SEC asked and answered
Here's our weekly ranking of the SEC (with record and this week's schedule) and questions facing each this week:
1) Auburn (5-0, 2-0; at Mississippi State, 3:30 p.m.): Are we ready for a situation where the winner of the Auburn-Mississippi State game takes the first step toward Atlanta and the winning QB takes the first step toward the Heisman ceremony? Sure, why not. We also believe that there will almost assuredly be 70 points scored in this one. Buckle up buttercup, or in this case, clamp it down cowbell.
2) Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0; vs. Auburn, 3:30 p.m.): We will break this game down more this week, but here's a question for you - what would have happened if Cam Newton had gone to Mississippi State like was expected? We think Mississippi State could have every easily won the 2010 BCS title considering where they finished - No. 15 in the country with a New Year's Day Bowl win over Michigan - without arguably the single best season in SEC history.
3) Ole Miss (5-0, 2-0; at Texas A&M, 9 p.m.): How will the Rebels handle the tidal wave of emotion and will Katy Perry make the trip? Man, college football GameDay is a spectacle, right? Katy Perry stole the show from Lee Corso. We have a joke here but we will let it slide.
4) Alabama (4-1, 1-1; at Arkansas, 6 p.m.): What will Alabama's defense do against this crazy, old-fangled I-formation offense Arkansas runs? In truth, this will be the Tide's only SEC game against a traditional, two-back offense, and that old-is-new-again scheme has helped Arkansas run wild over defense that more and more have to be ready for spreads and shotgun option sets.
5) Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1; vs. Ole Miss, 9 p.m.): Is it against school policy for an Aggies defender other than Myles Garrett to tackle anyone? While that may be a stretch, the young and struggling Aggies secondary is about to get an up-close and personal look at an Ole Miss receiving corps that is legit and then an Alabama group that has the best wide out in the country in Amari Cooper. As good as Kevin Sumlin's offense may be, the Aggies defense simply must improve. Like now.
6) Georgia (4-1, 2-1; at Missouri): Is this a must-win for Georgia? You bet it is. In fact, you can make an argument that this is the biggest game left on the Bulldogs' schedule in that a loss Saturday in Columbia means Missouri would have a two-game lead in the loss column and the tie-breaker over Georgia in the East standings. Despite the up-and-down play on each side of the ball, all of Georgia's goals are still out there. But that ends if the Bulldogs lose Saturday.
7) Missouri (4-1, 1-0; vs. Georgia, noon): Can these Tigers slow down Todd Gurley? Notice we did not say stop, because no one this side of Mike Bobo truly stops Gurley. In truth, it's the biggest question for every Georgia foe because the rest of the red-and-black attack looks positively pedestrian. One thing that will really help Missouri is the Tigers can generate a pass-rush with just the defensive line so the linebackers and safeties can stay at home for draws and misdirection runs.
8) LSU (4-2, 0-2; at Florida, 7:30 p.m.): How do Les Miles and Co. bounce back from the record blasting they received from Auburn? Miles and the Tigers were thumped 41-7 in Jordan-Hare last week, and it was a perfect blend of circumstances. Auburn played very well; LSU started a true freshman QB who struggled. And once the host Tigers started clicking, well, it snow-balled. Now LSU is faced with a daunting schedule and a host of freshman and the real possibility that LSU could face Arkansas in November needing a win to be bowl eligible. Think about that, and is there a better testament to the fact that the SEC West harbors no prisoners and offers no quarters than the lack of reliable QB play has LSU staring at a potential bowl-less postseason. Wow.
9) Arkansas (3-2, 0-2; vs. Alabama, 6 p.m.): Is it a good thing or a bad thing to get Alabama this week after that emotional roller coster at Oxford? While the emotions - and the Tide injuries - were high last week, we're still going to say it's the best time to get the Tide. Simply put, we expect the Hogs to get a focused and intense effort from Alabama, which has now lost three of its last seven games.
10) Florida (2-1, 3-1; vs. LSU, 7:30): Who in a million years expected LSU-Florida to be on the SEC Network? Wow, if there's not a more clear statement of the craziness of the first half of 2014 than that, well, we'd like to hear it. That said, this game may not be for those looking for offense. With Treon Harris suspended and Jeff Driskel left as the Gators starting QB - and the known struggles of LSU's QB situation - the first team to 17 has to feel really good about its chances.
11) Kentucky (4-1, 2-1; vs. Louisiana-Monore, noon): How great does this schedule fall for the Wildcats? After an emotional and physical win over South Carolina, UK gets La-Monore. We believe in the Chinese calendar, this may be the year of the Wildcat, considering the recent rolls for UK, Arizona, Northwestern and Kansas State. War Wildcats.
12) South Carolina (3-3, 2-3; off): Can it get much worse for the Gamecocks?In the glass half-full category, we believe that with a bye this week and Furman next week before a trip to Auburn on Oct. 25, Steve Spurrier and Co. have started practicing for the No. 2-ranked Tigers this week. Write this down - the Gamecocks are going to go to Auburn with a) three weeks of preparation for a potential season-saving victory and b) have more than a few Spurrier tricks up their sleeve.
13) Tennessee (2-3, 0-2; vs. UTC 4 p.m.): Of the four SEC coaches in their second season, where does Butch Jones rank in the order of bricks? Well, Gus Malzahn obviously is tops among the sophomore coaches, but he inherited a bigger mess off the field and a ton more talent on it. We'll give the second spot to Mark Stoops with Butch and Bret Bielema tied for third. Thoughts?
14) Vanderbilt (1-5, 0-4; vs. Charleston Southern, 7:30 p.m.): Want the definition of bad balance, or in this case balanced badness? Vandy's offense is 110th or worse among the 128 FBS teams in per game averages in passing yards (114th with 155.0), rushing yards (110th with 110.5) and scoring (118th with 17.0). Anchor down in the mouth.
NFL Power Poll
As the calendar turns and we prepare for the clocks to roll, the NFL picture is becoming more clear. Two things have started to take shape, one as fundamentally true as blocking and tackling and the second a new trend in a league that whether it likes it or not has changed its rules to the point that the league's foremost principle could be compromised long-term.
The fundamental basic law of the NFL is in the end, you can't win consistently without good quarterback play. Yes, there are teams that have shaped deep and talented rosters around young and inexpensive quarterbacks with some success. But, do not confuse inexpensive with inability.
The Seahawks, the class of the league, have the NFL's best roster, but Russell Wilson's value far exceeds his paycheck. The kid can play, and he showed it with a dynamic performance in Monday night's win over Washington. In fact, of the next generation of QB1s - guys with less than five years in the league - you could easily rank Wilson as the No. 2 quarterback behind future NFL face Andrew Luck.
That growing import on quarterback play - and the league's ever-alternating rules to protect the signal callers and promote passing and scoring and highlights for its points-starving, highlight-hungry masses of fantasy aficionados - will eat at the league's long-held goal of parity across its teams.
Sure, teams that landed franchise QBs could be counted on to be division contenders for a decade or more, but those true-franchise guys are becoming harder to spot and fewer in frequency because of the growing number of spread and system guys flinging it around fields on Saturdays.
And no amount of weighted schedules and salary cap restrictions will allow teams with poor quarterback play to win over the long haul. Ask the Titans. Or the Bills. Or the Browns.
On to the Power Poll.
1) Seattle. The Seahawks are the clear cream of the NFL crop. We all know about the swarming Seahawks defense that is as good as it was on its Super Bowl run last year. But the offense when Percy Harvin is healthy is dynamic.
2) Denver. Peyton Manning has 504 touchdown passes, joining Brett Favre (508) in the prestigious club. By comparison, it's like having 750 or MLB homers or scoring more than 35,000 career points. In a world in which Manning turns up on almost every channel, we may actually have underplayed this. We'll get a chance to rectify that when he passes Favre sometime this month.
3) San Diego. Shhhhh, when did this happen? The Chargers are good and have a plus-70 scoring margin. And Phillip Rivers is making a sneaky push to be in the NFL MVP conversation. (And yes, we're just as surprised we typed that as you are to have read it.)
4) Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys offense has been sharp, but its a jumpstarted defense that is doing it without some of its biggest names from a year ago that has boosted the 'Boys to a 4-1 start. We believe you'll see one of the Tom Rinaldi tear-specials on Dallas linebacker Ronaldo McClain very soon.
5) Indianapolis Colts. The league's best offense resides in Indy, with Andrew Luck shredding foes to post the most points (31.2) and passing yards (321.8) per game.
Bottom five (and see if you notice a QB trend of stinkiness)
28) New York Jets. How bad is the QB situation for the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets? The New York Daily News had coverage of Sunday's 31-0 loss to San Diego under the headline "Bring Back Tebow!" Ouch-standing.
29) Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mike Glennon or Josh McCown. McCown or Glennon. Somewhere this is the quarterback corollary of rock and a bad place.
30) Tennessee Titans. Are we to the point where Jake Locker can get his own intro music like a professional wrestler? Suggestions on what that could be? Anyhoo, we would appreciate a "Locker Light" somewhere on the screen of Titans broadcasts, that way we'd know whether or not they have a chance and it's worth a look. Because we do know this: If Charlie Whitehurst is the answer, the question has to involve hair-care products.
31) Oakland Raiders. We think the Raiders may have found a kid who can spin it in Derek Carr. That said, the rest of the collection of pirates formerly known as the Silver and Black once upon a time is as sleepy and hollow as the headless horseman.
32) Jacksonville Jaguars. There are some things are true to the universal order of the NFL. Manning being near the front. Jaguars on the bottom. Yep. You stay classy Jacksonville.
The playoffs have been crazy. And entertaining.
The Nationals stayed alive last night with a 4-1 win. The Dodgers are in a 2-1 hole of the best of five after Monday's 3-1 loss.
The Dodgers will hand the ball to Clayton Kershaw tonight in a win-or-back-the-uniforms game 4.
This and that
- Name from the past: Tony Franklin. Yep, the former Auburn offensive coordinator who jumpstarted the spread craze on the Plains in the disastrous 2008 debacle that cost Tommy Tuberville his job and started arguably the strangest and wildest ride in college football the last five years, is making a huge splash at California. The Bears are 4-1 with Franklin calling plays for Sonny Dykes and Co. and rank in the top seven in passing yards, yards per play and scoring.
- Seattle cornerback and voice box Richard Sherman was made at Washington wide out Pierre Garcon on Monday night/ Garcon apparently pulled Sherman's hair. No word whether there was any pinching or whether anyone missed recess. Side note: Dude, you got dreads coming out, you're giving something to grab. Period.
- This is a mean and sad story. A North Carolina football recruit named Houshun Gaines committed to Florida only to learn that he had been fooled online and on social media by someone posing as a Florida coach. The kid has a handful of offers from some ACC schools and jumped at the fake Florida offer. That's cruel. Dude committed at a ceremony before the whole school before the truth was uncovered.
It was 98 years ago today Georgia Tech defeated Cumberland 222-0. The facts around that game are alleged in most cases, but still nonetheless awesome.
Cumberland had discontinued football the previous year but were going to have to pay $3,000 if they canceled the game. So a team of 14 students showed up to face John Heisman - yes, that John Heisman, namesake of the Trophy - and the Georgia Tech Engineers, as they were know then. The previous spring, Cumberland beat Tech and Heisman 22-0 in baseball, and there were whispers Cumberland had some professional ringers on the field.
Heisman also hated the idea that the polls were skewed by how many points teams scored, and according to perspective pieces of people looking back at the time, he may have been trying to make a point about quality of competition and margin of victory - which amazingly is a conversation we're still having 98 years later.
So, Tech, locked and loaded and a powerhouse against 14 students from the Lebanon, Tenn., school, posted a host of numbers that will never be approached again. Ever.
In addition to the 222 total points, the best guess compilation of the box score has Tech running 40 times for 1,620 yards and 32 TDs and forcing 15 turnovers. Tech, according to accounts, did not throw a pass.
So, naturally, what's the Rushmore of college football marks never to be broken.