5-at-10: College football excellence, bowls, coaches and some existentialism

5-at-10: College football excellence, bowls, coaches and some existentialism

December 3rd, 2012 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

It was a mind-bending weekend. The highs were extreme. The lows were too. The regulars know this, but this place is not about politics or policy or even policing the actions of others outside the realm of sports. Sure, we have our beliefs and we hold them dear and true, but there are hundreds of other boxing rings of band width for the shouting matches that follow when words like "right" and "left" are used without "field" or "handed" directly in tow.

That said, we'd be remiss not to mention the tragedy that was the entire Jovan Belcher deal. Belcher killed his girlfriend - a woman with whom Belcher had a 3-month-old daughter - and then killed himself at the Kansas City Chiefs' football complex. It's hard to know what to feel about this other than the highest grade of sympathy for the family of those involved, especially the little girl, and the highest grade of respect for the way Romeo Crennel handled himself, his team and the situation Sunday.

With the mood now set on, "Thanks, 5-at-10 for ruining our morning," let's get to BID-ness.

From the "Talks too much studios," let's make like a rock and roll...

Georgia safety Shawn Williams (36) and Kwame Geathers (99) trackle Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon (4) during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football†game, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, in Atlanta.

Georgia safety Shawn Williams (36) and Kwame Geathers...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

SEC title game classic

What do you say about the classics? How do you describe the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Chapel? You don't of course, other than to say you have seen it.

That's how those of us who watched Alabama's 32-28 SEC championship game win over Georgia felt. We had just witnessed something resembling perfection, and while the words may have escaped us, there are certain levels of greatness that defy definition other than just the realization it was truly great.

In fact, whether it's a trip to Disney, a great football game or a plate of chili-cheese fries, one of the purest definitions of true greatness is you don't want it to end. That's how we felt Saturday evening as our dinner got cold approaching the 8 o'clock hour and Georgia and Alabama were still swapping haymakers and big plays and big emotional swings. It was awesome in its awesomeness, and it's hard to remember a game with that much on the line - remember, this was the SEC title game and the de facto BCS semifinal - that was better. Sure, Auburn's 22-19 BCS title game win in 2010 (boy that feels like two seasons in dog years, no?) was tight and decided on Wes Bynum's field goal on the final play of the game at 12:08 a.m., Jan. 11 (sorry, AU folks are clinging to any good feelings right now), but that game was no where near as aesthetically pleasing as Saturday's.

In fact, here's our takeaway, roughly 38-plus hours after it ended:

- How big was the two-point try that Alabama converted late in the third quarter? The Tide's two-pointer altered the scoring scale - it moved the Tide within a field goal at 21-18 at the time - and after two more Alabama TDs and a Georgia touchdown, the 32-28 final meant Georgia had to score a TD at the end. If Alabama had kicked the extra point, then the Bulldogs would have only needed a field goal on that final drive to force OT.

- Wait, so that means, the classic game could have been better? Whoa, that's like saying we could add a permanent trucker hat with one of those cool sayings like "Will brake for beer" or "It's 5 o'clock somewhere" to the Statue of David. Awesome. And awful.

- OK, NIck Saban is the best in the BID-ness. We knew this going in, but like the level of excellence of this game, we're even more certain of it now. Plus, if you haven't seen Dan Wetzel's excellent story about Saban taking notes on what he and the program have to do next while he's on the podium waiting for the SEC championship trophy, go here http://sports.yahoo.com/news/ncaaf--in-classic-sec-title-game--nick-saban-again-proves-he-s-a-step-ahead-of-the-competition-042806575.html.

- The overflow of talent on the field Saturday was scary. Georgia's pass rush and secondary were good. Alabama's offensive line and running backs were amazing. And of all the first-round names we mentioned last week - we love the draft, you know this, and there were likely as many 14 first-rounders in that game - Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper may have been the best athlete on the field, which was full of amazing athletes.

- P-Davi, a Crimson and Cream Bama fan to the marrow of his bones, sent along a question that was mailbag-worthy in the minutes following the Tide's win: "Mount Rushmore of SEC title games... Whattaya got and who's Washington and Lincoln?" And there's no way we could wait until Friday's mailbag: We'll take Saturday (Lincoln since it was great but it will only grow in legend - rightly or wrongly because of the stars and the stage and the stature of this one), 1994: Florida 24, Alabama 23, 1992: Alabama 28, Florida 21 (Washington since it was the first one and set the stage for the greatness of the future) and 1997: Tennessee 30, Auburn 29.

What a game.


Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick, right, and wide receiver Luke Massa, left, celebrate after Notre Dame defeated Southern California 22-13 in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, in Los Angeles.

Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick, right, and...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Let's bowl

That phrase "Let's Bowl" was the starting point of one of the dance scenes in Grease 2. Which begs two questions: First, where does Grease 2 rank in the list of bad sequels? (We say pretty high; it's not Caddyshack 2 bad - what is? - but it's bad, even with a young Michelle Pfeiffer.) Second, how badly have we wasted a good memory since it's filled with TV trivia, sports facts and bad movies? Alas.

That said, let's examine the bowl roster. The complete list with dates and times and TV info is on our web site. We'll keep that updated with the scores throughout the bowl season. Plus, we're still committed to our third annual "A bowler wearing a bowler and a bowl tie Super Bowl bowl challenge bowl." We'll set the rules later this week, and we're leaning toward last year's format of putting all the bowls in various points categories and going at it. But if you have an opinion, share - we'll always looking for better ways.

As for the actual bowl games, let's take a look:

Title game: Alabama vs. Notre Dame, Jan. 7. There's more than a month to debate this one so we'll get into it later. But, all things considered, it feels like the BCS again has the two best teams in the country, right? And if you think the four-team playoff would be better this year, well, you're wrong. Sure a playoff would be more fun because it would triple the number of bowl games that really matter, but the field and the selections would not be any more fair. The field of the four-team playoff on the horizon for the 2014 season will be picked by a selection committee, and everyone involved in the process has said they will lean on conference champions. There was even a proposal that one at-large team and the three highest-ranked champs of BCS conferences would be the format, and if that's the basis, then the four teams would be No. 1-seed Notre Dame, No. 2 Alabama, third-seed Kansas State (which won the Big 12, is fifth in the BCS and got drummed by Baylor) and fourth-seeded Stanford (which won the Pac 12 title, is sixth in the BCS and has two losses). That leaves one-loss Florida and Oregon on the outside looking in, despite awesome resumes.

Here's our list of the best bowl games (and yes, it's a top 5 list in 10 words or less, also known as the 5-in-10 by the 5-at-10):

* BCS title game: Alabama vs. Notre Dame - Heavyweight matchup will be toughest ticket in college football history

* Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Kansas State - First team to 60 wins... maybe

* Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma - A guaranteed sell-out; Sooners swinging for all of Big 12

* Las Vegas Bowl: Washington vs. Boise State - The Broncos are always entertaining; Huskies are underrated

(Side note: Why has Washington coach Steve Sarkisian not gotten more of a look this offseason. We'd be tickled to have him on board to tell the truth.)

* Chick-fil-A Bowl: LSU vs. Clemson - Offensively challenged Tigers against offensively charged Tigers

As for the worst bowl games, well, there are too many to name. Seriously.


Bobby Petrino

Bobby Petrino

Coaching carousel

As Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee continue to hunt for their next head football coach, some the other schools have found what they hope to be solutions.

We all know Kentucky landed Mark Stoops. We know Paul Petrino is the next coach at Idaho. Each seems to be an acceptable hire.

We also know that N.C. State has landed Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren, a move that will get a lot of attention since Doeren and the Huskies are headed to the Orange Bowl.

We also know that another job has come open since South Florida fired Skip Holtz this weekend. This is especially important because if they move quickly South Florida could be a player in the hiring process. Think about some of the younger, hot names that may be marked off the list because of an unknown recruiting history. Well, go to South Florida for three years, win there and establish some recruiting connections and a young hot shot could write his ticket in three years. Plus, South Florida has next-to-nothing to lose in offering Bobby Petrino.

(Side note: Major props to Vandy for locking down James Franklin to a lock-term deal. Franklin has done major-league work at Vandy, and securing his services for the foreseeable future was both wise and willful. Well-played indeed.)

Here are the five names that keep circulating for more than one of the openings (and while we will not mention the bad-hair Lord Voldemort that will be working in the booth tonight on Monday Night Football, we don't believe that's complete over yet) and what we think about the coach and where he'll end up:

Bobby Petrino

View: As a coach, Petrino is elite. Dude is a football savant and calls ball plays like a young Steve Spurrier. As a guy, Petrino is a lout. Dude has left a debacle at every stop. We believe Petrino will be successful wherever he goes; we also believe the fans of that program will feel the need to shower after every game.

Destination: Auburn

Jimbo Fisher

View: Good coach. Good guy. That said, dude has way more talent than everyone else in the ACC, and in truth, this FSU team does not fare well head-to-head with Tennessee when comparing resumes. Tennessee beat N.C. State and lost 37-20 to Florida because of a fourth-quarter meltdown; FSU lost to N.C. State and lost 37-26 to Florida because of a fourth-quarter meltdown.

Destination: If he leaves, Tennessee

Gus Malzahn

View: Offensive whiz kid. It's hard to believe, but dude was a high school coach in 2005 and now he's about to land a big-boy job. We think he'll be successful - nine or 10 wins - but it's tough to win it all with that offense without a Cam Newton or a Tim Tebow.

Destination: Nowhere yet (he'll be money next year, or he may be Auburn's fall back choice; that said, if we're South Florida, this is our first call)

Charlie Strong

View: Excellent coach with a long history of success as a defensive coordinator in the SEC before going to Louisville and winning on a BCS-level scale. The Cardinals will face Florida in the Sugar Bowl next month.

Destination: We know a growing circle of UT folks who like the cut of his jib. That said, we can see this situation playing out similarly to Vandy and Franklin. In fact, after winning the Big East title game this weekend, we can see Strong getting a sizable extension in the coming days.

This and that (the existential edition)

- Cool NFL moment for 15-year vet Charlie Batch, the Pittsburgh Steelers' third-string quarterback who was forced into action because of injury. Batch led the Steelers on a fourth-quarter, season-saving drive to beat the hated Baltimore Ravens. Batch openly cried with joy on the sideline after the game-winning field goal, and his emotion - the tears of success, of redemption, of perseverance, of faith, of fear, of strength and every other thing that's great about sports - were real and true. Sports can be joyous.

- The inspired Orlando Magic topped the Los Angeles Lakers and former studduck center Dwight Howard. In a reversal of fortune, the Magic fouled the poor-shooting Howard over and over again. Howard missed 12 free throws in the 113-103 loss that dropped L.A. to 8-9. Sports can be a dish best served cold.

- The Fab 4 (plus 1) picks went 4-1 this weekend, with big wins with West Virginia, Hawaii, Northern Illinois and Louisiana Lafayette. Our loss was with Oklahoma State, and we still think that was the good pick. That makes us 51-21-2, and 30 games over .500 against the spread is worth a bucket truck of entertainment. Last year we were 58-30-2, so if you're scoring at home, we're 109-51-4 against the spread in the last two years. Sports can be profitable.

Today's question

Gang, there's a slew of stuff to take a swing at today.

There's the bowl stuff - Which bowl game is the best? Which is the worst? Who got jobbed the most? Who got the biggest break?

There's the NFL - did you know that the Falcons clinched the NFC South this weekend? How about the Texans clinching a playoff spot after 12 games?

There's the college hoops start - Duke is better than we thought, UT allowed less than a point a minute and still lost Friday, and UTC gave up more than two points a minute and was drummed Saturday. Discuss.

As for the abstract, for some reason Ozzie Smith sold his collection of Gold Gloves - he won 13 in a row from 1980-92 - for more than $519,000. He also sold two Cards World Series rings for a combined $100K. There was a slew of sports collectibles sold at this auction - pairs of Ali's boxing gloves went for $385K, a Babe Ruth Yankees sweater went for $250K, Paul Hornung's Heisman Trophy (that should have been Jonny Majors' Heisman trophy) went for $173K.

Question: What piece of sports memorabilia would you over pay to acquire? We'll start with Kirk Gibson's bat from the 1988 World Series. Wes Bynum's jersey from the BCS title game tow years ago would look pretty sweet in a frame at the 5-at-10 compound, too.