Happy New Year, gang.
Hope you have cleared the cobwebs and enjoyed food, friends and football on Jan. 1. We know we did. And hey, remember the mailbag, in the holiday shuffle, we have a spot or three open. Side question: What's your Rushmore of shuffles? Hollywood Shuffle, holiday shuffle, Super Bowl shuffle and....
From the "Talks too much" studios, buckle up and pass the grits and greens... that's some good eating there Clark. (Side question: Which Vacation should be next? We'll say Vacation Bailout: The Hunt for Cousin Eddie - seems Randy Quaid took off to Canada and is a bit of a quack.)
Wow, that was an entertaining slate of games that cost a lot of folks some entertainment.
Georgia lost. UCF won. LSU failed to cover. Vegas smiled and nodded at each since the public's money was way on the favorites. Plus, the money was even on Stanford-MSU, which makes Vegas a guaranteed winner. So it goes.
We went 3-4 on New Year's Day against the number to go to 16-14 against the spread this bowl season. We have six bowl games left, and we feel as confused as ever.
While our picks remain puzzling, we are starting to gain a view of how the power leagues are faring in this postseason and the conferences are putting together some interesting collections of results.
Here's an observation on each BCS league so far:
SEC - Other than the Georgia debacle, the SEC is perfect so far and is 5-1 with four teams in the final six bowl games.
ACC - Ouch-standing. Other than Duke taking Texas A&M to the wire, UNC rolling and Syracuse beating Minnesota, this has been a comedy of erratic disappointments. The ACC had 11 teams get invited to the postseason, and has wins form Syracuse, Pittsburgh and North Carolina and losses from Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, Duke, Boston College and Virginia Tech. Of course that 3-6 mark would be greatly cleansed if Florida State takes care of Auburn in the title game.
Big 12 - What was that, Baylor? That was worse than what Ronald Miller threw on his buddy's porch in "Can't Buy Me Love." Wow, after a year of making believers out of the country, Art Briles and Co laid and egg in the Fiesta. And kudos to the AAC, which notched big wins for Louisville and Central Florida. George O'Leary can slap coach, we don't care what his resume says. As for the Big 12, it has been a mixed bag: Texas Tech whipped Arizona State and Kansas State beat Michigan, but Baylor and Texas got thumped. The Big 12 has Oklahoma playing tonight and Oklahoma State playing Friday. Big Game Bob said the SEC lacked depth. Buckle up butter cup.
Pac 12 - Other than Oregon, UCLA and Arizona overpowering weaker foes, this has been a disappointing winter for what many thought was the second-best conference behind the SEC. Arizona State dropped a stinker and Stanford lost the Rose Bowl to a good Michigan State team, but the game really wasn't as close as the 24-20 final. Stanford's offense could not do anything. The league's best win may be Oregon State's Christmas Eve win over Boise State.
Big Ten - Impressive showing on Wednesday with Nebraska and Michigan State winning outright and Iowa and Wisconsin playing SEC foes tough. Yes Michigan lost, but that was without their starting QB, and Minnesota lost to a mediocre Syracuse team. So even after a good Jan. 1, the Big Ten is 2-4 with Ohio State's date with Clemson left.
Tonight's pick: We said from the start of today's 5-at-10 we have been confounded by this bowl season - and our pick percentage in the 5-at-10/Press Row/ESPN pick challenge is likely even worse. So it goes. Still the struggles of the other Big 12 teams and the influence of Alabama senior class make us think tonight's Oklahoma-Alabama Sugar Bowl is going to be as one-sided as the 1984 presidential election. We're going to ride the Tide and take the over 51 - we believe Christion Jones is good for at least one kick return for a score. Thoughts?
The above headline is a lot better than coaching shorts start dropping, of course. Hi Coach T.
Bill O'Brien is headed to the NFL to coach the Houston Texans. That opens another high-level college job at Penn State. Lovie Smith is reportedly headed to Tampa Bay to coach the Bucs.
That means there are still four open NFL gigs - Cleveland, Detroit, Washington and Minnesota - and two big-boy college jobs at Texas and Penn State needing head coaches.
The University of Texas has been noticeably silent, and that means we believe two things about that search: 1) If Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com reports a name, we're in; 2) We believe there is a real chance that the next Texas coach could be coaching a team still playing a bowl game. Could that be Mike Gundy, James Franklin or Gus Malzahn? You bet it could. Anyone is in play when you talk Texas.
As for the other NFL gigs, if we're Detroit we reach out to Ken Whisenhunt, an offensive Whiz who could have a lot of fun with the Lions toys. Washington is a total unknown because of Daniel Snyder. There are talks that Snyder may be interested in Art Briles to reunite the Baylor coach with RG III-and-10 or maybe Jim Chaney. Cleveland has interest in Josh McDaniels and recently in Malzahn, who could be a very hot commodity in the NFL in the next year or two thanks to the pace success enjoyed by Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. Minnesota needs a QB more than a coach.
And if we had a big-boy college job like a Texas, we'd make the following three guys tell us no, Malzahn, Charlie Strong and Franklin, in that order.
Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater have declared for the NFL draft. We'd expect UCF QB Blake Bortles to declare as well, considering his stock can't get much higher than it is after the big-stage win over Baylor. And yes, Johnny Football has to go too.
We're more sold on Jadeveon than Teddy and Manziel than Bortles, and if we were the Texans with the No. 1 overall pick, we take Clowney, the former South Carolina speed-freak-pass rusher. In fact, we saw a CBSsports.com report in which one NFL scout this week compared Clowney's occasional indifference this season and its affect on his draft status not unlike the pre-draft song and dance of Randy Moss. That's an excellent comparison and looking back on the 1998 draft in which Moss went No. 21 to the Vikings, here's how the re-drafted top 10 likely would look in hindsight:
1) Colts would pick Peyton Manning (did pick QB Manning)
2) San Diego would pick Randy Moss (did pick QB Ryan Leaf)
3) Arizona would pick Greg Ellis (did pick DE Andre Wadsworth)
4) Oakland would pick Charles Woodson (did pick CB Woodson)
5) Chicago Bears would pick Fred Taylor (did pick RB Curtis Enis)
6) St. Louis would pick Takeo Spikes (did pick DE Grant Winstrom)
7) New Orleans would pick Alan Faneca (did pick OT Kyle Turley)
8) Dallas Cowboys would pick Keith Brooking (did pick DE Ellis)
9) Jacksonville would pick Tra Thomas (did pick RB Taylor)
10) Baltimore would pick Samari Rolle (did pick CB Duane Starks)
And yes, the Tennessee Titans - then known as the Tennessee Oilers - picked Kevin Dyson at No. 16. He was the first wide receiver off the board. How much better would Steve McNair's career been if the Titans had coupled McNair and Moss for a decade in Nashville? We need to sit down for a second.
Also of note: Two third-round steals of that '98 draft - Steelers wide out Hines Ward and Rams defensive end Leonard Little. We love the draft. You know this.
- There are still more than 7,000 unsold tickets left for the Green Bay Packers playoff game this weekend in Green Bay. Read that again, and know that the Packers have had more 300 consecutive sell-outs and have a waiting list with more than 100,000 names on it for season tickets. If there's not a bigger testament to the growing threat that the TV experience presents to sports teams and crowds and venues, well, we're not sure what it could be.
- We saw on the ESPN ticker that the U.S. has selected the hockey team for the upcoming Winter Olympics. Man, that makes us miss the days of amateurs in the Games, you know?
- The UnderArmour All-American high school football all-star game is today at 4 p.m. It is the first of the series of high school football showcases in the next week-to-10 days, and the result is meaningless. The results of the announcements of where the players are intending to sign are very meaningful, however. One schools that has gotten a big boost through the holidays is FSU, which got commitments from highly regard prospects Dalvin Cook and Lorenzo Featherston.
- Great start to the Southern Scuffle as TFP wrestling ace Ward Gossett tells us here. Little side praise for Mr. Gossett, dude had a knee replaced in early December but wanted to make sure he was back at his post for this big-time event. Nice job wrestlers and nice job Ward.
Ton to discuss, and a lot of this could be kicked around on Press Row today from 3-6 p.m. on 105.1 FM. You can also listen live here at timesfreepress.com.
Thoughts on Bama-Oklahoma tonight?
Who has the hotter seat next fall, Will Muschamp at Florida or Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech? (TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer has a nice look at the latter here.
Here's a question for the group: Did you see the fourth-down stop by Michigan State against Stanford? OK, MSU linebacker hurdles himself over the line of scrimmages and leads with his head and connects helmet-to-helmet on the ball carrier. It was a great play but was it a legal play, since we all know helmet-to-helmet collisions are seriously frowned upon?