The GOATs, and conversely, the NFL. Tom Brady got the win in his much-ballyhooed return to Foxboro. (Need a ruling: ballyhooed, friend or foe? I say friend. What say you?) But Bill Belichick was clearly ready and was another yard or 3 — on the kick or in field position — from taking the lead in the final two minutes. There was a slew of evidence on why each has to be viewed as the greatest of all time, and it was a ratings bonanza for NBC and the NFL. (Side note: Sunday night's Pats-Bucs game could very well be the most-watched regular-season Sunday game in league history with north of 30-plus million viewers. Side question on the side note: Who knew Belichick's kid was the spitting image of Jesse from "Breaking Bad?")
The upper crust of the SEC. Alabama and Georgia left no doubt — none — against the two buzz programs in the conference. And with the upsets, stumbles and fumbles across the country — Hello Oregon — the Tide and the Dawgs are well on their way to having a mulligan in their back pockets, too. (And if that wasn't enough, guess who was in the stands at Bryant Denny to watch Alabama thump Ole Miss? Yeah, Arch Manning.)
Josh Heupel. Yeah, it was not as big as Brady's return to Foxboro, but Heupel returning to Columbia had to have some emotion. And the can of offensive tail-whipping Heupel's Vols opened was awesome in its awesomeness.
Cincinnati. Bearcats, handle your business down the stretch and the canvas is wide open for a 42-3 loss to Georgia in the college football semifinals. But you'd be in that thing, right?
Kentucky. Take a victory lap Chas, because with that improbable win over Florida — 7-of-17 for 87 yards passing only equates to Ws on a regular basis for Navy or Paul Johnson — the Wildcats are in line to be the 2 seed in the East. As Chas trumpeted all offseason. That said, there are only two certainties in the SEC this year: Alabama and Georgia are great, and everything after that is certainly uncertain.
Bonus pick: Bo Nix. The Auburn quarterback handled a benching about as well as possible and was Johnny Manziel-like in the final three quarters at Baton Rouge. In turn, by benching his three-year starting quarterback — and how that three-year starting quarterback handled that benching and leading Auburn to its first win at Red Stick since I was in my 20s — puts an impressive "Win-first, team-first" vibe of Bryan Harsin's first Auburn team, don't you think?
Coach O. Electric atmosphere, a house full of recruits and LSU could not close the deal. How's this for a couple of bad omen stats? Coach O is now 41-2 when holding a halftime lead at Tiger Stadium after Auburn's comeback. And since Joe Burrow left Red Stick, LSU is 8-7, and that's with a remaining schedule that is assuredly daunting: at Kentucky, home vs. Florida, at Ole Miss, at Bama, home vs. Arkansas, La-Monroe and A&M to close it out.
All of our picks. Your Survivor picks. My Flop 4 college picks, which were rotten. All of them struggled. I ignored my own advice of trusting Georgia and Alabama in the column. The Survivor Pool has not seen this much NYC-inflicted carnage since Daniel Day Lewis and DiCaprio took to the streets at the end of "Gangs of New York." Egad.
Trickeration. Can we retire this into the useless football lexicon of ''arm talent'' and ''dial up'' in references to any play call, especially blitzes and pressure? Good, and thanks from a grateful nation of football fans.
Arthur Smith. Experience is a cruel teacher, and I believe Smith is a excellent offensive coordinator. But I believed that about Josh McDaniels, Adam Gase and Matt Nagy, too. Smith looked every bit the part of a first-year coach in play calls, situations, conversations and clock management Sunday in a loss to the Washington Football Team and Ron Rivera.
Houston Texans. Egad. What was that? And how is a team that not three years ago had a top-three young QB and a top three young WR going to be one of the worst teams in NFL history? In a salary-capped sport that is designed to pull everyone to the middle, 40-0 is inexplicable.
Bonus pick: The Tennessee Titans. When the finish line is defined not by how but by how many, if you have postseason hopes, you have to beat the Jets. Plain and simple. Have to.
That's a wrap
The final weekend of baseball's regular season came and went, and MLB got its dream Wildcard matchups.
The wildcard games — Red Sox at Yankees Tuesday; Cards at Dodgers Wednesday — are part of a loaded and deep playoff field that is truly anyone's guess on who wins.
Yes, the Dodgers would have to be slight favorites because they are the deepest team across the board. But would it shock you if a Cardinals team that is 23-9 since Sept. 1 won Wednesday night?
Side note: Courtesy of Dave O'Brien of The Athletic, I believe Ron Washington's quote about the Braves' culture is the most astute assessment of how this team has turned a bond and talent and a belief into an expectation of winning that is worth far more than most of us could ever know. Here's the quote from O'Brien: "That's tough to get 26 guys to love each other, care about each other, do what has to be done to make each other successful ... We've built that. And it doesn't matter who comes in, they fall in line with how we go about our business."
Side note part II: Let's review our preseason picks, shall we? I think we shall. I got five of the 10 playoff teams, missing on the Giants, Rays, Red Sox, A's and Brewers. So there's that. That's mediocre at best.
Then there was this prediction from the same 5-at-10 before the season: "Speaking of MLB's start, we all love Ronald Acuña. Of course we do. And what's not to love? He fields like Andruw and hits like Sheffield and runs like Gant. And 40-40 is completely within his grasp, especially if he can find just a smidge more contact and keep the Ks under 150. But as great as 40-40 is, I'm stoked to watch Shohei Ohtani chase some unimaginable numbers like 150 innings pitched and 150 total bases, which has happened four times in MLB history, the most recent being when Dave Foutz and Bob Caruthers did it for the St. Louis Browns in 1886. So, yeah, been a while."
And while we all ached when Acuña tore his ACL and Shohei the Great did not get to 150-150, he certainly did not disappoint. In fact, he just completed the greatest individual regular season in the modern era of the MLB. There, I said it.
Let's review the glory of Shohei Ohtani for a quick second. After winning the 2018 AL rookie of the year, injuries in 2019 and '20 sidetracked his attempts to be the first full-time, two-way player since Babe Ruth.
Well, 2021 Ohtani delivered on every great expectation and surpassed almost all of them.
Just consider the buzz if the Angels had a young outfielder who became just the sixth AL player with more than 45 homers and at least eight triples — the others are Rather, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Jimmie Fox and Jim Rice (Hall of Famers all) — and added 26 steals to the mix. That's young Bonds or Canseco numbers, without the PEDs.
And now picture any team's excitement to have a young starting pitcher who went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA and averaged 10.8 Ks per nine innings with a sub-1.1 WHiP and the game's single most dominant pitch. (Opponents hit .087 and swung and missed 48.5 percent of the time vs. Ohtani's splitter.)
Now remember it's the same dude, and how much better could he/will he be at the plate if he has a full season of Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon hitting 3 and 4, respectively, behind him?
Just wish he was going to be part of this magical postseason.
This and that
— Here's Saturday's A2 offering.
— We are hosting another 5-at-10 Bracket Challenge this week — we're doing it through the football season, friends — and we're looking for the most passionate college football rivalry. Nominations please.
— Here's the thing, the big boys don't play in many of these September-October-early November PGA Tour stops, but the checks are real and spectacular. Sam Burns won more than $1.2 million this weekend for his win in Mississippi, and with strong finishes Baylor School grads Luke List (T-17, $86,683) and Stephan Jaeger (T-26, $54,250) banked some serious coin. Which is good for the bottom line in the moment and invaluable when Tour Cards are handed out come this time next year.
— You know the rules, when Paschall writes about college football, we read and link Paschall on college football. Here's today's SEC wrap-up column.
— Clemson is unranked for the first time since 2014. Hmmm, was it Dabo or was it six years of DeShaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence and an ACC that has been less than balanced for the last half a decade?
Weekend winners and losers. Go.
As for multiple choice Monday, wow, let's roll the dice this way on a crazy Monday after a crazy Saturday of SEC and national college football.
This is the same multiple-choice question with a slightly different canvas:
Which team is the third best in college football?
— Penn State
Which team is the third-best in the SEC?
— Ole Miss
As for today, Oct. 4, well, let's review.
The first US Open golf tournament ended on this day in 1895 as Horace Rawlins beat Willie Dunn by 2.
Susan Sarandon is 74 today. God bless Annie Savoy.
Tony LaRussa is 76 today.
This one should be special for those of us around these parts. Gutzon Borglum began sculpting Mount Rushmore on this day in 1927.
Rushmore of mounts/mountains. Go.