5-at-10: College football, bowl matchups and NFL surprises

5-at-10: College football, bowl matchups and NFL surprises

December 5th, 2011 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

In our 5-at-10 time together over the last 15 months, there have been numerous days where we have stretched the limits of what could be accepted as "sports." Today is not one of those times. In fact, having stuff to write about was the easy part - deciding what to leave out not as easy. So, since it's Christmas time and nothing brings home the holidays like biting an Eazy E rap: "Easily we approach the microphone because we ain't no joke." And remember the messages of love and holiday spirit that was Eazy and the whole NWA gang.

From the "Mama McNabb stage here at the Al Davis Studio," here we go...

College football Monday morning quarterback

LSU linebacker Ryan Baker (22) parades around the field with an SEC logo after after their 42-10 win over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

LSU linebacker Ryan Baker (22) parades around the...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

- All the hand-wringing about the BCS and the playoff and the failure and blah-blah-blah. We wrote last week about our possible playoff ideas, but here's another thought: A Flexible Plus-1 game only used when needed. Granted every new NCAA football venture needs the concept of a super committee that answers all questions and removes the cloud of doubt from computer rankings and the lack of insight from polls of all sorts. (Did you know that Stanford coach David Shaw's ballot was 1. LSU, 2. Alabama, 3. Stanford, 4. Oklahoma State? Hey, dude has every reason to feel proud of his Cardinal team, but since Alabama and OSU were separated by .009 points in the final BCS standings, maybe his program pride was the decisive margin.) The beauty of the Flexible Plus-1 (FP-1) game is it can fit to any number of situations. There are a lot of seasons that the BCS has the top two and there's not a lot of bellyaching. In those years, the FP-1 would not be used. The FP-1 could have been after the bowls in 2004 when Auburn and USC finished unbeaten. This year it could be used on the front end with OSU and Alabama playing to get to LSU. Because for all the hand-wringing and head-slapping going on outside of the SEC right now, no one is doubting that LSU is far and away the class of college football, and under the current system, the unblemished Tigers should not have to handle a plus-1 scenario or a playoff to re-iterate what we all fully know - LSU is a bad group.

- Speaking of the Tigers, the first half of their 42-10 SEC championship game was forgettable. Down 10-0 before Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu returned a punt for a touchdown, LSU trailed 10-7 at the half and had more touchdowns (1) than first downs (0). And while the No. 1 difference in Saturday's win over Georgia was LSU's supreme talent, the biggest difference in the game was Georgia's missed chances early. Four critical drops - two of which would have been for certain TDs - meant Georgia could have had a 21-0 lead instead of a 10-0 lead over the sleeping giant Tigers. And LSU certainly has enough weapons to overcome any deficit, a 21-bagel hole would have been a huge, Huge, HUGE challenge considering the run-first nature of these Tigers and how the Georgia fans were rocking inside the Georgia Dome.

- Speaking of the SEC title game, our challenge ended with a staggeringly close finish: scole023 (LSU 40-10), edged McPell (45-16) and FEchancellor (36-10). When asked about finishing second by a point, McPell may or may not have channeled his inner-Honey Badger and offered, "McPell don't care; McPell takes what he wants." Thanks for playing and keep an eye out for the first annual 5-at-10 Bowling Bonaza. It's going to be a whooper.

- Speaking of whoopers, Robert Griffin III has surged to the lead in the unofficial Heisman polls around the country. We'll break this down later, and RG III has had a big-time season, but something seems wrong that scheduling plays such a huge role in determining the Heisman winner. It should not be a "what did you do on the last Saturday of the season" type of thing. In truth, the 5-at-10 could make a pretty strong argument for or against any of the leading candidates. We'd still vote Trent Richardson, RG III and Andrew Luck in that order, so there's our picks.

- Speaking of picks, the Fab 4 (plus-1) went 3-2 on the final weekend before the bowl season. We missed on Southern Miss stunning Houston (congrats CJ, and while everyone is bellyaching about OSU getting left out of the BCS title game, Southern Miss got the biggest shaft of anyone Sunday) and as expected on Clemson. Stupid Clemson. How's this for a betting trend: The Fab 4 (plus-1) picks went 44-23-1 this season against the spread (meaning if you bet 100, say, jelly beans on each pick, you'd be 1,860 jelly beans to the good, minus the juicy fruit to the candy man of course); and we went 0-7 on Clemson picks (we had Auburn, Wake and Virginia Tech twice over Clemson; had Clemson over Georgia Tech, South Carolina and N.C. State).

Bowls filled with fruits

Oklahoma State fans sit on the edge of the stadium wall in the remaining minutes of the 4th quarter of an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. Fans jumped from the wall to celebrate on the field following Oklahoma State's defeat of rival Oklahoma 44-10. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

Oklahoma State fans sit on the edge of...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Here's how crazy the bowl selection process has become - Fans outside the SEC believes there's a bias FOR the SEC; fans in the SEC believe there's a bias AGAINST the SEC. How is that possible?

We have said from the start that we believe you should be a conference champion to play in the BCS title game, but that's not the system in which we operate. The system is designed to put the two best teams on the field to decide the champion, and in this instance, the system worked.

The system worked. Period. If you want to debate that the system is flawed, fine, and you have every right to, but if the BCS goal is to put the two best teams in the title game, then mission accomplished. Alabama lost to LSU, Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State - how is this comparable? Stanford got thumped by Oregon, which got thumped by LSU. Boise State? Please.

As for the rest of the bowl games, the hubbub about Oklahoma State getting the shaft overshadowed some intriguing bowl matchups and some real stinkers. (How did Va. Tech ride a 38-10 disaster against a Clemson team that was spanked by the SEC's fifth best team a week early into the Sugar Bowl?)

Three best bowl matchups (not including the BCS title game)

Gator Bowl - Florida vs. Ohio State: We'll set the over/under on Urban Meyer references at 247, yes, 247 Urbie references. (Take the over.)

Rose Bowl - Oregon vs. Wisconsin: Fun game.

Fiesta Bowl - Stanford vs. Oklahoma State: See above.

Three worst bowl matchups

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl - UCLA vs. Illinois: First, the name is awful. Sure fighting hunger is a great goal, but what's next the, "Pepperidge Farms' Equal Pay for Equal Work Bowl" as an option? Or maybe a different catchy slogan that will be more appropriate for these two teams, which had such bowl-worthy seasons that each fired its coach. Something like the "Viagra If This Game Lasts Longer Than Four Hours See a Doctor Immediately Bowl" would be better.

Liberty Bowl - Vandy vs. Cincinnati: Yes, this is a matchup of two teams that provided 40 percent of the UT Vols' wins this season. Let's call this one Derek Dooley's favorite matchup of the bowl season.

Chick-fil-A Bowl - Auburn vs. Virginia: Auburn got its color scheme from Virginia way back in the day, and that's an interesting storyline, we supposed. Although it hardly overshadows that these two teams lost by a combined 80-14 in their season finales against their in-state rivals and had zero combined offensive TDs.

NFL updates

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) runs with the ball during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) runs...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

We'll go into team success more in our regular Tuesday Power Poll, but this NFL year has been dominated by the unexpected.

The Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to be a "Dream Team" and became a nightmare. (The lesson here, as always, is never let anyone call your team the "Dream Team" unless you are talking about the underrated 1980s Michael Keaton movie or the first US basketball team that included Chuck Barkley pushing on people.)

The Colts are the worst team in the league and the San Fran 49ers are in the running among the best. Read that again.

Rookie QB Cam Newton is already in the NFL record books.

The NFL lockout seems as important and forgettable as "Caddyshack 2" this morning.

But here's the craziest thing we can think of to describe this craziest of NFL seasons: Here's our NFL MVP ballot as of this morning:

1) Aaron Rodgers, who may be the first player to lead his team to a 19-0 finish

2) Drew Brees, who may smash every single-season passing record in the books (and it has a lot to do with the fact that he was the TFP Best of Preps speaker last May)

3) Peyton Manning, who proved his ultimate value by not taking a snap

4) Tim Tebow, who is now 6-1 as a starter, and, even though his QB rating may be somewhere between the dreaded David Archer and the bad Billy Volek range, all he does is win

This and that

- Tiger wins against a somewhat watered down field and the talk of his return will swirl from now until April and become a full blown Hurricane come Masters time. Hey, his first win in two years is a big deal. Is he back? No one - not even Tiger - knows that, so let's all take a deep breath, OK?

- Penske Motorsports is debating what to do with its most talented and most spoiled-brattish driver, so it's a very real possibility that Kurt Busch may be without a ride. This is also know as justice, NASCAR style.

- The Marlins have added Jose Reyes. And there are rumors that Albert Pujols could be next. And while this should trouble every Johnny Braves Fan everywhere, this could be a momentous turning point in professional baseball. Think if the Florida Marlins, based in Miami, decided to court and sign all of the stud players from the Caribbean or with South American or Hispanic descent? That would be a juggernaut and the Miami community would fill that joint. A Hispanic Yankees? Wow.

- College hoops is here and with a vengence. And we talked last week about college hoops needing that signature early-season moment, well, Saturday's Kentucky win over UNC was it and more. We're in. And after a crazy week - including Vandy's struggles - we're kind of excited to see Chas9's Top Tenn ranking of the state's college hoops sqauds.

Today's question

In a crazy weekend of sports that left us doing a bunch of Christmas stuff with one eye and the the other eye focused on the sports on TV, there were so many great storylines.

In honor of that - and our old-school Eazy E shoutout earlier - we'll have an open microphone Q and A with the host all day. Here's the format: We'll ask a question, feel free to answer it or respond with a question. We'll answer it when we come back, and we'll post new questions at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Enjoy and bring it.

Question No. 1: Is the BCS title game the right matchup? Discuss.