5-at-10: Monster mailbag with 'Plays of the Day,' SEC future look, NIL and Trump

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / UTC football coach Rusty Wright jogs out with his team at Finley Stadium before the start of Saturday's game against Mercer, a matchup of SoCon title hopefuls with high rankings in the FCS polls.

Let’s handle our business

Rushmore of famous lies — sports category, “I once caught a fish this big,” play it where it lies (and visor tip to early in “Caddyshack” when the guy says, “Put me down for a five” as the caddy behind holds up seven fingers), Palmerio to Congress and Pete Rose to everyone. Non-sports category —  “I am not a crook,” War of the Worlds broadcast, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” and the election being stolen. 

Rushmore of fifths — plead the fifth, fifth of Jack (or whatever dark liquor you prefer), Fifth Avenue and Beethoven’s Fifth.

Rushmore of most famous movie scenes with a cigarette — Michael Corleone with Enzo the baker outside the hospital, Roy Schnieder when he sees the shark for the first time, Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct” and Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate.” And that’s with a slew of apologies to classic films about newsrooms, which used to look like they had clouds hovering near the ceiling tiles because everyone smoked. Well, almost everyone.

Rushmore of MLB free agency signings — Hat tip to Curt Flood, who originally challenged the free agent clause but lost in 1969. As for the Rushmore, and all of these not only involved Hall of Famers, they also meant World Series titles to the clubs, let’s go Maddux to the Braves, Reggie to the Yankees, Randy Johnson to the D-Backs and Tom Seaver to the Reds.

You know the rules. Here’s Paschall on the Vols heading to Columbia preparing to put a new spin on “Enter Sandman” for the Gamecocks.

You know the rules, part II. Here’s Hargis on what would be a historic Baylor-McCallie meeting at Finley for a state title if the chips fall right. Gang, would that officially be the hottest sports ticket in Chattanooga history? Discuss. 

Let’s roll with the bag.   

From J-Mac 

Hey Jay,

Your one for the money is doing great. You have to do well to make the "Plays of the Day" successful. Does that put a lot of pressure one you? It would me. 

Hopefully Derrick Henry can pick up a few more yards and you can get both.

I was surprised that you didn't go with Tulane. They were a 3.5 favorite over SMU and only up by 40 or so. They are a good team, but your former Auburn coach is doing a great job also.

I would hate it if the SEC just went to a 16 team conference and no divisions or pods. Just not a good scenario.

Great job this week and a lot of interaction in the 5@10. Good reading.

JM — 

Thanks for the kind words and for playing along. Seriously, you folks who contribute — be it comments or even the dozens of folks who regularly respond in emails — make the 5-at-10 what it is. 

Many thanks. 

Yeah, there is some pressure. In truth, it feels a lot like making actual bets, if that makes sense. And the advice of playing the 1 FOR THE MONEY bet and fading everything else would have a player up more than 10 units in the course of three weeks, which is a heckuva lot better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

In truth, especially early, the numbers that count are the folks who sign up for the email. For those who have signed up, thanks. For those interested, you can sign up here. And if you know anyone who might be interested, pass it along. 

I almost went with Tulane, but pulled it at the very last second because a) did not know how they would react to the loss to UCF and losing their spot atop the Group of Five pecking order, and b) SMU had been playing quite well. 

And by the time I remembered that Rhett Lashlee was SMU’s coach, the "Plays of the Day" had been sent. Lashlee, you recall, is a Gus Malzahn protégé, and he has learned from the master about getting blown out in a critical, evenly matched contest.   

As for the SEC stuff, well.

From Chas

For the bag: According to SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, the two-division structure for scheduling is going out the window when Texas and Oklahoma join the conference in July of 2025.

What will that look like? Pros and cons? Georgia and Tennessee in the championship game? A four-team SEC playoff?

Chas — 

I have long been a proponent of pods, as Vader mentioned. I think you go West (both Texas schools, OU and Missouri), Delta (both Mississippi schools, LSU and Arkansas), Central (AU, Bama, Vandy and UK) and East (Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina).

I like what Vader mentioned as schedules, with playing your three pod foes and two, two and two from the other pods on a rotation. 

My one caveat about going to a nine-game conference schedule is the clear money maker that would be a semifinal Saturday, in which the winner of the West and the Delta play and the winner of the Central and the East play. Heck, you could leave the last Saturday of the year open (rotate hosting duties every other season, so all the Delta schools would host one year, all the West schools host the next) and have the ones play each other, the twos play each other, etc.

An SEC semifinal doubleheader could be worth hundreds of millions to the conference.

But that’s my thought, and my main hope is that the conference looks at ways to protect the product as much as they will look to prosper from it.

Expansion in the college football playoff is already going to diminish the greatest regular season in sports. If the SEC does not protect the glory of those 12 fall Saturdays, it will only make it worse.

As for J-Mac’s inquiry, I hate the everyone ranked 1-16 and one and two play for the title. This year it would work that the two best teams would dance again, but Tennessee already had that bite at the apple. 

And if you went 16 lumped together, who plays whom becomes almost as big a factor as who is playing for whom, you know?   

From A Reader

It feels as if every chance UTC has had to win a big game during the Rusty Wright era has been a tremendous letdown. Even when the Mocs cancelled the Spring 2021 season to focus on the Fall 2021 season, that effort fell flat. It feels like they’re just good enough not to be good enough. More importantly, it feels like they play to a level less than the sum of their parts, and that’s really frustrating. When Huesman was here, it always felt like they were better than that sum. Long-term, is Wright the right guy for the Mocs? Or, alternatively, is the administration content to let 6-5/7-4 play out each year (which, admittedly, is a LONG way from the Rodney Allison days)?

A Reader — 

Frustration is fair. Being frustrated is a sign that a) you care and b) the team for which you care is good enough to have expectations of something better.

First, I think Rusty Wright is good at this — really good in a lot of ways — and is a great fit for his alma mater. 

But fit is not the only thing that matters. At some point having the most talent in the SoCon — and I think this year’s Mocs qualify for that statement — should mean winning the SoCon.

Russ and I became good friends. He and I still talk the week of the NFL draft, because he loves the NFL draft. I also love the NFL draft. You know this.

Russ landing titles showed UTC what was possible, and Rusty experienced that and certainly realizes that’s the expectation. Whether it’s development or recruiting or something else that we are not privy to, the Mocs simply must get better QB play.

Russ and Rusty each have crafted quality defenses at Finley through the years, but Huesman having a Huesman behind center made a slew of difference, you know.

That said, your gut feeling is hard to refute. It does feel like every big UTC game becomes the next big UTC letdown. Which is a fact that hurts in the turnstile in my view, too.

Great question.  

From Doug

Jay- for the mailbag, question about NIL. A recent flip by Florida of a top commit from Miami, Jaden Rashada of Pittsburg (Calif.) High, reported by The Athletic was due to a Bigger NIL deal. My question, it seems like the most active schools in NIL are schools who over the past few years have sucked (Texas A&M, Tennessee, Miami and Florida) those schools' fan base have been tired of losing. The Alabamas of the world have started slow as their boosters seem to have the attitude, initially of "we have been winning and don't need to have to spend big NIL on recruits." Do you think this will eventually "even out" among the Power 5, and schools will just decide its the cost of doing business and each school will basically have close to the same amount of NIL money and behind closed doors collude with each other and set an unofficial "salary cap"? OR since we saw that Power 5s cant trust or get along with each other (like with COVID and arguments over playoff)? In other words there will be no honor among thieves?

Doug — 

Has there ever been honor among thieves? Or among the NCAA recruiting heavyweights? Now they have a license to hand out money and can do it without breaking rules.

As for your scenario, I pray not because if they associate behind closed doors like you described above, any semblance of college athletics will be forever ended when the players sue for collusion — and win — and start collectively bargaining.

And then think of the trickles, because some states high school associations are allowing NIL deals now. Man, it makes my head hurt.

Yes, some of the current movers and shakers in the NIL are places that are starved for a football winner. The balance will come as Kirby looks at South Georgia boosters who love Barking with the Dawgs on Saturdays in the fall and says plainly, “Tennessee has an NIL arm committed to raising $25 million a year. Do we?”

In fact, if Lane Kiffin is interested in Auburn, the Tide-turning factor (see what I did there, Spy) on that deal would have to be NIL-related. So the NIL support will be a critical factor in luring coaches.

Plus, the power programs like UK hoops and Bama football will not be shortened and more over will keep stars like Oscar Tshiebwe and Will Anderson an extra year because they are making seven figures playing in college. 

From Bicycle Bob 


We watched "Yellowstone" this week. No, not the new season, but the very first shows: season 1, episodes 1 through 3. Good, but my wife says there's too much violence. She doesn't so much mind the people getting harmed (after all, we watched "Boardwalk Empire"), but the depictions of mistreatment or violence toward animals, that's a different story. Before watching, my wife asked me what I thought it would be about. I told her I guessed it would be a J. R. Ewing/Dallas redux. But after watching it, I think it's a modern take on "The Big Valley." You've got a strong solo family leader, three brothers (at least initially, one a dandy lawyer and one sort of an outcast), and a sexy sister. One thing's for sure, though: Audra Barkley never dropped an f-bomb. 

Do you think there's another prior show that "Yellowstone" matches up as closely with?

Also, whether DJT gets the Republican nomination or not, the Democrats are likely to win the White House in 2024. Why? Because if he is nominated, enough Republicans are tired of him that he won't do any better than his hand-picked candidates just did in the midterms. And if he doesn't get the nomination, he will probably launch a third-party effort, and that'll guarantee a Dem victory. But I don't think he cares if he burns it all down on the way out, because he'll make a ton of money off fundraising in the process.

Do you think DJT cares about anything except DJT and his money?

BB — 

I think Trump cares about, in order, Trump, the opinions of Trump, the perception of Trump, the other Trumps and money. Not much else matters in his world, which is OK for everyday Joes like you and me who are trying to provide for their people.

For the leader of the free world, that narcissistic, insecure self-importance does not work in too many ways.

“The Big Valley” is a great comp for “Yellowstone” and one I had not thought of until now.

My comp has always been the Duttons are the redneck Corleones. 

Strong father figure who has positioned the family for success. Hot-headed brother that got killed early on. Weak brother who is going to betray the family's interests even if he thinks he’s trying to make a good deal. Youngest brother is the only one who can lead the next generation, and a sister that at first loathed the family, but now comes back and is a critical cog in the operation.

Yes, Beth is more involved and more cutthroat than Connie Corleone, but still.

But “The Big Valley” works, too. And Audra Barkley, wow. Suffice it to say her great nephew Chuck would not have called her turrible.  

From PD

First, there was Trump Derangement Syndrome. Which was and is real. And was also entertaining as hell to watch for several years.

But on the other side, I think there is now Trump Fatigue. For all the good things The Donald did for the party and the movement – bringing in blue collar and minorities at a rate not even Reagan could have imagined and espousing some sensible and long overdue policies – it’s clear the rank-and-file conservative is just tired of the drama.

PD — 

Well put my man, and as bad as it broke — and it broke bad at the end with the election stuff and Jan. 6 and that will be the first sentence of his presidential legacy — Trump did do some good things in office.

Have a great weekend friends and stay warm.