5-at-10: Fab 4 picks, SEC items of interest, MLB knowledge, Rushmore of bunnies

5-at-10: Fab 4 picks, SEC items of interest, MLB knowledge, Rushmore of bunnies

September 28th, 2017 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Tennessee receiver Brandon Johnson, center, made seven catches for 123 yards, both career highs, in the Vols' 17-13 defeat of UMass on Saturday in Knoxville. Injuries have forced Johnson to line up in the slot rather than out wide early this season.

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

Gang we've developed a few hard and fast entertainment guidelines through the years.

You know to buy the half on games with spread of 3 and 7. You know, like Coach Finstock told us, never play cards with someone nicknamed after a city. And we all know that lines that look too good to be true generally are.

That's where we are with Tennessee plus-7.5 at home against Georgia.

You have to think that Tennessee played about as bad a game possible last week, and that Georgia played almost spotless football.

So the freshest relocations call for a Georgia runaway. And it may be that, because that Bulldogs defense arrives quickly, with a nasty attitude and normally brings friends.

Still, the closer we get to kickoff, we believe Georgia is better and will win. But that line screams chicken liver to catfish and we can't help but look back to rule 3 and wonder if this is a one-score game. 

In this Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, photo, U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen stand in formation on the field before an NCAA college football game between Navy and Connecticut in Annapolis, Md. Two people with knowledge of the situation have said the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs will play an outdoor game at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, next season. The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Saturday, May 27, because the NHL had not announced the event. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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Photo by The Associated Press/Times Free Press.

To the picks.  

USC minus-3.5 over Washington State. We're buying the half to get to the even field goal, but man this moment feels to big for the Pirate Mike Leach's bunch. Know this: Washington State has not beaten a ranked team at home since 2006, USC has won 13 consecutive games and each of its five trips to Pullman. Yes, the home 'dog catching points can be scary, but WSU's 4-0 start is a facade built on the Oregon States, Montana States and Boise States of the world.

Minnesota minus-12.5 over Maryland. OK, when you think storied Big Ten rivalries, Ohio State-Michigan is easily No. 1, and the Minnesota-Maryland square-off is clearly not in the top 20. Still here's what we know, and we like all of these prospects: We love Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck, who built Western Michigan before coming to the Gophers; we love that Minnesota was off last week; and we love going against third-string quarterbacks on the road, the situation Maryland finds itself in after losing freshman Kasim Hill last week. So the Terrapins hit the road to a load and amped up Minnesota setting and turn to sophomore Max Bortenschlager to make his second career start. Yes please. 

Washington minus-26 over Oregon State. There has been some groaning about the 4-0 start for the Huskies because they have not really clicked. Is that a cause for pause for an experienced team that made the college football playoff last year? Potentially. And yes, this is Washington almost giving four-touchdowns on the road. But we believe that a) Washington is pretty legit, and more importantly, b) Oregon State is one of the three worst Power Five teams in America. When you check the scroll and it's Washington 45, Oregon State 3 to start the fourth, offer a little silent nod to entertainment hunter.

Oklahoma State minus-8.5 over Texas Tech. This is a monster game for the home-standing Techsters. The Red Raiders are 3-0, but is that a real mark with wins over Eastern Washington, a woeful Arizona State team and a distracted Houston? Oklahoma State had its guts ripped out last week and here's a bet the Fighting Gundy Mullets come out nasty. 

Navy minus-7 over Tulsa. But the half to be safe, and let's do some math. Navy is in the top 25 in yards per play at 6.9 per snap. Naturally, almost all of them — 192 of the 217 Navy offensive plays — have been runs. Conversely, Tulsa is 129th in yards allowed per play at 8.5 yards per snap. Want more? Tulsa's run defense has allowed 1,178 yards in 170 carries and ranks 125th nationally. Clearly this is not a good fit for Tulsa. (But don't go getting spoiled by all this research people.)

Last week: 3-3 against the spread (50 percent)

This season: 14-7 against the spread (66.7 percent)

Led by Cameron Nizialek, a graduate transfer from Columbia University, the Georgia Bulldogs lead the Southeastern Conference in net punting entering this week's game at Tennessee.

Led by Cameron Nizialek, a graduate transfer from...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.



SEC items of interest

The central game of the weekend is in Knoxville. Not so much because of the high-profile nature of the match-up as much as the stakes for those involved.

Check it out: Butch Jones needs a win like a starving man needs a ham sammich. Man, there are desperate folks in orange and they are uneasy — especially in these parts when a loss to Georgia means a lot of smack from co-workers come Monday.

Georgia has the look of actually being a good East team, something we have not seen in several years.

It's also a chance to start moving away from the negative terminology of "Georgia-ing," which is a less-than-flattering term of the Bulldogs' tendency to drop games they had no business dropping.

Giddy-up.

First down: Can Tennessee deliver for its embattled coach? Forget the cliches and the angst and the fake 'fake news' rant from Jones on Monday. With all the swirling bitterness and growing hot seat talk, we believe the Vols' effort will from the start will be a very clear statement about the pulse of this team. It also will show whether this bunch has Butch's back. Side note: We dig the Smokey Grey unis.

Second down: Is Auburn good or not? Hard to know. We believe Clemson is good, and that's Auburn's one loss. We believe Auburn laid an egg against Mercer. But last week's dismantling of Missouri in front of the last 49 Mizzou fans left is an enigma. Was that Missouri's stickiness or Auburn's effectiveness? Will find our Saturday when Dan Mullen and Miss State head to The Plains. The Bulldogs need to find some help for Nick Fitzgerald, who has beat up pretty badly last week against Georgia.

Third down: How will Jim McElwain continue the Gators' Magic Carpeted Shark ride? Florida could very easily be bagel-and-3 considering they got pantsed by Michigan, hit a 63-yard walk-off touchdown because Butch is Butch and beat Kentucky because the Wildcats thought covering wide receivers was optional. Hey, the Gators quarterback play in recent years make that belief understandable, but McElwain is now circling the waters with Luke Del Rio. Seems like the best fit. Vandy gave up something 12,000 yards 3,500 points last week to Alabama. But that's as much Alabama as anything. Man, this feels like the first team to 14 wins Saturday in the Swamp.

Fourth down: Frustration bowl. We know Will Muschamp is not on the hot seat. We know that Kevin Sumlin is. But when the classic SEC border-war that is South Carolina-Texas A&M face Saturday, we're wondering at what level the frustration meter will rank for the loser. Side note: South Carolina's 17-16 win over Louisiana Tech was fun and fortuitous.      

Cleveland Indians' Jose Ramirez throws out Minnesota Twins' Jorge Polanco at first base during the sixth inning in a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

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Photo by The Associated Press/Times Free Press.



Baseball news and a story

As we spring into the final weekend of the regular season in the MLB, here's what we know:

The Twins clinched a postseason spot last night. The Cubs clinched the Central last night.

As of right now, the five AL playoff teams are set. Boston and New York are in, but with the Yankees only 3 back, the AL East is still in play. The Indians have won the Central and the Astros have won the West. Cleveland  has a 1 game lead for home field over Houston with four to play. Minnesota will be the final wildcard team and will visit either Boston or New York in the play-in round.

In the NL, East Division-champion Washington will host Chicago in a divisional series. The Dodgers have won the West and will have home field through out the NL playoffs. Arizona has clinched one wildcard spot, and Colorado leads Milwaukee by 2.5 for the final one.

Now, a great day in baseball history for one of baseball's historic greats.

OK, one of the great, "I got this moment" in sports happened on this day in 1941 and one of the great swan song moments happened on this day in 1960.

Both from the same dude.

In the same manner in which Jimmy Chitwood looked at Norman Dale and said, "I'll make it" for the Huskers to toppled the mighty Bears of South Bend Central, Ted Williams ended his historic 1941 season by wanting the ball.

Williams' average was an even .400 entering a double header on the last day of the season in '41. His manager offered him a chance to take the day off to secure the milestone, since no one had hit .400 in more than a decade.

Williams laughed, played both games of the double-header and went 6-for-8 to finish at .406 for the season. No one has hit .400 since.

A mere 19 years later, Williams homered on this day into the bullpen in right at Fenway. It was his last swing in Major League Baseball.

That's a Splendid exit.


This and that

— Very interesting inside story on the monster FBI investigation into college hoops here from ESPN.com. 

— — OK, here's example 2,314,809 that this entire ordeal with the protests before NFL games has gone so far off the rails it's almost impossible to keep up. A petition was started to remove Ray Lewis' statue from outside the Ravens stadium after he got on his knees during the anthem last Sunday. The petition has more than 35,000 signatures. Lewis said he was praying (and when the Freedom from Religion whack jobs here that the number of signatures will double). But here's the crazy thing: No one apparently had issue with the fact that Lewis was involved in two murders in 2001 and eventually pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. CUH-razy.

— Here's betting the NFL is going to plead with the pregame shows to find as many stories like this one this Sunday. Here's Deshaun Watson giving last week's game check — roughly $29,000 — to two cafeteria workers at the Texans facility who lost everything in the hurricane last month. Good stuff.

— One more baseball great "Today" story if you are interested. This week in 1968, Bob Gibson notched his 13th shutout of the season. By comparison, MLB superstar Max Scherzer has eight complete games in his career.

Today's question

Do you have a personal policy when you are trying to pick games for entertainment purposes only? Feel free to share.

We can't leave without saying so long to Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy who died at 91. That dude lived a full life.

So in honor of the Hef, let's do a Rushmore of bunnies.

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