Remember the Friday mailbag - we have one spot open - and hang on, we have a lot to cover.
From the "Talks too much studios" here we go...
We have offered a slew of lists of players, coaches, teams and even storylines heading into the start of college football season.
Well, we're a week away and we've decided in honor of the seven-day countdown, we're going to list the secret key to each of the seven "local" college football teams. (And yes, we use the word "local" liberally, so just go with it.)
UTC - The Mocs will be better on the field. Does that mean better in the standings? It should, but trying to make strides in the SoCon is like trying to make strides in the SEC -- it's easier said than seen. Key: Quarterback efficiency. The defense is stout. The O-line is better. The Mocs can be a playoff team if Terrell Robinson and/or Jacob Huesman are ready to deliver.
UT - The Vols offensive weapons and schedule make success achievable. Key: The secondary. The Vols have one legit playmaker in the back end of their defense (UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown wrote about Brian Randolph today) and a slew of question marks. If the front seven is healthy it can be pretty good. If the secondary is not much improved, it may not matter.
UGA - Georgia deserves its top-10 preseason ranking. There's a load of talent in Athens. Key: Is every offensive player not named Aaron Murray ready to do more?
Alabama - We believe the Tide are the nation's best. Seriously, despite all the losses on defense, finish the following sentence: "OK, this team is the defending national champs, returns three potential All-American offensive lineman, an experienced, championship quarterback and the nation's top coach, so let's rank them...." First. Key: Can the young defense survive a tough first month that includes games against top-10 foes Michigan and Arkansas and Heisman candidate quarterbacks Denard Robinson and Tyler Wilson, respectively.
Vandy - The Commodores have more buzz than Tennessee right now, and that's the ultimate compliment to second-year coach James Franklin. Seriously, how many SEC programs wouldn't trade coaches with Vandy right now? And that you're starting to count is another huge praise for Franklin. Key: Sustaining success. Vandy will not surprise anyone this fall. Are they ready for the challenge?
Georgia Tech - The ACC will be better this year. FSU is a title contender. Clemson has as good a collection of skilled people as anyone. Virginia Tech's defense may be the best in the country not in the SEC. NC State will surprise at least two opponents this fall. And we still think Georgia Tech will make a run. We believe almost-Pirate Paul Johnson is a seriously underrated coach and does his best work when no one is looking. Key: Filling the pieces in the triple-option attack.
Auburn - The talent is improved across the board. Gene Chizik and Co. have recruited well and keep recruiting well. The schedule is tough - Chizik and Huesman face a very similar challenge. Key: Linebacker dependability. It would be easy - and truthful - to say the Tigers need good quarterback play. Who doesn't? Auburn needs a few of the young linebackers such as Kris Frost or Jake Holland to deliver.
There are a slew of professions where one screaming yahoo can taint everyone. Sportswriter/journalists/what have you is chief among them.
So when babbling buffoon Skip Bayless tossed out the idea that Derek Jeter is on performance enhancers, well, the entire profession takes a body shot.
Tragically, at one time, Skip Bayless was a very good newspaper reporter. He was a crack reporter and columnist in Dallas and made his bones while guys like us were chasing cheerleaders. Now, he's become a cartoon character who instead of dealing with fact and logic deals in volume and hyberbole. And everyone knows that PEDs are not something to be tossed around lightly in today's baseball realm. Not when Hall of Fame credentials hang in the balance.
It's sad, really.
Hey, a 38-year-old guy like Jeter who is still performing at a high level could raise eyebrows. But look deeper. His power has not gone up. His body has not changed. He has never suffered through the nagging muscle and joint and ligament injuries that are common with PED users. Jeter has declined, just not as much.
And whether you love or loathe the Yankees, you have to respect Jeter's response to Bayliss' babble: "What do you want me to say? Maybe Skip should be tested. I don't know him, but ..."
Kris Medlen delivered the goods last night when the Braves needed it big time. Medlen went seven shutout innings and the Braves scored three in the ninth for a 5-1 win.
It was part of a double win for Atlanta, which also received the good news that the Nationals, who own a six-game lead in the East, will sit Stephen Strasburg for two-to-three starts to rest his nine-figure right arm.
We can discuss the merits of the Nationals' decision more in coming days, but here's something that is getting lost in the national discourse: The Nationals said they were going to do this from the start of the season, so they must - HAVE TO - do this now. Sure, more times than not, public pledges can be swayed and frayed and replayed to the point of blurriness that they become worthless.
But this was a public promise on something that resonates through all levels of youth baseball. Little Leaguers have pitch counts, so do high schoolers and college kids probably should have some form of them. And now a major league team pledged to protect the young arm of a young stud, and if they had recanted, think of the negative ripples that would have sent to every level of organized baseball.
• Lindsay Lohan has had a tough run. She experienced a lot of success early -- and "Mean Girls" is pretty hilarious -- and didn't handle it well. This was one of her most recent responses to the negative publicity she receives for her antics: "All of this negative press is BS.... Whenever I'm doing great, people fabricate lies. It's such a shame. I'm just sayin'." This was a tweet (of course it was, how else does young Hollywood communicate?). Side note: Isn't "people fabricate lies" on par with "people bake baked goods" on the redundancy scale? We're just sayin'.
• We wrote earlier this week about sports and connections. That also applies to those Little Leaguers from Goodlettsville with "Tennessee" on their chests. (Side note: Here's saying in about four-five years, you can pencil Goodlettsville High into the finals of Spring Fling baseball tournament.)
• If you're Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan, this has to make you say, "Ouch." Dee Snider, the goofy lead singer from Twisted Sister, has informed Ryan's camp to stop using the group's hit "We're Not Going to Take It" during Ryan's campaigning. Yes, that Dee Snider, who has not had a hit since the 1984 "WNGTI" came out and likely could use the residuals. Side note: What's the worst six words Dee Snider (or any of the musicians who made their name on songs from days gone by) can say at a show: "Now, something from the new album."
• Bartolo Colon was suspended 50 games for using PEDs. What gave it away? The size 8-and-a-half melon that Colon sports? Dude's jug is so big when he naps in the clubhouse they paint "Billy Bob loves Charlene" in John Deere green. Colon's hat is so big, they cover the mound with it during rain delays. They had a Colon bobblehead doll night, and the springs broke. When he enters a room, the entire team says, "Hey, Kool-Aid." (Seriously, being a dude with a large melon, we have a bunch of them.)
• OK, Prince Harry took his royal tips from the artist formerly known as Prince more than his big brother Prince Whatshiscrown. Hey, dude is young, affluent and with a fair amount of free time. And his country's most famous delegates, the Beatles, told us, "All You Need is Love."
A host of celebrities and other famous names celebrate birthdays, including Kobe Bryant, who turns 34 today.
We have questions about them. Giddy-up.
Happy Kobe Bryant. Will he catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time scoring champ? Kobe is roughly 9,000 points back, and if he averaged 2,000 points (roughly 25 points per game over 82 games) per season he'd need five more very good years to get there. (Side question: He needs less than 3,000 to pass MJ, and if Kobe passes MJ and wins a sixth title in the next couple of years to match MJ, do we need to start saying Kobe is better than MJ? Discuss.)
Happy Birthday Shelley Long, who turns 63 today. Think a day goes by in which she does not say, "What was I thinking leaving 'Cheers' back then?"
Happy Birthday Rick Springfield, who also turns 63 today. Is there a singer who is more linked to a single song than Springfield and "Jessie's Girl" that you can think of? (Side note: Rick is opening for REO Speedwagon on Sunday in Valley City, Calif. That has to be at an old-folks home right? And if either Rick or the Speedwagon gang offer out those six dreaded words -- "Now something from our new album" -- there will be a riot.)
Happy Birthday Jeremy Lin, who turns 23 today. Will Lin sink or swim in Houston?
Happy birthday Scott Caan, who turns 36 today. What's your Rushmore of father-son acting teams? Do Scott and pop James Caan make the cut?