5-at-10: Weekend winners and losers and Kirby Smart is the best college football coach in America

An assistant coach restrains Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, right, as he yells to his players on the field during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Weekend winners

College football fans. Truly, this weekend was glorious. And don’t at me about your team losing because remember I’m an Auburn grad. Conversely though, the glory of the weekend — the scoreboard watching, the unknowns, the roller coaster, all of it — is why I am so saddened by the inevitable college football expansion. With expansion, UT-Georgia doesn’t matter. In truth, Clemson wetting the bed would not have mattered. It would have been just another Saturday in the fall because the regular season will mean so much less. Even in the SEC where it allegedly just means more.

Tennessee. Yes, we’ll get to Georgia in a moment, because they are the undeniable winner of the weekend. But other than how the three hours of agony on the Sanford turf unfolded, everything else went UT’s way. The late score helped the optics. Alabama losing helped the scenarios. Clemson getting slapped reopened the path. The perfect season is gone and a trip to Atlanta is now all-but impossible, but a college football playoff invite feels almost likely at this point.

Patrick Mahomes. Josh Allen may be the clear MVP frontrunner, but the wheeling-dealing-soul-stealing style of Cool as Peppermint Patty is the best attraction in the best entertainment option around.

Hugh Freeze. Dude rolled into Arkansas with a Liberty bunch, slaughtered the Hogs — yes, it was a two-point win, but please excuse the poetic license — and rolled out the hottest name on the coaching carousel. And yes, the Freeze to Auburn rumors have reached a fevered pitch. In truth, with the early signing period, the quicker power programs can make a move the better, because in today’s recruiting calendar, waiting too long is missing out on almost an entire cycle of players.

Dusty Baker. By most measures, Baker is one of the truly good dudes in baseball. Over the weekend, after a career that has spanned more than half a decade as a player and as a manager, Baker got his first World Series ring. How long has Dusty been in the Show? Well, you may know someone who was in the stands when Hank Aaron hit 715 (it was me), you may know who was pitching (Al Downing), and you may know the Braves relief pitcher who caught the ball over the left-center-field fence (Tom House, but do you know who was on-deck? Johnnie B. “Dusty” Baker, who may well have punched his ticket to Cooperstown with the title.) He has more than 2,093 career wins as a manager, which is the most any active manager and ninth all-time. The other 10 managers in the top 11 in all-time wins are already in the Hall.  

Bonus pick: We mentioned Dusty by name, but the Astros organization and even overblown windbag Mattress Mack deserve a line here, too. The 2017 Houston Cheaters will always be known that way. The 2022 Astros though powered through that hate and etched their own history. As for Mattress Mack, the Head Hedger in gambling history, if dude did win $75 million in sports bets as is being reported, well, kudos. Even if the lion’s share of the initial wagers were made to cover the mattress giveaways his stores offer when Houston-area teams make playoff and postseason runs. 

Bonus pick II: And yes, this college football heavy, but the LSU faithful who reminded us why Saturday nights in Red Stick are so magical deserve a tip of the visor this morning, too. And man, where is LSU in Tuesday night’s playoff ranking if they do not gag all over themselves in the kicking game in the season opener? 

Weekend losers

Alabama. This one was clear, and we’ll get to a bigger picture of it shortly, but turnovers and penalties and an inability to grab a game hanging in the balance was shocking for those of us who have come to expect the exact opposite from Alabama and Nick Saban. And quite possibly the worst takeaway was watching some truly deranged Alabama fans on social media wondering if it’s time for a change in coaching, especially if both coordinators are not relieved of their duties. On a side — and scary for the rational Bama backers — note: This feels an awful lot like the end of Spurrier’s time in Gainesville if you ask me. A team with huge expectations underachieves — but still will likely finish top 6 in the country after they win and pummel whomever they see in the Sugar Bowl — and everyone asking the Dark Lord, “Coach how we gonna to rebuild the program?” in the offseason.

Clemson. And, big picture and worst-case scenario, if Saban decided to do something else, are Bama fans still as 100% confident in the “Well, if it happens, it happens, we’ll go get Dabo” succession plan. Clemson could have lost to Wake. Clemson should have lost to Syracuse. Clemson got DEEEE-rilled by Notre Dame. Which makes you have to ask if Clemson has been all that good over the last several years or if Clemson a) benefited from being the world’s tallest team in an ACC filled with short people and b) lucked into getting program-changing QBs in rotation of DeShaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence.

Kevin Durant. All of this Kyrie Irving stuff has covered Durant’s amazing start to the 2022-23 season. (And Luka’s too, and those dudes put on a show over the weekend.) Durant is posting 31.5/6.2/4.8 at the tender age of 34. But all that centers around the Nets is the Kyrie Irving chatter, looming suspension and path back from his hateful anti-semitic comments. Which, pardon the tangent, deserves a brief discussion here, and the NBA has to be among the losers here, too. Irving’s social media support of a hate-filled movie called “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America" that includes clear ant-semitism, quotes Hitler and denies the Holocaust was tippy-toed around by the league, Nets ownership and other players. The bigger issue, at least for me, was Irving’s repeated refusal to answer questions late last week about whether he had anti-semitic views. Then the bleep hit the fan. Here’s the dangerous part of all the reactions and rush to be the most “We’re standing for” whatever in all of this. Start imaging if Kyrie — or any other star of that caliber — did similar things about other groups in other isms or phobias, be it racism, sexism or homophobia. Would the reaction be this muted? Is this reaction too strong or not strong enough, all things considered? If Kyrie railed against Christians what would the reaction be? The other part of this that kind of puzzles me, is who really cares what Kyrie thinks? He’s ignorant and several years ago found the spotlight because he thought the world was flat. OK, what else would we expect? But that’s me. Thoughts? 

Aaron Rodgers. Dude, what was that? Three picks inside the Detroit 20, two in the end zone? Egad. Who’s ready for the Jordan Love era? (Kidding. Mostly.)

Kathy Griffin. Personally, I think she’s a no-talent hack who has made a living off controversy for years. Now she mocks Elon Musk and gets suspended from Twitter — which marks her career high-water mark since that hilarious time she posed with a decapitated head of former President Donald Trump. Lots of folks will hammer Musk about being sensitive or overly controlling or fill-in-the-blank, and that’s fine. Have your opinion. But according to this story, what Griffin did has forever been against Twitter rules, it’s just that those rules are rarely enforced and almost never enforced this quickly. 

Changing of the guard

Georgia won the weekend. Georgia earned a hall pass into the playoff even if they lose a game between now and the first Sunday in December.

The reigning college football champs are the best team in college football.

And for the first time since 2008, the Georgia Bulldogs are the best program in college football too.

Yes, they have passed Alabama. Take a bow, Kirby. You have delivered on being historically better than Mark Richt, who was fired after averaging 10 wins per in a great career as the UGA coach.

Kirby has done him one better, and in turn has now done his mentor one better too.

As Paschall ended the first chunk of his SEC wrap column in today’s TFP,  Lord Saban is the best to ever do it.

Kirby is the best doing it right now.

And what he did to a UT offense that had crushed everyone in its path Saturday was a virtuoso.

Varying blitzes. Line shifts. Preparation that assuredly featured more than 1,000 references to the Tuesday college football playoff ranking that had UT numero uno. (Side question: Seriously, how big a smile do you think Kirby had on his face watching that show last Tuesday night knowing the huge motivation boost it would — and did — give his defense?)

Kudos Georgia fans. Enjoy the ride.

Because while a few of us have ridden the talents of extremely great players to the glories of magical falls over the last decade plus, Georgia has something more.

The Bulldogs have that leader around which everything revolves. The central piece that returns year after year and will put your program in the conversation to win it all every single season.

We frequently say that quarterback is the most important position in sports.

We should just as frequently say that nothing is more valuable than a truly great college football coach. 

And Georgia has the best around right now.

This and that

— Yes, I know college hoops starts today. Allegedly. Sorry, hard for me to get jazzed about the “Athletes in Action” square-offs and such. We’ll do more college hoops later this week, but today had to be football-based.

— Speaking of that, kudos to the Mocs. Nice win. Goals are still in front of UTC after Saturday’s win.

— I know I picked against them, and that picked paid off. (Side note: Could I be more Jerry Seinfeld, “Mr. Breakeven” in my picks this fall? The Fab 4 went 2-3 to get to 26-26-2 on the season against the spread. The “Plays of the Day” went 1-2 from Friday, and with the added combo parlay from Thursday on the WRs that cashed for slight money, we are like plus-0.35 units, pending the math.) Still, I enjoy this Falcons team and kudos to Arthur Smith who has them playing better than their current pieces, which is a high compliment to coaching.

— Speaking of the picks, here’s where you can sign up for our afternoon “plays of the day” email. Thanks for playing along. 

— Could certainly have been among the losers of the weekend, but someone tell me how and why the County Commission is supporting Rheuben Taylor, who has clearly been working off the books — and doing it for some friends and families of his political buddies? Man, sure looks like County Mayor Weston Wamp has cause to walk Taylor to the curb, despite the commission getting their boxers in bunch because they were not consulted about the decision. Here’s more. 

— Gang, remember to go vote tomorrow. And take a moment to review the issues that matter to you and your family. Being a voter is being a good citizen. Being an informed voter is being a great citizen.

Today’s questions

Weekend winners and losers, go.

Multiple choice Monday goes this way:

If you had a college football coaches draft this morning, and your favorite college football team had the first pick and the AD of your favorite college football team called you and said, “Who do you want?” with age and everything else playing into it. Who’s your pick?  

— Nick Saban

— Kirby Smart

— Ryan Day   

— Other (and please specify, and if you say Bryan Harsin, well, may your Thanksgiving turkey be filled with bones).

As for today, Nov. 7, let’s review.

On this day in 1991, Magic Johnson announced he had HIV. Man, that was one of those, “I remember where I was" moments when I heard that.

Rushmore of “Where were you moments” in sports since the U.S. hockey team in 1980? Go.