Gang, remember Friday's mailbag. We're looking for some help early on now that the melancholy that is post-college football season is starting to hit us.
From the "Talks too much" studios, let's roll with it...
Our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer did a nice job making the comparison between Nick Saban and John Wooden here.
Our SEC ace David Paschall, who did big-time work at the title game the last few days, shares the real possibility that Alabama could be better next year here.
How did they get to this point? How, after 12-plus years of BCS power conferences and BCS-busters did we get to one BCS power program and the Bama-busters?
The answer is painful in its simplicity: Nick Saban recruits at a historic level. Period. And that's more than enough. If you are truly elite at one of the most critical aspects of your field, you have a chance to be an all-timer. Jordan was an elite competitor. Before his personal nightmares became common knowledge and his ex-wife took a 9-iron to his SUV, Tiger Woods was among the most mentally tough athletes of all time. LeBron James is an elite athlete and Peyton Manning's preparation is at all-time levels.
All of those all-timers have one key aspect of their respective sports at which they are truly among the best ever. For Saban, it's his ability to stock pile talent and convince 5-stars to come wait their turn.
Sure, Saban speaks endlessly of the process and who could dispute a system that has produced three national titles in four years. But that process is based on not only having the most talent on the field but having the most talent waiting in the wings.
We said earlier this year that Saban was not only a perfectionist, he is perfection's guardian. A perfectionist expects to be perfect, Saban wants everything around him to be perfect and reacts immediately and decisively when perfection is disrupted (we think that's the main reason the guy hates the post-game Gatorade bath as much as he does).
Saban is allowed the chance to guard perfection because if one of the starters is not as obsessed with perfection then Saban can quickly and instantly change pieces. Having extreme levels of talent allows you that option, and in college sports, the guy that can collect the most talent is normally the best.
Saban collects the most talent ever, and in turn he's looking to be one of the best ever.
This weekend, the NFL playoffs hit the divisional round, and more times than not, this is the best weekend of the playoffs.
The games in the NFC certainly set-up that way. Let's take a look and make some picks - remember these are for entertainment purposes only, and after opening the playoffs 5-1 against the spread, here's hoping you pocketed some extra entertainment. (We may change one of these if some injury news comes out or something - deal? Deal.)
Green Bay (+3) over San Francisco: (And buy the half for crying out loud. We also like the over 45.) The 49ers have an elite defense. They have an elite coach in Jim Harbaugh. The have a quarterback making his first postseason start. Hmmmm, which of those is cause for concern?
Even if the 49ers are better at every phase, are you ready to take Colin Kaepernick over Aaron Rodgers, and give Mr. Discount Double Check 3 points? And just think if things had stayed the same at every other position, but the 49ers had taken Rodgers rather than Alex Smith with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft? (Remember there was talk that Rodgers could be the No. 1 overall pick before falling all the way to No. 24. What would the line be then - 49ers minus-13?
(Side note: We love the draft, you know this. But if you go back and reshuffle the 2005 draft, how much different do the teams in the top 5 look if they reshuffled that draft today and it could have gone:
San Fran - Aaron Rodgers (drafted Alex Smith; Rodgers went 24th)
Miami - DeMarcus Ware (drafted Ronnie Brown; Ware went 11th)
Cleveland - Roddy White (drafted Braylon Edwards; White went 27th)
Chicago - Jammal Brown (drafted Cedric Benson; Brown went 13th)
Tampa Bay - Frank Gore (drafted Carnell "Cadillac" Williams; Gore went 65th)
Alanta (minus-2.5) over Seattle: We have waffled on this game a bunch, but here's the reason we swayed to the Falcons: Seattle lost arguably its best passer (Chris Clemons) and likely its kicker to leg injuries in the wildcard round on the awful field in Washington. There are a slew of kickers out there that could fill in, but the Seahawks are so desperate for pass-rushing help that they may sign former Falcons castoff Ray Edwards. And as talented and physical and fast as the Seahawks are at almost every position - and Seattle is as physically impressive as any team in the league right now - if they can not pressure Matt Ryan, they are in for a tough afternoon Sunday.
Some time this afternoon we will learn if there are any new baseball Hall of Famers. It's a topic that even drew interest from Free Press editor Drew Johnson today here. While we're just as firm as Drew that Congress wasted millions of dollars poking their twisted and out-of-touch noses in performance-enhancing drugs (and the BCS and NFL concussions and just about every other sports avenue out there as long as there are real-life, everyday problems to be addressed) the blame of this traffic jam at the door of the Hall falls on the writers that vote for inclusion in the Hall and believe they are protecting the game. Protecting it from what and from whom?
The Hall of Fame should be a history building of the best - and at times worst (racism, Pete Rose, the 1919 White Sox, etc.) - and unless you are going to go back an eradicate the rule-breakers (Gaylord Perry was a celebrated cheater but was not met with the hand-wringing and moral indignity) and the bad seeds, then shut up.
The names on the ballot are eye-popping. Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Piazza, Bagwell, et al., that have a ton of credentials that based on the numbers warrant not only Hall-status, but first-ballot Hall-status.
But this vote is more about their bodies than their bodies of work. And yes, using steroids was cheating, and this is not turning a blind eye to it. If we're going to keep the rule breakers out, then get them all out, but govern and rule and vote consistently.
Plus, why are guys like Bagwell and Piazza lumped into this group? There were rumors, sure, but there were rumors about almost every star player of the modern era not named Derek Jeter. So are we prepared to keep out the admitted steroid-users like Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco and the guys that failed tests like Raffy Palmeiro and the guys we believe to have used like Bonds and Clemens and the guys who were rumored to have used like Bagwell and Piazza? Who's left? Really, who from the modern era of baseball is completely without reproach other than Jeter and maybe Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine?
We would have said Craig Biggio, but he's on this ballot and he's likely to be caught in the wake of "No" votes and be left on the outside looking in despite having more than 3,000 hits. And why, because he's guilty by association? Then wouldn't that make every player in this era guilty and in turn no one's getting in?
For Sosa and Bagwell, this is not their first time on the ballot. Sosa and McGwire and Palmeiro were part of that awful trip before Congress that included Sosa taking an interpreter, McGwire refusing to discuss the past and Palmeiro waving his finger and denying using only to fail a drug test down the road.
And maybe as ESPN baseball ace Buster Olney suggests, Bagwell and Piazza will be the Hall ground-breakers in the steroid era, guys that are generating more support every year and when they eventually get in (despite never failing a test that we're aware of) may be that will open the doors and end the voters' secular view on this PED user or that one.
And don't get us started on Tim Raines - dude should be a Hall of Famer - and the rest of the guys on the ballot.
Our head hurts.
- Our SoCon hoops ace David Uchiyama debuts our weekly look around the league in today's TFP. Today's main story shares the dreary detail that the league's RPI is 28th among the 32 conferences and that the league has a winning record against exactly zero of the other leagues its played more than once. Ouch-standing.
- We're swinging by SportTalk today around 4:30 p.m. to hang out with the gang. As they say in Animal House, feel free to swing by, don't cost nothing.
- Dustin Johnson won the 54-hole, weather-altered PGA event in Hawaii on Tuesday. Side question: Is this year the Johnson puts talent and opportunity together in a major? We say yes.
Watching a little college basketball last night got us thinking (and yes Spy, that can be a dangerous thing).
We've been fortunate as a sports fan to see a lot of cool venues and events. Going to a Duke game at Cameron however is still on that list. (Watching top-ranked Duke manhandle Clemson last night the announcers unloaded an amazing stat: Clemson has had five McDonald's All-Americans in its program's history; Duke had nine - six players and three assistant coaches - in action last night. Recruiting is to college sports as location is to real estate.)
We also realized that there are a couple of teams that are especially deep and talented. Duke is one of those guys. So is Louisville and Michigan (and how did Michigan land Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson's son).
So you're question today is two-fold: For you hoop heads out there, we're 66 days from the Final Four in Atlanta on April 6. Who's in your Final Four?
For the non-hoop heads who are still scratching their heads and wondering what we're going to do without college football, what's on your sports bucket list to try to get to in 2013?