FILE - Duke players celebrate after the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament championship game against Wisconsin in Indianapolis, in this Monday, April 6, 2015, file photo. The NCAA announced Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, it plans to hold the entire 2021 men's college basketball tournament in one geographic location to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 and is in talks with Indianapolis to be the host city (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

NFL Power poll

In this day and age of sports, the future is paved in the past, with the words of erstwhile radio DJ Casey Kasem.

(Side note: For those of us a certain age, Casey doing America's Top 40 countdown on the FM dial was gold. Gold, Jerry. Mix in a couple of long-distance dedications and that was several hours well spent. Stupid music on demand. Stupid Interwebs.)

Anywell, Casey's signature sign-off was, "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."

The biggest strength and the lifeblood for the future of any sport and every league it's young stars. Young guys that are approachable, are engaging, are connectable and are excellent.

It's the question for all the leagues.

Does golf have a banner carrier after Tiger? Maybe.

Does baseball have young marketable super stars? It has a few — Acuña, Betts, Trout, Soto, among them — but not sure if they national needle movers.

Does the NBA? Yes, and no, because there is a Luka and a few others, but the next generation does not have the connection that LeBron does, or even Steph or Durant and a slew of others. And in truth, it may not be fair for the game or the franchises, but it's way better for the NBA for Giannis to make a move after his exile in Milwaukee is up after the 2020-21 season.

But the league that likely needs it the least, has an avalanche of young stars at the most impactful position of them all.

Look around at the young QBs in today's game. It's staggering when you consider Murray and Watson and Mahomes of course, and Jackson and Tua and Herbert and Burrow and Allen to name but a half dozen or more.

And there potentially are a handful more coming with Trevor and Fields and Trask and Mac Jones and the kid from North Dakota State.

Wow. Makes you wonder how long some franchises are going to roll with what they have and not play the roulette wheel of drafting a new one in the first two rounds very year until you hit. Because the second-guessers about Arizona — who took MVP candidate Kyler Murray No. 1 overall a year after drafting Josh Rosen in the top 10 — are harder to find than old folks who spend summers in Phoenix and winters in Detroit.

Speaking of hits, let's check the poll.

1 Pittsburgh. Regulars around these parts have heard me offer nothing but praise for the consistent greatness of the Steelers drafting principles and procedures. Because this team is 9-0, will be favored in all of its remaining games with the possible exception of the Thanksgiving date with the lagging Ravens and is doing it in myriad ways. And another testament to the drafting success: Name the last free agent name the Steelers acquired?

2 Kansas City. The Chiefs get a swing at the only team that toppled the defending champs this weekend. Should be fun, for sure.

3 Tampa Bay. Yes, the Saints have waxed Tompa Bay twice this year, and yes, I have them ranked ahead of New Orleans. More on that in a moment. As for the Bucs, I wonder if Bruce Arians is prepared to recalibrate his style and chuck the "No risk-it, no biscuit style" in favor of the two tight ends, play-action plan that allows Brady to be a top-five QB in the league, even at 43. If he doesn't do it, Arians is a fool. Period. If the hallmark of great coaching is doing more with less and the sum of your team's parts being better than the parts, then the hallmark of terrible coaching is forgoing your players' strengths to make them fit your preferences. At least that's my view on it.

4 New Orleans. What a great chance to re-craft his career Jamies Winston has in front of him. Should be fun to watch. And I don't know about you, but Drew Brees is tougher than a 75-cent ribeye. Dear buckets, if I had five fractured ribs and a collapsed lung like Brees did on Sunday, well, I don't know what I would have done, but standing on the sideline would not be part of it.

5 Green Bay. There are few things as great as watching Aaron Rodgers play QB right now.



26-29 The NFC East. GER-ross.

30 Houston. With the surging Dolphins — winners of five straight — holding the Texans' first-rounder and with the DeAndre Hopkins catch being shown on a loop, the Dan LeBatard Show asked Monday if the Texans should drive over to Bill O'Brien's house and fire him again.

31 Jacksonville. Great effort to stay in the game with a disinterested Packers bunch on Sunday. No team NEEDS Trevor more than these Jags.

32 Jets. Hey, who says there's nothing you can truly count on in 2020. J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!


NCAA bubble

News of the NCAA looking at bubbling up in Indianapolis for March Madness had a strange feel Monday afternoon.

Of course we all love March Madness. Of course we want the kids to have a chance to play in their ultimate dreams of the NCAA tournament. Of course we want to feel normal. Of course, of course, of course.

But the first thought was, does this feel a lot premature?

There are so many teams that do not even know who they are going to play or when they are going to start?

Yes, you have to plan and try to put pieces together in an effort to have any type of tournament when the time comes. And the bubble proved very effective for the NBA's usage.

Second, the appearance of this feels kind of dirty, and not just in a "college basketball is dirty" kind of way.

Fact 1: The NCAA lost hundreds of millions of dollars by cancelling the tournament last March.

Fact 2: Another hundred-million hit would catastrophic for the vast majority of college sports programs outside the uber-elite.

Fact 1 + Fact 2 = Desperation.

Granted, I believe 99-plus percent of the kids want to play and just as many want a tournament.

This one feels a bit more exploitive, no?


Braves pitching answer?

We have lamented for a while that your Atlanta Braves need to add a frontline ace to be a real World Series contender.

That need and request is tempered a bit by the emergence of Max Fried and Ian Anderson last year and with the expected return of Mike Soroka in 2021. That's a very good core to a potentially very good rotation.

So maybe the Braves could have added a King or even a Jack rather than a bona fide ace.

Monday, which turned into one of the sneakiest biggest sports news days in quite a while, the Braves added a pitcher. He is surely not an ace.

He's more like the eight of clubs.

Atlanta added Drew Smyly, a journeyman left-hander who is the definition of mediocre. He's 31 and has a 35-35 record with a 4.13 ERA in his career after going 0-1 with a 3.42 ERA last year in seven appearances for the Giants.

As you would expect, we have thoughts.

First, the hard-to-fathom news: That extreme testament to mediocrity in today's MLB is worth $11 million for one season with the Braves. (Yes, 11 million U.S. dollars.)

And for some perspective of contract explosion in terms of dollars, in the offseason following the 1991 season, you could have signed Jack Morris and traded for an in-his prime Roger Clemens and paid the two of them less than the $11 million guaranteed the Braves will give Smyly. Pass the aspirin.

Second, the sad news: You have to think this is the Braves pitching signing of the offseason. Maybe they look to a retread, all-or-nothing minor league offer to a King Felix or someone else, but this feels like the offseason move in the pitching staff.

Now, if the bargain basement addition to the staff means extra coin for Marcel Ozuna, then OK.

And I've said many times that Alex Anthopoulous has earned the benefit of the doubt with a series of shrewd moves that have almost universally proved correct.

But Smyly + a mediocre RH bat - Ozuna = Braves worse in 2021.

It's math people.  


This and that

— The 2021 baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released Monday. (Seriously, a ton of stuff happened Monday. A literal ton.) There were 11 first-timers on the ballot — Mark Buehrle, A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Dan Haren, LaTroy Hawkins, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, Aramis Ramirez, Nick Swisher, Shane Victorino and Barry Zito — and none of that group appears to be a first-ballot guy. Which heightens the PED conversation in a year in which the PED conversation must be had. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, got 61 and 60.7 percent of the vote respectively, last year. Each enters his ninth year on the ballot, and as a reminder, a player can only be on the ballot 10 years without election before being removed. Curt Schilling, also entering his ninth year in the process, had the most votes without induction last year, landing on more than 70 percent of the ballots.

— Got a little MACtion tonight. I am on Kent State minus-25.5 over the Akron Arths, and I may parlay that with a taste on the under 61.5 with some serious weather concerns in Kent, Ohio.

— The NBA draft is tomorrow. There were a slew of trades made too. Not sure how much zest I can muster for the NBA right about now considering all the things happening around the sports spectrum and the world in general.    

— James Harden turned down a two-year, $103 million extension. Seriously. What kind of world do we live in where a) James Harden, who will never be the best player on a title winner, merits more than $51 million per year, and b) said player turns that down. Buckets. Harden is trying to angle a deal to Brooklyn to be with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving with the Nets.

— I did not see the story Monday when USA Today released the stunning and shocking and, if true, inexcusable story of the allegations of sexual assault against nine LSU football players in Coach O's four years. The story also states that LSU mishandled the complaints under Title IX regulations. Friends, if this can be connected to Ed Orgeron's desk, 2019 natty or no, LSU will simply have to clear the deck.  

— You know the rules. Here's TFP college football pooh bah David Paschall on the long break between action for Auburn and Tennessee. (Side note: I completely expect UT and Bama grad Jeremy Pruitt to play its best game of the season and beat Auburn. Truly. Tennessee plus-10 is a gift.) Here's Paschall's prose on the Bulldogs motivating themselves without their normal national title hopes at stake. And because somewhere in his contract he should get paid by the byline, here's Paschall on Alabama adjusting to the unadjustable.

— Speaking of UT, well, if the Vols do play the Tigers this week, according to the UT depth chart, Jarrett Guarantano will be the starting QB. That was not well received by VolsTwitter to say the least.

— Speaking of the rules, well, here's TFP sports editor and high school sports guru Stephen Hargis updating the latest in the surreal situation involving McMinn County, the corona and a playoff game that became a controversy. This is a national story in this day and age, all things considered in the conflict between COVID and coexisting.

— From ESPN gambling expert David Purdum, there was $5.1 million bet with Tennessee sports books on the first day the market launched.

— Here's today's A2 column. Enjoy.


Today's questions

Hey, it's Tuesday, true or false.

True or false, you have made a legalized sports bet in Tennessee.

True or false, McMinn County should have been forced to forfeit.

True or false, Ed Orgeron will be the LSU coach for the 2021 season opener.

True or false, UT fans would trade current coach Jeremy Pruitt for recently fired Will Muschamp right now.

You know the drill. Answer some T or Fs, leave some T or Fs.

As for today, Nov. 17, Martin Scorsese is 78.
What's the all-time directing great's Rushmore?