Fab 4 picks
Before we get to the picks, I had a strange thought about UT football this week.
Should UT retire Hendon Hooker’s No. 5?
By comps, Auburn should retire the 2 of Cam Newton for the greatest single season in school history.
I bet LSU will retire Joe Burrow’s jersey at some point too.
And yes, both of the above examples won nattys and Heismans. Hooker may win neither.
But he could win both.
And either way, he has been the catalyst for a rejuvenation among UT football nation that has taken the sport by storm.
To the picks.
UConn plus-10 against Army. So, in the conversations of Coach of the Year nationally, we all know the winner will be from a national power. But has anyone done as much as quickly as what Jim Mora Jr. has done at UConn? Seriously, that was the worst team in college football before he arrived and was 4-32 over the last three seasons played. Now the Huskies are 6-5 and bowl eligible and moreover for our purposes are 9-2 against the number. With Army’s deliberate style — and yes, they are tough to prepare for during the season — 10 points is more like 17.
Florida minus-14 against Vandy. Yep, trap game for the Commodores. OK, maybe not, but the relief of getting off the three-year SEC snide last week certainly is real. Plus, Florida has a chance to finish strong and with a first-year coach will make a strong case for a New Year’s Day bowl.
UNC minus-21 over Georgia Tech. I would rather wrestle alligators than try to make a living picking ACC games. But let’s check these factors and follow the steps. Team A is at home. Team A has a legit chance to make a push for the Orange Bowl — and even an outside shot at the playoff if the cosmic tumblers align. Team A has the best QB you do not know by name who deserves Heisman consideration and could use a fat, late November stat line. Team B is under an interim staff and is now turning to its third-string QB because of injury. This one screams a predictable 45-10 friends — even in the ACC.
TCU minus-2.5 over Baylor. You likely knew the Frogs are 10-0. They are ranked No. 4 in the college football playoff after all. Did you know the Frogs are a mind-blowing 8-1 against the spread? That’s game control right there, friends. And forget formulas and frustrations, TCU is one of four teams that assuredly knows this simple and glorious truth: You win out and you are in, no ifs, ands or buts.
Last week: 2-3 against the spread (40%)
This season: 30-31-2 against the spread (49.2%)
College hoops thoughts
OK, because this week has included our first taste of college basketball, the action has started me thinking a bit. Zip it Spy.
First, when can we done with the “Well, Gonzaga has a cool story and they have a guy who will dominate the Spokane Men’s Church League for years to come and Mark Few blah-blah-blah” story.
The Bulldogs have had good teams. Heck they had some great teams. This is not one of them, and that’s clear after getting absolutely spanked by Texas last night. Sure, the Zags will reel off 20 straight in the -ry months and get a 2 seed, but preseason top-5 or 6? PUH-lease.
Second, my hoops picks are as cold as the weather. I foolishly ignored how tough Rick Barnes is on his team after poor performances, and UT hammered FGCU last night, easily covering the plus-20.5. Side note: My MAC-tion action is screaming satisfaction of late. God bless you directional Michigan schools.
Third, it feels like it’s been too long since I shared something like this: Go take a long walk off a short pier Mark Emmert. If you had addressed NIL when it first came up, college sports could have worked a system in which the athletes get paid. Now, the recruiting in college football and the portal in college hoops are as wild as California fires, spring break fraternity dudes with nicknames like Tank, Tug and Tex and Gallagher’s hair. (Side note: RIP Gallagher, may your afterlife be filled more watermelons and less seeds.)
Man, you know your game needs fixing when the offseason — awards, free agency, trades, whatnot — is more chat-worthy than the daily business of your regular season.
Maybe that’s a touch harsh on baseball, since it has always had a joyous fire stove league of winter deals and discussions. Plus, the awards are forever emblazoned among the ghosts of the game.
With that, for just the second time in history, the Cy Young winners announced Wednesday were unanimous in each league. And, the choices were impossible to argue with — unlike the farce that was the managers of the year awards. (Side question: Anyone else find it curious that both controversial choices of Terry Francona and Buck Showalter were former media members before being selected by media voters? Hmmmmmm.)
In the NL, Sandy Alcantra got every first-place vote. And why not, the Marlins ace had a 2.28 ERA — second in the NL — and pitched into the seventh in 22 of his 32 starts.
In an era of five-innings-and-out, Alcantra finished the season with six complete games. Knock-your-socks-off-stat-alert: No other team in baseball had more than five complete games. Chew on that.
In the AL, while Alcantra had a season that harkened previous generations, Justin Verlander had a year for the ages. And the aged.
Verlander became a three-time Cy Young winner after coming back from a missed 2021 when he had elbow surgery. His 1.75 ERA was the lowest for any starting pitcher 39 or older since Cy Young — the pitcher not the award — was in the game. He also became the first AL pitcher since Bret Saberhagen in 1985 to win the Cy Young and the World Series in the same season.
And doesn’t he have to be a slam-dunk for comeback player of the year?
In the end, Verlander put an amazing exclamation point on an already Hall of Fame career and makes his claim as the best pitcher of the 2000s.
This and that
— Speaking of baseball, one of the reasons I keep my subscription to The Athletic is for its baseball coverage. Dave O’Brien is great on the Braves. Jayson Stark is as good as anyone on the details and minutia of a sport centered on details and minutia. And then there is Keith Law, who is as good as anyone on prospects and free agent lists around the game. The latter of those three aces has his MLB top 50 free agents here (yes, it’s a paysite). Of note, Law has Dansby Swanson as the No. 3 free agent in this class — behind fellow shortstops Carlos Correa and Trae Turner — and ahead of bigger name folks like Aaron Judge (No. 4 on Law’s list), Jacob deGrom (No. 8) and Verlander (No. 13).
— Speaking of Law, on his list is the next Japanese star with whom you need to become acquainted. Meet Kodai Senga, a 30-year-old right-hander who had a sub-2.00 ERA in the JPL last season. Dude hits triple digits on radar gun and has a second pitch called a "ghost forkball" that certainly sounds scary.
— You know the rules. Here’s Paschall’s weekly picks column, and as always, he delivers a laugh because, as he rightly noted, Cadillac Williams is a smidge more popular as a coach among Auburn fans than Bryan Harsin.
— County Commission vs. County Mayor, part VIII. So the County Commission voted Wednesday on a Friday deadline for Weston Wamp to settle his dispute with County Attorney Rheubin Taylor. First, by everything I’ve read, Taylor should have been canned long ago. But whatever. This is now a urinary confrontation between branches of government, and to that end the mommy and daddy (the commission) is trying two siblings (Wamp and Taylor) to work it out before supper. I’d be surprised — especially this early in his tenure as lines and expectations are being drawn — if Weston complies before Friday unless it’s a full termination of Taylor that meets his original wants.
— OK, Justin Jefferson’s fourth-down catch in the Vikings’ miraculous win over Buffalo was right there with the Odell Beckham one-handed catch as the best receptions I’ve ever seen. Sure, there were great catches in bigger moments in NFL history — hello Dwight Clark, looking at you David Tyree — but the grabs by former LSU studs Jefferson and Beckham defied physics, logic and belief. How great was Jefferson’s grab? Well, Canton wants Jefferson’s gloves and his arm sleeve from that game.
— OK, this is a contender for one of the funniest sports-related "Jeopardy!" moments ever, especially since it happened among the wizards who are in the all-time champions tournament. Shown a picture of Jay Cutler, no one knew the former QB and reality star — and that’s OK — but someone guessed it was Tim Tebow. Which demanded two thoughts: One Cutler and Tebow do look somewhat similar. And two, there will never be a funnier sports "Jeopardy!" moment than the category of “Jews in Sports” and the clue was this former pitcher was the youngest player inducted into the baseball hall of fame. A contestant buzzed and said, “Who is Hank Aaron?” and Alex Trebek answered, “No, sorry, he was not a pitcher.” No he was not.
It’s an anything-goes-Thursday, so let loose people.
Also, the mailbag is tomorrow, so there’s that.
I’m also curious about your answer — especially if you are a UT fan — to the question that started today’s conversation. Should UT retire Hendon Hooker’s No. 5?
As for today, Nov. 17, let’s review.
Martin Scorsese is 80 today. Have we done his Rushmore, because I think we have.
On this day in 1973, Richard Nixon told the AP, “I am not a crook.”
Rushmore of all-times lies. Go and remember the mailbag.