5-at-10: AFC QB-HC combo rankings, SEC hoops from tops to Kentucky, Stetson’s future

AP photo by Ashley Landis / Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) celebrates the Bulldogs' victory over TCU after Monday night's College Football Playoff title game in Inglewood, Calif. Georgia won 65-7.

AFC playoff predictor

So, when it comes to playoff time, two things matter above all else.

Yes, more meaningful than even home field advantage or which AFC wins the coin flip in terms of neutral sites and such.

Coach and QB. QB and coach. HBC and QB1. QB1 and HBC. (Side question: If we ranked all the coaches who were former QBs, and I'm not sure we've ever seen a great NFL QB become a good-to-great NFL HBC, Spurrier grades out the highest across both right? Want to know who's making a move? Josh Heupel.)

So we're going to handicap our AFC and NFC fields by ranking each QB1 and each HBC one through seven, add those scores together and low score represents the Super Bowl pick from each conference.

Deal? Deal.

Kansas City (QB 3, HC, 2 -- total 4) -- Yes, we have Patty Mahomes as the second-best QB1 in the AFC. Yes, he likely will win the MVP. And yes, he makes one of those "Oh my did you see that" plays weekly. At least one in fact. But here's the thing: He and Josh Allen both are prone to the same trap so many of us fall in to -- they love their throwing abilities as much as we do, which means picks can be a problem. As for Andy Reid, well, other than being downright funny on his StateFarm ad and being a short-list all-timer in the LeBatard "Looks like game" he's the only dude in the field with a team that can go the distance with a Super Bowl ring. That has to count for something.

Cincinnati (QB 1, HC 3 -- total 4) -- Yes, it's that close. And yes, I got Joe Burrow as the best QB in the game. He's more accurate than Mahomes. He has better perimeter folks than Mahomes and while each threw 12 INTs in 2022, Joey Franchise threw eight of his 12 picks against the Steelers and the Pats, two elite pass defenses with elite defensive schemes. I love Zac Taylor and his hybrid analytics/analysis approach. And getting to the Super Bowl a year ago -- especially doing as much damage as the Bengals did on the road -- is a feather in his visor.

Buffalo (QB 2, HC 5 -- total 6) -- While these numbers do not elevate the Bills -- Josh Allen gets a slight edge over Mahomes because of ability and downright eagerness to run the ball -- there's no way to overestimate the "Win it for Damar" vibe echoing throw the Bills locker room friends.

Baltimore (QB 6, HC 1 -- total 7) -- Man, if Lamar Jackson was ready to roll, Bengals-Ravens would be an all-time first-round classic. And simply put, we need a 30-for-30 on the Harbaugh's childhood because has there ever been a better brother coaching combo? In any sport?

Jacksonville (QB 5, HC 4 -- total 9) -- Did anyone have a worse NFL season in 2022 without being in an NFL season in 2022 than Urban Meyer? The Jags in year one of Doug Pederson -- if I asked you to name the five coaches in these playoffs with a Super Bowl title, how long would it have taken you to get to Doug Pederson? -- Trevor Lawrence looks like the player we expected him to be. And the Jags are division champs as opposed to picking No. 1 in the draft.

L.A. Chargers (QB 4, HC 6 -- total 10) -- How nasty will the AFC playoffs be for the next half-decade or so if the QB1s that are Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Jackson and Justin Herbert stay in their current locales? That's five dudes on a Canton trajectory all in their prime and all in the same conference. As for the coaching, well, as much as I love ol' Tom Arth -- he's the QB coach or formerly the "pass game specialist" for Los Angeles -- HC Brandon Staley's erratic and volatile decision-making is not postseason primed.

Miami (QB 7, HC 7 -- total 14) -- No Tua. And maybe no Teddy Bridgewater. That means NFL playoff neophyte Mike McDaniel -- Mike McDaniel sounds like the guy in your Saturday morning four-ball who is a little too generous with 5-footers in his group and always acts surprise when his foursome sweeps three of the four bets afterward -- and potentially Skylar Thompson will take their show on the road to Buffalo this weekend. Good luck with that.

We'll do the NFC tomorrow. Deal? Deal.

SEC hoops

So we mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but we were still next deep in college football to form insightful analysis. (Yes, Spy, I know, that's never stopped me before. Shut it.)

Anywell, let's spin around the SEC, which I am paying more attention to this year because a) Auburn is fun to watch (again), b) Tennessee is a legit Final Four threat, and c) I have to come up with at least two betting picks every Monday through Friday for you degenerates. And SEC hoops is as good as anything to wager on, right?

So let's rank these clubs on Thursday morning, shall we? I think we shall. We'll break them into tiers and if this does not work, we can tweak it moving forward. Deal? Deal.

1 Alabama (14-2, 4-0 SEC). A slight edge over UT because Alabama has the best player in the league in Brandon Miller, who is averaging 18 points a game but was even more impressive at Arkansas last night by scoring only 14 against a Hogs crew determined to make someone else beat them. Miller got those 14 on just four attempts from the field, an impressive display of patience and trust for a high-volume scoring freshman.

1B Tennessee (14-2, 4-0). Wow, how about these defensive numbers for Rick Barnes' boys. Second in the country in points allowed (53.4), first nationally in shooting percentage against (33.5%), first nationally in 3-point shooting against (20.5%) and 14th nationally in turnovers forced per game (17.1).

(After those, there's a pretty large gap in my view because all of these teams are flawed in some ways.)

There's Arkansas (12-4, 1-3), which may be the third-most talented team but injuries -- and all the Coach Musselman is headed to Austin chatter -- have left them struggling.

There's Auburn (13-3, 3-1), which is deep but without a reliable half-court offensive option. And like the QB discussion above, if you don't know where you are going with the ball in a tied game with four minutes left on the road, well, you are underequiped in today's college basketball world.

There's A&M (11-5, 3-0), which is not as good as its record indicates but will always steal a conference win or three at home because that trip is so hard to make.

There are LSU (12-4, 1-3) and Missouri (13-3, 2-2) and each is explosive and dangerous and each is flawed and suspect in meaningful moments down the stretch.

There are Mike White ghosts of basketball past and present -- Georgia (12-4, 2-1) and Florida (9-7, 2-2). Each is better than most of us may have expected in a lot of ways, and each has enough flaws to make anything possible.

There are the Mississippi schools, which will be lucky to win as many conference games between them as UT or Alabama. There are the "try really hard" crews at Vandy and South Carolina, and if either contends for any of the three-letter alphabet soup tournaments, Jerry Stackhouse and Lamont Paris will deserve some coach of the year chatter.

And then there is Kentucky, which is loaded with talent -- seriously, how many teams in the SEC would not immediately trade starting fives with UK right now? -- and extremely broken.

Which leads us back to the most fundamental assessment of good and bad coaching I know of: Is your team better or worse than its individual parts?

The answer to that for John Calipari is strikingly awful.

Day job

So Stetson Bennett will work a lunch-time shift at an Athens, Georgia, restaurant today. It's become a tradition, after Georgia wins the natty, Stetson takes orders and slings sandwiches.

Here's more as Bennett will work at the Raising Caines in Athens today with the restaurant's CEO.

(Side note: Considering the NIL deals in effect, here's betting Stetson's getting a smidge more than minimum wage for his efforts. Thoughts?)

It also allows for a moment of pause about the professional futures of Stetson Bennett.

I believe Stetson will get drafted. I do not believe Stetson will be an effective pro, however. I've been wrong before, but that's my view.

I think he could be anything from ambassador to assistant coach to all-around glad-hander at the University of Georgia for as long as he wants. I think a slew of South Georgia companies would line up around the building to pay him well to just be on the roles and tell customers "Good ol' days" stories about the title two-peat.

Heck, he could sell his story to Hollywood too, and make a pile of money off that as well.

Thoughts?

This and that

-- Awesome news that Damar Hamlin has left a Buffalo medical facility to continue his recovery at home just nine days after suffering cardiac arrest on the playing field in Cincinnati last week. Seriously, the on-field medical crew need to be collective the Walter Payton NFL people of the year, no?

-- Rest easy Charles White, the former USC star and Heisman Trophy winner. White died Wednesday. He was 64.

-- Rest easy Jeff Beck, who died Wednesday. He was 78. Beck is in the discussion for the best to ever play a guitar according to almost every meaningful musical expert ever.

-- So betting. And yes, you can sign up for our afternoon betting email here. It comes at 5 p.m. and offers my Plays of the Day. To say we're hot right now is a tad of an understatement. And yes, everything can -- and likely will -- change at some point. But after last night's Alabama minus-1.5 over Arkansas (Tide won 84-69) and the over 237.5 in Spurs-Grizzlies (Memphis won 135-129 for a total of 264), we are 8-0 this week in basketball picks. Add in Sunday's NFL and we are 11 for our last 12, which is infinitely better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, as Pop would say.

-- So Deion Sanders sprinted to Colorado and took several of his Jackson State stars with him. To no one's surprise, Coach Prime has also been active in the transfer portal. Wednesday he landed Kavosiey Smoke, who has been at UK since Hal Mumme but brings his fast feet and awesome name to the Buffalos.

-- So Nick Saban's ballot is making the rounds in the final coach's poll. He voted Georgia 1 and Alabama 2. And you know what? Good for him. Because if you don't believe in your crew, who will? Plus, it gets him and Alabama back in the talking points that have been dominated by Kirby, Stetson and those Georgia Bulldogs for the last 72 hours.

-- Speaking of that, here's Paschall -- you know the rules -- on that topic and how Butch Jones also voted the Vols outside the top 5. See, Saban's was crafty; Jones' was spiteful. Also, if we're not going to let convicted felons vote in our elections, shouldn't we bar Butch Jones from voting for rankings. Discuss.

Today's questions

It's an anything goes Thursday and we are open for business.

We'll start. Finish this sentence: In 10 years Stetson Bennett will be (blank).

And now pick a word: Saban voting Alabama second, Tennessee sixth and LSU 17th was (blank).

Go, and feel free to fire away on an anything goes Thursday. Also, remember the mailbag.

As for today, Jan. 12, let's review.

"Batman," the campy TV show with Adam West and Burt Ward, debuted on this day in 1966.

Howard Stern is 69 today. Jeff Bezos is 59. Here's betting they are comfortable financially in the coming years.

Rushmore of Howard. Go, and again, remember the mailbag.