5 at 10: Auburn football, Bowling for dollars and NFL's perplexing double standard

5 at 10: Auburn football, Bowling for dollars and NFL's perplexing double standard

December 14th, 2011 by Jay Greeson in Sportscolumns

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

In this Nov. 13, 2010 file photo, Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton dunks coach Gene Chizik following a 49-31 win over Georgia in an NCAA college football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Hey, didn't you used to be the defending national champions?

OK, let's piece together what appears to be the remains of the Auburn football program.

The defensive coordinator vamoosed for the same job at Central Florida. The offensive coordinator took about a 40-percent pay cut to be the head coach at Arkansas State. The team's most talented player has been suspended indefinitely for unknown reasons. It's hard to believe the Auburn Tigers won the BCS title a little more than 11 months ago, huh?

There appears to be some work to do in the offseason.

Here's a crazy thought: In the win-now, win-always culture that is college football, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik's career at Auburn could very well be defined by who he lands as his next OC and DC as much as he was by winning the program's first national title since 1957.

Something is obviously amiss.

Former Tigers offensive guru Gus Malzahn accepted the the ASU job late Tuesday night, leaving behind a litany of questions considering he left for arguably the worst job he was rumored to be headed to - especially since he turned down a reported $3 million last year at Vandy for the $750,000 salary in his native state of Arkansas. Maybe he noticed that former high school stud duck coach Hugh Freeze turned Arky State into the Ole Miss gig. Maybe all the rumors about Malzahn being the "hot" name were just rumors and this was the first hard offer he received other than Vandy. Maybe he got tired of hearing about his lack of head coaching experience at the college level. Maybe Malzahn realized that a Vandy-type job was the ceiling offer he'd get without being a head coach first. Maybe he was rightly informed that two good years at ASU and he could catapult to a big-boy job. Maybe Auburn's struggles this fall - and the noticeable absence of Cam Newton - have caused the defensively-minded Chizik to re-think his dedication to Malzahn's spread offense.

Any of these could be true and all of them seem plausible. But that many "maybes" is not the foundation of college football success, and that many questions heading into the recruiting season is troubling.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof's decision to leave was no doubt mutual after the Tiger were record-settingly bad on that side of the ball in 2011. Mike Dyer, who has more than 2,000 yards rushing in two seasons has some major hurdles to clear to return to the program, but player discipline is something every program must do.

Combined with Malzahn's departure, though, the questions seem to out-number the answers in Auburn right now. Which is hard to believe since the Tigers are still the reigning BCS champs.

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Bowling for dollars

?There's only winning and losing in bowl games. It's just that simple.

So, as we trot out the Winners/Losers Bowl-a-palooza, we're still looking for any last minute suggestions.?

Here are a couple of things we're going to include:?

- Point spreads will be used. (For entertainment purposes only, of course);?

- There will be a prize for first place and for last place, because trying to miss all the bowl games (picking against the spread, mind you) is just as difficult as trying to get them all;?

- The prizes will be somewhat unknown, adding kind of a Monte Hall, "Let's Make a Deal" feel to the whole shebang;?

- Our plan right now is to only use 15 to 20 bowl games - all the big ones and the SEC games and maybe a few wild cards;?

- We are more than likely going to have tiers - point values assigned to various games - like 1-point games, 2-point games, 4-point games in the BCS and then the BCS title game be worth 10 points. If you pick the winner, you get those points. If you miss, you lose those points.?

Anyone else got anything they'd like to add?

We'll post the games with the officials 5-at-10 point spreads later today. Stay tuned.

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NFL's perplexing double standard

Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison was suspended for one game for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns QB Colt McCoy. It was probably a warranted penalty. (Sidenote: Missing a game will cost Harrison roughly $74,000. Yep, that's a lot of coin.)

Yes, the game is violent and any safety precautions that can be made should be made.

But for the NFL to wring its hands about violent and brutal collisions and turn around and show the highlights on a continual loop on its own network and cash the checks from the other networks that pay the NFL billions to broadcast those highlights is hypocritical. Period.

It's a self-perpetuating situation: Guys like Harrison need the intimidation factor to be the best; they get the intimidation factor by having the rest of the league see what they are capable of; the next generation wants to play on Sunday and take Harrison's job; to do that they have to get on the highlights knocking people out. And as we said before, the league should take every step to be as safe as possible, but the league is violent and there's a long line of folks wanting to get into the NFL.

It's tough to wag the index finger of one hand at some one while counting the profits with the other. Instead of costing a guy a check - and fining millionaires thousands is like fining sports editors pennies, or something like that - here's a thought: Get players where they will truly feel it - on the field and in the locker room.

-Illegal helmet-to-helmet hits like the ones Harrison has become known for will result in the player being forced to the sideline immediately. He'll be there for the rest of the drive, which will obviously get a first down after the personal foul hit. Here's the kicker - the defense can't substitute for that drive, not unlike a power play in hockey. You want to hurt a football player? Make him feel like he's hurting his team.

- If the illegal hit hurts a player that causes him to miss time, the culprit could face suspension that matches the length of time missed by the injured player.

Football is a violent game, but for the league to pretend to be outraged by these hits and then profit from them is not the answer.

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This and that (The nice version)

- Nice win for the UT Lady Vols. The pieces are there. The motivation is there. Here's hoping this team starts to soar and this story grows legs that run through the winter.

- Nice win for the UTC Mocs. Hey that Spalding can be tough. "Ahoy, polloi! Where did you come from, a scotch ad?" Plus, here's hoping one of the Mocs made a move inside and screamed, "Spalding, get your foot off the boat!"

- Nice chance for the Vols to rebound tonight. A road win over College of Charleston would go a long way to easing the pain of Saturday's debacle against Austin Peay.

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Today's question

The 5-at-10 loves, Loves, LOVES Christmas. Always has and always will. You know this.

This week our questions have been/will be about Christmas and sports. Monday was passive/aggressive Christmas cards, and there were some great ones (to Nick Fairley, to Lane Kiffin, even to Al Davis - well-played indeed). Tuesday was the best sports-related Christmas gifts (kudos to chas9 and Co. for a great round of comments).

Today, we want to hear your sports-related Christmas list. Bring it, and try to make it as actual and realistic as possible.

Bring it, and remember as always this is a family-oriented, Interweb-based sports column.

What could Sports Santa bring you?