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Alabama head coach Nick Saban, right, talks with Daniel Wright as he walks off the field during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Missouri, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Weekend winners

Stetson Bennett IV, quarterback at law. Amid all the names and portals and injuries and the hand-wringing from a subpar Week 1 showing, Bennett was Arthur Fonzarelli cool in his first start at Sanford Stadium as Georgia dominated Auburn on Saturday night. Some birthday present, Gus. Jackwagon. (Side question: What is the age of demarkation for getting the full Christian-name reference of Arthur Fonzarelli? Is it still universal? What if I set the over/under at 33? Intern Scott, do you know Arthur Fonzarelli?)

William Riddle. Making his first start in the biggest rivalry in Chattanooga, Riddle was aces in an overpowering first half as McCallie rolled Baylor Friday night at Finley. How about this: Riddle had four first-half TD passes; Baylor had four first-half first downs.

Jimmy Butler. OK, there are now three dudes in the history of the NBA to have a 40-point triple-double in the Finals. Jerry West, the Logo, did it. LeBron James, the King, did it. Last night, the Butler did it. His stat line in a must-have Game 3 for the Heat was staggeringly great: 45 minutes, 14-of-20 from the field, 12-of-14 from the line, 11 boards, 13 assists. Now the Heat are down 2-1 and could get Goran Dragi and even Bam Adebayo back for Game 4. Series on.

Tom Brady. Yes, we are a little QB heavy today, but hey, that's the nature of the beast. QBs get too much credit for the wins and too much blame for the losses. So it goes. But TB12 was circa-2007 Brady on Sunday. Nine receivers caught a Brady pass; five Bucs caught TD passes. All of Brady's final numbers — 30-of-46, 369 yards, five scores — were needed as the Bucs moved to 3-1 with a 38-31 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Baseball playoff match-ups. There were a lot of us who did not think baseball would get this far. But now they are through the regular season and the first round of the expanded playoffs, and now they go to the respective bubbles with four Divisional pairings that include some of the biggest brands in the game. The Yankees advanced with their national brand and almost 7 million viewers in the country's largest TV market. So did the Dodgers and their national brand and more than 5 million viewers. Yes, baseball would have loved either or both of the Chicago clubs to advance (the Windy City is third in TV markets), but MLB had teams from the No. 6 (Oakland), the No. 8 (Houston), the No. 10 (Atlanta), the No. 12 (Tampa Bay), and the No. 16 (Miami) TV markets. Will that turn the dismal ratings? Hard to know, but baseball is a winner this weekend if for no other reason than how many of us really expected them to be in a place to crown a World Series champ?

Bonus pick: Jeremy Pruitt. The Vols faced a tricky spot against a MIzzou bunch that will surprise someone before this season is done. And UT punched them in the face. Physical and efficient — and with some surprisingly sound decision-making from QB Jarrett Guarantano — UT never let Missouri in the game and left little doubt that Year 3 under Pruitt is pointed in the right direction.    

 

Weekend losers

Lincoln Riley. Wow, the shine's of Riley's rose a touch, huh? Oklahoma is unranked for the first time since 2016 after Saturday's loss to Iowa State. For one of the real blue bloods in college football, you can make an argument that this is the worst 10 days since the NCAA left town after blowing up Barry Switzer's powerhouse in the 1980s. Consider that the Sooners have lost back-to-back games to Kansas State (which OU had a 76-20-4 record before that game) and Iowa State (which OU had a 76-7-2 record) is the first losing streak in Norman in this century. It was also the Sooners' first loss at Ames, Iowa since Nov. 5, 1960, or three days before Kennedy beat Nixon for the Oval Office.  

Everyone in the Auburn football program from Gus Malzahn all the way down to the equipment guys. Wow, that was unexpected. And unacceptable. Unprepared. Undisciplined. Unmotivated. Underwhelming. Loved the effort of a couple of skill guys —Tank Bigsby will be the SEC freshman of the year if Gus is half the offensive 'whiz' most believe him to be, and Anthony Schwartz is going to be a "Wow" guy on Sundays when someone decides to throw him something other than a bubble screen — but every other phase, from the the coaching to the cadence and from outside the lines to the lines of scrimmage was dominated by Georgia. And getting stomped by Georgia is becoming a predictable problem for Malzahn.  

Mike Leach. Yep, the SEC comes at you pretty quickly, right Coach Pirate. After landing the biggest win for Starkville in goodness knows how long, Leach and MSU got bullied and had sand kicked in its face by the SEC 90-pound weakling that has been Arkansas, which had lost 20 straight SEC games.

Dallas defense. THat's three straight games that the Cowboys have surrendered 38-plus points. Egad. How bad has the defense been? Try this number on for size? Dak Prescott has thrown for 1,690 yards in four games — yes, that's 422.5 per game — and the Cowboys are the Falcons being the Falcons on an onside kick from being bagel-and-4.

Weekend college picks. 3-4 in college picks, with a couple of painfully close ones and a couple of downirght disasters. Here's the definite line of struggling in terms of picking games: Self doubt. Because the following picks — made on the radio in fact — did not make the column: Arkansas over Mississippi State, Ole Miss to win outright as a TD underdog, Auburn-Georgia under 44 and change, and Alabama to smoke A&M. Also had earmarked in the picks column SMU — which was killing Memphis before its star WR hurt his knee — and Oklahoma State, which got the golden ticket of playing a Kansas team that is GAWD awful, before leaving them on the cutting room floor. (Maybe we should stick to the SEC a little more, huh?)

 

Different class

Couple of staples in and around our Weekend winners and losers by now.

 

We could almost every week put NASCAR in the losers in terms of shrinking TV numbers. (Right now, that is having an effect on everyone in every league that is not the NFL. For example, last week at Vegas, NASCAR raced against Sunday night football AND Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals as the race fell almost 20 percent from 2019.)


And we can almost every weekend put Alabama in the weekend winners.

 

Every. Single. Weekend.


In fact, as we talk about the Patriots and the greatest dynasty in modern professional sports, we need to realize that what Nick Saban has crafted in Tuscaloosa is arguably the most impressive thing ever in college football.

 

And it's the most impressive run of excellence I have ever seen in sports and it's even more impressive than the titles and the success.


Name the last time Alabama beat itself. Name the last time Alabama showed up unprepared. Name the last time, heck, you fill in the blank about all the other things that happen to every other program in college football.

 

Yes, even the next level of elite programs such as Clemson and Georgia. The Tigers and Dabo were not ready against UNC last year. The Bulldogs have had a couple of moments of looking ahead or playing lethargic under Kirby.

 

And those are clearly the next two best programs in the sport.


But not Alabama under Nick Saban. Sure, the Tide has lost a few times and — GASP! — actually did not make the playoff last season.

Think back to those losses. They range from historically freaky — hello Kick Six, the billion turnovers against Ole Miss, et al. — to teams (last year's LSU) or players (Cam Newton or Johnny Football) that were transcendental.  

Of course those are the exceptions, because football on Saturdays has a ruler.

And his name is Nick Saban.


It's truly amazing to see the machine he has built.

And this is from an Auburn graduate. Sigh.

 

This and that

— You know the rules, and there were a lot of Paschall's prose over the weekend, but today's were especially notable. First there is Kirby Smart's continued dominance over Gus Malzahn as well as the rest of David's details from around the SEC. There's also the details of a much bigger UGA-UT game than many may have realized getting the 3:30 SEC treatment Saturday. Good times.

— We got some Packers Backers tonight in the Intimidator Pool, so we will update that Tuesday. Deal? Deal.

— Our NFL picks went 2-0 Sunday. One of our picks was Pats minus-7 against Kansas City then COVID. That game has been moved to tonight, and the Pats traveled to K.C. this morning and will start Brian Hoyer rather than Cam Newton, who has coronavirus. The line went from 7 to 11.5. No thanks. We have two lines in the water tonight — Packers minus the 6.5 (bought the half) and over 57 — and considering that we've teetered at .500 for all our picks all year, the smart plays are likely the Falcons and the under. So it goes.

— Speaking of the Yankees, how important are the Bronx Bombers to the boardroom of baseball broadcast buddies? No Wildcard round game this year topped any of the previous win-and-advance Wildcard games of previous years, but that is to be expected because of the finality and drama of the lose-and-go-home format of previous Wildcard games in the MLB. But the Yankees over the Indians was easily the most-watched Wildcard series, with the two games averaging almost 2.6 million viewers. The numbers — despite going against the Presidential debate one night and Game 1 of the NBA Finals the other — from those two games are the best for baseball since the first series of the season. And two of the three games that ranked ahead of the Yankees' postseason wins last week were Yankees-Nationals in that season-opening series. Conversely, the Rays beating the Jays in Game 2 on Wednesday of last week is the lowest of any MLB postseason game ever with an average audience of 345,000. It ranked 93rd among cable broadcasts on Wednesday, way behind ESPN's screamfest that is First Take that day and a few spots and more than hundred thousand viewers behind "Blues Clues and You" on Nickelodeon.

— When Malik Jackson is done with the NFL, maybe he should invest in a NASCAR team. For as long as I can remember, the NASCAR mantra was always, "If you ain't cheatin' you ain't tryin'" when it came to find an extra couple of RPMs or pounds of pressure or you name it. Well, Jackson, the cagey veteran DT who played at Tennessee, went viral after moving the football while no one was looking last night. Check it out here.

— I guess the jury is still out on the new ESPN morning show. But as the Keyshawn Johnson, Jay Williams and Zubin Whoshispants trio was kicking around topics Monday morning, well, I've never been among the "You can't talk sports if you didn't play sports" crowd. Still it's interesting to listen to Keyshawn — who was one of the most controversial players of his generation and titled his book "Just Give Me the Damn Ball — talking about sportsmanship is an interesting juxtaposition.

— Kudos to Sergio Garcia for winning the PGA event this weekend. With the exception of Bryson DeChambeau's run at the U.S. Open, I have not watched a single swing of a golf tournament since football returned. You?
 

Today's question

Weekend winners and losers. Fire away.

Multiple choice Monday will offer this:

Biggest late 1970s/early 1980s TV star male character:

— J.R. Ewing;

— Arthur Fonzarelli;

— Archie Bunker;

— Hawkeye Pierce.

As for today, well, it's Oct. 5, let's review.

Kate Winslet is 45 today. I'm a fan of her work. Other than Titanic of course.

Today is National Be Nice Day.
Two all-timers died on this day — Rodney Dangerfield in 2004 and Steve Jobs in 2011.

OK, rare Monday night football doubleheader tonight. Good times.

I think the peak MNF crew of Cosell, Dandy Don Meredith and Frank Gifford is among the best to ever do it.

All-time Rushmore of football broadcast teams, college and pro. Go, and enjoy the day.

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