5-at-10: Special teams, special guests and special pressure

5-at-10: Special teams, special guests and special pressure

November 6th, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

We're here. You know what day it is. Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike.

We're also speeding into a full-blown glorious college football weekend. Giddy-up.

Gang, remember the mailbag - want to see some different topics broached, hit us with a question.

From the "Talks too much" studios, as special guest 38 Special told us, you gotta hold on loosely, but don't let go.

Nick Saban's special pressure

Alabama's head coach Nick Saban walks the sideline.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

According to emails obtained by the AP, University of Texas representatives who spoke with Nick Saban's agent, Jimmy Sexton, esquire, detailed the conversations.

The emails alleged that Sexton said Texas was the only job Saban would consider leaving Alabama for, and that Saban's supreme success caused the 62-year-old, four-time national champion to feel "special pressure."

Uh, "special pressure." That's not like Navin R. Johnson's special purpose in "The Jerk" is it? No, we didn't think so.

What we do know is that Saban meets with the media today - on the SEC teleconference first and then in T-Town - and with the annual slugfest with LSU on the horizon this weekend, we feel 100 percent certain Saban is going to embrace questions about Texas and his "special pressure" like a python embraces a mouse.

We feel rather certain that the congenial and patient Saban will show up at today's press conference more than willing to discuss the Texas circus yet again. (Did the sarcasm come through there? Good.) In fact, if Vegas posted any odds on a Saban blow up today, we'd risk a year's entertainment on it.

And in some ways, his reaction will be understandable, considering this is about nothing he said or did, and it comes three days before the regular season's annual talent tilt against LSU. If you buy into conspiracies, the last time Saban had to address this was before the Texas A&M game. Hmmmmmm.

Since we doubt NIck will discuss this, let's go to erstwhile 5-at-10 trusted friend and enthusiast, Pretend Les Miles, and ask him about pressure. Les, whattta you know (real quotes from Les from thequotablelesmiles.com):

• "If that would have happened, the pressure would have been squarely on our opponent for the first time in the evening."

Huh? Can you explain? Is it a destiny-thing?

• "We do not rely on faith or destiny. Those things are made. They are not looked to or hoped for."

So what are you saying? Would you like to start again?

• "The start may not have been as significant as more as maintained a consistent edge and a competitive edge."

Uh, OK. Anything else Les? Do you think there is a special pressure coaching in the SEC that could cause coaches to look around?

• "That may be the reason. It may not be the reason."

God bless Les Miles.

----

Thursday night must-see TV

OK, NBC crafted a two-decade TV destination, starting with Cosby and Family Ties and Cheers back in the mid-1980s that became Must-See TV that lifted the peacock network to the top of the mountain for years.

Good times.

This week, college football trots out a must-see TV package that not only commands our attention, it will make the BCS picture either more diabolical or more clear. Are we clear? Yes. ARE WE CLEAR? Crystal.

Oregon faces Stanford in a rematch of last year's game that kept the Ducks from the BCS title game. Oregon speedster De'Anthony Thomas expects the Ducks to score 40 on Stanford. ESPN bucket head Brian Griese thinks Stanford can slow the Ducks. (Uh, how, exactly? Tell them the game is Friday?)

Not to be outdone, Fox Sports 1 has Baylor-Oklahoma in a scoring fest that could last well into Friday morning.

And of course we all know about the Alabama-LSU tussle Saturday night. Here's the road map as we see it in BSC terms:

Oregon's final three games after Thursday - at home vs. Utah; at Arizona; at home vs. Oregon State. The Ducks will be at least 21-point favorites in each of those games.

Alabama's final three games after Saturday - at Mississippi State, at home vs. UTC, at Auburn. The Tide will be at least 15-point favorites in each of those games, depending on what AU is come the Iron Bowl.

Baylor's November stretch is more demanding, considering the Bears still have Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas after Oklahoma's visit.

And as hard as Baylor's march is, that's how simple THE Ohio State's and Florida State's trek is.

So here's the deal, and we say this with all knowledge that the process of elimination that is the final month of the college football regular season seems to cull the herd more times than not:

If Oregon gets through Thursday night, the Ducks will have all-but reserved a spot in the BCS title game.

If Alabama gets through, the Tide have the minor irritation that is the Iron Bowl left. (And an SEC date with a wide-eyed Missouri, an undermanned South Carolina or an injury-riddled Georgia does not scare Alabama in the least. Not when there's all that special pressure down there.)

So FSU fans need either Stanford or LSU to deliver, and THE Ohio State fans likely need both Oregon and Alabama to lose to have a shot. And since this is the best weekend for those things to happen, it becomes Must-Believe TV, too.

----

Numbers that count

One of the things we need to do more here at the 5-at-10 is just present some eye-popping stats that, well, make our eyes pop. (Side question: 'Pop' is a dangerous word when you make your living with words. Add an extra 'O' in there and it can get messy. Which reminds us of our first gig in Newnan, Ga. We had not been on the job long and wrote about a high school basketball practice between "the shirts and the skins" but we left the 'R' out. Take out the 'R' and re-read the sentence. Yep, that was a bad day for sure. Where were we?)

These numbers serve a couple of purposes - a) they are good talking points and b) you can dazzle your friends with them, unless they read the 5-at-10, too, then you'll need to source the info. You know who you are.

15-0 - We know Spy sees that and thinks back to the glory days of Georgia Southern football. No, this 15-0 is Nick Foles TD-to-interception ratio. Yes, that Nick Foles, the Eagles QB who has earned himself a sizable raise with a near flawless month in Chip Kelly's offense.

718 - That's an average night for the Baylor offense in terms of yards. The Bears average a national-best 417 passing and 301 rushing. Buckle up Sooners.

Dwight Howard

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

14.6 - Number of rebounds Dwight Howard is averaging with Houston. OK, multiple choice: Dwight Howard was a disaster in L.A., but with the Rockets, Howard looks:

a) Healthy

b) Interested

c) Motivated

d) All of the above

As with most questions, when there is an "all of the above" you almost always have to choose it. That said, the two fan bases out there that can support the new and renewed Howard are the Rockets - the team that he is transforming into a title contender - and the Celtics - the team that takes the most pleasure in the steamer he left floating in the L.A. bowl.

50 percent - That's Stephen Curry's 3-point percent on 36 3s through four games. Another former SoCon sharpshooter, Kevin Martin, is hitting 60 percent of his 3s. Did the NBA start requiring teams to run 'Fire' at least three times a quarter?

----

This and that

LeBron James

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

- Let's break from this regularly scheduled football Wednesday and tip the headband to our man, the one, the only LeBron James, who with a putback dunk early in Tuesday night's win over Toronto reached double figures in scoring for the 500th consecutive games. James' streak is the longest among active players in the NBA and he joins MJ (866 games), Jabbar (787 and 508 - yes he had two streak of more than 500 games), Karl Malone (575) and Moses Malone (526) as the only players to reach 500 consecutive games with 10 or more points.

- We're going to need a ruling on this considering it's Wednesday, but here goes. We like Ball State minus-20.5 tonight. As Lloyd says, "We like it a lot." Should that count as one of Thursday's Fab 4-plus-1 picks, and know this, the entertainment has been risked either way. We're bearing down this week on the Fab 4, considering last week's up-and-down 2-3 mark puts us at a respectable 29-20-1, which is a touch under 60 percent and well behind last year's 70-percent clip. Quack, quack, quack. We feel a 5-0 coming.

- In the great circle of NCAA irony, how's this one: From high atop the newest and most expensive college sports complex anywhere, Oregon officials suspended basketball sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter for selling shoes the program provided them, a fundamental and basic NCAA violation, Still, that the Oregon officials, in the palace Nike built by selling shoes, had to discipline players for selling Nikes seems ironically poetic and poetically ironic. Call Bill. Bill Shakespeare? No, not that mother scratcher, Bill Parker.

- We said this before and it's becoming more apparent, but the hazing and bullying involved with Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin in the Miami Dolphins locker room is only going to get worse before it gets better. The newest shoe to drop is a report that Miami coaches asked Incognito to "toughen" up Martin last spring. We said Monday, this would likely cost every coach in Miami his job, and that seems more likely than ever now. What a sad turn of events.

----

Today's question(s)

Let's stay special today with a slew of special questions.

What was your favorite holiday special growing up?

Best 38 Special song?

What's going to be the 'special' phrase - remember this is a family-oriented, interweb-based sports column - Nick Saban's going to use over and over when asked about special pressure? (Our guess is something of: We're only worried about the pressure of getting back to another BCS title game, and that starts with LSU.)

How concerned are you about UTC's special teams come Saturday, and how good has UT kicker Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike Palardy been.

Discuss. It's an extra special hump day.