From the "Talks too much" studios, here we go...
College football practice on the cusp
We will have our annual starts to camp for the Mocs, Vols and Bulldogs this week as college football starts in earnest around the country in the next few days.
For most of us in the South, this is the sports Christmas. We're legitimately excited about our team. No one has lost a game yet, and everyone is filled with the hopes and potential brought on by phrases such as "Well, if we can develop a little depth" here or "If we can stay healthy" there.
And since we have established beat aces that will unload the five questions facing UT, UTC, and Georgia in the days ahead, we thought we'd offer the five questions for the country today and the five for the SEC on Wednesday.
Five biggest questions heading into preseason practice (Top 25 edition):
1) Is USC ready to roll? The pieces are there - especially offensively - for Lane Kiffin and the Trojans to make a run. Plus, they appear close to landing Silas Redd, the 1,000-yard rusher from Penn State.
2) Is Florida State ready to deliver on expectations? We heard the Seminoles were back last year. They didn't make the ACC title game. We hear they are really back this year. OK, but what's the difference between back and REALLY back? And if your left hand depended on your team winning a football game, who would you want at quarterback, FSU starter E.J. Manuel or Tennessee's less-than-stable starter Tyler Bray?
3) Will they add an extra column on the scoreboard at West Virginia? The Mountaineers could score 100 on somebody this fall. Seriously. Look at it this way: The last time they were on the field, the Mountaineers put 70 on Clemson. Now, in Year 2 of Dana Holgorsen's system and with highlight-waiting-to-happen quarterback Geno Smith back, West Virginia is going to put up some numbers. There are a lot of similarities here to Auburn in 2010, and a title run would not shock us.
4) How will THE Urban Meyer handle THE pressure at THE Ohio State? Actually, since THE Buckeyes are not eligible for THE postseason this year, Meyer gets a season-long mulligan. The pressure will mount next fall. Still, if things turn, will Urban need some more time with family?
5) When does the hammer fall at Miami?
Braves' big day
Atlanta ran its win streak to six games with an 8-2 win over the underwhelming Miami Marlins. Jason Heyward hit his 17th homer of the season - against lefty Mark Buerhle - and Tommy Hanson was sharp as the Braves won on a Monday for the first time since last August.
Plus, Monday night, the Braves added rotation depth and another outfielder by sending two prospects to Chicago for left-hander Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson. (Yes, the Braves parted with a prized pitching prospect in Arodys Vizcaino, but remember he's coming off Tommy John surgery and we've always believed in dealing to win when you have the chance.)
The Cubs also dealt catcher Geovany Soto on Monday and appear to be talking with the Dodgers about a package deal for Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Dempster. Apparently the Cubs are either going to finish the year in the Southern League or may adopt Coach Norman Dale's "Our team is on the field" philosophy with only seven players sometime next month.
The Braves made their current team better, and since they are currently a season-best 14 games over .500, there are several current reasons to smile Johnny Braves Fan. Currently.
NFL: Shut down these corners
Which is a bigger bore - the Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow master debate or the Saints' feud with Roger Goodell?
It's a tougher question than you expected, right?
OK, on the one hand, the Jets were 8-8 and missed the playoffs last year. They have said every step of the way that Sanchez is their starter and that Tebow will fill a variety of roles from Wildcat quarterback to short-yardage ball carrier to special teams.
Then we get word the new power couple that we will call Sanbow was a combined 1-for-11 in a mini-scrimmage this weekend. (Tom Brady was 12-of-13 in similar drills for the Patriots.) Hey, here's a new question, what are the Jets going to do when neither part of Sanbow gets the job done?
As for the Saints, we all understand that you felt jobbed by the system. We all also know you should have kept your mouth shut about Goodell in the appeals process. Goodell lightened suspensions of Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Vick in recent years, and while he doubtfully would have spared Saints head coach Sean Payton, here's saying he would have seriously reviewed the penalties given to the players. That is until the Saints - chiefly quarterback Drew Brees - drew a line in the sand and forced Goodell to stand strong.
Does Goodell have too much power as the commissioner (who rules on cases and issues discipline) and review chief (who rules on the appeals of the decisions he made)? Yes. Did the players have a chance to state this as a concern during the collective bargaining process last year? Yes.
As for the most annoying story line, we'll give it to the Saints. This thing has lasted for most of the year. It's not going to change. Plus, the rest of the free world knows that if your boss or a judge or an arbitrator makes a decision and then you appeal, it's probably not a really sound strategery to bellyache about said boss, judge or arbitrator on the front end.
Think of it this way: You know in a MLB game when a pitcher feels a close pitch was a strike but it was called a ball and they barely flinch and the announcer says, "Tim Hudson was very upset at that call," even though he hardly raised an eyebrow? Well, while Hudson may be fuming underneath, who exactly would it serve for Hudson to show up the umpire knowing full well that a) even if he went into a glove-throwing meltdown, it's not going to change the call, and b) he is going to have to throw another pitch to the same plate that is being judged by the same umpire.
This and that
- If you like high school football in our area, you owe it to yourself to check out prep ace Stephen Hargis' annual tour of the first day of prep football practice here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/jul/31/prep-practice-fully-under-way-in-area/. You may want to pour yourself a fresh cup first.
- Alabama is the most recent state that is trying to prevent people spending welfare money at bars, casinos, tattoo shops, strip clubs or joints that offer psychic services. Which leads us to the simple question of who is possibly against this? Bueller? You still would apparently be allowed to spend welfare money on tree poison, however.
- Anyone else underwhelmed by these Olympics? Seriously, other than handball - which only needs Pepper and Cotton doing the play-by-play to be off-the-charts entertaining - has there been anything that caught your eye? (Other than Ryan Lochte's bedazzled grill, of course.)
- Did you see that rapper Drake received a Kentucky hoops national title ring? That John Calipari may be the hip-hoppingest, post-40-year-old white guy in America.
- Is anyone else excited about "The Candidate" with Will and Zach? We have very high hopes.
We have thought a fair amount about yesterday's question and NYC's love for Jeter.
We'll revisit the city attachment-to-an-athlete Rushmore in Friday's mailbag.
That said, on this final day of July and with college football on the horizon, let's take a deep breath.
What was the biggest story of the summer? OK, other than Penn State, what was the biggest story of the summer?
We'll take LeBron No. 1 and let the chips fall from there.