Folks, we'll be moving quickly this week as we are wrapping up a second consecutive marathon task of another football tab. Remember Friday's mailbag and to tip your wait staff handsomely.
From the "Talks too much" studios, let's go.
It's high school football game week. The Vols open the 2012 season of much promise/much desperation two weeks from Friday.
It's here. It's all happening.
That said, from today through the opening Friday of the college season, we'll have some sort of list - we can't promise one on mailbag Fridays since you guys determine the topics, but we feel pretty good about it - about the upcoming season.
Today, and in honor of Tyrann Mathieu creating an open spot on the Heisman front-runner list, let's meet the 5-at-10's top five Heisman hopefuls, and with all these lists, order matters. It always matters, because as Ricky Bobby says, "if you're not first, you're last."
1) Matt Barkley, USC - Will post big numbers and has an entire region to himself. Plus, the Trojans will likely make a big run toward the BCS.
2) Denard Robinson, Michigan - Being fast in the Big Ten is like being a high school senior competing in the middle school academic bowl - it's simply an unfair advantage. And Robinson definitely fast; although he is the last to say he wants to race Usain Bolt, which calls his judgement into question.
3) Montee Ball, Wisconsin - As long as Ball somehow doesn't wander into three street fights between now and December. Whatever. That said, Ball could post another monster campaign running behind the cheese-curders in Madison. And Ball, who went for 1,923 rushing yards and 23 TDs last year, will pass the 4,000-yard career rushing mark this fall.
4) Landy Jones, Oklahoma - There needs to be a couple of Sooners receivers stepping up - remember the name Trey Metoyer - but Oklahoma's offense will score (especially against the defensively challenged Big 12) and Jones will be in the middle of it.
5) Geno Smith, West Virginia - If we were in Vegas and were going to lay money, we'd likely put it on Smith, considering the odds and possibilities. Remember, the last time Smith and the Mountaineers were on the field they put 70 on Clemson. Now they have a year in Dana Holgorsen's offense and figure to be even better.
The NFL is Teflon. Bounty-gate has been shrugged away. The worries of concussions and post-concussion effects are hovering over the game, but most players and fans alike are embracing the ever-popular, ostrich-head-in-the-sand approach and believe that if they do not acknowledge the concussions, they'll go away. (They won't of course, and while the NFL's present is for the most part concussion proof, the league's future will be shaped by concerned parents across the country who will decide if 6-to-10 year-old boys who may be the next Tom Brady or Robert Griffin III will play football.)
Last year's labor dispute was resolved and while the schedule was affected, no one really noticed. Or no one really cared since there were games on all day Sunday and Monday night and the Super Bowl closed the year with the nation's biggest Sunday shindig.
The NFL is bulletproof. Right? Well, mostly.
It appears the league is bound and determined to open the season with replacement referees as the work negotiations between the NFL and the officials association have hit a stand still. And while all the other issues around the NFL may be worse and more disconcerting to a normal view, they for the most part have not affected the majority of the NFL fans because the issues have not affected the actual games.
Replacement referees, however, could have an overwhelming impact on the product. And when the product gets damaged - and the bets and/or fantasy leagues of "invested" fans - that could prove to be the first crack in the NFL's Teflon armor.
Here's saying this impasse will be bridged before the start of the season.
A good number of folks we know have mentioned the Braves' long-standing struggles on Monday. Until a couple of weeks ago, the Braves had not won on Monday since something like August 2011, a run that almost reached 20 straight cases of the Mondays. (Side question: The case of the Mondays makes us think of "Office Space," which gets at least a 7.5 on the underrated scale with 1 being the underrated movie equivalent of "Independence Day" and 10 being "Miller's Crossing.")
And while that's fine and well and jazzy, here's the bigger question for Johnny Braves Fans everywhere: Why do the Braves slap stink against the dregs of the National League?
Quick, name a Padres player. Uh, there's Tony Gwynn, right? No, he retired. What about Heath Bell? No, he stinks and is blowing saves in Miami. Jake Peavy? Nope, been gone more than a year.
The Padres were 14 games under .500 before popping the Braves 4-1 last night behind a lineup featuring the renowned slugging slate of Forsythe-Amarista-Headley-Quentin in the top four slots. Does anyone else think the Braves would take two of three from the 1976 Reds but lose three of four to the Lookouts?
And the Braves couldn't touch some journeyman named Eric Stults - not to be confused with Eric Stoltz, who was Rocky Dennis in "Mask" and a stoner in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Side note: As we discussed earlier this summer "Fast Times" was one of the excellent movies that came out in 1982 and is celebrating its 30th year. Looking back at the cast - Penn, Cage, Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Stoltz, et al. - that may be the single best collection cast of a slew of talented collection casts in the 80s. More on this to come.
- Kudos to former Red Bank High and Tennessee Tech standout Tim Benford, who had a catch for the Dallas Cowboys in last night's thrilling 3-0 win over Oakland in preseason action. It was a game so brutal only mommas and agents were watching.
- Speaking of local guys making good: Former Rhea County pitcher and current Braves reliever Cory Gearrin has now pitched 10.1 major-league innings this season and has allowed one run - on a solo homer to Nick Swisher in mid-June. Gearrin, who worked a scoreless inning Monday night, has an 0.87 ERA this year.
- With the final golf major in the books, the next big golf event is the Ryder Cup in late September. The qualifying for the top eight spots on the U.S. team are set with, in order of finish, Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson. That leaves some interesting names such as Stricker, Fowler, Snedeker, Johnson, et al. left from which David Love III to pick four.
- Is Derek Lowe the cockroach of MLB pitchers? Every time his career looks to be cooked, Lowe lands somewhere and contributes. After being paid to leave Atlanta, Lowe had early success in Cleveland before bottoming out. The Indians released him and he signed with the Yankees, who have been riddled with pitching injuries. Lowe pitched four scoreless innings in relief Monday and picked up his first save since 2001. If nuclear winter hits the MLB, there will be Derek Lowe, Omar Vizquel and Jim Leyland.
- Of note: The Yankees tagged the Rangers in the game Lowe got the save. The Yankees punished Rangers starter Ryan Dempster, who was acquired at the trade deadline. Remember Dempster refused a trade to the Braves and was dealt to Texas and has been shelled in the tough AL and in the Rangers' hitter-friendly park. Safe to say Dempster's 8.31 ERA in three starts for the Rangers have not been overly impressive, especially in the stretch run of a contract year. Be careful what you ask for, Ryan.
We have quick answer stuff for you today:
What college football list do you want to see in the days ahead?
Is there any surprise that Reuben Foster, the five-star linebacker who has switched high schools and flopped his commitment from Alabama to Auburn in the last eight months, is a subject of interest by either the Alabama high school association (according to Rivals) or possibly the NCAA (according to the AJC)?
Better '80s ensemble cast Final Four: No. 1 seed - St. Elmo's Fire (Estevez, Moore, Lowe, McCartney, Nelson, Sheedy, with a nice supporting role from Andie MacDowell) vs. No. 4 seed - Red Dawn (Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Sheen, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, with appearances from Powers Boothe and Harry Dean Stanton); No. 2 seed - The Outsiders (Swayze, Dillon, Estevez, Cruise, Garrett, Diane Lane, Macchio, C. Thomas Howell, Lowe... how was this a 2 seed again?) vs. No. 3 seed - Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Who you got?