From the "Al Davis Studios," here we go...
NFL Power Poll
1) Green Bay: Scary good right now. If Aaron Rodgers skipped the next three weeks, he'd still be the MVP front-runner
2) New England: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have won 116 regular-season games together - matching the total of Don Shula and Dan Marino for the most for a coach-quarterback combo in the Super Bowl era. If this were a TV marriage it would be Ward and June Cleaver. (If Washington's coach-QB combo was a TV marriage, it would be Al and Peg Bundy.)
3) San Francisco: The handshake fiasco overshadowed what was an impressively physical 25-19 win over the previously unbeaten Lions. San Fran rushed for 203 yards and came back from deficits of 10-0, 13-12 and 19-15.
4) Detroit: Despite their first loss, the Lions are legit.
5) Baltimore: Ray Lewis became the first NFL player with 40 sacks and 30 interceptions. Of all the supremely talented NFL players from the University of Miami, has there ever been a better NFL player from the U than Lewis?
28) Denver: As if the 1-4 start wasn't bad enough, the Broncos just traded Brandon Lloyd, their most productive wide out. Is there a Colorado state law against keeping decent receivers on the Denver roster?
29) Minnesota: The Vikings should tank now. Andrew Luck paired with Adrian Peterson makes for a very real worst-to-first type of flip for the Vikings.
30) St. Louis: The most surprising team in the cellar of the power poll. Tough schedule and untimely injuries have drastically limited the Rams' offense.
31) Miami: There is a growing feeling among Johnny Dolphins Fans everywhere that any win would be a bad thing. The Dolphins need a QB so badly that the Andrew Luck tank-a-thon is gaining steam.
32) Indianapolis: Gross.
Tennessee steps into round two
After facing a supremely difficult challenge against LSU, the University of Tennessee faces a tougher challenge this week against Alabama. (Regardless where you fall on the college football super power debate - whether you think Alabama is better or LSU is better, and we'll all know soon enough - this week is tougher for the Vols if for no other reason than they have to go to Tuscaloosa.)
All of the Vols coaches and players were overflowing with their praise about an Alabama team that has earned. It bordered on nauseating to be frank about it. Yeah, we all get that Alabama is extremely good, but which Vols player is going to step forward and give Johnny Vols Fan a reason to believe. Who at UT is going to offer the Vols Nation a reason to watch Saturday other than program pride? Who in orange is going to step forward and say, "Hey, they're good, but we're still Tennessee, by God. We're going over there to fight."
Or is the plan to sneak in there and surprise Alabama. Heck, the only way Tennessee could surprise this Alabama team is if they showed up in green jerseys.
While UT is offering enough compliments that this has a feel like a first date, Alabama coach Nick Saban is blasting media folks and swearing at the camera. He's intense folks and his players follow his lead. There's no real other way to say it. Saban compliments everything from Little Debbies to Mrs. Saban to the opponents' kicking game to the Tide faithful. He'll toss out the occasional, he's a great player or that team is playing very good football, but his praise is reserved and calculated. And he never sounds like he's in awe of anything. An SEC team. The Packers. The 1980 Russian hockey team. Ivan Drago and Clubber Lang combined. Nuclear winter. Nothing.
Although, maybe we should be expecting this from a UT roster that was too young and too thin from the start and is too banged up as of this morning to be anything other than 28-point underdog Saturday at Tuscaloosa. Maybe this is the proper protocol for a UT team and fan base that is looking to Devrin Young - yes, that Devrin Young who is 5-7 and 160 pounds - to add spark to an offense starving for it. Maybe this is where we are.
But it doesn't mean we have to like it. When does this change?
Missouri, come on down
The much-speculated, much-prognosticated move by the Missouri Tigers into the SEC appears on the horizon. Again.
The New York Times reported today that the move likely will be made this week when the Missouri board of smart pants decide that being in the SEC - and the KA-billion dollar TV deals - is better than not being in the SEC. Those smart pants people are, well, smart.
Seriously, if Missouri heads East, it gives the SEC its fourth school on the prestigious AAU list - with newest member Texas A&M, Vandy and Florida (yeah, we were surprised by Florida, too, but no one has ever proven that you are not smart if you wear tank tops and jorts; you're just fashion-challenged). It also improves the SEC in basketball. (To that, the 5-at-10, like most SEC followers, says "The SEC still plays basketball? Other than Kentucky, wasn't that made a club sport around the league a few years ago?)
And most importantly in this craze of conference expansion, it adds two top-30 TV markets (Kansas City and St. Louis) when the next TV contract extension comes on the table.
As for all the talk and hand-wringing about changing rivalries and moving games, well, let's wait and see how that plays out. We're still hearing that Missouri could be added to the East (crazy, huh?), and having Missouri in the East is still better than having divisions called Legends and Leaders. This point is completely moot if the goal is 16 teams in the SEC, however.
So welcome aboard Missouri, and enjoy the overpowering football and the overflowing revenue. Times are good in the SEC.
This and that
- Football is an emotional game. We get that, and the fallout from the aftermath of the confrontation between Vandy coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham continues. Here is our UGA ace David Paschall's report (SEC probing Todd Grantham scene). It's hard not to like James Franklin, you know? Dude seems to get it and still brings the passion. As for Grantham, well, that this is his second "I am a competitor, I get caught up in the moment," deal that was caught on camera (and if there have been two caught on camera, how many have not been caught on camera?) is troubling. That said, if you're Johnny Bulldogs Fan, here's saying you probably like the fire Grantham brings.
- The Vandy-Georgia flap was somewhat lost in the shuffle after San Fan's Jim Harbaugh and Detroit's Jim Schwartz Sunday's Handshake Gate. (Wow, who would have thought the lasting legacy from all the great work by Woodward and Bernstein to bust the Nixon administration would be that every scandal - big or small - would get the "Gate" tag at the end of it like Watergate, the famous hotel where all the crooked stuff went down?). Hey, no harm no foul, right? Well, maybe not considering that the head coaches are supposed to be the last guy to lose control, the guy that keeps his team walking the razor's edge between fevered pitch and out of control. What will Harbaugh or Schwartz say the next time one of their players gets into a fight and gets a 15-yard penalty or suspended? "Hey man, be smarter than that." "But coach, you did it." "Oh yeah."
- Sure, the above exchanges are relatively harmless because there was no real damage done. But how close was each situation to becoming out of control? Each story above becomes much smaller - and in some ways potentially more damaging - with the news that an Augusta, Ga.-area high school coach was hit in the face with a helmet trying to break up a postgame fight between players. The coach, David Daniels, suffered broken face bones and needed more than 100 stitches after last Friday's game. Hey, passion is great and aggression is part of the game - but when emotions get out of control after the game on the field, it is opening the door for some serious trouble.
- Al Davis was buried Monday, and the tributes were nice. His pall bearers were a who's who of Raiders lore. It was a nice way to say good-bye.
- As for the current state of the Raiders, Jason Campbell's broken collar bone has left the team opening up a casting call for the general public. Seriously. Right now the starter is Kyle Boller - yes, that Kyle Boller - who had two fumbles in relief of Campbell last week. His back-up? You guessed it, Terrelle Pryor. Wow, what kind of story would it be for Pryor to get his shot in the next month and be the only one left standing from Tattoo-Gate at THE Ohio State University with a football job. (Admit it, you want this to happen.)
It's contest time: Let's call this one the Not-so-World Serious Contest.
Here are the requirements: Give us the team that's going to win and in how many games (as always, "Price is Right" rules apply, which means if you go over you're out). And give us who you think the MVP will be (We'll use that as a tie-breaker).
We've already tossed our pick out there:
5-at-10 - Cards in 7; Albert Pujols