News to know

Before we get to the 5-at-10, I want to congratulate the web folks for reworking the site.

It's a much better look for sure.

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Giddy-up and we are headed to Central Alabama and Lake Martin to start fall break and enjoy this extremely hot end of summer splashing around and getting ready for AU-Florida. Gator Todd C, we down for a sixer of Co-Cola of choice, losing side buys?

Game week in Knoxville

Before we get to the picks that have become a Thursday staple: (Yes, we teetering right at .500, which is not as entertaining as it's been in past years. But, a) pickers gotta pick, and b) we have back-to-back winning college weekends to get to 20-21.)

But before we get there, we got a little more Knoxville house cleaning to cover. It's been a rough week in Knoxville. Feels like that's not the first time I've said that lately, but coming off an open Saturday and getting ready for a visit from Georgia, there are layers of this week.

We all know the mushroom cloud that emerged with the mid-September arrest of Jeremy Banks, who told the officers who arrested him after a traffic stop and learning he had a warrant with his name on it, "Where I'm from we shoot at cops."

Well, some of my UT buddies on Twitter think it's no big deal.

"Getting rid of [Banks] for saying something stupid is a major overreaction. What he said is a fact. He did not say he would do it."

Hmmmmm, well, no he did not say he would do it, but even saying that to any officer — especially from the backseat of the cop car — is a big deal to me. And in terms of cop safety — something that we should all take seriously — it almost always becomes a tangent of racist issues, the color of their uniforms and the color of people's skins.

Well, imagine the hubbub if that sentence was "Where I come from we shoot at [fill in the blank with any group of people by color, religion, sexual orientation, you name it]" and is that 'no big deal'? Hardly.

I don't care about the potential of any player, there's what's right and what's not, and there is setting standards in a program for any young head coach that there is more to the fabric of the program than talent.

Here was another, and yes, my Hate Mail tomorrow has a few haymakers from folks with some serious Orange paraphernalia in their closet.  

"So send him back where he comes from with no guidance? How about teach him morals, and what it's like to be a citizen in a nonviolent community? Maybe he could help prevent the next kid from the area [from making] the same mistake."

OK, that makes sense and I can relate to that.

I am never for the one-strike-and-you're-out philosophy, and if Pruitt can reach Banks, then I get it.

But in terms of concerns about program leadership, here's a couple of things that are cause for concern in my opinion:

some text
Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Tennessee linebacker Jeremy Banks (33) comes down with an interception against UTC during a NCAA football game at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019 in Knoxville, Tenn.

> Yes, Banks apologized — in a statement, mind you — on Tuesday. (Here's Gene of Many Hats Henley's report for the TFP.) But that apology is very-much-waterlogged considering it came on Oct. 1 after a Sept. 15 arrest, so no matter how many PR consultants helped Banks craft that statement, it's pretty clear that the apology is more "I'm truly sorry my statements were recorded and became public" than "I'm truly sorry for what I said."

> Pruitt's statements that were recorded on the call were certainly eyebrow-raising, but the conversation around "Hey, would you be 100 percent coherent on a 3:30 a.m. phone call from the cops?" is fair. (I could counter that when the phone rings at 3:30 a.m. and the guy on the other end says he's a police officer that I would IMMEDIATELY snap to because of the seriousness of the situation. Regardless.) What should trouble Johnny Vols Fans on Pruitt's end should be the lack of internal managements and protocols that lead a sophomore linebacker to call the head coach — twice — at 3:30 a.m. from the pokey.  

And that was before Vols calls last night and Phillip Fulmer saying finally that he has no interest in ever becoming Coach Fulmer again. (In truth, I think Fulmer's silence until now and then addressing the elephant in the room quickly and directly was the perfect way to handle this. So, kudos, Coach Fulmer.)

To the picks

Fab 4 picks

Well, October is tougher. Tougher tests. Tighter lines. Taller tasks.

And we wasted the chance to make hay in September. So the pressure is greater and the stakes are raised.

But it's important to remember that bad luck and bad plays are not the same thing, and we've had more of the former than the latter.

Think about Air Force failing on fourth-and-1 at its 22 late in the game that allowed San Jose State to get a meaningless TD to cover the 20 last week. Or the Northern Illinois decision to go for two as a 6.5-underdog to lose 24-18 at Vandy. Or Virginia not covering because of two Notre Dame fumble returns that led to direct scores.

As always, pickers gotta pick.

Miami-Virginia Tech under 48. Yes, the Hokies allowed a bucket of points to Duke, but, hold your nose for the end of this sentence Da U fans, this Miami offense is nothing compared to Duke's. (Yes, raise your hand if you ever expected that thought to come to fruition a decade ago.) Miami can't block — the 'Canes scored all of 17 against Central Michigan last time out — and Virginia Tech has no quarterback. This one feels a lot like 17-3.

Oregon-Cal under 47.5. Cal's quarterback was hurt last week, and when he left, he took the offense with him. Oregon is better than normal on defense and more physical. No es bueno for osos de oro, amigos. (That's "Not good for the bears of gold, friends. The kids are learning Spanish.) We liked the Ducks when it was around 14, that line has gone north toward 18 or so, but feel like Cal has an inability to do much of anything with the ball and Oregon is being more conservative than the Duck flocks of the past.    

UCLA minus-6 over Oregon State. Yes, we are kind of Pac-12 heavy, but so what. Oregon State is bad. Really bad. I have been burnt by UCLA for sure — other than Clemson no team has cost me more entertainment this year, and career, as much as UCLA; stupid Clemson — but the Bruins can really score. That's enough.
Wisconsin-Kent State over 58.5. Really like a couple of things about this: a) Wisconsin may get close to 56 on its own, considering that sub-a) the Badgers run the ball very well, and b) Kent State is the defense against the run in all of college football, Whisky may go over on its own, and sub-b) Kent State offensively

Tulsa-SMU over 62. I should have been on SMU much sooner — and yes, there are a couple of the week-in, week-out losers that we should be going against not listed here today — but I think Tulsa is sneaky good, and the two-TD line is just about perfect. But I like how both of these teams play offense and spread the ball around.

Maryland-Rutgers minus-12.5 and over 54.5. These teams were whipped a combined 111-0 last week. Maryland can score against really bad foes and Rutgers is a really bad foe.

Auburn minus-2.5 over Florida. And yes, I love that the line has dipped to 2.5, and in truth, like the fact that the total is climbing toward 49, which screams under but we'll ride with what we have here. This one feels as simple as Auburn's strength (D-Line) vs. Florida's weakness (O-Line). And sometimes it's just that clear.

Last week: 4-3 (57.1 percent) against the spread

This season: 20-21 against the spread


This and that

— Speaking of the bets, lots of sharps have been on Florida and dropped that number below the field goal. Yes, please.

— Wow, O.J. Simpson is trolling everyone. He took to Twitter yesterday with this — offered without anything other than the Juice's musings: "Killed it on the golf course today! New Nike glove worked!" Wow.

— I never really agreed with much of anything he proposed or pitched, but here's hoping Bernie Sanders has a quick and full recovery.

— Did you see that Percy Harvin said he did not play an NFL game without being high? Hard to imagine that, no?

— Congrats to the Rays, who toppled the A's in the AL Wildcard round and moved into the final eighth with the lowest payroll in all of baseball.


Today's questions

Have you sent in a mailbag question? If not why not?

On this day, Oct. 3, well, it's a big one.

Did you know that the first faxed photo was sent over a telephone line on this day in 1922? Shocking, right?

On this day in 1992, Sinead O'Connor ripped up the picture of the Pope — and her career — on SNL.

O.J. was found not guilty on this day in 1995.

Thanksgiving was designated officially by George Washington in 1789.

Also, it's my birthday.

Rushmore of 'birth' and be creative. Go, and remember the mailbag.