Morning. How'd you sleep?
Before we get up and running, we need to give a shoutout to some of you fine folks for the discussion here Wednesday that led us to the opinion in today's column in the TFP that the TSSAA would be well-served to follow the NCAA lead and give Mac McCurry and the Marion County coaches show-cause penalties rather than suspend the football program for the year.
Take a bow. Now get back to work - after you read the 5-at-10 and comment below or send us a Friday mailbag question at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jgreesontfp.
From the "Talks too much" studios, we are the world; we are the children. We're the ones who make a brighter day, so let's start giving.
Fab 4-plus-1 picks
We have tried a varied number of picks each of the last two weeks and achieved a deeper and more thorough mediocrity in our for-entertainment-only ventures. Alas.
After a 5-4 mark last week that included wins on the Auburn-Georgia over and with SMU, Vandy, UCLA and Boise State covering the number we're 40-28-1 overall this year. That we are treading water is of little consolation after our white-hot start to the season.
Still you have to bank entertainment where you can find it. Let's try to find it this weekend.
And if you are shaking your heads when you are looking at the point-spreads, well, you should be - the guys who do this for a living are starting to understand the products with which they handicapping. To counter that, you have to know which teams the public favors because the pros certainly do. And they shape the lines accordingly.
San Jose State minus-2 over Navy: This game is on Friday night and is part of the travel package part of this week's picks. Follow along: Who is more regimented than the Navy football team? So how is the shock to the system of flying across the country for a Friday game and a 9:30 p.m. kickoff knowing that the Navy kids are more often than not bunked down by that time. If you need football reasoning to be convinced - and that's fair - San Jose State quarterback David Fales will more than likely be drafted before Aaron Murray next spring.
BC pick 'em over Maryland: Under first-year coach Steve Addazio, Boston College is physical and forceful. The Eagles love to run the football and are powered by the best player in the country that you do not know. Meet Andre Williams, the 227-pound BC senior who has rushed for more than 1,800 yards and 14 TDs in 10 games. And as Williams has found his stride, so have the Eagles, who are 3-0 in November - and Williams has 105 carries for 800 yards and six TDs in those three wins. Normally we caution against risking entertainment on the ACC - it's like tech stocks, and you never know when the bubble will bust - but we like power backs when the weather turns.
Duke minus-5 at Wake Forest: Yes, another ACC game. And another game in which we play some angles. First, since losing leading receiver Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest has scored all of 3 points in two games. Campanaro had 67 catches before breaking his collar bone two weeks ago; the next highest Wake player has 15 catches. Second, among the worst home-field advantages in all of college football has to be the study hall known as BB&T Field. Scenic joint, but hardly an intimidating trip. Third, Duke has David Cutcliffe calling football plays, and the Devils are still playing for a division championship. Yes please.
Oregon-Arizona over the 65: This one has the feel of the Ducks dropping the hammer early and often - maybe even getting in the 40s before halftime. Ask yourself this: What number would it take for you to bet the under with the Ducks? At least 72 right? If you saw any other entertainment invest that was giving you a free seven points, it would be prudent play. You're welcome.
Tulsa minus-3 at La. Tech: Misleading records and schedule alterations have a much stronger Tulsa team laying only a field goal against a La Tech bunch that will not have running back Kenneth Dixon at 100 percent. Call this a hunch, and if it hits, then you can pick up the hunch tab. (See what we did there?)
Michigan State minus-6 at Northwestern: This one seems too good to be true, right? One of the nation's top five defenses only having to cover a score seems too good to be true. And that scares the stuffing out of any regular reader of these picks. Still, this year has been filled with "Too good to be true" picks that have turned out to be winners while we failed to act. Not this time with the Spartans. Carpe Diem. Or Spar-ty Diem, maybe.
UCLA plus-3 over Arizona State: We believe in these Bruins. Have all season. We believe Arizona State is overrated, considering its best wins are have a great deal to do with good timing - ASU beat Wisconsin because of time management; ASU used excellent timing of the Lane Kiffin meltdown to whip USC. UCLA is at home getting a gift 3. Thank you.
5 SEC things to watch for
1) Johnny Football takes center stage
With the Heisman talk starting to swirl, last year's winner is looking like this year's front runner. Johnny Football has been every bit as good - and a ton better throwing the ball - as he was last year when he became the first freshman to win college football's top prize. (Side question: If Johnny Football gets a white collar job, we would have to call him Johnny Briefcase, right? And if he got a blue collar job, he'd be Johnny Lunchbox. Dude, the Johnny options are endless. Let's do it for Johnny. Stay gold Pony Boy.) Where were we? Oh yes, Mr. Football heading to LSU for the 3:30 game before a national TV auidence with Verne Lundquist on the call. Manziel has carried a wretched Aggies defense all year, so let's set the bar on 350 passing, 80 rushing, five total TDs and seven "Oh. My. Goodness" from Verne. And we think come Monday, Johnny Football will be the Heisman frontrunner.
2) Can Missouri continue its improbable march toward Atlanta
The Tigers get quarterback James Franklin back, and before he was injured, Franklin was crafting an All-American-type season. (Side question: We were an early upset or two and a freak injury away from a very real discussion of coach of the year and player of the year being James Franklin. Hmmmmm.) The Tigers travel to Ole Miss, which has lofty aspirations still in play. No, the Rebels can't get to Atlanta, but if they win out, a very attractive bowl trip to either Dallas or sunny Florida could be in the cards. Quite a feat for Hugh Freeze in year two. Good times. Good game.
3) How does Georgia rebound
The Bulldogs took an unbelievable gut punch loss last week at Auburn. Let's stop and ponder these Dogs for one second, and yes, ifs and buts can make you crazy, but... if Damian Swann tackles Sammy Watkins of a simple slant in August; if Georgia doesn't make a stupid penalty on fourth-and-4 in the fourth quarter against Vandy; if either safety just knocks the Prayer at Jordan-Hare down, these Bulldogs could be 9-1 with two games left. As for Saturday, well, the real opponent for Georgia is Georgia. If they have put the Auburn loss in the rearview, the Bulldogs should crush Kentucky. If the pain from the Plains lingers, well, Kentucky is scrappy enough to hold everyone's interest.
4) Who prevails in the battle of the Volunteers State
One team has locked up another bowl bid; one team is fighting for its postseason chance. For more of our lives, that would be fair description of the Tennessee-Vandy showdown in November. Now, however, the bowl regulars live in Nashville and the desperation is from the 865 area code. So it goes. For the Vols to win, someone in Smokey Gray is going to have to slow down Jordan Matthews, the SEC's most accomplished receiver of all-time. The bizarro twists in this one are staggering no?
5) Alabama against the Mocs
Two teams with monster followings in the greater Chattanooga area meet in Bryant Denny. Is there any reason to believe the Mocs can keep this close? Not really. Heck, no one this side of Johnny Football and Co. have stayed closed with the Tide this season, so that's not a knock on the Mocs. Here's saying that the genius puppet master Nick Saban finds a way to beat the Mocs with a final score very close to the 34-point margin that Alabama beat Tennessee. He's crafty like that. Heck, if Saban were a rapper, he'd be Nicky Smooth. Or maybe MC Hammer. Wait, that's already been used.
Baseball comings and goings
On a day when JMC's Rangers made a monster trade, A-Rod finally realizes the truth.
First, the deal. The Texas Rangers traded Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder, giving each team something it desired greatly.
For the Rangers, they landed a big left-handed bat for the middle of their lineup at a discounted price since the Tigers are picking up a sizable chunk of the sizable check the sizable Prince earns.
For the Tigers, they landed an upgrade at second base - Kinsler is a three-time all-star - and they cleared out first base for Miguel Cabrera, a grade-three Hall of Famer at the plate and grade-three disaster at third base. It also allows Detroit some payroll flexibility with ace Max Scherzer entering the final year of his contract.
A win-win it seems.
Now for the lose-lose portion of our baseball update.
The hearing about his suspension and the for everyone's favorite cheater Alex Rodriguez is on-going. On Wednesday, A-Rod stormed out of the meeting after slamming his fist on the table and cussing when the arbitrator ruled that MLB commissioner Bud Selig did not have to testify. Those in the know say A-Rod's theatrics were more theater than emotion - which is supremely easy to understand considering the heartless, Tin Man-itude that is A-Rod - and were planned to set off a chain of events that will allow A-Rod to not testify and help his aim to get this case in front of a Federal Court.
While we're hardly a fan of A-Rod's - who is - the fact that Selig is not having to present MLB's side or intent or the reasoning behind why A-Rod got a record-setting 211-game suspension is puzzling and actually gives A-Rod's argument merit. Yes, typing 'A-Rod' and 'merit' in the same sentence makes us feel dirty.
Here's A-Rod's statement Wednesday: "I am disgusted with this abusive process, designed to ensure that the player fails. I have sat through 10 days of testimony by felons and liars, sitting quietly through every minute, trying to respect the league and the process. This morning, after Bud Selig refused to come in and testify about his rationale for the unprecedented and totally baseless punishment he hit me with, the arbitrator selected by MLB and the players' association refused to order Selig to come in and face me.
"The absurdity and injustice just became too much. I walked out and will not participate any further in this farce."
Yawn. Feels a little planned from the start - and don't they decide on witness lists before these things start? - but so it goes.
A-Rod also reportedly said Selig "hates my guts." Of course if we were only going to interview people who did liked A-Rod's guts, well, this would be the shortest hearing this side of Helen Keller.
This and that
- How bad are the Jacksonville Jaguars? They are a 10-point underdog at Houston. Did we mention that Houston is 2-8 after being decimated by injuries and fractured by a feud between its starting QB and the best wide receiver in team history? And still Jacksonville is a double-digit underdog.
- Dirk Nowitzki scored 35 points Wednesday night and moved into 15th place all-time in NBA scoring. (Kareem has the most points; Wilt did the most scoring. Hey Now.) If you had to have a Rushmore of foreign-born NBA players, who you got? Dirk's there for sure. So is Hakeem Olajuwan. Dominique Wilkins was born in France, so he deserves consideration and Dennis Rodman's from Pluto so there's that.
- A report completed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement matched the DNA from Jameis Winston to the sample taken from the underwear of the woman accusing him of sexual battery last December. This is just the latest development in a case that has twisted and turned for almost a year. And will continue to do so for a while to come.
Gang, it's been a great week and feel free to drop some logic on any of the above.
If you need a talking point or three, well, here we go:
Great news: Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall have buried the hatchet. (Yes, we did not know they had a feud either. Roll with it.) Eddie and Arsenio yukked it up on Arsenio's new show. (Yes, we did not know Arsenio had a new show either. Keep rolling with it.) The big news is the two talked about a Coming to America sequel, which would either be awesome or awful. Should they do it?
The NFL released its semifinalists for the next Hall of Fame induction. Here are the names:
Morten Andersen (K), Steve Atwater (S), Jerome Bettis (RB), Derrick Brooks (LB), Tim Brown (WR), Don Coryell (Coach), Roger Craig (RB), Terrell Davis (RB), Edward DeBartolo Jr. (Owner), Tony Dungy (Coach), Kevin Greene (LB) Charles Haley (DE-LB), Marvin Harrison (WR), Joe Jacoby (OT), Jimmy Johnson (Coach), Walter Jones (OT), John Lynch (S), Karl Mecklenburg (LB), Andre Reed (WR), Will Shields (G), Michael Strahan (DE), Paul Tagliabue (Commissioner), Aeneas Williams (DB), Steve Wisniewski (G)
Who you got - and you can only pick five?