AP photo by Butch Dill / Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. carries the ball against Auburn during the second half of last Saturday's matchup of SEC West rivals.

Fab 4 picks (minus-3?)

Where did the season go? Seriously. That was quick.

So we head to conference title weekend with extra skin in the game.

A reader heckled our picks earlier this year, and considering where we started, it was an accurate and deserved  heckle.

A wager was placed that my picks could not get to .500. After last week, we are one-game over .500.

So here we are. (And anyone who knows me or follows this daily conversation knows 50% is never the goal. We want to get north of 55% and have for many years been around that 60% mark against the spread. That's entertaining for sure.)

With that knowledge, the prudent play is to pick one game and move along, right?

Well, as Forrest Gump said, "Jenny, I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is." Or was that Air Supply?

Either way, it's go time.

Georgia minus-6 over Alabama. I am tempted by the under 50 here too, but we'll just stick with the juggernaut that's been Kirby's crew to this point. And yes, I'd rather make a living selling snake oil to rattlers than have to bet against Lord Saban on a regular basis, but Georgia is that good.

Southern Cal plus-4 over California. Better talent. And that talent knows what the future holds and that future has to be exciting.

Louisiana-Lafayette plus-3 over App State. A team riding an 11-game winning streak is getting a field goal? At home? Yes, please. I know Billy Napier done R-U-N-N-O-F-T'ed but the Cajuns are good.

Utah State plus-6 over San Diego State. Utah State is the Aggies. Utah is the Utes. And I know I can't think of a ute and not think of the "Two U-thes" scene from "My Cousin Vinny." And that begs the question, how underrated was Fred Gwynn, the judge who was aces in that movie, as well as the creepy neighbor in "Pet Cemetery" and Herman Munster? That's for real range right there. (Side question: How about that analysis of the Utah State upset, huh?)

Cincinnati minus-10 over Houston. Statement moment right here. For Luke Fickell. For the program. For the Group of Five. Cue Merle in the locker room before the barely big enough for three syllables Hickory Huskers toppled the mighty Bears of South Bend Central: "Let's win this one for all the small schools who never had a chance to get here."


Last week: 3-2 against the spread (60%)

This season 44-43 against the spread (50.6% — Giddy up)


Playoff expansion

So the powers that be in college football met in Dallas to discuss its championship format.

(Insert your own "That's the only way they can seriously talk about college football titles in Texas these days" joke here.)

No conclusion was reached, but we all see the writing on the wall.

And to me, it looks like a lot of dirty words.

The four-team playoff has been really good. Better than I expected even. Now, they want more teams, and that will mean more money.

But more is not better in my view.

Take this year, and the last two weeks. If there was a 12-team playoff, does Saturday's SEC title game mean a thing? Only for Alabama, which would stay in the top four and get a bye with a win, but the Tide would be a top-12 team either way. Win or lose, Georgia's dominance through the season has punched a top-four ticket this year, so a 12-team playoff would force each side to look seriously at resting players in the title game.

In fact, with a 12-team playoff, the SEC team that would have the most at stake for Saturday's title game would be Ole Miss, which likely would get a bid to a 12-team bracket if Alabama won.

And now look around. Does the Pitt-Wake winner deserve a spot in the title game? How would you separate all the two-loss teams in the Big 12 if Baylor beast Okie State on Saturday? Is THE Ohio State in, which forever changes the big-picture stakes of THE Buckeyes' annual season-ending date with Michigan?

I know my stance may not be the most popular. The more the merrier, right? Inclusivity for all and to all a good night, right?

And moreover, I know my wishful rants about staying at four are Quixotic to the core because expansion is assuredly coming.

But college football's greatest asset — something it has over every sport — is the most emotional and tense regular season around. Expanding that playoff cheapens and devalues that asset.


Strike 3?

Baseball activity has stopped as the owners have locked out the players.

It's the first work stoppage since the 1994 strike that ended up canceling the World Series. (And indirectly forcing the Expos to move, but that's a story for another time.)

The old CBA expired at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, and the owners shut down operations just minutes after midnight.

Granted, a work stoppage for baseball around Christmas is not that impactful for Johnny Baseball Fan.

(Important side note: Although it makes the Braves' inability/unwillingness to get Freddie signed last longer, and the longer it lasts the more it feels like he could go elsewhere. Plus, with the labor sides galvanized, there will be a lot of pressure on free agents to take the biggest offer available, which hurts the penny-pinching Braves, who assuredly are trying to get Freddie on a home-team discount, be that in years or money. And with the way the Mets are throwing their checkbook around, luring Freeman away from Truist would be doubly beneficial since it would make the Mets better — Pete Alonzo can play left — and make the Braves way, Way, WAY worse.)

But Freeman's situation is more of a regional concern. The big-picture question has to be whether this work stoppage will roll into spring and could it impact the season.

The players are looking for ways to speed up the negotiating window for young players, a process that would get young stars the bigger contracts sooner.

The players also want to explore ways to force teams to stop 'tanking' and that could impact everything from the draft to revenue sharing to the salary tax thresholds that the owners view as a soft salary cap.

Here are more of the details about the two sides, and truth be told, there seems to be a great divide between the sides.


This and that

— Too many great pieces in today's TFP about the high school football title games coming to Finley Stadium starting today. Go pick up a paper, people. Heck, Weeds' drawing alone is worth your dollar.

— Looks like Notre Dame is going to hire from within and promote Marcus Freeman. So there's that. Freeman, by all accounts, is a great coach, and it could be a swimmingly good transition. But I always have pause when a program promotes the assistant from within that the players want. That seldom works out.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall's picks column.

— So Candace Parker doesn't like Geno. Shocker. Pretty good back and forth here, and Parker's points about the Team USA stuff have merit. So do Geno's points about team building. Still, not having Parker on any team basketball seems like it's more than a little bit personal.  

— Here are the details of Brian Kelly's deal with LSU. And judging by the numbers — 90% of his $95 million is guaranteed if he's fired without cause — where Vader and Co. like Kelly or not, they best get comfortable with the idea of him being there for a while.


Today's questions

Remember the mailbag friends.

Also, Mike B, Paul J and Brian E, remember your Eliminator Pool picks.

As for today, Dec. 2, let's review.

Britney Spears is 40 today. Aaron Rodgers is 38. If the Mannings are far left on the Rushmore of QB brothers, do the Rodgers make it?

The Hasselbecks  are there, right? Both played in the NFL. What about the Clausens?

Whatcha' got?