5-at-10: Friday mailbag all about college football, the playoff, expansion, Rushmores and current QB ranks

5-at-10: Friday mailbag all about college football, the playoff, expansion, Rushmores and current QB ranks

November 30th, 2018 by Jay Greeson in Breaking News

Georgia sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm (11) will play in the SEC championship game for a second time when the Bulldogs face Alabama on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Georgia beat Auburn to win last year's SEC title.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

From too many of you to count

Who you got in the SECCG and why? If UGA wins it will be because of which player?

Gang —

We got a lot of football today, so let's get rolling.

I got Alabama 38, Georgia 28. Yes, that's a narrow UGA cover, and a game played a smidge over the 63.5.

It also will be close enough to give the committee a whole lot to think about if THE Ohio State and Oklahoma each lose, because in addition to style points, Georgia's loss will have to be competitive enough and entertaining enough for the committee to be alright with green-lighting a Georgia-Alabama rematch in Dallas in a semifinal.

As for Georgia's needs, well, it starts with pressure. When Tua gets to stand clean, Alabama's offense is simply too dynamic. Jerry Jeudy must be accounted for on every snap, and the best way to keep Tua out of the end zone is to keep Tua off the field.

So. Step forward each of the Deandre/D'Andres and be counted.

Deandre Baker, the senior DB, is the best corner in college football. (Sorry Greedy Williams, you may have better stats, but that's because no one — no one — throws regularly at Baker.)

D'Andre Walker, the senior LB, will need to create pressure, and he and the linebackers will have multiple responsibilities with Irv Smith Jr. as well as the screen stuff Alabama runs and the RBs in the passing game.

D'Andre Swift, the sophomore RB, needs at least 100 — for movement of the ball and the clock.

So there you go? Will a star-studded trio of D'Andre/Deandre be enough?

I don't see it because the simple fact of Alabama's monstrous big-play ability is so ever-present and demoralizing.

Yes, Georgia is way better than Auburn. But Auburn pulled out all the stops in the first half. Played hard and smart — and even overcame getting job by that phantom holding call — and was down three at the break.

Then, after the half, Alabama scored TDs on five of its first six drives and the longest series lasted five plays.

Five plays. It changes the score and the morale of your entire team when you work seven, eight, 10 plays to get points and Tua gets on the field, throws three passes that cover 75 yards and you are right back where you started. Or wrose if you got 3 and Tua got 7. (Yes we have heard a bunch of Georgia's edge in the kicking game, and it is a legit advantage. But know this, if Horned Rim Glasses Dude is kicking more than three field goals, that advantage becomes a disadvantage because Georgia had to settle for three. Because the Tide rarely settles.  

Man, they are good.       

Alabama defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs walks into the locker room after a first-half injury during Saturday's win over Auburn. Coach Nick Saban said he thought Buggs, one of three Crimson Tide senior starters playing in their last home game Saturday, will be fine for the SEC title game.

Alabama defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs walks into the...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

From Fat Vader

JG, I have a bit of a bone to pick with you. I have heard you argue with callers on Press Row who are in favor of the 8 team playoff multiple times over the past few months. I generally agree with you as far as being anti-expansion (although it WILL happen eventually), but you have a flawed argument that you use.

You make 2 statements repeatedly and the two statements really have a hard time working together. 1) you state that the best 4 teams already make the playoffs so 8 is unnecessary. 2) you state that the best thing about college football is that every single game matters. That is where the conflict begins. I agree with point 1, but I no longer agree with point 2 and trying to use it to enhance your argument hurts more than helps. The human aspect and "Eye test" associated with the committee and the human vote of the BCS before it does not allow it to be possible to say "Every game matters" because the fact is, it doesn't. That "eye test" has made it possible for Alabama to win 2 national championships in the past 8 years without winning their division, let alone their conference...

Yes, Alabama won the 2011 BCSNCG, but should they have even been there if every Saturday mattered? No. It should have been OKST even if they didn't have a proper conference championship game. Instead, Bama got a second chance to beat LSU (a team who beat them in T-Town) because they "looked better than OKST", and yes, they embarrassed LSU that game but really that only tied the series 1-1. It made the previous game and loss against LSU irrelevant.

Again last year, Alabama (without even competing for the conference CG) made the playoffs. I agree they were a better team than OSU last year, but OSU was a conference champion. It made the loss to Auburn irrelevant and arguably (easily) gave them an easier path to the playoffs by not having an injury riddled Bama team face GA in the SECCG.

Again, I agree that the best teams make the playoffs, but these one off examples (that result in a Natty...) are evidence that Not every Saturday matters. The two can no longer exist, and the more light that is given to the "Eye Test" is only fueling the fire for 8 with Power 5 champs (every Saturday matters) and 3 at large (eye test). Like it or not, it's coming.

FV —

Normally, I only let the Mrs. 5-at-10 pick my bone, but you raise a fair point.

First, we have said at almost every pass that expansion is coming. We don't want it, but we know it's coming. But people who believe it is coming for 'fairness' or 'better way to determine a champion' are delusional.

The expansion to eight is coming because it will mean extra zeroes on those checks to the conferences. Period, end of discussion. (And it will mean that every conference will be guaranteed a seat at the money buffet, but is that really something that needs to happen considering there are several teams playing for a conference title tomorrow that would be no better than top 7 or 8 in the SEC. That's championship stuff?)

I may have said on the radio this week the old refrain of every game mattering — and you are right, not every single one does — but the fact that two of your references span a half dozen years is a strong support of both directions. 

I have tweaked the verbiage of that argument (or have always tried to) from the, "Every Saturday matters" to "Expansion will continue to erode and devalue the best regular season in sports." 

And that completely is true. Even this weekend, with 8, would be soured. The Alabama-Georgia game could be an all-timer, and if there was an eight-team field, they are both in regardless. Heck, they could play walk-ons and rest everybody. If we had eight teams in this, the title game this weekend with the most meaning would be Pac-12, which would be the only way either of those three-loss teams gets in. (And we think it will be Washington, which lost to a dreadful Auburn bunch.) 

 Heck, worse than devaluing the regular season, there would be millions of reasons for Clemson to rest every player on its roster Saturday with an eight-team field. Same for Alabama.

Both of those would make it as at-large teams and then the SEC and the ACC get two $25-million tickets to the playoff dance rather than one.

Even with the expansion to four, there's some wondering whether the outcome of Saturday's SECCG really matters, considering that Alabama i almost assuredly in even if they lose tomorrow, and with some help, Georgia may be in with a loss, too.

You want to talk about every game mattering? Heck, I could make a hard argument that the reason Auburn was not in the playoff last year was not the SEC title loss to a really good Georgia. It was blowing a 20-point lead against LSU. Think about that. And if/when we go to eight, a three-loss Auburn with those two wins at home over then Nos. 1 Georgia and Alabama likely would have made it as an 8 seed last year. 

Again, you are right. Not every single game matters. Not any more. And You gave a couple of examples over the last half dozen years in which those didn't matter ultimately.

But you double the field, and whether it's the goal or not, a half dozen to a dozen programs would have multiple mulligans. And you are taking a monster step to making the college football regular season feel like the college basketball regular season.

And that makes me scared. And sad.

From Todd C

Hi Jay, for the mailbag perhaps? IF Bama loses to UGA and gets in the 4-team playoff will the system implode? I'm certain that the committee would NOT like to see that happen but it is sort of out of their hands. The other "power" conferences are just not that good this year (good job Michigan / coach khaki). Also like last year, I believe that Bama and UGA would play in the championship. Again. How soon will we have an 8-team playoff? Does that even matter as we all expect the SEC east to get better and the SEC overall will continue to leave the other "power" five in the dust. Thanks!

TC —

If the final announcement is Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia, and Alabama on Sunday, then there were will be a lot of texts and phone calls between the ADs and deputy commissioners of the Big 12, Pac 12 and Big Ten for sure.

Now, I don't think anyone would want to complain too much about the merits of Alabama getting in. The Tide is the best team. Period.

But when 60 percent of the Power Five leagues are denied a seat in front of the money hydrant, well, then people start to get upset. 

Plus, there likely will be four SEC teams — LSU and Florida as well — in New Year's Six Bowls this year, and each of those invites brings at least a $4 million check to the bowl kitty of each conference.

There are a lot of things the committee would not like. They would not like only two conferences represented, which would happen with a Georgia win.

The would not like complete chaos, with THE Ohio State and Oklahoma losing as well as Georgia losing a close one, and then being forced to chose between a two-loss Georgia, which would get a rematch with Alabama in a semifinal, a two-loss Michigan, which then would get into the dance after getting housed in its finale, or an unbeaten UCF, which lost its best and most valuable player to injury.

Everyone we have talked to has said over and over that the four-team field will stay in place through the current TV deal which runs to 2025. That even comes from Bill Hancock, the football playoff guru who joins Press Row every year at SEC media days.

But if Saturday devolves into madness and the final four is 2 from the SEC, Clemson and Notre Dame, we can see changes coming sooner.

Will that mean a mini-expansion to six? God I hope not because not only does six give a huge advantage to 1 and 2 over the rest of the field, how would six really solve anything this year? With six, are we 100 percent certain Clemson has done more than Notre Dame and deserves unequivocally to be 2 and get an all-important bye.

Plus, if we go to six, it clearly would be five conference champs and one at-large, right? Well, does a three-loss Utah or a five-loss Pittsburgh really deserve a spot in this thing? 

If chaos happens with four and every upset happens other than the SECCG, at worse, the field would look like this: Alabama, Notre Dame, likely Clemson at 3 and then either Georgia or some other dog with the fewest fleas at 4.

If total chaos happened with 6 and all the Power 5 champs getting tickets to the dance, your field would be: Notre Dame, Georgia at 2, Alabama at 3, Washington at 4, Northwestern at 5 and Pitt at 6. What does that solve and who does that help? (And in the end, the move to six, would still have two SEC teams in there, which was the original thing expansion would try to avoid.) 

And if/when it goes to eight, LSU would have been one crazy game in College Station away form giving the league a great shot at three spots in the eight.

Maybe the change comes with forcing Notre Dame to actually play in a conference title game. Maybe the change comes with eliminating divisions so the two best teams in every conference get to the title game rather than the ACC Weaker, the Big Ten Slower and whichever Pac-12 league is, you know, worse.

Who knows what changes will come from this, but we are staunch in our belief that expanding will attempt to address one issue while creating several others that will really hurt the modern version of college football — especially the regular season.

And know this: While the fans and the conferences might clamor for change for whatever argument that suits them, the committee and its broadcast partners are staring at a very real possibility of having the three most national brands — Alabama, THE Ohio State and Notre Dame — of what many view as a regional sport in the final four.

And how dominant are those three when it comes to eyeballs and interest? See if you notice anything about the seven most-watched college football games of the season:

Michigan at THE Ohio State — 7.5 rating (13.3 million viewers): 

Alabama at LSU — 6.6 (11.5 million); 

THE OSU at Penn State — 5.3 (9.3 million); 

Auburn at Alabama — 5.1 (9.1million); 

Notre Dame at USC — 4.4 (7.8 million); 

THE OSU vs TCU — 4.2 (7.3 million); 

Michigan at Notre Dame — 4.0 (7 million).

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) runs past Tennessee Titans' Kamalei Correa (44) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) runs past...

Photo by Michael Conroy



From Jake

@jgreesontfp Colts (-4) @ Jaguars on Sunday with Cody Kessler at QB. No Fournette, but Hyde and Yeldon. Trap game at (-4)?

Jake

It's the NFL. Every game feels like a trap game, doesn't it?

Heck, three weeks ago, the Cowboys were dead. Last night they physically beat the best team in the NFL and made Drew Brees look more like Drew Carey. Yes, the fast-break football and the "Oh my word who can stop this" fireworks show was reduced to a 13-10 Dallas win over New Orleans because the Cowboys pressured the QB and tackled like poet warriors in space.

(Side note: Dallas' young LB tandem of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch — man, that's a butler's name if we've ever heard one — is going to be good for a long time.)

The LeBatard Show calls it "Football happening" and it happens. It happened last night. It will happen to someone on Sunday.

Why? Because football happens.

That said, we'll borrow Coach Donnan's term and the Colts laying anything short of double digits you have to make Andrew Luck and the boys a Condo Pick.

Side question: Would Andrew Luck be as good at football if his name was Andy Luck? I don't think so. 

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence tosses the ball to Travis Etienne during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Duke on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence tosses the ball to...

From Mack

@jgreesontfp What is your top 4 in order if UGA beats Bama in a close one?

Mack

That top four is pretty clear, and it's a reality that the committee would love to avoid — as we discussed above — because it would leave out more than half of the Power Five conferences. That said, the match-ups would be pretty dreamy. 

It would be Clemson-Alabama in the Orange Bowl for the 1-4 semifinal final, and considering the recent history and the quarterback turnover at each, this one would sell itself.

The other would be Notre Dame-Georgia in the 2-3 in the Cotton Bowl, and after last year's classic in South Bend, that could be an easy pregame hype job too. 

And speaking of fours, let's do the Rushmores from this week:

Rushmore of leftovers: Turkey for turkey sammiches, pizza is money, mac and cheese and chicken and dumplings.

Rushmore of Ed Harris movies: The Rock, Apollo 13, The Right Stuff and Glengarry Glen Ross.

Rushmore of turtles: Tippi Turtle is da man, TMNT (as a group), a turtle head (aka a prairie dog, or as Seinfeld used it in the classic episode about shrinkage) and Sea Turtles of all varieties for Alejandro. 

Rushmore of cartoon character's catch phrases: Homer Simpson's "D'Oh," "What's up Doc" from Bugs, "Good Grief" from Chuck Brown and we'll go "Yabba Dabba Doo" begrudgingly. (Man, you think picking the fourth playoff team is hard, pick the final cartoon character catch-phrase and try to leave off "Th-Th-Th-That's all folks" and a half dozen from the Scooby Doo gang and "Oh my God they killed Kenny!" as well as "sufferin' succotash" and a slew of others. Heck, maybe we should expand the Rushmore to eight too while we are at it. 

From Chas

If Tua is a 10, what number is Haskins? Murray? Lock? Use fractions if you must. And maybe Tua is an 11. That's as high as you can go.

Chas

Tua is a dude. Period. We will not go to an 11 just like no one can give 120 percent. (And if you can give 120 percent, then you are half-arsing it not giving  240 percent... SON.) Tua has great talent around him, yes, but he also makes the right decision almost every time, never turns it over and has the best accuracy of anyone in the college game. That's a scary combination. Tua is a 9.9716. Andrew Luck was closer to a 10. So was Peyton. But as for slinging it, know that Cam and Tebow and Johnny Football and a lot of those dudes posted amazing years. What Tua's doing and how he's doing it, puts him up there in the stratosphere of all-time NFL QB prospects, friends.

Haskins is really good, but dude is the kid you grew up with that had all the toys. All of them. That kid was Monty in Smyrna. Dude had a full court dunk ball court (rims a little lower than 9 feet) in his back hard for Pistol Pete's sake. Haskins has all the toys and he has shown an ability to use them. But is he bona fide without five-star WRs running away from a bunch of Big Ten DBs who may or may not be selling stocks in Chicago this time next year? We'll go 7.8234 for Haskins.

Lock has a great arm. Seriously great. And his toys have been in and out of the shop all year. We would have loved to watch him with an array like THE Ohio State or the toys Tua has in his chest. Lock seems to be the least consistent of the four you asked about, but then again, I saw the least of Missouri of those four teams. We'll ask it this way: Would Lock have better or worse numbers than Haskins in that system? We think every bit as good, if not better. Lock is an 8.0434  

We think Murray is awesome. Seriously awesome. And his skill set looks to be in the desirable neighborhood of a faster Russell Wilson. That's nuts. Yes, some of his eye-popping numbers are because Lincoln Riley is the best offense coach working on Saturdays and one of the five best offensive football coaches working at all. 

Side note on how eye-popping Murray's numbers are: Murray would be walking away with the Heisman in almost any other year of the last decade. Murray is 216-of-306 — 70.6 percent — for 3,674 yards with 37 TDs and seven picks. His QB rating is 206.8. He also has rushed for 853 yards and 11 TDs.

Let's compare those numbers — with at least two more games to play — with the last five Heisman winners:

2017 — Baker Mayfield: 285-of-404, 70.5 percent, 4,627 yards, 43 TDs, 6 INTs, with an all-time record passer rating of 198.9 (which will be third all-time behind Tua and Murray after this year); 311 rushing yards and five TD runs.

2016 — Lamar Jackson: 254-of-430, 59.1 percent for 3,660 yards, 27 TDs, 10 INTs, 146.6 rating; 1,601 rushing yards and 18 rushing TDs.

2015 — Derrick Henry: 2,219 rushing yards (5.6 yards per carry) and 28 rushing TDs.

2014 — Marcus Mariota: 304-of-445, 68.3 percent, for 4,454 yards with 42 TDs, 4 INTs, 181.7 rating; 770 rushing yards and 15 rushing TDs.

2013 — Jameis Winston: 305-of-467, 65.4 percent for 3,907 yards with 25 TDs, 18 INTs; 65 rushing yards and three rushing TDs.

Murray is legit and is every bit as good, if not better than Baker Mayfield was a year ago. We would give him a 9.2345.  

Murray also offers an interesting wrinkle moving forward. We all wondered if the A's giving Murray the A-OK to play football was a risk because of injury. Murray got millions to sign with the A's as a first-round pick last summer. 

Now it could be a real risk of losing him to football. (Yes, we know that Murray has said he's going baseball all the way, but when talking about QBs — especially ones drafted as high as Murray may be — the money swings greatly to football in that instance.)

Great questions this week, and sorry, no hate mail.

My haters must have taken some time off for the holidays and all.

Enjoy the week friends.

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