Gang, excellent stuff yesterday. Simply fantastic. And major kudos to Walden for hitting two home run movie quotes. Here's two of our favorites - and frequently used, we will add - from his choices:
"Don't forget the tattoo, Ed."
"Hold him Newt."
And Spy, well, Spy went to the treasure trove of options from the post-Civil War poet that was the Outlaw Josey Wales. In fact, in honor of Spy's inspired called, we'll let Josey introduce each item here today.
From the "Talks too much" studios, we want everyone to whistle the theme to "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" as we wade into gameday. Giddy-up.
"Are you going to pull those pistols or whistle Dixie"
Tonight it happens. It happens for South Carolina-North Carolina, Ole Miss-Vandy, USC-Hawaii and UTC-UT-Martin.
Tonight, the preparations become the process. (Unless you're Alabama, then the process is the process. You know what we mean.)
We'll cover each of those games in some form today, but let's start first with the one with the most local interest. Here's UTC football ace Johnny Frierson's breakdown of tonight's festivities. Of particular note, is this very interesting stat he shares - "The Skyhawks have allowed just 17 sacks the past two seasons despite throwing the ball 773 times."
That's excellent stuff. We have lofty hopes for these Mocs. We believe this game is crucial for a cornucopia of reasons in matters both physical and metaphysical. There is the need for wins in practical matters, but in this first game, after an offseason of being told how good they are, how will the Mocs react against a team that has nothing to lose? And if they react poorly, could they recover? We don't believe we'll need to ask that question tomorrow, but we know where the pressure falls tonight, and that's on UTC.
How the Russ Huesman and his Mocs handle that pressure will speak volumes about whether the lofty preseason aspirations were just high hopes or legitimate goals.
"Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. 'Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That's just the way it is."
Right now, we're looking for answers. We want so badly for our preseason beliefs to develop, but the unknown only adds to the excitement. (Side note: We're so pumped, we almost showed up at work with the William Wallace face paint. Aye.)
Here are five things we're keeping an eye on in the SEC this weekend:
1) Which defense makes the most plays in Clemson on Saturday night. We know each offense is stacked - Clemson and Georgia each have one of the nation's top six quarterbacks and a legitimate first-round skill-position weapon to go with him - and we know each defense is rebuilding. If we figure that each offense will make a slew of plays, then we assume that the low number of defensive stops will make each magnified. So, which defense makes the biggest single play. We say Georgia. Jordan Jenkins, meet the world; world, meet Jordan Jenkins. Say hello everybody.
2) Which new coach has the best SEC debut? Mark Stoops and Kentucky have the scariest against Bobby Petrino and Western Kentucky in Nashville. (Yes, Kentucky-Western Kentucky is in Nashville. Go figure.) The others - Bret Bielema's Arkansas team hosts Louisiana-LaFayette; Butch and the Vols host Austin Peay; Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers welcome Washington State - are at least double-digit favorites. You know where our attention will be - Finding Nick Marshall Mize... REEEEE-gardless - but each offers a new beginning for proud fan bases starving for football relevancy.
3) More newness, please. OK, we're pretty stoked to see how the Vols handle themselves. (Side note: This is far and away the best time to schedule a cupcake for the opener. The last thing this program could have used was a season-opening grudge match that could have led to a potential loss and the fans thinking, "Here we go again.") Butch Jones and Co. have a slew of hurdles. They have to find playmakers. They have to craft a legitimate quarterback out of the group of Steady and the Potentials they watched all preseason. They have to un-teach everything Sal Sunseri - SAAALLLLL!!! - taught the defense. (You have to admit, Sal's Vols were sooooo cute when they tried to tackle folks.) They're dealing with a lot of stuff. Game 1 should be a rout - the Vols are favored by 50 for crying out loud - but the details will lead to discoveries this week in Knoxville.
4) How impressive is Alabama against Virginia Tech? The Vegas numbers on the Tide are staggering. Alabama is a 3-to-1 pick to win the BCS. Led by Alabama, the Vegas favors the SEC in an SEC-vs.-the rest of the country in the BCS chase. Alabama is favored in every game this year, and barring injury or amazing surprise will have been favored in 53 consecutive games after the regular season is concluded. Alabama is a 20-point favorite over Virginia Tech, and the Tide's closest spread at the moment is being a 7-point favorite at Texas A&M. We believe Bama covers Saturday.
5) Sneaky good one in the alphabet soup bowl. We like this LSU team more than most, and believe they will handle TCU in Dallas on Saturday night. In fact...
"Buzzards gotta eat same as worms"
Last year we rolled with our Fab 4-plus-1 picks. We had a good thing and it picked up speed. We went something close to 19-1 over an October stretch and closed with a 9-0 mark on New Year's Day.
All told we finished 85-36-2 last year against the spread. That's 70.2 percent. We were 52-27-2 (65.8 percent) in 2012. That's 137-63-4 (68.5 percent) over the last two years.
Now these picks - repeat after me - are for ENTERTAINMENT purposes only. We also feel the need that if you occasionally risk your entertainment vouchers, well, past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future gains. In fact, some folks may want to complete pick against every one of these picks because they feel we're due for a stinker. (As Spy knows, the only things that are due are rent and library books.)
Here we go:
LSU minus-4 over TCU: There are so many excellent hooks to this game. TCU-LSU, brought to you by Alphabits cereal. Or, the Purple Power Play between TCU and LSU, and it would be awesome if Prince played halftime in old-school Purple Rain get-up. On the field, we believe LSU has the best trio of head coach and coordinators in college football. That helps rebuilding the offense. Plus, the two best playmakers on the field - Jeremy Hill and Odell Beckham - play for LSU. That's enough for us.
Oklahoma State minus-13 over Mississippi State: Simple equation here: We think Oklahoma State is better than a lot of people think and we think Mississippi State is worse. This one could get ugly - and don't you know Mike Gundy knows the value of beating any SEC team. He's man, he just turned 46.
UCLA minus-18 over Nevada: The Bruins are good and have a legit top-10 national QB and an All-American linebacker. Nevada is rebuilding. This one reeks of 45-10, and you're welcome.
UAB plus-5 over Troy: We think UAB may actually be the better team here, and the points are a bonus. As they say in Bull Durham... "It's a simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball."
Ole Miss minus-3 over Vandy: Buy the half - and man, if you got this 10 days ago when Vandy was the favorite, well, well-played indeed.
Good luck... and remember - entertainment purposes only you guys.
- Yaisel Puig contends to be Yaisel Puig. He was pulled in the middle of the Dodgers game last night because he did not slide trying to break up a double-play. Hey, we've been in Puig's corner from the get-go. That said, if dude's not going to respect the game, well, that's a problem. Big-time.
- Aaron Hernandez was a troubled guy? Really? Never could have guessed since he's a multi-millionaire with a dream job who decided to shoot someone in the face. Allegedly of course.
- The Titans close their preseason tonight. It will be interesting to see if either quarterback does anything of note against the Vikings tonight.
Gang, don't forget the mailbag. And there's more than a little to discuss today, but if you need a talking point here are two:
a) If you are stranded on a deserted island with only a TV and a DVD player and you get only one performer's catalog of work, what actor's catalog do you pick? Josey Wales (aka Clint Eastwood has to be the front-runner, right?)
b) Of all the ridiculousness of the NCAA - and that's a lot of ridiculousness - this Johnny Football debacle takes the cake, right? If we're AJ Green, we're pulling a Ronald Miller from Can't Buy Me Love on Mark Emmert's house. Yep, burning bag of dog poop right on the porch. Unbelievable.
But, it's game day and that makes everything better - even the NCAA.