5-at-10: 100 days until UT kicks off, conference rumors and short-answer Wednesday

5-at-10: 100 days until UT kicks off, conference rumors and short-answer Wednesday

May 23rd, 2012 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Remember Friday's mailbag and if you have a question shoot it to us at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or leave it in the comments. From the "Talks too much" studios, here we go...


Tennessee coach Derek Dooley instructs his team during spring NCAA college football practice.

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley instructs his team during...

Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Times Free Press.

There are a few things that sports writers love. We love early start times and compelling stories. We love good quotes and games that don't go into overtime or extra innings.

We also love round numbers.

It's 100 days until your Tennessee Vols open the 2012 football season. One hundred. It seems like too many and it seems like it's tomorrow. And in some ways that swinging dichotomy is appropriate since this UT team could win 10 games or it could win five or six.

And it all starts with N.C. State, which is going to contend in the ACC with a senior quarterback, an experienced offensive line and arguably the best defensive back in college football.

The season opener is the biggest game for the Vols since the 2001 SEC championship, and it could be a spring board for the Vols or signify them walking the plank. That's especially true considering the somewhat fragile emotional state of a team that has had three losing seasons in the last four.

It's impossible to overstate the significance of the N.C. State game for the Vols and coach Derek Dooley.

And to think, it's only 100 days away. (Here's hoping it doesn't go to overtime.)

Music has stopped but there's still dance moves

Alabama running back Trent Richardson (3) evades Texas defenders to score a 49-yard touchdown during the second quarter of the BCS Championship NCAA college football game in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Alabama running back Trent Richardson (3) evades Texas...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

College football's next wave of news will be decided at the conference meetings. The SEC, the lead pony among the show horses, will convene next week.

They will hand large, Large, LARGE checks to each school. They will talk about how great the year was - Alabama winning football, Kentucky winning basketball and on and on.

And they could very well shape the future of college football since the discussions of the BCS and the four-team playoffs will take center stage.

While that's on tap for next week, there still appears to be swirling rumors of programs looking to change conferences.

Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com is reporting that FSU, Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech have each made informal contact with the Big 12 to see if the conference has interest in expanding. And while anyone with a keyboard can report about anything on the Interweb, Brown has been dialed in on the happenings of the University of Texas in general and was spot on about the Big 12 realignment news over the last two years.

Apparently the aftershocks of the SEC-Big 12 agreement to play in the "Champions" Bowl were felt even more quickly than we guessed. And if any two of those schools bolt, the ACC would be so marginalized in football that it would be almost an afterthought.

So it goes, we guess.

Funny thing about killing a conference... you take all it has and all it ever will have. And while we're getting deep, for all this time we thought the sports world was the last meritocracy of our society. It turns out to be quite Darwinistic, too.

We're going to stop now. We're getting a headache.

There's safety and safety and never the twain shall meet

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady reacts after passing to Danny Woodhead for a touchdown during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVI football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, in Indianapolis.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady reacts after...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

On the cover of today's USA Today is a huge story about safety in football. The hammer quote of the story is Tom Brady's father told Yahoo Sports he's not sure he'd let his son play football if Tommy Jr. was starting out today.

When contacted by USA Today on Tuesday, Tom Brady Sr. said, "I subscribe to kids playing football, but I don't really subscribe to them playing until they are developed. When (Tom Jr.) made the decision he wanted to play football, he was 14 and his mother and I were on board with it. We still would be on board with it. I don't know that we would have been on board with it when he was 7."

The quest for a safer environment has become the biggest overriding theme in the NFL.

The awareness and efforts to make the game safer are good things of course, and the recent discussions made the penalties and the reactions to the Saints' Bounty-gate greater by a factor of five.

There are groups studying different ways to make the game safer - steps from putting youth players on "hit counts" where the number of hits they take are limited to reducing the amount of contact in practice.

If equipment is step one, here's saying technique needs to be step two. Heads up people. Seriously. So many of the head injuries occur when players lower their heads - be them tackling or blocking or whatever. And learning to block and tackle with the shoulder rather than the head will go a long way in slowing the immediate injuries and the long-term injuries.

But to improve technique, limiting contact in practice is counter productive.

There's only so many steps that can be made about the safety of a violent game, but all of them need to be explored if for no other reason than the lifeblood of the future of the sport. Because if parents are not letting their kids play football, then who will be the next Tom Brady?

This and that

Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) is fouled by Indiana Pacers' David West, right, during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series, in Miami on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. The Heat defeated the Pacers 115-83. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) is fouled by...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

- The Heatles were outstanding Tuesday night and destroyed the Pacers in a physical Game 5 that portends an even more physical Game 6. And after Pacers executive Larry Bird said he was disappointed in his team being "soft. S-O-F-T." Side note: If our boss called us soft (especially if that boss was Larry Legend), the next time we were on the floor some one would be going down and they would be going down hard.

- After Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Reds, the Atlanta Braves are 7-5 in the last 12 days and are halfway through a 23-day stretch with a game every day. If they can stay a game or two above .500 in this grueling stretch, that would be nice.

- Sweet buckets of Tommy Lasorda magic, the Los Angeles Dodgers have won six in a row and have the best record in baseball. And all this with Matt Kemp on the shelf for the last few weeks with a bad hamstring. How surprising is this? Other than Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, can you name three other Dodgers? And no Spy Cassius Clay doesn't count.

- Congrats to the teams and athletes that started the crazy trip that is Spring Fling on Tuesday. It's going to be a fun (and hectic) week.

- And major shoutouts to Ringgold's baseball team after handing Gainesville it's only two losses of the season and advancing to the Class AAA state finals. Well-played indeed.

- Tough year for the other UT, too. The Longhorns football team was a debacle and the basketball team underperformed. Then this weekend, the school was forced to apologize for handing out the graduation program that contained a typo citing the Lyndon B. Johnson School of 'Pubic' Affairs.

Today's question

Let's try something new.

It's short-answer Wednesday. You get five question and must answer each with a sentence. Here we go:

Who is the first player ejected in Game 6 of the Pacers-Heat series?

Which has fallen the farthest: boxing, the Indy 500 or the Kentucky Derby?

If your shooting a movie about today's SEC football, who are you casting as Saban, Slive, Miles, Dooley, Richt and Bobby Petrino?

With all the hand-wringing about safety coupled with the domination of Dancing with the Stars by NFL players, how do you think Deacon Jones or Jim Brown view today's NFL players?

Do we need a contest for the Belmont since there's a Triple Crown on the line?