OK, we promise no anti-expansion rant today. We think you know how we feel on that one.
From the "Talks too much" studios, may we all pause today because 76 years ago today, out country was brutally attacked.
So it appears UT is closing in on Jeremy Pruitt, the Alabama defensive coordinator, as its next head coach. Here's the report from ESPN.com ace Chris Low.
Is it a good hire? Will he win the press conference? Those questions are impossible to know today and/or completely meaningless.
There are no banners or rings for winning the press conference. And while we offered grades Wednesday of the hirings we know to date those grades are one dude's opinion. (Side note: We'd give Arkansas an A- for landing Chad Morris, who we think will be aces, and for the smoothness of the process, which started with Gus Malzahn and when he said no, the search quickly shifted and they landed Morris.)
We'll happily review them a year from now or two years from now, but even then the story may not be complete. What grade would Saban have received at his one-year veal? He would have been an A+ at the time of the hiring. But after a 7-6 record in Year One, what would the scale have been 12 months in, even with that star-filled recruiting haul in that first season?
Anyhoo, so if Pruitt is the guy, let's cover a few points.
Sure, we'll offer our grade: We think it's a C. Average. Could be better — much better — and we probably should give Pruitt a higher grade if for no other reason than we know Fulmer is desperate to get this right.
So let the spin begin, and let the back-slapping of VolsTwitter commence. You prevented Greg Schiano form being hired, and in the end your vociferous response cost John Currie his job in the now and changed the possibilities of fans input in coaching searches for the future.
It was an impressive flexing of the power of the passion of the people who praise the Power T. It also left the program in a place in which it is trying to talk itself into believing that Pruitt is a home-run hire.
Simply put, if Currie had come back with Pruitt's name three weeks ago the outcry would have been an avalanche.
Time and situations change, and while the search went off the rails and social media storm went national, the candidate pool simply started to fade with each passing day.
And Pruitt was the last man standing. And yes, we believe he's a better choice than Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, because while Pruitt's never been a head coach, Steele's time as a head coach was far from pretty.
It's hard to know exactly how many coaches were talked to by official UT athletic department reps, but if we set the over/under at 10 where would you go?
Now, to go back and look at where this started — Jon Gruden coming back to the place his coaching career started (and where his wife was a cheerleader) — and where it ended is staggering.
Weighing the good and the bad
Let's do a little point-counterpoint, fact-or-fiction on Jeremy Pruitt. Deal? Deal.
Pruitt is a defensive genius. Fact.
We can all see the stats that point to the conclusion that Pruitt's an elite coordinator, and that's excellent, especially for a Tennessee defense that has been more touchy-feely than rough-and-tumble in recent years. Dude can coach.
But there's more to being a head coach than coaching. (In fact, some of the biggest stumbles for some of the best head coaches around have come when they tried to actually coach too much, if that makes any sense.)
Pruitt is an elite recruiter. Maybe.
We take the "he's an excellent recruiter" talk with a grain of salt. Everyone is an excellent recruiter on Alabama's staff because a) Saban is the best closer since Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross; b) Every five-star in America wants to play for Alabama's defense because those dudes get to Sundays; c) His previous stops were at Georgia and FSU, another couple of places that kind of had a fair amount of recruiting success before Pruitt showed up.
Still, recruiting is important, and if the folks that know more about the recruiting realm than we do vouch for Pruitt's skill set on the trail, excellent.
It doesn't matter that Pruitt has never been a head coach. Fiction.
We are concerned that he's never been a head coach before. Yes, we know Fulmer had never been a head coach before. Yes, we know three of the four coaches in the college football playoff had never been a head coach before getting the jobs they currently hold. Yes, unload any and all examples about the success stories of current head coaches who jumped directly into the job after being an aces coordinator.
But, if we are only looking at Pruitt, his last three jobs — times that have been exceedingly successful, considering he has been at FSU (natty in 2013), UGA (14-15) and been part of Bama's run the last two years (his second stint at his alma mater) — the experience working with Fisher, Richt and Saban will be a benefit. No question.
But those schools were rolling and elite and the talent was lining up to be a part of it, and the chores of maintaining a power and rebuilding one are exceedingly different, no?
The turnaround is going to be extremely difficult. Fact. Double Fact.
In fact, with that double fact, without know the details of the deal, here's betting it's a lot longer than most would expect.
For the challenge in front of the next UT head coach, some experience in the struggle would be much appreciated and very well-served. Because, while we have no doubt about UT's resources and the passion, from Fulmer to the next Twitter-war starting Johnny Vols Fan, working out of the worst season in program history is not going to be easy.
There is a roster that is not very good. Where would you rank the talent level in K-town right now? Bottom third in the SEC is a safe place to start. In truth, Butch Jones did not leave the place in that much of a better spot than he found it.
That would never be easy in the SEC, and it's going to be made harder by the changing landscape of the SEC East.
Georgia is trending way up. Florida is going to get better quickly under Mullen. South Carolina has rerouted its trajectory. Kentucky is better than UT right now. Missouri could have the best quarterback in the conference coming back. Vandy has beaten the Vols the last two years and won four of the last six.
The best thing we can say about UT heading into next season is at least Butch is gone. Pruitt is a lifelong Alabama fan. Fact.
We know people who, rightly or wrongly, are concerned about Pruitt being an Alabama grad and potentially treating his time in Knoxville as a lead-in and internship to be the coach that replaces Saban.
There's good and bad with that. First, we think Saban will be in Alabama for at least five more years. So, for Pruitt to truly be a candidate to replace the best ever in five years, he's going to have to completely overhaul and turn around this mess. That said, if he does leave early, any minor steps of progress would be washed away and then fall back to Square 1 would be even more painful and dramatic.
Here's betting the buyout and the leave clauses are quite heavy.
(And to be fair, we thought Weston Wamp raised an interesting point on Press Row on Wednesday, that considering Pruitt has, like a lot of us in the South who are lifelong fans of one school, pretty much been taught to hate UT since he was in grade school, well, that's an interesting dynamic, no?)
It's also worth noting that less than a week ago, Fulmer sat next to Beverly Davenport and discussed folks who know the power of the T and the brand and the school and its tradition.
A lot of us thought that meant a guy with long-time Tennessee ties, not necessarily a new-bought Tennessee-orange tie.
But it sounds to be imminent, and regardless of who it is, a lot of folks are happy to simply have a coach and have this roller-coaster come to a stop.
So there you go, and here we go. Giddy-up.
College football bowls contest
It's that time. And thanks for all the suggestions and ideas to make our bowl contest even better.
Without further ado, let's get to it. Ladies and gentlemen, here's the eighth annual Bowling for Bowls of Bowl Success (Bowler optional) official sheet.
Best of luck, and the winner shall receive one of the renown 5-at-10 prize pack, that will include at least something somewhat puzzling from our garage as well as lunch and some other goodies, as well as the eternal honor of calling yourself and Champion. (Being a Champion of the Bowling for Bowls of Bowl Success ((Bowler optional)) contest falls somewhere between State champion and Champion of Life on the ol' sliding Champion scale. Couple of rules and talking points:
All picks are against the spread, and these spreads are what we will use. Yes, a lot of them will change between now and kick off, but that's how this goes. These numbers are what we will use. Got it? Good.
You will get points for the correct pick, but will not — repeat will NOT — lose points for incorrect picks. All picks must be in by end of BID-ness on Friday, Dec. 15. Entries must be emailed — yes emailed — to me at email@example.com.
Note: Most of these games are in chronological order as they appear on the schedule. The Arizona Bowl is in late December, and we did not see the need to have NMSU and USU be a five-pointer.
ONE POINT GAMES (6 points possible)
New Orleans Bowl: Troy (-5.5) vs. North Texas
Autonation Care Bowl: Georgia State (-4.5) vs. Western Kentucky
Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon (-7.5) vs. Boise State
New Mexico Bowl: Colorado State (-5.5) vs. Marshall
Camellia Bowl: Arkansas State (-3.5) vs. MTSU
Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State (-3.5) vs. Utah State
TWO-POINT GAMES (12 points possible)
Cheribundi Tart Cherry (now that's a name) Boca Raton Bowl: FAU (-23) vs. Akron
Frisco Bowl: SMU (-5.5) vs. La. Tech
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (another excellent name): Temple (-7.5) vs. FIU
Bamahas Bowl: Ohio (-7.5) vs. UAB
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Wyoming (pick em) vs. Central Michigan
Birmingham Bowl: South Florida (-2.5) vs. Texas Tech
THREE-POINT GAMES (21 points possible)
Armed Forces Bowl: Army (pick em) vs. San Diego State
Dollar General Bowl: Toldeo (-7.5) vs. App. State
Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State (-3.5) vs. Houston
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah (-6.5) vs. West Virginia
Quick Lane Bowl: Duke (-3.5) over Northern Illinois
Catcus Bowl: Kansas State (-2.5) vs. UCLA
Independence Bowl: FSU (-14.5) vs. Southern Miss
FOUR-POINT GAMES (28 points possible)
Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa (-3.5) vs. Boston College
Foster Farms: Arizona (-3.5) vs. Purdue
Texas Bowl: Missouri (-3.5) vs. Texas
Military Bowl: Navy (-3.5) vs. Virginia
Camping World Bowl: Oklahoma State (-6.5) vs. Virginia Tech
Holiday Bowl: Michigan State (-3.5) vs. Washington State
Alamo Bowl: TCU (-2.5) vs. Stanford
FIVE-POINT GAMES (30 points possible)
Belk Bowl: Wake Forest (-2.5) vs. Texas A&M
Sun Bowl: N.C. State (-6.5) vs. Arizona State
Music City: Northwestern (-7.5) vs. Kentucky
Outback Bowl: Michigan (-7.5) vs. South Carolina
Taxslayer Bowl: Louisville (-6.5) vs. Mississippi State
Liberty Bowl: Memphis (-3.5) vs. Iowa State
SIX-POINT GAMES (30 points possible)
Cotton Bowl: THE Ohio State (-6.5) vs. USC
Fiesta Bowl: Penn State (-2.5) vs. Washington
Orange Bowl: Wisconsin (-6.5) vs. Miami
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: Auburn (-9.5) vs. UCF
Citrus Bowl: LSU (-3.5) vs. Notre Dame
SEVEN-POINT SEMIFINALS (14 points possible)
Rose Bowl: Georgia (-1) vs. Oklahoma
Sugar Bowl: Alabama (-2) vs. Clemson
TEN POINT BONUS (10 points possible)
NATIONAL CHAMPION (no line, just the winner):
This and that
— We are intrigued with some of the staff whispers starting to gain steam of guys who could join Pruitt in K-Town. We do not think Tee Martin will be part of that, but we think Hugh Freeze could be, and wow that could be an interesting name to add to the ledger.
— Loved TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer's zinger-fest on NCAA president Mark Emmert, who weighed in on the UT coaching search. Side question: If we had to rank the inept leadership organizations in sports, the NCAA, IOC and FIFA, in some order, are fighting for the different spots on the medal stand, right?
— NFL Hall of Famer Warren Moon facing some serious allegations in a sexual harassment lawsuit from a former assistant. Here's more.
— Meant to get to this, but excellent Thursday night game tonight as Falcons host Saints. Good times.
— LeBron went 32-11-9 on 12-of-18 shooting (5-of-8 from distance) as Cleveland won its 13th straight on Wednesday night. Good times.
Any questions about the contest?
Fire away. And as always, it don't cost nothin' so there's that.
Want your thought on the over/under of people who had at least an informal interview with a UT athletic official about the head coaching gig?
On Dc. 7, well, we all know it's Pearl Harbor Day. (And yes, Pearl Harbor — think Ben Affleck — is one of the worst movies we've ever seen.)
Larry Bird is 61 today.
Terrell Owens is 44 today.
Johnny Bench is 70.
C. Thomas Howell is 51 today and Yasiel Puig is 27.
The forefather to the plastics industry, Bakelite, was patented on this day in 1909.
Jesse James robbed his first bank on this day in 1869.
In honor of that, let's do a Rushmore of Jesses (any spelling works).
Go, remember the contest and the mailbag.