5-at-10: Fab 4 picks, Defending Nick Saban's greatness, Better career, Verlander or Kershaw

Alabama coach Nick Saban on the sidelines against Arkansas during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

Fab 4 picks

So it’s here. It’s happening.

In the coming days, we are going to launch an afternoon email from yours truly with daily picks across the entire sports spectrum. 

We think this has promise to be honest. (Side note: The dry run this week has been wicked hot. Wicked, underrated as an adjective to be honest.)

It will have a familiar style, as my conversational approach is really the only one on which I can rely.

And it’s free to everyone. So, cue Bluto in the early stages of the National Lampoon documentary that was “Animal House.” And friends, if you were in a fraternity, you know two things: People in a frat do not call them a frat, and “Animal House” was way, way, WAY more truthful than almost anyone would care to admit.

“Grab a brew. Don’t cost nuthin’” is John Blutarsky’s great line to Flounder and Pinto.

When we get details on how to sign up, we will pass them along, and while I know your time is your most valuable resource, I would hope you folks would sign up and, like Michael asked Johnny Fontaine before buying the Flamingo from Mo Green, “perhaps convince some of your friends in the movies to do the same." 

With that, let’s make like the Smails kid and do some picking.

Georgia Tech minus-3 over Virginia. OK, Tech breaks up with a disastrous head coach. Hands the head set to an alum who views this as a dream job. Said alum has completely redirected the program with straight victories over Pitt and Duke. Now, a home game — on a Thursday — with a potentially re-energized fan base? Against a Virginia team that has not scored more than 21 points against an FBS opponent this year? Yes please.

THE Ohio State minus-14.5 in the first half against Iowa. This is the line on FanDuel currently, and I would try to wait it out until it gets to 14 if possible. Or maybe buy it down with extra juice. But I think after a bye week and with all the folks talking about Michigan’s big win over Penn State and the SEC and its potential of three teams in the playoff chatter, THE Buckeyes are going to come out swinging against an Iowa team that simply can’t score. (Side question: Is Kirk Ferentz the George Hamilton of coaching? George Hamilton was a well-tanned celeb that was always very famous for just being famous. Ferentz has done very little on the national scale — and even survived a race-related coaching brouhaha a few years ago — but still keeps his job and is viewed as very good to great at his gig. Side question on the side question: Who is the current version of someone who is mega-famous and their only real talent seems to be just being famous? Starts with a Kardashian, right?)

Penn State minus-4 over Minnesota. I think last week was as much about how good Michigan actually is — and it’s funny for a top-five team to be under the radar, but Michigan has posted as good a résumé as anyone not named Tennessee this season — more than anything Penn State did or did not do. And I think that will translate this week at home when the boat rowers and P.J. Fleck float into Happy Valley.      

Texas A&M minus-3 over South Carolina. Yes, road dogs. Both off byes, but very different open weeks. A&M spent two weeks frothy about losing late at a suddenly very gettable Alabama. USC-east spent the last two weeks celebrating arguably the biggest win of the Shane Beamer era against a ranked UK team that was without its starting QB. Edge, Aggies, especially at that price.

Oklahoma State plus-6.5 over Texas. Hmmmmm, in Stillwater and getting points? Yes, please. Research alert: Oklahoma State in its last 16 home games is 15-1 and that lone loss was in overtime. And they are getting a TD against a Texas team that has played only one true road game this season? Again, yes please. 

Last week: 3-2 against the spread (60%)

This season: 18-17-2 against the spread (51.4%) 

Say what?

OK, I’m normally not a fan of media on media attacks. When that happens, lots of things can be said, and few of them are productive.

— Commenting on ridiculous media assertions gets the ridiculous media folks the attention they seek.

— Pointing out the ludicrousness of moments like this only add to the spin cycle of click-bait culture that devalues the image of the media as a whole and eats at the internal importance of integrity in the profession.

And those are just the big picture points, because we can’t bemoan the filth-filled quagmire that is social media and then put out poppycock like this podcast under the USA Today banner with the headline “Is Nick Saban still the best coach in college football?”

Normally I include links. This time I refuse, and whether both panelists completely trumpet that Saban is still the best, they should be offended at whomever wrote that made-for-outrage-and-clicks headline.

Is Nick Saban still the best? PUH-lease.

Now, then and forever, Nick Saban is the GOAT.

Better than Bear. Better than the General or Rockne or anyone else you want to toss out.

No matter the circus sideshow any other media outlet tries to create. 

The best of his generation

So who are you taking as the best pitcher of the last decade-plus?

In this corner is Clayton Kershaw, Matt Stafford’s former high school center and a sure-fire Cooperstown guy.

In that corner is Justin Verlander, Mr. Kate Upton, who has fashioned a career as a flame-throwing right-hander.

Both pitchers have, “Oh my, he’s better than I knew” stat lines. Both also have made borderline-Jordan-esque career transformations as the high-90s heaters than were the starting points of their dominance in their 20s have faded.

Side question: Who is on that list of all-time great physical stars who made that amazing transformation into an all-timer with a different skill set? Jordan is the first to come to mind because he came into the league and was a 6-foot-6 force of nature that got to the cup like Otis Campbell on a Mayberry Saturday night and dunked like a young David Thompson.

Check the numbers:

Kershaw’s 197-87 in his 15-year career with an eye-popping 2.48 ERA is the best among active starting pitchers in the big leagues. He has 2,807 Ks in 2,581 innings.

He, like Verlander, enjoyed a renaissance in 2022, going 12-3 with 2.28 ERA in 22 starts.

In the playoffs, Kershaw has not been as dominant. In 38 postseason games, he’s 13-12 with a 4.22 and 213 Ks in 194 innings.  

As for Verlander, he was an amazing 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA this year and will almost assuredly win his third Cy Young — matching Kershaw’s career total.

He’s 244-133 with a 3.24 ERA and 3,198 Ks in his 17-year career with the Tigers and the Astros. And that’s with missing all of 2021 with physical ailments.

After his dominant performance in Game 1 of the ALCS last night as the Astros beat the Yankees 4-2, Verlander is 15-11 with a 3.55 in the postseason. (Side note: Verlander has been all-time bad in the World Series, going 0-6 in seven starts with a 5.68 ERA.)

Thoughts? Is there a third choice we need to consider?

This and that

— Speaking of picks, there is no line on UT that I can find as of now, but if you find one — or if your local, off-the-books, entertainment broker has one — and it’s north of 55, you have to take UT-Martin in this one. UT’s hangover is unavoidable in this one, for the players and the fans. The staff had to be spending almost all of this week getting ready for Kentucky and making sure those who need the rest get the rest. Will UT win? Of course. Does this feel like a 49-3 number in which Hendon Hooker goes 12-of-13 for three TDs and 202 yards and puts his helmet away at halftime? Yes, yes it does. 

— Speaking of picks, and following the rules, here’s Paschall’s picks of weekly winners.

— OK, finally on college picks, we have the rare meeting of the movable object and the resistible force Saturday. Charlotte’s defense ranks DFL in points allowed at 44.6 per, a full five points more than Vandy, which is 130th nationally, allows per game. The non-tackling Niners face FIU, which is 125th nationally in points per game at 15.5. Challenge. 

— So the NBA is off and running, and we’re not going to have a daily NBA section. But we do like those short stats lists that put current players among all-time names. We know that if you find yourself on a golf list with Tiger and Jack, then it’s going to be cool. If you are on a baseball list with Babe or Teddy Ballgame, same deal. How about this one? Paolo Banchero became only the third No. 1 overall pick since 1969 to go for 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in his NBA debut. The others are one-name all-timers Kareem and LeBron.

— Speaking of MLB playoffs, Padres-Phillies tied at a game apiece in the NLCS.

— Thursday night NFL on Amazon features 2-4 New Orleans with Andy Dalton at the helm against 2-4 Arizona with Kyler Murray calling the shots. Good times. And I know Jeff Bezos has billions, but at some point don’t you think he’s gonna call the league office and say, “Uh, guys, I am spending $1 billion a year for 17 Thursday night games. Can we get a Josh Allen or a Dallas game at some point people?” 

Today’s questions

Anything goes Thursday, so fire away.

And the mailbag has some spots too, especially with the struggles with the comments in recent days.

As for today, Oct. 20, let’s review.

Kamala Harris is 58 today.

Mickey Mantle would have been 91.

Jerry Orbach — Lenny Briscoe from “Law&Order” and Baby’s daddy from “Dirty Dancing” — would have been 87 today.

It’s also national Lane day, so what’s our Rushmore of ‘Lane’ and be creative.

And remember the mailbag.