5-at-10: Weekend winners (Hendon Hooker) and losers (President's Cup), UT's monster win over Florida

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) runs for yardage while pursued by Florida linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. (1) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Weekend winners

Hendon Hooker. There will be more on the Vols in a moment, but anyone else care to join me on the Hooker bandwagon? Side question: The ‘Hooker bandwagon’ sounds like it could very easily be a political collective in Nevada for better working conditions for ladies of the evening, no? As for the UT QB, uh, yeah. And those of us who may or may not have gotten a taste of those early season longshot Heisman odds, well, it’s a long way to the Downtown Athletic Club, but anyone holding tickets starting at plus-4000 or longer has to feel pretty stout about the first third of the season.

The Braves. Yes, they split four games in Philly. But they won Saturday and Sunday, and Sunday’s win was especially notable considering the number of times the offense took a lead then lost it, then there was a two-hour rain delay, then the Braves held on in the 11th for a one-run win that leaves Atlanta 1.5 games back with nine games — including three this weekend against the division-leading Mets — left in the season.  

Ted P, Chris P, Ellis and SAC. Those are the final four names left standing after just three weeks in a 5-at-10 Eliminator Pool that started more than 70 strong. Egad. Have some unpredictability will ya, NFL?

Speaking of, NFL parity. Yes, the rules are doctored — like a lot — to make sure everyone meets in the middle. And New England is living, breathing proof of that. (Because yeah, the Hoodie thinks he’s the bee’s knees, but Pats are pedestrian without TB12.) Raise your hand if you thought there would be three unbeaten teams three weeks in, and those teams are Miami, Philly, and the Giants. (And the Giants play tonight.) I’ll wait.  

Weekend losers

NFL scoring. You can almost picture Roger Goodell and Co. behind the closed doors in the lavish NYC offices, $100 cigars (lit with $100 bills) in one hand, sifters of a rich and pricey dark liquor in front of them, mumbling about the greatness of today’s slate. And then defensive donnybrooks between two of three best QBs of the last 25 years that generated 26 total points and a primetime Sunday night special that was ultimately decided when a QB did not know he was running out of room and took a self-inflected safety. Egad. “We may need to revisit those pesky defensive rules,” one fat cat owner mumbles. “Yeah, if baseball can ban the shift, maybe we can put 10 guys on defense from now on.” Then from the back, laying half-naked on his stomach as an Asian lady works out the kinks in his back caused from a stressful week of being a multi-billionaire, a man with an RK monogram on his towel offers to no one in particular, “I miss young Tommy Brady.” On a serious note, the under is 29-17-1 heading into tonight’s final game of Week 3, and that’s after a market adjustment this weekend. Before Week 3, the under was 21-10-1. 

Anyone who believes the NFL actually cares about players’ health. So, Justin Herbert played with something called torn rib cartilage, which sounds so painful I actually thought his dreadful performance against the Jags was inspiring. Add in that the Chargers made Herbert sign a waiver before the game. Now add in the fact that Tua literally got the balance knocked out of him and returned to finish Miami’s dramatic win over Buffalo. Yeah, we all know what the NFL has on its Shield. “Tell the truth.”

The President’s Cup. A fast start for the U.S. made the weekend all but a foregone conclusion, which, against a backdrop of football, Football, FOOTBALL made it a forgettable proposition. And I’ll say it if no one else won’t: The American team missed the talent and the personalities of several of the LIV dudes, whether the longtime PGA and European power brokers want to admit it or not. DJ, Koepka, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau may be longer in the tooth and not as good as a Jordan, a JT a Cantaly, a Xander or a Morikawa. But — other than Jordan and JT — they are a dang site more entertaining. And the LIV guys are still better — and more fun — than the Kisners, Hoerschels, Burnses, and Youngs of the world.

MLB parity. Have you seen the standings lately? Want to know what happens when you have perpetual interleague play and five teams on track for 100 or more wins? You get this, a late September pennant race devoid of make-or-break drama beyond who wins the NL East. Yes, the New York teams, the Dodgers, the Astros and even the Braves are going to win or have a shot to win 100 games. But there are 11 MLB teams projected to lose 90 or more. Gross.  

Boston sports fans. The Pats are, as mentioned before, pedestrian, and that was before Mac Jones was hurt. The Celtics just had a soap opera in the front office. The Red Sox are in last place. Boston College football’s football team is dreadful. It was not that long ago that Boston was the tea party of the sports world, right? 

College blue bloods on a bloody Saturday. Oklahoma fell to K-State. Texas stumbled at Texas Tech. Miami got punched by MTSU — yes, MTSU. Wow. Who knew? 

Big Orange big day

So we mentioned Hendon Hooker before, and dude was a dude.

But big picture, Josh Heupel and the entire program won the weekend in a lot of ways.

GameDay was in town. The place was rockin’ in an old-school way. The building was filled with recruits for an incredible atmosphere. The longtime hexes and curses and mojo that Florida has held over the UT program from close to two decades was beaten backward. 

In a lot of ways, it was everything Heupel could have hoped for and everything Bryan Harsin gave away the previous week in Auburn.

Had a great question over the weekend of whether Florida lost Saturday’s 38-33 game or Tennessee won it, and while there were some gaffes and self-inflicted harm by the visiting Gators, the Vols won that game.

Remember, it was 38-21 before a couple of late scores and a recovered onside kick gave every UT fan this side of Dolly the heebie-jeebies.

And the iron-clad galvanizing result of a weekend that enthusiastically joyous can’t be lost. On the players or the staff.

It was an overnight euphoria that has been a decade-plus in the making for every Johnny Vols Fan from Maryville to Memphis. And beyond.

Sure, there are challenges to come. And Hendon Hooker’s greatness will be supremely tested in Red Stick in a couple of weeks and certainly when the Vols face the nation’s top two teams down the road.

But right now, the afterglow of the biggest win in UT football in what feels like a generation should be celebrated.

And enjoyed.

This and that

— We discuss the winners and the losers from the weekend around these parts on Mondays. But how about those Auburn Tigers, huh, who easily classified as winners and losers in Saturday’s inexplicable 17-14 overtime win that deserved to be an L multiple times over. Hey, Bryan Harsin, go buy a lottery ticket. 

— Shocking news — totally shocking I say — that the student loan welfare applications will be available in October. Did anyone notice that some critical mid-term elections will be in November? Yeah, me neither. I'm sure it's a total coincidence.

— So the above-referenced fat cats did announce that amid bad offense, poor QB play and inexplicable management and coaching missteps that, wait for it, the Pro Bowl is dead. So there’s that.

— So Tech fired Geoff Collins, according to the AJC and other outlets. That will make Spy happy. (Side note: Spy does not comment around here but he frequently emails me. And for the better part of a year or so, his tag line on each email has not been, “Have a nice day” or "Best wishes” but rather it’s been “Oh Yeah, Fire Geoff Collins.”) Tech — not Nebraska or Arizona State — makes the most sense for Deion Sanders if you ask me. And we discussed this before. He goes to Atlanta. He stays in the South. He can show FSU up close and personal what they missed. And, if he ever got a real NIL recruiting slush fund at his disposal, Coach Prime would recruit his AFLAC necklace off.

— Here’s some good details about the Ironman that was in town this weekend. Personally, I think the connection our city has developed with the Ironman folks is really cool. Sure, it can fill every downtown room and restaurant booth, but that’s a good thing. We locals just need to remember when it’s coming to town. 

— You know the rules. Here’s Paschall’s SEC wrap column. 

Today’s questions

Weekend winners and losers. Go.

For a multiple choice Monday, we’ll go in this direction.

Who is the best offensive-minded coach in college football?

— Josh Heupel

— Lane Kiffin

— Lincoln Riley

— Mike Leach

— Other (and please specify)

As for today, Jan. 26, let’s review.

The Beatles released “Abbey Road” on this day in 1969. It was the last album they recorded as a quartet.

Serena Williams is 41 today.

Rushmore of modern era sports superstars (last 50 years) most commonly known as and identifiable by only their first name. (And no nicknames, like Magic, are not allowed.)  

Go, and enjoy the day.