Remember Friday's mailbag and we'll have bowl contest details Wednesday or Thursday. Before we get started, a tip of the 5-at-10 visor to Phil Fulmer, who will be inducted into the college football Hall of Fame tonight in New York City. Wow, if time allows for perspective and proper evaluation, Fulmer's run with the Vols was awesome and his stretch from 1997 to 2001 was Saban-esque.
Seems like a lifetime ago, huh, Johnny Vols Fans?
From the "Talks too much" studios, let's make the magic happen.
Gone for now
It dawned us this morning. College football season is done. Sigh.
Sure we have the bowls sprinkled through the holidays, but only a few of them deserve interest - seriously, there are a slew of directional schools and teams that we aren't sure of their mascots in the bowl games. Double sigh.
Maybe we blocked it out Monday. Maybe the coaching searches in the 865 and the 334 have distracted us. Maybe we were just in denial. This stinks. Tear.
No college football to debate. No Fab 4 (plus 1) picks, and the accompanying entertainment rewards. No fun jabs and scoreboard watching and making at least a little time to watch Oregon to see which uniform the Ducks were wearing and how quickly they could score. Moan.
Even for Auburn and Tennessee fans - after a fall filled with falls and a season that was less than pleasing - the end of the college football calendar is met with sad faces. This December day is the reverse of Christmas, even though Auburn was difficult to watch and the inevitable Vols' defensive implosion - SAAALLLLL!!! - on a weekly basis grew in pain and proportion.
Yes, we'll have the Let's Bowl Super Bowl of Bowl Contests (more on that tomorrow), but today, we'll just know that regardless how nice the weather may be, the long faces across the South are reserved for all of the college football fans, who just lost a dear friend for another eight-plus months.
NFL Power Poll
There are four weeks left in the regular season. There are four teams - Atlanta, Houston, New England and Denver - that have clinched postseason spots.
1) Atlanta: Doubt these Falcons at your own peril. We're in. Now there may be a misstep or two on the way through the remainder of the regular season, but with a 2.5 game lead on the 49ers for home-field advantage with four games to play, the Falcons may have a chance to get healthy this month, too.
2) Houston: The Texans ran roughshod over Tennessee on Sunday. That's not overly noteworthy. What is attention-worthy is how balanced Houston is on offense and how disruptive it can be defensively. Side note: J.J. Watt is a wrecking ball. That is all.
3) Denver: The Broncos are two games back with four to play in the race for homefield. If they get it, and the AFC runs through the Mile High City, look out.
4) New England: Brady and Belichick. Belichick and Brady. If they win one more title, we'll say it - best coach-QB combo of all time, considering what they accomplished in this age of parity. Who are the best QB-coach combos of all-time? Noll-Bradshaw? Walsh-Montana? Sure, those tandems each won four titles, but those teams were stocked with Hall of Fame talent. Noll and Bradshaw had the Steel Curtain and Swann and Stalworth and Franco Harris. Walsh and Montana had so much talent that Montana may have been only the third best player on those teams behind Rice and Lott. Name the second best Patriots player from the last decade. Wes Welker? Really?
5) San Francisco: Nothing sinks ships quicker than quarterback controversies. The 49ers are supremely talented defensively, but look at the teams on this list - teams that have a real chance and hope of winning a Super Bowl - and ask if you think Colin Kaepernick or Alex Smith is ready to lead San Francisco 65 yards for a touchdown with 90 seconds left in a playoff game.
Bron gets honored
LeBron James was named SI Sportsman of the Year. We're OK with that. Dude had a pretty big year - NBA title, MVP award, gold medal.
After ridding himself of the most talked about resume shortcoming in sports and dismissing the nuclear anchor that was his lack of a title, James was money this year. And, with that weight lifted, here's saying that James and the Heatles will be an extremely tough out in the postseason next spring, too. Miami is 8-0 at home, has won six straight and, at 12-3 just like Downtown Patrick Brown's Memphis Grizzlies, share the best record in the league. War Heatles.
Without seeing the finalists for the SI Sportsman of the Year and knowing that SI likely couldn't care less what a family-oriented, interweb-based sports column has to say, here's our top 5 for 2012:
2) Nick Saban
3) Peyton Manning
4) Miguel Cabrera - dude won a triple crown for crying out loud
5) Serena Williams
This and that
- We're taking a break from coaching rumors today. No Lord Grudemort. No mention of Charlie Strong, Jimbo Fisher or the rest of the cats who seemed like candidates for UT who are now saying they are not interested. (And yes, the non-denial, denials are as firm and believable as the old "It's not you, it's me" routine.) No discussion of how Kirby Smart interviewed for the Auburn job, and how that feels like an EXTREME reach. No mention of the other smokescreens out there. No mention of how Auburn and UT need to start making some strides with the recruiting clock ticking. No mention of any of that. And looking at this paragraph, isn't this like saying, "We'll tell you this, but you have to promise not to laugh..." which is impossible. How can anyone give a beforehand promise NOT to laugh. And if you are asking that, aren't you really looking for laughs anyway. Where were we?
- The Heisman finalists have been announced. It's Johnny Manziel, Manti Te'o and Collin Klein. This really shouldn't be all that close - Johnny Football should win this thing going away if you look at the numbers. Te'o is a great player who has had a special year, and dude is a high-quailty cat, but Johnny Football has more total yards than Cam Newton or Tim Tebow in the years each won the statue.
- In an effort to get acclimated going into the winter, we need to find a basketball storyline or three to follow. Last year it was the Wildcats, and that was good. This year may be the Blue Devils. It could be the Wildcats again, or even Florida. It also may be the Oregon Ducks - we have a theory that the Ducks are going to make a quick rise; Nike really can't afford that basketball program to be mediocre. Any suggestions?
- That said, we're on board with Cuonzo "The Conz" Martin. We believe he does work. Here's the Vols' resume to the moment: After a 37-36 loss to Georgetown last Friday (hey, maybe The Conz should have replaced Sal Sunseri - SAAALLLLL!!!- as the UT defensive coordinator), UT hoops is 4-2. This is without Jaronne Maymon.
- So Alex Rodriguez will start the season on the DL and will have his second hip surgery. Hmmmmm, wish we knew of some outside substance or product that likely would boost performance but leaves joints and tendons at risk for injury? Wonder what could cause that? Someone get Erlanger on the blower.
Last night flipping channels, we stopped on the classic Jimmy Valvano speech from 1993 and realized the overwhelming impact that the former N.C. State basketball coach had through his foundation and cancer research.
More than $100 million has been raised and used to fight cancer, and it also re-affirms that Lorenzo Charles' dunk at the buzzer to win the 1983 NCAA title for Valvano's Wolfpack was the single most influential sports moment of all time.
Here's our Rushmore of history/life-changing sports moments: Charles' dunk that springboard Valvano and in a slew of ways made the Jimmy V foundation possible; Jesse Owens running over the competition with Hitler in the stands in the 1936 Olympics; Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier; and either Wes Byrum's kick in the 2010 BCS title game or Clint Stoerner's fumble in 1998.
Thoughts? (And yes we're kidding about the last one. Seriously, we need one more to fill this Rushmore.)