Wow, what a weekend. Simply wow.
And we even went to the Hamilton County. (Underwhelmed to tell you the truth, and when did they stop putting mirrors in people's homes, because there's no way a big chunk of the folks there could have seen how they looked and still left the house. No way.)
From the "Talks too much" studios, the Lane train has left the station. And the tracks. And the college football realm.
Wow. What a weekend. Here are the five takeaways from a college football weekend in which Johnny Vols Fans went to bed worried about a UT team that struggled to beat South Alabama and woke rejuvenated because the K in Kiffin stands for karma.
And as we always do, it's a letter-grade college football Monday.
Vols: Do you dare believe in the first half, when the Vols took care of business and marched over and through South Alabama? Can you ignore the second half, when the Vols were hanging on for dear life against South Alabama, a team filled with players who never even received a second-look from UT coaches during the recruiting process? Of course the answer is somewhere in the middle, a balanced version of the half-full, half-empty discourse. Know this, though: UT surely does not appear ready for the October juggernaut that looms on the horizon. (Side note: The opening line of the Tennessee-Georgia game is Bulldogs minus-10.5. One question: How?) Let's give UT a C-minus, and that grade is scaled considering the competition and barely passing the final.
SEC: Monster win by the Georgia Bulldogs, who toppled an impressive LSU team without the services of Todd Gurley for most of the afternoon. And if anyone has any more "big-game" questions for Aaron Murray, well, watch the film of this instant classic before had. Also, anyone think Alabama's secondary and offensive line had heard about all the "What's wrong with you guys" questions it could stomach? Bama shut out Ole Miss and ran for 254 yards. Any more questions? Missouri is still unbeaten - the impressive list of creampuffs would make a diabetic shake - but the Tigers offense continues to click against weaker foes. Missouri put 41 points and 495 yards of offense on Arkansas State. Johnny Football is good and USC running back Mike Davis belongs in the conversation of SEC stud tailbacks. It's hard to remember an SEC this flush with talent in the offensive backfield. Georgia, Alabama, Vandy and Missouri get A's. LSU gets a B-plus for a big-time effort on the road. South Carolina gets a C-plus and views Saturday's noon trip to Central Florida as one of those classes you are happy to pass and never have to think about again. Texas A&M and Arkansas each get C-plusses (and the lines-makers get A's for setting that 12-point final in the 13-14 range - it's games like that one that help Vegas build fancy buildings and help your local entertainment broker buy fancy cars).
Mocs: Shampoo and the Mocs; wash, rinse, repeat. UTC's 23-21 heart-aching loss at Statesboro had all the trappings of the familiar UTC pattern that has been laid down and played out in the last few years. UTC needing a big win, plays well enough to win, and then one big play turns the game and the Blue and Gold are toppled. Sure, that describes almost every competitive-but-still-not-there-yet college football program. Saturday in Statesboro, there was talk of missed calls, including one on a potential go-ahead-fourth-quarter touchdown. Whatever. Here's the skinny: When will the Mocs make one of those plays to turn a tight game into a hard-fought win over a similarly matched foe? Right now, it's still kind of college football shampoo: Watch, wince, repeat. Mocs get a C, which is becoming overwhelmingly average and averagely underwhelming.
Lane Kiffin: Not that anyone is really surprised by this, especially after Kiffin's USC Trojans were smoked by three touchdowns by Arizona State. The biggest surprised of Sunday may be that Coach Ed Orgeron will be the interim coach for the remainder of the season. (Hsffaaklsdjfslf... Brent Schaefer.) USC is 3-2 this year and has not face Stanford or UCLA yet. As TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer pointed out here it was bad run that was destined to end badly. That said, if you scratch off Nick Saban, the list of potential USC names can't be too big. It's still a top-five national job.
Fab 4-plus-1 picks: Well, we went 3-2, completing a first month of the season in which we did not have a losing weekend. Our winners - Florida by more than 13, Boise State by more than 28 and BYU by more than 23 - were fine; our losers - Duke failed to cover 10 and the Pitt-Virginia over/under missed as badly as Ishtar or Leonard Part 6 - were part of a classic fallacy of putting too much into the previous week. In fact, we may or may not have made some entertainment back late Saturday night by taking Alabama and giving the 14. Want to know what? Because Ole Miss had been hearing for two weeks how great they were after winning at Texas. That's tough for NFL guys to handle; for college-aged players, it can be impossible. Season total for the Fab 4-plus-1 is now 18-6-1, a calm and collected 75 percent. (In other parlance, if you put a 100 entrainment vouchers on each pick this season, you'd be up $1,130 for the first month of the season.)
We'll hit the power poll on Tuesday, and yes Peyton Manning is still pretty good at tackle football.
Let's debate the merits of the two closest NFL franchise, that are surprisingly heading in two different directions.
The Atlanta Falcons are all-but cooked. Injuries and the NFL's grand scheme of everyone playing to the golden path of mediocrity - in this case, weighted schedules - have left a Falcons team built around a high-powered offense limited in its abilities and exposed on defense.
The Tennessee Titans, however, are playing better than the sum of their parts. In truth, that may be the biggest compliment you can pay a coaching staff. Sunday's one-sided 38-13 win over the New York Jets was impressive, but the glow of a surprising 3-1 start has been dulled more than a little by Sunday's injury to Jake Locker. (Side note: Yes, the odds before the season of Titans fans being upset by a Locker injury were about 50-50. But dude has improved and looked the part through the first month.) Monday morning reports have Locker missing anywhere from 4-to-8 weeks with the hip injury.
And as good as Peyton Manning has been - dude has a TD-to-INT ratio of 16-to-0 - is as bad as the Jags have been. Jacksonville lost 37-3 Sunday at home to Indy, and Vegas has set an early number on the Jags visit to Denver in 13 days at Denver minus-28, which would be the biggest line in NFL history. (On the other end, Alabama is giving Georgia State 56.5 this week.)
The Atlanta Braves secured the NL East title sometime in August, or there about. The Braves missed out on home-field advantage in the playoffs by a game. So it goes.
And so go the Braves. It's hard to see these Braves take down the Dodgers in a best-of-five and then likely the Cardinals in a best-of-seven in which the Cards have homefield.
That said, how great would a Braves-Pirates NLCS be. We're rooting for that if the Braves beat the Dodgers. (Hey, we grew up a Dodgers fan and still pull for them.) Also, we're pretty stoked to have three win-or-pack-the-stuff games this week. Rays-Rangers and the winner to play the Indians. Pirates-Reds. Good times
Let's go to the Braves regular-season review (we'll have our award winners Tuesday):
Hitting - C
There were some clear home runs, and Freddie Freeman looks the part of franchise cornerstone and Jason Heyward in the second half was the Jason Heyward fans had hoped for. That said, the Braves have two everyday players hitting under .185 in B.J. Upton (.184) and Danny Struggla (.179)
Pitching - A
The Braves were No. 1 in ERA (3.18), second in quality starts (102) and WHiP (1.20) and have the best closer in baseball. Now consider the injuries this group overcame - losing Hudson and the team's two best set-up guys - and the numbers are staggering. Roger McDowell may be on some managerial short lists this winter.
Manager - A
Fredi G deserves manager of the year consideration. He won't get it - Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle, come on down - but he deserves to be at the ceremony. Great year from that guy, and kindred spirit and similarly named Kenny G should write an instrumental about it.
- The NBA is reportedly changing the format to the Finals to a more just 2-2-1-1-1 set up. Longtime readers know that StuckinKent and the 5-at-10 have been on this bandwagon for a longtime, and the NBA has finally hopped on. In other news, the NBA is switching from VCRs to DVDs and may look into these crazy new CDs rather than cassettes. Good luck with that.
- Jimmie Johnson went faster and turned left better than the rest of the NASCAR crew. And amazingly, Dale Jr. was among the leaders for most of the day. Hmmm, must have been the Upward Basketball 500 at Dover. Yay, everyone gets to lead a lap.
- Now that Kiffin has been canned, the clock is on Texas and Mack Brown. We say he gets the axe too and we have two of the top 5-to-8 jobs in college football open at the same time. We'd like to be Charlie Strong's agent. Turning down Tennessee for one more year of Teddy Bridgewater and a chance at a USC or Texas job turned out pretty wise, huh?
We are littered with questions today.
Feel free to letter grade your football team of choice. Are the Falcons a dead team walking? Are the Titans playoff bound? Do the Braves have your hopeful attention or are you waiting for the disappointment? Discuss until you are blue in the face.
But if you still need another talking point, here are three:
Tina Fey hosted SNL on Saturday night, returning to the place that jumpstarted her career into the stratosphere. What's your Rushmore of former SNL characters who got the most out of their time on Saturday Night Live? We'll say Fey for sure and Farrell, too. Guys like Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers are so crazy talented, they would have made it regardless. Who else used the SNL platform to reach unexpected and overwhelming heights?
What are the top five jobs in college football?
Lane Kiffin was fired at the airport as the team bus left without him. Sure, dude deserves everything that comes his way, but do you think he got cab fare from AD Pat Haden? Maybe called a buddy? How did Lane get home in the early hours of Sunday morning coming down?