5-at-10: Fab 4-plus-1 picks, SEC watch list

5-at-10: Fab 4-plus-1 picks, SEC watch list

October 3rd, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's blow out the candles and cut the cake. Or as D-Day bellowed, Rammmmmminggggg Speed.

Five things to watch in the SEC this week

Georgia place kicker Marshall Morgan kicks off during a Bulldogs game against Tennessee at Samford Stadium in Athens, Ga.

Georgia place kicker Marshall Morgan kicks off during...

Photo by Patrick Smith /Times Free Press.

Will Georgia be ready?

The hangover effects could be so strong that the only thin missing for the Bulldogs will be Mike Tyson, a baby and a Tiger. Tennessee's struggling passing game - the slogans of "UT passing, where every completion is a surprise" and "Worley Bird, spin it and forget it" never really caught on - seems hard-pressed to keep up with a Georgia offense that has scored 35 or more points in three games against top-10 foes. After beating LSU last week in an instant classic, if Georgia is ready, the Bulldogs are superior at almost every position. It's a big if, of course, since Georgia has just completed the nation's toughest September. Of course, if Mark Richt and Co. are focused and have cleared the hangover, the only questions left are 'Is this place beeper friendly?' and 'Did the real Cesear stay here?' and 'Where's Doug?'

High school reunion

Auburn welcomes Ole Miss into Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday night. It is a swing game - Ole Miss is a slight, 2-point favorite - considering the hurdles left down the road with LSU and Texas A&M for each. It also is a reunion for former high school coaches Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze. Imagine being a high school coach one day and within a decade coaching in the best conference in college football. By comparison, wonder how many high school English teachers are Harvard professors in 10 years.

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin watches from the sideline in the first quarter of the Music City Bowl NCAA college football game against North Carolina State in Nashville.

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin watches from the...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Will the real James Franklin stand up

Missouri is the only SEC East team that is unbeaten because quarterback James Franklin has been a walking highlight reel. Vandy now expects to win because head coach James Franklin has lifted to the program to heights unknown since the Woodrow Wilson administration. Clearly, James Franklin is having a nice run. We know three about this game: the winner - Missouri is 4-0; Vandy is 3-2 - will take a large step toward bowl-ability; there's a strong chance bowl-ability was not a word until just now; the winning team will have James Franklin to thank.

Battle of strengths

Florida's defense has been the nation's best rushing defense, allowing less than 54 yards per game. Arkansas has the SEC's best rushing offense, averaging 237 yards per game. Something has to give. Each team also has arguably the best offensive and defensive freshman in the SEC, Arkansas running back Alex Collins and Gators defensive back Vernon Hargreaves. That said, if the teams are going to complete the similarities, will Florida coach Will Muschamp fall flat on his face entering the stadium this week like Bret Bielema did last week on the Arkansas Hogs Walk. If the coach falls on the team's Whatever Walk, is it proper fan etiquette to fall too? What about the team? Let's just call it karma and move along.

Can Mullen make a stand

Mississippi State faces an emotionally spent but supremely talented LSU team. The Bulldogs could use... We interrupt your regular reading schedule to bring you this message from the Mullen Always Supported or Hated - MASH for short: "Remember when Danny Mullen was the hottest name in coaching. We don't either. It seems like forever ago when the Mississippi State fans were worried about someone plucking our coach. Now, we need to hang a pork chop around his neck for the puppy to play with him. C'mon Football Gods, give us a break this week and let us reclaim some momentum. We need it. Dan needs it. Whatcha' say?" As for the heart-felt plea, Mullen could use a little good news - MSU is 2-2 with only two games left on the schedule in which it will be favored against Kentucky and Bowling Green. In fact, the month of November is a killer - at South Carolina, at Texas A&M vs. Alabama, at Arkansas and vs. Ole Miss. As for MASH, well, how about mashed?


Fab 4-plus-1 picks

As we have frequently mentioned around these parts, Vegas lines and point spreads are not predicted margin of victory - although those guys get pretty doggone close pretty doggone often - the numbers are set to try to balance wagering on each side.

Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) rushes against Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler (1) and linebacker Chase Garnham (36) during last year's game in Athens, Ga.

Georgia running back Todd Gurley (3) rushes against...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

That said, the Georgia minus-10.5 is puzzling. Up and down puzzling. Maybe Todd Gurley doesn't play for Georgia. Maybe the Bulldogs are in the post-LSU daze. Maybe the fireball that appeared in the Chattanooga sky over the weekend will mean an extra TD or two for the home team.

Still, it does not compute. And, while we have forever embraced the adage that if a line looks too good to be true, it generally is, you have to take big swings at big opportunities too. In fact, we'd be surprised if you could risk any entertainment on this locally at less than 14. (Especially after red-hot 102.3 FM picker Izod gave it his stamp of approval on SportTalk with Quake, Dr. B - he is a doctor after all - and Cowboy Joe.)

The again, this is the week of the crazy pick and the unreal, crazy spreads. Take Alabama, which is giving Georgia State 56 points but the over/under is 60. So in the perfect Vegas world, the final would be Alabama 58, Georgia State 2, and if Alabama gives up a safety Nick Saban's going to kick a kitten.

Want more craziness? Central Michigan is 1-4 overall and 0-5 against the spread and has lost its starting QB and starting RB, and the Chippewas are a 3-point road favorite at Miami of Ohio. Certainly Chippewas is a cool nickname, but wow. Also, Southern Miss was 0-12 last year, is 0-4 this year and coming off a 60-7 beatdown at Boise State, and the Eagles are a 17-point favorite over Florida International.

Go figure. May be this is the week to believe in the lines that are too good to be true.

Let's go to the picks.

Georgia minus-10.5 at Tennessee: OK, we have asked a lot of people who know a lot about these two football teams, and asked them the same questions. Points-wise, what would be a good day for Tennessee against Georgia and a very average day for Georgia against Tennessee? The answers resoundingly come back Good Tennessee 24, Average Georgia 35. So, according to some folks we know who are paid to know things about these teams, If UT is good and Georgia is simply average, the Bulldogs still cover. We'll take that entertainment chance.

UCLA minus-5 at Utah: Utah is underrated and likely should be in the top 25. UCLA is No. 12 in the country and is still underrated. The Bruins have one of the five coolest uniforms in college football, and while that will not help them cover the 5 tonight at Utah, top-10 NFL picks at QB and LB will. This team is good, and if you want the sneaky challenger for a title shot, here you go.

N.C. State -8 at Wake Forest: OK, here's a formula buster that is available when picking college games as opposed to NFL games. Home teams are given an edge in the eyes of the line-makers. Well, Wake Forest is technically at home, but it's a small home field and a large percentage of the crowd will be NC State fans.

Penn State -3 at Indiana: Buy the half to be safe, and we have pause that this is the Nittany Lions first road game of the season. But if you are going to make your first road trip, what better spot that Indiana, where basketball is king and football is a fall distraction. And if you want research, well, do you believe Penn State is better or worse or about the same as say the 10th-best team in the SEC? Say a Missouri? Well Missouri went to IU and dropped the hammer.

Arizona State minus-5 vs. Notre Dame in Dallas: Some times you just have to keep riding the streaks. Do you know if you had bet on UCLA and Oregon and against Notre Dame in every game this year you would 11-0-1. That's even better than our record.

Last week against the spread: 3-2

This season against the spread: 18-6-1


Braves vs. Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

The Braves face the Dodgers tonight in Game 1 of a best-of-five NLDS. Game 1 is much bigger for the Dodgers than it is the Braves, considering the Dodgers are sending Clayton Kershaw to the mound.

The Dodgers must make the most of Kershaw's starts. Period.

Sure a Braves loss tonight would flip home-field advantage, but considering the foe is the Dodgers, home field is not as important as beating Kershaw.

Side question: Better Kershaw, Sammy or Clayton? Yes, Clayton has a few Cy Youngs and will collect a few more. But Sammy has John Deere Green. Discuss.

OK, question time: Fill in the blank - the Braves win this series is.... and be as specific as possible.

We'll start. The Braves win this series if Freddie Freeman takes step one into being a year-in, year-out all-star and delivers more than hugs in the next week.


This and that - connected version

- Speaking of points spreads, one Vegas line ranger says the difference between Alabama and Georgia State is bigger than the difference between Alabama and the Denver Broncos. Alabama is a 56-point favorite over the inept Georgia Staters, and Kevin Bradley, the Bovada.lv sports book manager told Yahoo Sports that Denver would be a 40.5-point over the top-ranked Tide. Side note: Alabama would be a 17.5-point underdog against winless Jacksonville, according to Bradley.

- Speaking of Alabama, safety HaHa Clinton-Dix has been suspended for violation of team rules. Hope the Tide can manage against Georgia State without him.

- Speaking of hard-hitting safeties, San Francisco safety Donte Whitner has changed his hame to Donte Hitner. Whatever.

- Speaking of name-changes, Hitner is better than Ochocinco and Metta World Peace but no where near as good as World B. Free in the realm of name changes. Side question: Is the worst name change ever Prince going from Prince to the symbol which means he's known as the artist formerly known as Prince?

- Speaking of the worst, it's official - Lil' Danny Struggla did not make the Braves roster for the Divisional Series that starts tonight. It's the right call. This means that Uggla's time in the A-T-L is wrapped, right? Has to be.


Today's question

LeBron James

LeBron James

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Gang, remember Friday's mailbag - we have some spots and welcoming all comers, be them regulars or newcomers.

There's a ton of stuff to discuss today, and as always wade in where ever you see fit.

If you need a talking point, let's discuss the all-time 360 Rushmore.

Who is on your 360 career turnaround Rushmore?

For example, LeBron James is back as the NBA's most popular player. James was the Bro of the ball until the end 2010 season. After spring 2010, after the meltdown in the playoffs with Cleveland, The Decision and the Finals implosion against Dallas, James was arguably the most rooted against NBA player. Now, he's back as the most popular. That's a full monty 360.

Robert Downey Jr. probably has a spot on here, too.

Discuss. And if you want to discuss the 180 Rushmore - from king to kindling, aka the Lance Armstrong Rushmore - knock yourself out.