5-at-10: Weekend winners (Deion — again) and losers (the Vols) and the SEC’s struggles

Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright, center, is stopped by Florida linebacker Scooby Williams, left, and defensive end Princely Umanmielen (1) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Sign up for the daily newsletter, Jay's Plays of the Day, to get sports betting recommendations for the top games of the night and the week ahead.

Weekend winners

The Falcons. The NFL has a basic truth. Wins count. By hook or crook, it's a zero-sum issue. W or L. And these Falcons are 2-0. Bijan Robinson looks the part of bell cow star. That said, while Robinson will be in the offensive rookie of the year talks, Jalen Carter — Carter being a better pick than Robinson is a hill I will fight to the death on — looks more like a defensive player of the year candidate than a defensive rookie of the year pick.

Deion Sanders. I'm telling you, he has made every Saturday about the Colorado Buffaloes. I'm not sure anyone else could have done what he has in Boulder, and if Colorado wins two more games — and finished 5-7 or whatever — I'd vote for him as coach of the year. Seriously. After a total roster turnover — there were like 85 transfer portal moves for CU — that Deion has this team 3-0 is jaw-dropping. And know this: We often say the alternate unis appeal to recruits, well, the star-studded sidelines — The Rock, Master P, Lil Wayne leading Colorado onto the field — will not be lost on the five-star recruits Coach Prime's trying to lure to Colorado.

Sports fans. God bless the -er months. Baseball teams clinching playoff spots. College football. NFL in full swing. Heck, if you could name two WNBA teams, their playoffs are happening, too. And now the Ryder Cup is about to happen. Yay us.

Baker Mayfield. Is there a player that has swung between great and terrible more in a relatively short period of time than Baker Mayfield? And right now he's great. Also great — Mike Evans. Hard not to love over-sized wide outs you know?

Puka Nacua. Yep, he's right the leader in the clubhouse for NFL offensive rookie of the year. Yes, I know Bijan Robinson has been electric but Puka Nacua (and no, I don't know how to pronounce it) has 25 catches in his first two NFL games. And yes, that is a record. At this pace, if he has a 10-year career, he'll finish with 2,125 receptions. That would be more than 500 more catches than Jerry Rice had.

Weekend losers

Josh Heupel. Wow, I expected a blowout Saturday night in The Swamp but in the other direction. (Side note: Here's betting JTC has an ear-to-ear grin on his face at work this morning.)

Mike Gundy. Is Mike Gundy a good head coach? Does it feel like he's either 8-1 and rumored to be the leading candidate for every possible job this side of the Cowboys or 1-3 and on the hot seat? The latter certainly applies this week after South Alabama housed Gundy's Oklahoma State Cowboys over the weekend.

The Los Angeles Angels. Mike Trout's name has been floated in trade talks. Now comes word that Shohei Ohtani has cleaned out his locker after being shut down for the rest of the season for injury. Ohtani will be a free agent in a matter of weeks, and the Angles made a bold play to try to contend for the postseason now rather than trading baseball's most gifted two-way player since George Ruth was in Boston. Now, the Angels are looking at a complete rebuild and will look back on a four-year window with two of the game's top four overall talents with very little to show for it.

Star AFC QBs. Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Russell Wilson, Patty Mahomes and Josh Allen are a combined 2-8. Just like everyone predicted right?

My NFL picks. Yeah, that was a bagel on Sunday. That, combined with someone in a Gators fan crew getting my UT blowout prediction, made my social media a scary sight Sunday.

Bettors who had the 49ers minus-7.5 Sunday. The Rams trailed 30-20 and kicked a 39-yard field goal on the game's final play to lose 30-23. Ouch-standing.

SECond class

So Georgia struggled with South Carolina. Fine. Georgia has back-to-back nattys and managed to handle its business.

(Side note: Mike Bobo is to play calling what four-cylinder engines are to NASCAR — outdated.)

And Georgia deserves to be ranked No. 1 even if the feel around the program and the fan base are not 100% rosy at the moment.

(Side note: Mike Bobo just called another bubble screen on third-and-11 after back-to-back 33 power runs on first and second downs.)

Still Georgia will be there to the end. The talent is clear and Kirby Smart is a master motivator.

(Side note: Mike Bobo, meet Brock Bowers, who happens to be the most versatile offensive player in college football and ironically plays for your Georgia Bulldogs.)

OK, enough about Georgia and the Bobo sideshow.

The Bulldogs are the one thing in the SEC that seems reliable.

The rest of the league is puzzling. And troubling. For a conference that brags about it just meaning more, the results three full weeks into the college football season are so below standard that this is a real question: Is the SEC even the third best conference in the country right now?

The Pac-12 has looked great. The Big Ten has two bona fide contenders. The ACC can boost about some impressive head-to-head results with the "just means more" crew.

UNC waxed South Carolina on a neutral site — something Georgia could not do even at home — and LSU looked better than anyone in the SEC on Saturday, and we know what FSU did to the Tigers in the opener.

Tennessee looks pedestrian, and the Vols got worked by Florida, which got worked by Utah two weeks ago.

Jimbo Fisher's seat is getting warm despite a buyout that is the GDP of most third-world nations.

Which brings us to Alabama, which is now ranked outside of the top 10 for the first time in 128 weeks.

Yes, as amazing as that stat is, the truth is Alabama got handled by Texas and got a late TD to pad the numbers and beat South Florida 17-3.

It's a staggering turn, for the Tide and for the entire league.

Who is the second-best team? The eye test points me to LSU, but there's the whole FSU thing, which is even more perplexing since FSU struggled with ACC also-ran Boston College over the weekend.

At one point I would have believed the claims from the UT faithful that the Vols were as good as anyone in the league, but Saturday was eye-opening, and not in a good way. Yeah, Hendon Hooker may have been a great deal better than we knew, huh?

I thought Arkansas was going to be a contender, and BYU pushed them around Saturday night.

Maybe Greg Sankey should tweak the slogan to it used to mean more.

This and that

— Braves got swept by the Marlins. Seriously.

— UTC played and played well by all accounts.

— Here's Paschall's SEC weekend wrap-up column.

— One more SEC tidbit: Fox reporter Bruce Feldman said Jimbo Fisher is facing a win-or-see-you scenario. Every coach does of course, but the Texas A&M coach who is 1-7 in his last eight games against Power Five foes has a $77 million buyout. Yes, $77 million. Man, in the SEC it just costs more.

Today's questions

Weekend winners and losers. Go.

Multiple choice Monday will go this way: Who is the second-best team in the SEC?


As for today, Sept. 18, let's review.

Lance Armstrong is 52 today. Lance as a name, friend or foe? Lance as a medieval weapon, friend or foe? Discuss.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on this day in 2020.

Rushmore of TV/movie female attorneys. Go.