than Burnett.

Or Beyonce and Gladys Knight maybe?

9er —

UT could be in for a tight one (we think 17 is a really good number, though), and so could your Cats.

JMC —

It's here. Much thanks.

We're working on your mailbag response.

September 4, 2014 at 12:49 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Buschleaguer —

We were quite pleased with our "possession receiver" line yesterday. Very nice with taking hits in the offseason, too. Well-played indeed.

With Tiger out of the picture, not sure out of the candidates out there our dear Watson could have picked that would help. When the Euros are talking about how they have to try to not be overconfident, well, that does not look good for the ol' U.S. of A.

September 4, 2014 at 12:53 p.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring, it's "Ceiling Zero" for Derek Mason. Staring Jimmy Cagney, Pat O'Brian. Directed by Howard Hawks.

September 4, 2014 at 1:07 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Jay-

Comparing Carol Burnett to Tina Fay is like comparing Miyazaki's Spirited Away with Spongebob. Carol did come along at the right time and just happen to be a highly visible bundle of energy. Tina, like a lot of current talent nowadays, started out as a writer which I'm cool with (Seth Green was writer, Conen O'Brian, Al Frankin, etc.). But the first time I saw her in a performance role was as the anchor on Saturday Night Live where I learned to hate her. She went the smarty pants insult route that at one time made me wish her husband would punch her face in. (I promise I DON'T think like that anymore bout anyone in that regard; older and wiser as it were). I've watched Carol's skits and she mostly satired stuff in general and was never snippy about it. Agree with Don Knotts. I think he would have a career if he started today but mostly as a no-name character actor doing small cameos (based on general observations of the few scripted shows on regular television in general).

OG-

::no joke; sencere:: Given your taste in music, I believe I have a book that you might be interested in. Grant you its a graphic novel. Not saying anything beyond that. I'll talk to Santa. ;)

September 4, 2014 at 1:46 p.m.
Buschleague said...

5- So 9 former FBS athletes now play for UTC's next opponent? Not good, 0-2 looks likely.

Lake Johnson is a big get, dude could have gone anywhere great for the home team!

September 4, 2014 at 3 p.m.
Salsa said...

Same old One Trick Pony. Never had anything......never will.

September 4, 2014 at 6:01 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Salsa —

Whose trick is singular and how big is that pony?

September 4, 2014 at 7:24 p.m.
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