College football consternation
We will recap a slew of college football tidbits in the 'This and That' because there are a lot of items out there.
We will start today with a quick college football good, bad and ugly that has nothing to do with those dreadful Michigan State alternative units.
GOOD — We are 16 days from Miami-Florida kicking this puppy off. Yes, that's good. Very good.
BAD — OK, my heart hurts for Brad Shepard, Steve, Hargis, Wells, and a slew of the other good, proud and beaten-down UT fans I know. Yes, the season and the calendar bring the annual thoughts of hope and wonderings that start with "Yeah, if we can get."
The early reports from Knoxville of the quarterback looking like a five-star dude who should announce his college destination in Times Square. A collection of NFL-looking wideouts. The energy of a defensive-minded head coach with a pride-inducing resume. Those are reasons to expand those "what ifs" and "yeah buts."
Then Wednesday happened, and UT lost Emmit Gooden for the season. Gooden, as TFP UT beat ace Gene of Many Hats Henley tells us here, was the Vols most experienced defensive linemen. To make matters worse, if there is one position group where UT could less afford to lose able bodies than defensive line it's on the offensive line. So losing Gooden hurt; the news that Nathan Niehaus, who started six games at right guard last year, is leaving the program is a double, "Gosh dang it."
UGLY — Hey, we like Dabo Swinney, and we all can agree he has done a whale of a job in getting his Clemson program atop the mountain. Yes, Clemson does not have to apologize to anyone — Alabama included — these days. And we're completely here for Swinney — and any other college coach speaking his mind, like debunking the "Alabama was tired from the SEC grind" mumbo-jumbo, because as Swinney said this week, the Tide should have been well-rested since they beat everyone other than Georgia by three-plus TDs last year.
But, as much as I like Swinney and what he's done, I think it's a complete bush-league move not to give Kelly Bryant a championship ring from last season. Yes, Bryant transferred after four games — four games he started and the Tigers won, including Bryant doing the heavy lifting in a two-point win at Texas A&M — after Swinney named Trevor Lawrence the starter.
"He wasn't on the team. You've gotta be on the team to get a ring," Swinney told ESPN. "I love Kelly and appreciate what he did for us, but he decided to move on." You both decided to move on, Dabo, and you started Bryant for four games — the cut-off to play and still redshirt and retain eligibility — as Lawrence,a true freshman, continued to mature and grow. More from Swinney from the ESPN article from Chris Low: "[Bryant's] a graduate of Clemson and always will be and was a heck of a player for us, but my job is to do what's best for the team."
Yeah, it is. It's also to do what's best for the players on your team — players you frequently refer to as family and sons and want them to play for their brothers. And if you think for a second that this is not a silent threat to anyone else thinking about a transfer, then you are kidding yourself.
NCAA gonna NCAA, I guess
First came the news of the NCAA grabbing more control from the athletes in terms of college basketball and limiting the agents' pool to only approved folks.
And do not get anyone started on how the NCAA continues to pretend all the FBI and coach-payment stuff never happened, but now they want a more stringent review process for players to explore the draft and retain eligibility. (Never mind the shots fired at guys like Rich Paul, LeBron's bestie who does not have a degree so he would not be eligible in the NCAA's eyes. Yes, the NCAA has taken a bigger and tougher stance on the eligibility of the players repping the players and trying to convince the players to leave than the eligibility of the actual players.)
Now comes the details that the NCAA has declined to implement football injury reports, because, well, Nick Saban would have gone all full-blown, head-spinning Exorcist kid.
OK, and we get that the NCAA is not exactly gaga about the looming expansion of legalized betting.
But not putting out a detailed list of college football injuries is not going to change the fact that a lot of people bet on college football. Well, not anyone I know, of course, unless it is through meaningful and legal channels.
So if the NCAA and the leagues are not going to look for ways to embrace the changes, they need to pocket those "Integrity Fees" that every association and conference is trying to line up for.
And if you are worried about corruption and potential scandal, this decision honestly invites those situations.
Think of it this way: If you make the teams and coaches announce every player who is hurt at any level from "Questionable" and beyond, then everyone has the information. If you do not do that, are we going to be super-shocked about players sharing that info for beer money to people who could use it?
Of course not.
Less information is not the way to handle scandal or controversy, real or potential. Transparency and honest is.
NFL preseason kickoff
Yes, there was a game last week. Yes, we all ignored it.
Well, there are 11 NFL preseason games tonight. There is a national doubleheader on the NFL Network (Jets-Giants at 7; Cardinals-Chargers at 10). Also of note: The Titans-Eagles will be on WRCB-TV Channel 3 locally.
Very little can be gauged from Week 1 preseason. These are like the spring games for colleges, right?
(That said, I feel certain we'll overanalyze the QB situation in Washington, how Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury looked in their debut, the Browns in general and everything else.)
That said, the conventional viewpoint that "If you bet on preseason games, you need to seek help immediately" is as dated as the Model T and New Coke.
Follow along: Betting limits are a fraction of those for a regular-season game. The reason? Vegas knows there are so many exploitable factors.
Check this quote, from a recent story in the Las Vegas Review Journal: "There's a reason why the preseason limits are a tenth of what we take in the regular season," Westgate sportsbook manager Ed Salmons said. "If the preseason was for degenerates, the limits would be as big as they are for the regular season."
Salmons said more than half the money on last week's Denver's 14-10 Hall of Fame win over Atlanta was wagered successfully by professional gamblers.
Yes, we all check the quarterback rotations and battles. But coaches matter in the preseason, too. Back first-year guys who may try a little harder to get a meaningless W as a way to lay some sort of good feeling/foundation in a new setting.
From the Vegas story, Denver's first-year coach Vic Fangio's win over Atlanta dropped Dan Quinn to 0-9 against the number in his last nine preseason games. He simply does not care about them.
If you like to dabble with the occasional wager, know that Baltimore's Jim Harbaugh is 13-0 in his past three preseason and 30-15 against the number as an NFL coach in the preseason. Also of note, Jason Garrett is 11-21-1 against the spread in the preseason.
The Quinn factor — and the knowledge that Miami has a new coach and two QBs fighting for positive vibes — has the Dolphins as a 3-point favorite tonight over Atlanta.
Also, the Redskins are a slight favorite over everyone's beloved Browns. Why? Because Washington will trot out at least two quarterbacks — Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins — and the Browns are unlikely to play anyone.
OK, let's try this, shall we?
Preseason picks. Give me the Dolphins, Jags-Ravens under 34 Washington minus-1.5 tonight. Done and done.
2019 NFL preseason picks: 0-0
Last year preseason picks: Uh, 0-0 because who really picks preseason games (other than the sharps, apparently)
Career preseason picks: 0-0
This and that
— College football ICYMI, part I: Alabama super talent Raekwon Davis is motivated, according to TFP college football guru David Paschall. To that we say, "Yikes."
— The moving parts of the 2020 schedule mean UGA plays Auburn in October and Tennessee in November next year. Here's more from Paschall, who averages about 3.3 bylines a day this time of year. Yes, he's the James Brown of college football — the hardest-working man in the word-flow-BID-ness.
— Speaking of those schedule changes, it is pretty clear that the league wants to increase the mid-November drama in terms of divisional races. Georgia will play Florida and Tennessee in November. Auburn will play LSU and Alabama in late November, and the Tide will face Texas A&M the week before the Iron Bowl.
— Because the overreaction and faux outrage can come from all sides and races, folks, calm down about Chris Rock's social media joke. Goodness.
— Adam Gase skipped out on his wife right after she gave birth to their son several years ago to make sure he made a Tuesday 2 p.m. meeting with Peyton Manning during their shared time in Denver. Hey, I get it. He asked "You good?" and she said she was. Not exactly how a lot of us would handle it, but to each their own. Or, as Ron Burgundy might say, "When in Rome."
— I have said this for almost a year and it looks to be playing out. My stance was Jarrett Stidham was going to be a better pro quarterback than he was in Gus Malzahn's offense. Can't wait for the news that the Pats trade Stidham for a first- and a third-round pick two years from now when Brady re-inks for three more years.
— Breaking news: Tiger Woods has a bad back. Quick side conversation here: The PGA's new condensed schedule will not help Tiger's chances to be really ready for any major located outside of Augusta, Ga.
— Another NFL tidbit. Apparently Colin Kaepernick is telling people he has been working out and is ready to return to the NFL. Hmmmm, K. Thanks Colin. Hey, will call you. Cool? Cool. Yeah, about that video, the lead-in says "Denied Work for [blank] days." Yeah, about that. Well, sometimes you have to sleep in the bed you made. Or as Ron Burgundy says, "When in Rome."
— Braves played. Braves won. Dude, the Braves are excellent when they score 10 or more runs, huh?
Wow, that was a lot of things.
Football season, anyone?
Hey, we have some spots in the mailbag, and we are still reviewing potential suggestions or changes for the fall, so fire away with those, too.
As for today, well, it's Aug. 8 — 8/8 — and this was the day that Wrigley was supposed to have its first night game, but it rained on 8/8/88.
On this day 45 years ago, Nixon announced he was resigning. Is there a more unfortunate word that means different things but spelled the same as resigning (as in to step down) and resigning (as in to re-up and sign a contract)?
Roger Federer is 38 today. GOAT.
On this day 121 years ago, Corn Flakes the cereal was invented.
Dustin Hoffman is 82 today. Yes, 82.
Let's ask two Dustin Hoffman Rushmores.
Does he make the acting Rushmore of this generation? It's close, considering that DeNiro, Pacino and Duvall kind of claim the first three spots, no? Is Hoffman's catalog better than, say, Nicholson's or Cruise's?
As for today's Rushmore, let's do the Rushmore of Hoffman films. Go, and remember the mailbag.