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Atlanta Braves' Jorge Soler greets Austin Riley (27) after scoring on a sacrifice fly by Ozzie Albies during the first inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Picks off

Yikes. We were far from Fab last week.

More like Flab. Or another choice "F'' word, like frustrating or financially failed. Or flop.

Yeah, flop. So, until we get better, welcome to the Flop 4 picks. Follow them or fade them, that's your choice — and considering my long history of being a lot better than last week's 2-7 showing, and knowing we went 2-7, well, either is understandable.

But, like any respectable college football team, let's look to bounce back. And we're eyeing a few crews that likely will be especially focused this week.
 
Alabama -28 in the first half over Southern Miss. Here's betting that practice has been less than fun this week in Tuscaloosa after the Tide's closer-than-everyone-other-than-JTC outcome in The Swamp. Lord Saban routinely lets his foot off the accelerator against non-Power Five foes, but a fast start feels likely.

UTSA plus-3 over Memphis. A perfect spot to get Memphis, which upset Mississippi State last week. Not only does UTSA have arguably the best mascot in the FBS — they are the Roadrunners — they also have an impressive upset over a Power Five foe on their résumé with a Week 1 win over Illinois.

Auburn minus-27 over Georgia State. Talk about having someone's attention. Considering how Auburn lost to Penn State last week and all the glaring shortcomings — no sacks, really, zero, last week? — the Tigers have to be ready to go. Plus, with lopsided wins over Akron and Alabama State, it's clear that the Tigers enjoy being the fifth-grader who picks on the second-grader on the playground. (Side story: Not sure what made me think of this, but when I was a pledge at Auburn, there was a pledge football league. It was ''touch'' but it almost always turned to tackle, which almost always turned into a fight. The brothers bet huge numbers of cases of beer on the games, and if we didn't win, well, we had some brothers that would make Saban look like a schoolmarm. At the end of the last game — we lost in the championship — we knew it was going to end in a fight and as we were lining up about to go, a pledge brother of mine named P.R., who was 5-4, 140ish, looked out at the Sigma Nus and then looked at me and said in his pure Dothan, Alabama accent, "Jay, if you knock one of those (bleeps) down, I swear to God I'll kick him." So I did. And he did. God bless you P.R.)   Georgia minus-34 over Vandy. Georgia is great. Vandy is not. How's that for analysis? OK, one more P.R. story. A couple of years later, we were tailgating and my good buddy Ted's father, Big Ed, was there. P.R. strolled up in a sparkling new pair of snakeskin cowboy boots as proud as a peacock. He walked over to me and Big Ed and said, "Mr. Prevost, these boots would kick a man's (bleep), don't you think?" Big Ed paused and offered, "Not on your feet, son." I'll say it again: God bless you P.R.

Kentucky minus-5.5 over South Carolina. Another classic attention-getting week of practice after the Wildcats underestimated the Mocs last week. Plus, if we were smart, we'd look at all the teams that played Alabama and Georgia the previous week, and considering the physical nature of those beatings, I'll bet they struggle the next week too.

Missouri minus-1.5 over Boston College. As Paschall wrote this morning, Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz apparently ticked off the BC people. OK, nothing like some smack talk from a couple of middle-of-the-pack programs to pique my interest. But, as Doug will surely attest, I'm a barnacle on the S.S. SEC, and middle-of-the-pack SEC > middle-of-the-pack ACC, whether they are playing in Boston or my backyard.

Last week: 2-7 against the spread (22.2 percent)

This season: 12-14 against the spread (46.2 percent)

P.R. stories: 2-0 (100 percent)

 

Braves blunder

No, not the game. The Braves won that and stretched their win streak to four and maintained a three-game lead in the NL East. Come on Bravos. (We may or may not know some folks who may or may not have taken a flyer on the Braves to win the East in late July when the Braves were in third behind the Mets and the Phillies and 5.5 games back at 11-to-1.)

It has been a much-needed stretch in the desert against the woeful Diamondbacks. (Side note: Not sure there are many words I mix up more than desert and dessert. Not the definitions mind you, but the spelling. As for mistyping, I find that I type ''form'' quite often when I am trying to type 'from.'' So it goes.No, the blunder was one of those old-school, seldom-seen baseball rules as Adam Duvall hit a homer but was called out — and given a single in the scorebook — after he passed Austin Riley. Here's more on the play from USA Today sports writer Scooby Axson, and yes, the world needs more Scooby's. Or would that be Scoobies? https://sports.yahoo.com/braves-adam-duvall-home-run-110931123.html?fr=yhssrp_catchall

Still, Duvall's two-run ''single'' in the Braves' three-run first catapulted them to a 9-2 win last night.

Man, they need to figure out how to keep Duvall, and that lineup is stacked. Ozzie Albies has 100 RBIs after he hit his 30th homer last night. Freddie Freeman has 82 RBIs and 31 homers. Riley has 31 homers and 95 RBIs and Duvall leads the NL with 109 RBIs.

And this is with Travis d'Arnaud slumping and Ronald Acuña out for the year.

Side question: OK, this is a crazy baseball rule for sure, but the game is filled with them. Make the call on this scenario: Ian Anderson hangs a slider and Mookie Betts smokes a line drive that hits the pitching rubber and ricochets over the backstop and into the crowd. What's the call? (Answer in the This and That.)

 

Side Ryder

OK, the Europeans coming out for Wednesday's practice round in Cheeseheads hats like the Packers fans wear was awesome.

But if you think it's going to sway the crowd, well, nah.

And I know I have talked more about this than most of you are probably wanting to hear, but humor me.As for predictions, well, why not?

I believe Justin Thomas will show out. Again. Dude is made for this type of energy and atmosphere. Plus, he's 10-3-2 over the last three Ryder Cups, and there are few events where confidence matters more than this one.

I believe that Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay will be this year's version of the famed ''Moli-wood'' pairing of Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood three years ago. Can we call Xander and Patrick ''Schauff-Lay'' or is that too cute?

I believe Viktor Hovland is going to be a pain in the neck for the Americans all weekend.

I believe Collin Morikawa is going to struggle. First, I'm not sure his back is 100 percent, and second, the weakness in his game has been making makeable (5-to-10 footers) putts. And this will be a testing three days.

I believe that it will be either feast or famine for Bryson, who did not score a point for the U.S. in 2018. If he struggles early, with all the publicity and chatter, that stat — and the pressures and whispers — will grow.

And sadly, I believe the Europeans are going to win — and then we're all going to blame Bryson. Or P.R.'s boots.

 

This and that

— I love Lane Kiffin. There, I said it. And man, here's betting that no one — repeat "No One" — pushes Nick Saban's buttons like the Lane Train. Here's Kiffin dealing some truth that Alabama is owning the transfer portal, too. He's 100% correct — and Georgia does, too — because if you are going to transfer in an effort to win a natty, where else would you go? But here's betting that Kiffin's way and phrasing — and neither are by accident, if you ask me — with the diction of ''cherry-pick players'' flew all over Lord Saban.

— We asked earlier this week if you would want Kiffin. Here's betting that Miami would kick the tires. And the tires of Mario Cristobal, too. Here's a 247sports.com report that the Hurricanes are less than tickled with current boss Manny Diaz.

— Did anyone watch "The Wonder Years" reboot? I did not and likely will not. The first one was magical, and that's enough for me.

— If you said ground-rule double, well, great guess. You're wrong, but I like that thinking. Because the pitching rubber is 60 feet, 6 inches, the ball never passed a base, so it's a foul ball. Crazy right?

 

Today's questions

Yes, I know. Survivor update. And if you want the Panthers tonight, get it to me before supper.

Remember the mailbag and to log out and nominate your favorite Titans player of all time for this week's 5-at-10 Bracket Challenge. As for today, happy fall, y'all, and know that I wrote this morning from the porch. Good times.

It's Sept. 23, and let's review.

In 1957, Eisenhower ordered U.S. troops to support integration in Little Rock. Also in 1957, "That'll Be the Day" by Buddy Holly reached No. 1. Man, that's some irony, huh?

In 1962, ABC's first color series debuted. It was "The Jetsons," believe it or not.

Ray Charles would have been 91 today. Springsteen is 71 today. Is The Boss overrated? Discuss.

Gale Sayers died on this day last year. Rushmore of tear-jerking sports movies. Go. (And I am a bad one to ask on this one because my eyes sweat at most any sappy sports movie, and when Herb Brooks celebrates alone in the halls in "Miracle," forget about it. And if you have not seen "Hardball" with Keanu Reeves, whoa nelly, pass the Kleenex.)

Also, remember the mailbag.

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