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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) works in the pocket as Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Tyeler Davison (96) gives pressure during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Weekend winners

Patrick Mahomes. Gang, you know my overwhelming and borderline unhealthy man crush on Aaron Rodgers, and I still believe watching him when he's playing well is the best version of quarterback we've seen. And Mahomes may be better.

Tom Brady. OK, he's the GOAT — his combination of skill set and accomplishments are undeniable at this point — and Sunday was a large reminder of that. Dude threw for almost 400 yards — 300 of it after the half — and made the Bucs look every bit the part of NFC heavyweight. Meanwhile, the Pats lost at Miami on Sunday and were eliminated from the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years.  

Nick Saban. Amid all the craziness of every college football season, Saban is there, atop the rankings and setting the standard. So when 2020 rolled in, and everything we knew was rendered imperfect and lawed, Saban and his program stood tall amid the confusion and the clutter. It's not fair to compare a professional team in the era of free agency, but Saban has built a Belichickian monster in Tuscaloosa. And just like it's not fair to compare NFL to SEC teams in terms of freedom and roster patience, Saban's run is every bit as impressive in much tougher, more competitive and universally more balanced circumstances than Wooden's or Summitt's or even Auriemma's. I'll say it. It's no longer applicable to say Saban is the best college football coach of all time. He's the best college coach to ever hold a whistle. Him or Rodney Allison.

Lamont Paris and the Mocs basketball program. UTC is 8-and-bagel, this after Paris won 20 games last year and has redirected an absolute mess — on the floor and in the locker room — left by Matt McCall a few years ago. In fact, the only reason to have some holiday blues if you don the Blue and Gold of the Mocs is that Paris is going to be a name on a lot of lists when we actually get back to college sports as we knew them.

Tiger and Charlie Woods. Yes, I know they did not win, but wow that 11-year-old kid can slap swing a golf club friends. That father-son golf event was fun, and I was watching live when young Mr. Woods hit a 5-wood to 3-feet on a par on Saturday to set up his eagle putt. (He made it, of course, and cue Verne, "In your life") Couple of big-picture questions in terms of the long-range golf horizon for Woods the Younger. OK, it's clear that Charlie gets to check both the nature and nuture boxes in terms of golf preparation, as his genetics and his fortuitous familial setting will all every advantage possible. But, golf, as much as any other sport, takes a certain unyielding pursuit of the unreachable that often does not come with as much privilege that Charlie will enjoy in his teenage years. Simply put, to be a Justin, a Dustin, a Phil and especially a Tiger, the ability to make it look that easy on Sundays was forged with a million 9-irons in the twilight at the range on every day that ends in 'y' for decades.  

My fantasy football decisions. That's right, in The Pitch semifinals, we had a rough Saturday. Our opponent had Josh Allen and Stephon Diggs, each of whom went nuts. Arguably my best player all season — Davante Adams (thanks Wells) — had arguably is worst game since coming back from injury. We were down 58-7 starting Sunday's action and made the decision to pick up a waiver-wire running back and sit QB1 Matt Ryan, who had been slumping but was bona fide aces Sunday against Tampa. That 11th hour waiver-wire addition was Tony Pollard, who was among the high scoring RBs, and we sat Ryan for a little fella in Philly named Jalen Hurts, who was QB1 of the weekend. Add in a little DeAndre Hopkins and a side of Jonathan Taylor and that 51-point hole vanished rather quickly. And, fingers crossed, we've made it to the title game with a young go-getter named Christian McCaffrey on the bench for the last few months.

 

Weekend losers

A bowl system that fails this badly. No, this is not about expansion as much as it is about a 3-7 Tennessee team getting a bowl invite and a 9-2 Army not getting one. Shame.

Speaking of shame and Tennessee football, everyone involved with the program. Phil, Jeremy has to go. It is past time, and if you can't see it, you likely need to go too. We all ave to believe the only remaining conversation is money, and if it is anything else, then the levels of dysfunction in K-Town are deeper and more troubling than we know. But simply put, even in a time of a pandemic, Fulmer and Co. have to find a way to raise that money, because the product is simply woeful. And this team is under-prepared and dreadful in execution. Friends, that's 100 percent coaching. What's the highlight of this year? A pantsing of Missouri, which was pantsed by Mississippi State on Saturday? Now for the lowlights, well, where do we begin? The assistants not accepting pay cuts because of the pandemic? The miserable handling of the QBs, speaking of which Jarrett Guarantano entered the transfer portal over the weekend, and you have to wonder after he threw that many TD picks to Kentucky, why it took so long. The sheer numbers that Pruitt is 0-9 against Alabama, Georgia and Florida and none of the nine have been in doubt. Now comes news that the NCAA and the UT compliance department are investigating Pruitt and his staff for possible violations, and the litany of jokes on Twitter that centered on, "We're cheating and we're this bad?" Man, I should have stood strong on my original statements that Pruitt was overmatched — words I rolled back through the back half of last year as we all were fooled by the Vols' fast finish in an SEC that was worse than we realized. If you doubt that Pruitt is overmatched and has no business being anything more than a coordinator, ask yourself what does this team do well, and in what area are they well coached? And then remember, they allegedly are cutting corners to put THIS product on the field.  

New York Jets. Yes, as Rosie Perez tried to tell Billly Hoyle in "White Men Can't Jump" sometimes when you win, you actually lose. Such was the case Sunday because the Jets truly need the No. 1 overall — and that's with the admission that their issues are much bigger and deeper than just a QB1 like Trevor Lawrence — for the excitement, the energy and the hope a can't miss dude like Lawrence represents. Now the Jets currently sit at No. 2 in the draft order, and as someone who loves the draft — you know this — and follows it closely, the gap between Lawrence and everyone else is immense. (Side questions: Thoughts on "White Men Can't Jump" as a film in general, and could that movie be made in today's more socially sensitive/insecure times?)

Carson Wentz. Yes, Jalen Hurts could easily have been a weekend winner, but considering that Wentz said he was not comfortable being a back-up before Hurts went nuts Sunday afternoon, his day was worse than Hurts' day was great. Carson Wentz has to be shuttled out of Philly, right?

Wow, my college picks are limping to the finish. Heck, it's worse than that. They are dying on the vine. Two wins, four losses and two games called by the COVID. No es bueno. And at this point, riding with the Tide makes all the sense in the world — I know they did not cover Saturday, but still — and rolling against the Vols also seems like the smart play. Of course it would have been much smarter to roll that theory out there, say Halloween rather than Christmas week.

 

Speaking of picks.
 

Let's go bowling friends. That's right, as TFP college football guru David Pashcall's alluded to in the headline of is SEC championship follow/bowl news, nothing screams 2020 college football than the made-for-TV, big-money match-up of Alabama and Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl in Texas.


So there's that.

And of course we're going to have the bowl contest, but since there is actually a bowl game today — the tradition-rich Myrtle Beach Bowl with North Texas catching 20 from App State (we're going to ride the over 65, and just because we pick every bowl game we'll take the points too) — we are going to cut back the first few so everyone can get their entries in. Deal? Deal.
 
(Side note: Did you know that North Texas has two all-time bowl wins in program history? The Mean Green won the Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2013, and the 1947 Salad Bowl. Seriously. And I feel like I know a fair amount about sports, but I had zero idea there was actually a Salad Bowl back in the day. And don't we need some more clever names like the Salad Bowl? And why is there not a Campbell's Soup Bowl? Seriously.)

Before we get to the bowl games and points and point spreads, the playoff is fractured, and in truth the committee's biggest miss was not in the selections, it was in the opportunity.

I know it's 2020 and nothing is as we want it. Nothing.

And the final four — Alabama, Clemson, THE Ohio State and Notre Dame — are pretty much the four we expected for several weeks now.

And yes, the hypocrisy of using the 'body of work' argument to explain Notre Dame being included after getting housed by Clemson on Saturday and then ignoring the lack of strength in THE body of work from THE Ohio State is appalling. (And that no one asking the questions on ESPN — which partners with the college playoff — is just as disappointing.)

But the opportunities missed here were more egregious than the selections.

Consider: The committee had the chance to expand and experiment long before Sunday's announcement.

Consider: The committee had the chance to end the conversation and the laments of the little guy for the foreseeable future by allowing Cincy to get skull-thumped by Clemson and Coastal Carolina to get Biblically beaten by Bama.

Consider: The committee even had the chance to come out and say, "You know what, there are really only two teams worthy of being in the playoff, and to make every effort to have both of those teams healthy in the time of COVID, Alabama will play Clemson for all the marbles."

Of course, because of the TV deals, that last one could not happen, but you get the idea.

Also, beyond the hypocrisy, it's impossible to not at least believe that the star-studded final four — a dazzling collection by every measure the four biggest names in current college football and the two biggest names in the history of the sport — was not in some ways crafted to help the plummeting TV ratings.
And when those type of 'conspiracy theories' start to form — and there are plausible and believable reasoning behind them — things can only go from bad to worse. Because now you're hearing folks make mention that the head of the committee is the AD at Iowa, who certainly now the value — and the sacrifices made by THE Big Ten to get THE Ohio State in the dance.

Does Texas A&M deserve to be there? I don't know, but I did think that the committee's job was to get the four best and most deserving teams, and if the overwhelming reasoning not to include Texas A&M was because they did not want a rematch, well, that's different criteria all together. (And a criteria that only adds fuel to the conspiracy fires.)  

As for the bowl contest, of course we're having the Bowling for Bowls of Bowl Game Success, Bowler Optional. It's the longest running of our contests and easily the most difficult to grade. Here's the skinny: Pick the winners from the list below, and the point spreads list below matter and will not change.

Questions? We will start with the New Mexico Bowl, which kicks on Christmas Eve, which is Thursday, so we need your entry before that game starts.

One-point games

New Mexico Bowl — Houston (-11.5) vs. Hawaii

Camellia Bowl — Marshall (-3.5) vs. Buffalo

Gasparilla Bowl — UAB (-4.5) vs. South Carolina

First Responders Bowl — Louisiana (-13.5) vs. USTA

Lending Tree Bowl — Georgia State (-4.5) over Western Kentucky

Two-point games

Cure Bowl — Coastal Carolina (-6.5) vs. Liberty

Cheez-It Bowl — Oklahoma State (-3.5) vs. Miami (Side question: Speaking of bowl names, shouldn't this be the Bowl Full of Cheez-Its?)

Alamo Bowl — Texas (-11.5) vs. Colorado

Duke's Mayo Bowl — Wisconsin (-6.5) vs. Wake Forest

Music City Bowl — Iowa (-14.5) vs. Missouri

Three-point games

Armed Forces Bowl — Tulsa (-2.5) vs. Mississippi State

Arizona Bowl — San Jose State (-7.5) vs. Ball State

Texas Bowl — TCU (-5.5) vs. Arkansas

Five-point games

Liberty Bowl — West Virginia (-3.5) vs. Tennessee

Cotton Bowl — Oklahoma (-3.5) vs. Florida

Peach Bowl — Georgia (-6.5) vs. Cincinnati

Citrus Bowl — Northwestern (-3.5) vs. Auburn

Outback Bowl — Indiana (-7.5) vs. Ole Miss

Fiesta Bowl — Iowa State (-4.5) vs. Oregon

Orange Bowl — UNC (-6.5) vs. Texas A&M

Gator Bowl — Kentucky (-3.5) vs. North Carolina State

Seven-point games

Rose Bowl — Alabama (-18.5) vs. Notre Dame

Sugar Bowl — Clemson (-7.5) vs. THE Ohio State

National champion pick (no spread) —

 

This and that

— Our listed NFL picks went 3-2 last week — we had the over on Thursday night — but our actual picks on Saturday and Sunday did much better than that. Much better. Still the Magnolia State — Ole Miss spitting the bit and Mississippi State delivering an unexpectedly inspired effort — made for a mixed weekend. We're going to ride the Steelers tonight and lay the monster lumber of 13.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the SEC also-rans heading to bowl games too. Yes, I know, I am going to watch, but man there are not a lot of match-ups I would describe as can't miss.

— Keep your head on the college basketball swivel. And to that end, the NBA starts tomorrow. Of course it does.  

— Titans rolling; Falcons fading. Atlanta has to lose out, and then the QB questions have to start, because the statue that is Matt Ryan is not going to age well.

 

Today's questions

Weekend winners and losers. Go.

You in for the Bowl contest? Of course you will be.

As for multiple choice Monday, which non-playoff bowl game above is the most interesting to you?

As for today, Dec. 21, let's review.

Samuel L. Jackson is 72 today. Did you now that Samuel L. Jackson's movies have made the most box office money of any actor ever?

The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock on this day in 1620.

On this day in 1891, the first game of basketball was played by 18 students in Springfield, Mass.

On this day in 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney's first full-length animated feature film, was released.

Rushmore of movies with a number in the title (and sequels like Godfather 2 are not eligible). Go, and remember the bowl contest.

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