SEC Power poll
You know the drill. Power poll from the NFL is a Tuesday staple. Power poll from the closest thing to the NFL comes Wednesdays.
Yes, the middle-toward-the-bottom of the SEC is not as good as most years.
We know of Tennessee's struggles. South Carolina lost to UNC. Missouri stumbled at Wyoming. Ole Miss at Memphis. Mississippi State fell at home to a mediocre-to-less-than-mediocre Kansas State team.
But the talent still screams that the SEC is the best conference in the league. Five of the top nine in the AP rankings.
And of those five — or even top half of the league counting A&M, UK and a Missouri team that has its best football in front of them — there is a ton of talent. Well, considering how many first-rounders are linemen and in excess of 300 pounds, there actually is way more than a ton of talent.
Check out this mock draft from CBSsports.com, which is not a Kiper endeavor but it is the most recently released one:
No. 2, Washington takes Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia;
No. 3, Cincinnati takes Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama;
No. 5, New York Jets take Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama;
No. 8, Denver takes Grant Delpit, S, LSU;
No. 12, Tennessee takes Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn;
No. 17, Cleveland takes Xavier McKinney, CB, Alabama;
No. 18, Atlanta takes Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama;
No. 19, Miami takes Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU;
No. 22, New Orleans takes Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia;
No. 24, Minnesota takes Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama;
No. 25, Seattle takes K'Lavon Chaisson, LB, LSU;
No. 27, Philadelphia takes D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia;
No. 28, Green Bay takes Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama;
No. 30, Los Angeles takes Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina;
No. 31, Kansas City takes Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
That's almost half the first round, gang.
1. Georgia. Jules mentioned it earlier this week, and considering that Jake Fromm has at least three future high draft picks in front of him, here's betting that the best O-line in the Peach State is in Athens. Not Atlanta in front of Matt Ryan.
2. Alabama. Dear buckets of potential talent and agents salivating, look at all the Tide dudes projected in round one.
3. LSU. Three NFL dudes on a defense that we all expected to be special. But the story of this team has been Joe Burrow, and in addition to the West, PoY honors and everything riding on the Tigers' trek to T-town, a ticket to New York City and the Heisman ceremony (to clap for Jalen Hurts) could be on the line between Burrow and Tua.
4. Auburn. Without question, these Tigers are led by a rough-and-tumble front seven. The defensive line is deep and experienced. The linebackers are young and Alabama-like athletic. But if Derrick Brown, who left the Kent State game, is out against Texas A&M, well that, friends, would not be good for those of us who know all the words to "War Eagle, Fly Down the Field."
5. Florida. The Gators have been extremely fortunate, but a lot of times good fortune favors the prepared mind. Here's making an argument that if Dan Mullen sticks around and get this thing rolling, Florida — with FSU floundering and Miami running in place — will return to the top of the Sunshine State rather quickly.
12. Tennessee. Yes, UT handled its BID-ness against a UTC team that may have a tough time finding 5 wins in Rusty Wright's first year. And UT has a monstrous opportunity to reverse the narrative of the first month of the season this week in Gainesville. Florida is turning to a back-up QB and has some future professional skill guys banged up. A win Saturday would give UT coach Jeremy Pruitt a talking point that is not the opening-week disaster or the secondary bust.
13. Arkansas. OK, the loss to Ole Miss got out of hand, but Arkansas' win over Colorado State was much easier than many expected.
14. Vandy. The Commodores lost to Georgia and Purdue before taking last week off. Get ready for multiple byes this season, friends, because of the wacky ways the Saturdays dropped. Vandy announced Tuesday three players have suffered season-ending injuries, and if that's not bad enough starting left tackle Devin Cochran is a game-time decision for LSU on Saturday.
Eli Era ends
By now you have heard that Eli Manning has been benched in New York. The Giants are turning over the keys to a jalopy to Daniel Jones, the rookie from Duke.
(As Paschall noted on Press Row on Tuesday, considering where Eli played, some have noted that this is "Cutcliffe on Cutcliffe crime.")
The talking points of a story like this one are interesting. And layered.
> You almost never get to script your goodbye in sports. Sure, Elway and Strahan and a few others did, but that is extremely rare.
> The preseason chatter from New York brass continues the daily and accepted occurrence of football GMs and coaches looking directly at the media and lying. Remember the Giants were all about following the Kansas City approach and taking a first-round QB and having him sit and learn. (Of the last 15 QBs drafted in the top 10 — Jones was No. 6 overall — 14 made at least 10 starts as a rookie. The one who didn't, of course, was Patrick Mahomes, who started one game his rookie season sitting behind Alex Smith.)
> Eli was right there with Dale Jr. as the most congenial and laid-back Best of Preps superstar speaker I ever dealt with.
> From the Giants point of view, the decision makes a lot of football sense considering that they have to maximize the rookie salary window of Saquon Barkley.
> And finally, this brings us to the million-dollar question: Is Eli Manning a Hall of Famer?
I think he will get into the Hall because of a lot things — two Super Bowls, being a true class act in the mad, Mad, MAD world that is NYC, being a genuine and likable guy, a stat-line that will be in the top 15 in most categories when he does retire — but I personally do not think he is.
Sure, Eli should be a first-ballot induction in the Giants' circle of honor or whatever they call it.
But Hall of Fame? Not in my view, and here's why.
Eli's career record as a starter is .500 (and if you are going to give him credit for two Super Bowls as a QB, which is a team accomplishment, then career record would also be valid). Unless he gets another start and a win, Eli's career record is 116-116, and only two Hall of Fame QBs have a non-winning-record — Joe Namath, who, in my view is a) the most overrated NFL player ever, and b) is in the Hall of Fame as much for his guarantee off the field before Super Bowl III than anything he did on it, and Sonny Jurgensen. Namath finished 62-63-4 as a starter and Jurgensen was 69-71-7.
Was Eli ever viewed as the best in the game, or even right there among the top five during the last 15 years? Want to know how many All-Pro teams Eli made? Same number as Spy.
Yes, the stats have been compiled, but Eli's career passer rating is right there with Joe Flacco's and no one — No One — thinks Joe Flacco is a Hall of Famer.
Finally, and this is my universal view on all Hall of Fames: If you have to pause and think about the answer to "Is so-and-so a Hall of Famer" then the answer is almost always no.
It's the Hall of Fame. Not the Hall of Really, Really, Good.
More to the party
OK, the NCAA tried to strong-arm the California bill to allow college athletes to make money off their Names, Images and Likeness.
We have detailed our position on this before.
We also detailed about how laughable is the NCAA's strongly worded letter to California that some of their universities would not be able to compete for championships if the bill passes.
Well, buckle up NCAA, because now North Carolina, South Carolina and New York are exploring similar bills in their state governments.
Think the NCAA will have an NCAA tournament without Duke and UNC? Neither do I.
Think the Power 5 conferences will stay under the NCAA umbrella if Clemson is not allowed to compete for a football championship? Neither do I.
Think Nick Saban has already called some lawmakers in Alabama to make sure Clemson will not have this law at its disposal before the Tide does? So do I.
The NCAA, if they had an ounce of wisdom or a morsel of backbone, would have already crafted a solution to this issue once the California law was even pitched.
Now, the NCAA looks bad. (What else is new?)
And worse yet, its continued reactionary responses and head-in-the-sand routine means there will be untold versions of this rather than a uniform rule that we could eventually understand and comprehend.
This and that
— Braves played. Braves lost. So it goes. Braves' magic number to clinch the East is 3. (That's any combination of Braves wins and Washington losses.) Atlanta is 5 games back of Los Angeles for home field throughout the NL playoffs.
— Steve Young went on a SportsCenter rant about players demanding trades and looking to leave losing situations, even hinting that the process is soft. We have several thoughts about this, and on some days it would have its own chunk. First, uh, Steve, didn't you tell Arizona that if they traded for you, you would retire? Hypocrite much? Secondly, referencing the growing trend of NBA players doing this — and NBA superstars are the most powerful GMs in the sport — but didn't guys like, you know, John Elway and even Eli Manning, flex their star power long ago? This is the latest stance — players' lack of loyalty to teams, 'easy way out,' et al. — in which we give the teams and management an overwhelming amount of the benefit of the doubt. The latest player Young was referencing was Jacksonville All-Pro corner Jalen Ramsey, but the way the Jags have mismanaged this franchise over the last two years, who can blame him for wanting to play for a better organization? Side note: It was not that long ago that this Jacksonville defense was the next big thing in the sport. Remember that pounding they delivered in Pittsburgh in January in the AFC divisional round? Then they extended Blake Bortles and that investment cost them defensive cap flexibility and now they are headed to the Tank for Tua or Lose for Lawrence conversation. (Should we start a Flop for Fromm, a Fail for Fields, Heinous for Hurts or any others?)
— Speaking of that, folks bellyaching about the transfer portal in terms of QBs, well, Jalen Hurts is a prime example of why it is a) important, and b) smart for the player. If Hurts had stayed and held a clipboard behind Tua or even entered the draft last year, he would have been the most athletic salesman at Saban's Mercedes dealership in Birmingham. Now, a year playing for Lincoln Riley — and the early success of Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, who played for Riley after transferring — is going to push Jalen Hurts into first-round conversations.
Which way should we start on a Wednesday?
Which career would you prefer: Eli Manning's, Ben Roethlisberger's or Philip Rivers' from the 2004 draft class?
Which way would you go if you had a Hall of Fame vote on Eli, yay or nay for the HoF?
Which way would you vote, Alabama or Georgia, as the best team in the SEC?
We will finish Which Way Wednesday with something that was amazingly interesting and borderline impossible from Tuesday.
On Twitter, HBO asked for its top three characters on HBO-only shows. We will of course ask for a Rushmore because that's what we do around these parts, and this one is going to have personal preferences of course.
So on a Which Way Wednesday, if I started with Tony Soprano — James Gandolfini would have been 58 today — Omar Little and who you got?