Remember Friday's mailbag, and remember to stay thirsty dear friends.
From the "Talks too much studios" here we go...
Fab 4 (plus 1) picks
Big week last week. Hopefully you made the most of it - in entertainment purposes only of course - because successfully picking games is like an onion. There are several layers and more times than not it'll make you cry.
You have to pick the games you feel the best about, and you have to decide how much entertainment you're going to risk with each pick. You can't over extend on any one pick - and doubling-up to catch-up is how people lose cars... errr, cars full of entertainment that is.
You also have to remember you're picking the best opportunities to win entertainment, not the best teams or the best games. If you're picking games because they're on TV and you like the action, that's great. But remember you're then answering someone else's question as opposed to finding the question you like best and offering the best answer you can.
We're 21-10 against the spread so far this year. We were 58-30-2 last year. So we're 79-40-2 in the last year and a half. Against the spread, that's not too shabby. Let's see if we can continue our entertainment run:
Alabama minus-21 at Missouri: Nick Saban is in a foul mood. He's ticked off because people think his team is great - and they are. He's ticked off because the media make picks - and they do. He's ticked off that no one seems to have an answer as to whether if an African elephant comes to the U.S. does that make it an African-American elephant. You know who else it ticked off? Missouri back-up quarterback Corbin Berkstresser's mom, considering her baby boy is about to get a Tide baptism. (You could buy the half if you like insurance, but it likely would tick Saban off.)
Western Kentucky-Troy under the 57: These teams are a combined 1-2 in the SEC, which is better than Auburn and Kentucky. Sigh. It's a tough year to be an Auburn fan. As for the pick, call it a hunch. And if you can't play a hunch, then you can't play for big-time entertainment.
Ohio State minus-17 at Indiana: Road double-digit favorites are about as much fun as insurance seminars. That said, we think without a chance to play in the postseason, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes are motivated to take advantage of every opportunity. Buy the half - you likely won't need it, but you have vision insurance too, and when was the last time you needed that?
West Virginia at Texas Tech under the 78.5: We think the Mountaineers are on a special run. We have been in the front row of the WVU quarterback Geno Smith's Heisman band wagon from the state. That said, this is a classic Tommy Tuberville-type of moment. Plus, how well have the Mountaineers handled hearing how great they are and are they going to be full tilt with Kansas State on deck next week? (Side note: We like WVU laying the 3.5, too, but like the under more. This screams 31-27, and that's still three touchdowns under the total.)
Last week we picked six games - taking one extra than normal because Dr. B (he's a doctor after all) was curious about our picks. We're getting back to out regular five this week, and the plus one game is difficult to narrow down. We believe there are several teams that have huge moments for their head coaches on the line and we're going to see how well those teams perform. We also believe that there are some rivalry games out there with great lines (Texas-OU; Notre Dame-Stanford). Here's our final pick:
South Carolina plus-3 at LSU: Buy the half and buckle up for four physical quarters. But look at what you're getting: You're getting the better quarterback; the better running back; a relative push from two stout defenses; Steve Spurrier AND three points. Tiger Stadium is a tough place to play, no doubt, and Les Miles surely has a rabbit under his hat (heck the size of that thing, he could have a whole gopher village up there). But when there's a showdown and the ammo is that one-sided, the venue takes a back seat. And if you think this violates our "if a line looks too good to be true rule, it probably is," know this: the guys who set the lines are setting the lines for a national audience, so they can frequently over-inflate teams that have national appeal. With its offensive struggles, LSU has an over-inflated national appeal.
Crazy week for Dooley
OK, now everyone knows that UT head coach Derek Dooley had hip surgery Tuesday and will coach from the box rather than the sidelines Saturday night in Starkville.
Our UT beat ace Downtown Patrick Brown tells us the UT assistants do not believe it will be that big of a difference.
We're OK with that, but will also take a wait-and-see approach. In UT's few highlights in Dooley's two-and-a-half seasons, the UT head coach has been animated and passionate on the sideline. That energy can be a good thing in tight moments, and there figure to be a few tight moments Saturday against the Bulldogs. And that energy is tough to transmit from the press box to the field.
Coaches positioning aside, there's little doubt that the Vols need this one. Desperately.
And there's little chance that anyone - especially Dooley - will let the changes on the sideline be a distraction or serve as an excuse.
The Vols know the stakes. They know the challenges and the potential pay off. And it doesn't matter where anyone is on the seating chart. It's time to get it done.
Wonder why we love playoff baseball? Exhibit 2,438 was Wednesday night.
Derek Jeter playing before the home crowd on a foot that likely is broken. Joe Giradi sticking with embattled Alex Rodriguez to start the game but playing a hunch and the numbers and pinch-hitting for A-Rod with Raul Ibanez, who hit a game-tying homer in the ninth and a game-winning homer in the 12th to likely save the Yankees' season.
There were the Oakland A's, the lovable hodgepodge of misfit toys and pieces that have been collected for 50 cents on the dollar. The A's, who fell into an 0-2 hole after dropping the first two against the free-swinging Tigers, scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 win Wednesday that forced a win-to-advance Game 5.
Coco Crisp delivered Oakland's game-winner that set off an on-field party that had the buzz of Riverbend and the spirit of a pep rally. This was fun. It was pure and magic and believable. These could have been the 8-year-old All Stars from Signal, the Ooltewah Owls, the Lookouts or the 1927 Yankees, but they were boys sprinting to the field to share the joy of winning a must-win game.
And on the opposite end of baseball's skewed financial arc - a swinging curve as massive as the distance from New York to Oakland, the locales of Wednesday's dramatics - there were the Yankees and the A's celebrating the most fundamental joy of sports, victory.
It was fun to watch.
Side question: Why all the Yankees hate? We know why Spy does, he's a Red Sox fan, but why does everyone else hate them? And if you say, "Because they buy success." Well, what's wrong with that? Heck, we wish there were more corporations in America willing to spend big bucks for talent and challenge the rest of their industry to keep up. And if you condemn the Yankees for spending too much, well, if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg: isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do what you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!
This and that
- Just saw this, but you may want to pick against Washington State this weekend. Not knowing the line or the opponent, we do know that first-year Washington State pirate coach Mike Leach called his seniors "empty corpses." Uh, coach, where is "empty corpses" in the "Building Team Chemistry" handbook again?
- Does anyone have any more questions about whether Lance Amrstrong did steroids? Anyone? Bueller, Bueller? According to the USADA, 11 former teammates testified about Armstrong using steroids. Eleven. Heck, how many guys are on a bicycling team anyway? No word yet whether the American Dodgeball Association of America has ruled if Lance's motivational appearance and chat with Peter La Fleur voids Joe's Gyms big win over Globo-Gym back in 2004. Somebody better get Cotton McKnight and Pepper Brooks and the ESPN Ocho gang on the case.
- Speaking of picking games, and this is outside our comfort zone, but picking against the Tennessee Titans has been as solid as investing in Apple. The Titans, who are a 6-point home underdog tonight against the Steelers, are 1-4 overall and against the spread through five games. We're not sayin', we're just sayin'.
- We do the 5-at-10 every morning with our 5-year-old son playing in the background. Today, he wanted to write a story, so here's his first go at it. (When he sat down, we asked him what he was going to write, and he paused for a second before saying, "Well, letters of course.") True to his word, his his first 5-at-10 entry, "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz" and in true sports-writer style, when he was done he looked up and said, "Now don't change any of it. It's perfect." Then he ran off to eat pancakes and watch "Jake and the Never Land Pirates."
- We were out of the office most of yesterday, so we did not get to catch up with all of the responses, which were great as usual. And we can see the love for Kelsey Grammer's post-Cheers career.
Rest in peace Alex Karras, the former Detroit Lions defensive lineman who will forever be known to future generations as Mongo in "Blazing Saddles."
Karras was 77 when he died Wednesday after his kidneys failed.
His football career was underrated - he was named to the 1960s all-decade team as a defensive tackle - because of his success after football. He had parts in several motion pictures, spent three years in the booth of Monday Night Football and was Webster's dad on TV for several years in the 1980s.
Here's the question: Who's on your Rushmore of movie performances from athletes-turned-actors? These need to be professional athletes; don't come back and say Kevin Costner walked on the baseball team at Cal-State Fullerton.
We'll take Jim Brown in "The Dirty Dozen," Karras in "Blazing Saddles," Reggie Jackson in "Naked Gun" and Carl Weathers in "Rocky."