5-at-10: SEC questions, Braves and is Phelps the best Olympian ever

5-at-10: SEC questions, Braves and is Phelps the best Olympian ever

August 1st, 2012 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

From the "Talks too much" studios, here we go...

SEC questions

Alabama head coach Nick Saban addresses the media at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days in Hoover, Ala. on Thursday, July 19, 2012.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban addresses the media...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Well, it's August. Where did the summer go?

Our UGA ace David Paschall had the five questions facing the Georgia Bulldogs in today's TFP. You can read it here.

UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown will have the five questions facing the Vols later this week.

That said, here are the five questions facing the rest of the SEC:

1) Can Alabama repeat? We believe they can. We believe the defense will be restocked and ready - Nick Saban has done an amazing job of stocking the shelves with a litany of four- and five-star talent. Alabama has a senior quarterback who has a ring, the nation's best offensive line and a slew of talented - and inexperienced - defenders. If the Tide survive their opener against a dangerous Michigan group (they will) and an early trip to Arkansas (that one may be dicey), look out.

2) Is Zach Mettenberger ready to lead a national contender? The new LSU quarterback is a former UGA hot shot recruit who left because of some off-the-field indiscretions and a former junior college standout. If Mettenberger can be solid, the Tigers are stout in the backfield and have the nation's most talented defense with potential All-Americans at corner (Tyrann Mathieu), safety (Eric Reid) and defensive end (Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo).

3) Is there a better name in college football than Barkevious Mingo? We say no way. No way. In fact, we'll take Barkevious Mingo over previous all-name all-stars I.M. Hipp, Bacarri Rambo and Co-Eric Riley. Side note: Have you noticed the huge increase in the number of college athletes and recruits named "Shaq." You know Shaquille O'Neal sees those kids and smiles and nods.

4) Is Arkansas ready for primetime? The SEC's most complete offense gives the Hogs a chance against anyone. Sadly, you need more than a slick offense for a chance to win the SEC West, which may have more talent top-to-bottom than the AFC South.

5) Who will win the East? We think South Carolina has a lot of pieces and poise, and if Marcus Lattimore stays healthy they have the inside track considering Georgia has to go to Columbia. That said, a better question could be, "Does it matter who wins the SEC East" considering how stout the West is right now.

Braves keep on rolling

Atlanta Braves' Brian McCann, second from right, celebrates his two-run homer with Paul Janish (4) as he and Jason Heyward approach the dugout during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Friday, July, 27, 2012, in Atlanta.

Atlanta Braves' Brian McCann, second from right, celebrates...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Do you remember in early July, we said Brian McCann was about to go on a hot streak? In fact we said before the year was done, McCann would get to .280 because averages are averages because they normally average out.

Well McCann capped July with two hits, including a homer, in the Braves' 7-1 rain-delayed win over Miami on Tuesday For the month, McCann hit. 296 and he has hit nine homers in his last 18 games to give him a team-leading 18.

Welcome back to the land of the hitting, Brian; you've been missed. Now, if we could only locate Dan Uggla and welcome him back into the light.

Last night's win was meaningful on several fronts. The Braves closed the Nationals' lead to 2.5 games in the NL East. Jair Jurrjens pitched an inning of relief and did not walk a village or allow six runs. (Progress people - that's called progress.)

Plus, Kris Medlen delivered five sound innings in his first start since Aug. 4, 2010. Medlen's role will be crucial considering the Braves' ever-changing rotation that takes another hit with Tommy Hanson moving to the DL this week.

The trading deadline falls

Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Hanley Ramirez (13) warms up before a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco, Friday, July 27, 2012.

Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Hanley Ramirez (13)...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

We love the draft. You know this.

We enjoy the trading deadline. Not sure if you knew that.

The trading deadline in Major League Baseball is the convergence of teams that are surprisingly in the hunt and surprisingly out of the mix doing the most to maximize their futures - be them the next two months or two years from today.

Everyone has different goals but the same ideas - trade stars for future stars. It's like a singles bar of over-served dudes being dropped in the Baptist Student Center: There is one group that is looking to secure a deal that will pay immediate dividends; the others are looking to land long-term solutions.

We believe the Dodgers, who added Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino to a line-up that sorely needed help, gave themselves a chance to win the West and do some damage in the playoffs. The Angels added a front-line starter in Zach Grienke and we were even happy to see the Pirates add pieces in an effort to continue this surprisingly successful run.

On the other side, if we were a Phillies season-ticket holder, we're wanting some sort of refund after the Phillies dealt Victorino and Hunter Pence. Wow, it's hard to recall a team as heavily favored as the Phillies implode and then start dismantling this quickly.

This and that

- We have had the pleasure of some great Best of Preps speakers, including new Olympics record holder Michael Phelps. That said, the best speech and arguably the sharpest speaker we've had in our decade in town was Bill Curry. And as a testament to that high praise, here was what Curry had to say about the Joe Paterno situation: "From where I sit, it's so emotional, it's so draining, it's so difficult to contemplate all those victims and all the implications. I have kept my mouth shut about it, and I'm going to keep doing that."

- Snoop Dogg is changing his name to Snoop Lion and is going to start making music that his "kids and grandparents can listen to." Snoop said he had this "born again" vision during a trip to Jamaica this winter. Peace, love, dope, huh, Snoop Lion?

- Silas Redd, the former Penn State running back, has decided to transfer to USC. Here's saying there will be a slew of kids leave State College in the next 72-96 hours as camps start to open around the country.

- Did you see the badminton abomination Tuesday in the Olympics. Trying to get an easier draw in the medal rounds, teams from China and South Korea and Indonesia purposely tried to lose their final pool play match. It was embarrassingly bad, too. Eight players from those teams have been DQed from the tournament.

Today's question

United States' Michael Phelps competes in a men's 200-meter individual medley at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012.

United States' Michael Phelps competes in a men's...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

OK, despite the badminton debacle, Tuesday felt a lot more Olympic.

The women's gymnastics team was inspiring. The men's basketball team was dominating. And Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympic athlete ever.

But does that make him the greatest? It's up for discussion.

Granted, Mark Spitz had fewer events when he won seven golds in the 1972 Games - a mark Phelps beat in Sydney in 2008. And Carl Lewis could only enter four track events when he won 10 Olympic medals - nine golds - from 1984 to 1996 - plus he may have made a run at a medal or two as a 19-year-old sprinter in the 1980 games that were boycotted by the U.S.

Certainly Phelps has a place among the all-time great Olympians. But if you instantly think 19 medals makes him the best ever, before Tuesday did you think that Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who held the medal record before Phelps, was the best Olympian ever?

Olympic greatness is measured by more than numbers. Precious medals are shiny and special; stats are calculated and cold. Was Phelps' historic run better than what Jesse Owens did amid the face of Nazi hatred in 1936?

Or what about Paavo Nurmi, who won gold in the 1,500 meters rested for all of 55 minutes before winning the 5,000 in the same day in 1924. Or even George Eyser, the American gymnast with a wooden left leg after a train accident who claimed three golds, a pair of silvers and a bronze in 1904.

Phelps is Olympic royalty for certain, but Olympic greatness comes in numerous packages and quality is every bit as telling as quantity.

So what's your Olympian Rushmore? We'll take Lewis, Spitz, Phelps and Jesse Owens, although we're sure we're forgetting someone.