Monday, December 29, 2008

From the Weekend That Was

Do not challenge Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen to a swimming race. Here’s the link to the online article, but the print version in yesterday’s Clarion-Ledger had a small headline in the continued portion of the story that noted Mullen won a state freestyle race when he was 12. What editor decided that was the most compelling story from the second half of the article? “World traveler with some interesting stories from Europe or swimming title at age 12? It’s a tough call, but I like the swimming story. It’s the year of Michael Phelps!”

Greg Hardy’s biggest enemy is not his insanity. No, his area of main concern for hurting his draft status is not his reputation for being lazy, getting along with coaches or doing what’s best for Greg Hardy instead of the team, but, unbelievably, it’s steps. You know, those things that make up staircases. In this case, it was actually an escalator, but he also once took a tumble down the stairs in Meek Hall his freshman year. Unlike his fall in Meek, he won’t miss any practice this time, but someone needs to tell him it’s in everyone’s best interest if he just sticks to elevators.

John Chavis hitches his wagon to Les Miles’ fading star. One of the SEC’s minority coordinators is changing locations, but not jobs. There are probably a million jokes here about LSU losing its co-defensive coordinators, but the staff’s overall weight will stay the same. By the way, what minority group is Chavis a part of? I’m assuming “fat” isn’t considered a minority.

Gus Malhzan brings another high-scoring offense to more below average quarterbacks. A few weeks after trading Paul Rhoads for Gene Chizik, Auburn is bringing the former Arkansas savior and Tulsa offensive coordinator in to direct the Tigers’ offense. Unfortunately for Malhzan, he’ll be dealing with a pair of quarterbacks a step down from Casey Dick.

Detroit can cite crime and the first 0-16 team in NFL history as major reasons not to live there. Thank you, Matt Millen. Your gift to the sports world will always be looked on by those outside of Detroit with great fondness. Incidentally, I saw Lions’ kicker Jason Hanson interviewed in an article on the 0-16 season and couldn’t believe he’s still on the team. Anyone that was on an NFL roster in Tecmo Super Bowl is okay in my book.

Jay Cutler taps his inner Vanderbilt and the Broncos don’t make the playoffs. After leading the AFC West for 16 weeks, the Broncos fell apart down the stretch, giving the last AFC playoff birth to the San Diego Chargers. Cutler, who played his part in the loss last night by throwing two interceptions, spent a good deal of time standing on the sideline watching the Chargers shred his team’s defense for 289 yards on the ground. The last three weeks of the season saw the Broncos get outscored 112-54, reminding Cutler of the days at Vandy sitting on five wins and not making a bowl.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

All You Need to Know About Every NFL Week 16 Game in Two Sentences

But first, the Andy Kennedy debacle. I'm leaning in the direction of believing AK's version of the story simply because Pete Boone believes it. Now, I've said Pete Boone is many things, but he's not a complete idiot. That means Boone isn't going to stick his neck out for a coach he's clashed with and would love to send packing unless he's certain Kennedy will be found innocent. He enjoys his 30-hour work week and isn't going to risk his last few years at Ole Miss over an alleged drunken cab fight.

Even if Kennedy is cleared of everything, what the hell is he doing out after midnight on the road the night before the toughest game of the season? I don't have a problem with him going out in Oxford after home games, but going out on the road is asking for trouble. I know he has old friends in Cincinnati, but how about getting them to come to the hotel in Kentucky or going some place near the hotel? Going to "college night" at some bar in Cincinnati is just stupid. Even if they weren't drinking (which I'm certain they were), it's dumb.

I can only hope Kennedy realizes his leash has no more slack in it. He had been warned about his trips to the bar before, and now this happens. Again, even if he's cleared, if something else like this happens, I have no problem with Pete Boone showing him the door and giving him Joe Cullen's number.

(Stepping down off soapbox)

On to the games....

Indianapolis 31, Jacksonville 24
Go to hell Reggie Wayne, go to hell. Thanks for finally showing up when my fantasy team is battling it out for the fifth place title.

Baltimore (9-5) at Dallas (9-5)
Of all the feuds going on in the whole world, the most inexplicably dramatic right now is Terrell Owens taking on ESPN reporter Ed Werder. The second most dramatic right now is Ed Werder's mustache and 21st century men's grooming habits.

Cincinnati (2-11-1) at Cleveland (4-10)
Sweet little baby Jesus with your baby Einstein DVDs, please make it stop. And thank you I don't live in Ohio.

San Francisco (5-9) at St. Louis (2-12)
Mike Singletary pants watch: No pant droppings in like five weeks. And next year's potential Rams coach Jim Haslett has now lost eight straight games.

New Orleans (7-7) at Detroit (0-14)
Sean Peyton, don't screw this up.


Everyone outside of Michigan.

Pittsburgh (11-3) at Tennessee (12-2)
So you're telling me Kerry Collins quarterbacking a team isn't going to work late in the NFL season and playoffs? Surely you jest.

Miami (9-5) at Kansas City (2-12)
My thanks to Tony Gonzales and Dwayne Bowe. Your team stinks, but you've been money all season for my fantasy team.

Arizona (8-6) at New England (9-5)
The Cardinals have already made the playoffs so they're not exactly interested in the rest of the regular season. In fact, if you're looking for them, they're out on the smoker's patio burning down some heaters and waiting for the real games to start.

San Diego (6-8) at Tampa Bay (9-5)
Please, please, please can we have the Chargers win and the Broncos lose so the winner of the AFC West finishes 8-8? I don't ask for much, but I need this.

Houston (7-7) at Oakland (3-11)
I'm sorry Darren McFadden, we're no longer getting that apartment together. After your fantasy performance this year, I've moved on to Peria Jerry.

Buffalo (6-8) at Denver (8-6)
The possibility of a Week 17 San Diego/Denver showdown for the AFC West title is riding on the arms of Philip Rivers and J.P. Lossman/Trent Edwards. No, you're not mistaken, those three are actual NFL quarterbacks.

NY Jets (9-5) at Seattle (3-11)
Brett Favre is already saying he's not sure if he'll be back next season. Let me be the first to give him a preemptive screw you for clogging the sports world in the NFL offseason with the gazillion "will he or won't he play next year" stories.

Atlanta (9-5) at Minnesota (9-5)
Matt Ryan and/or Tarvaris Jackson will be in the NFL playoffs. I am hurt and offended, but mostly hurt.

Philadelphia (8-5-1) at Washington (7-7)
A tip for your 2009 fantasy football season: don't draft any Eagles. They're either hurt, fat, out of shape or plagued by some of the worst coaching in the league.

Carolina (11-3) at NY Giants (11-3)
Domenik Hixon isn't as good as Plaxico Burress? Seriously, Burress is a much better shot than Hixon.

Green Bay (5-9) at Chicago (8-6)
Chris Berman (in his deepest voice possible): "Norris Division....blah, blah, blah. Black and blue, blah blah blah."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

From the Weekend That Was (and Monday/Tuesday)

Since this is a few days late, I'll get straight to what happened over the last five days...

The Ole Miss basketball team is as interested in playing defense and rebounding as Auburn is in hiring a black coach. In the previous two seasons, we've seen Andy Kennedy's teams at least attempt to play defense, but have never been very good at it. This year's team naturally stinks at defense, but to compound that problem, they don't even try. There's little to no communication between the players and help defense is nearly non-existent, and when it does arrive it's so awful it essentially just leaves an opposing player wide open elsewhere.

We also don't have much on offense, but not everyone can play offense. Everyone can play hard on defense and that's my biggest problem with this team. I know a lot of these guys are young, and losing Eniel Polynice definitely hurts, but it's going to take Kennedy making it perfectly clear that whatever's going on right now isn't acceptable. And if there's not any improvement as the season progresses, then (gulp) it might be time to ask some questions about Andy Kennedy. I think it's a stretch to start doing that now, but if it's mid-February and we're still getting shredded on defense, it might be time.

One quick point on the offense, the three-headed monster of Kevin Cantinol, Malcolm White and DeAundre Cranston might be the worst combination of offensive forwards in Ole Miss history. Those three are bringing NOTHING to the table on the offensive end of the floor. White has two more points than personal fouls (39 to 37), while shooting 35% from the floor, and Cranston has six more points than fouls (28 to 22), while shooting 39% from the floor. Paging Andre Burnside, paging Andre Burnside. Ugh.

Seriously, Gene Chizik? If you had given me 100 guesses as to who Auburn might hire for its next head coach, I wouldn't have come up with him. The guy was an 0-4 start in 2009 away from being canned by IOWA STATE, a place where .500 will keep you around. It's very rare someone can go 5-19 in two seasons, end the second season on a 10-game losing streak and get a promotion.

Predictably, Auburn fans were a little upset. Well, actually one fan:

We can probably assume the rest of the Auburn fans were preparing for another march on the president's house, only this time they were carrying gasoline, torches, tar and feathers.

To calm the irate Auburn nation, AD Jay Jacobs sent out an email/letter trying to assure everyone that Gene Chizik was in fact the right man for the job and that everything will work out just fine. Even former coach Pat Dye got in on the action and said he fully supported the Chizik hire. Both of those calmed exactly zero people. This is going to end well to quite well.

The Lions threatened, then became the Lions. A feisty effort from the Detroit Lions this week as they were tied with the Colts in the fourth quarter with nine minutes left before finally falling 31-21. There's a little too much fight left in this team, and with the Saints coming to town this weekend, the perfect season could be in jeopardy. And what a fitting end to the Saints' season that would be.

Peyton and Eli Manning can now follow the upstart NFL tradition of opting out of the Pro Bowl. If you took the 50,000 to 1 odds that any combination of the Clausen brothers would make the Pro Bowl before the Mannings, you lost. But it was a good run.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

All You Need to Know About Every NFL Week 15 Game in Two Sentences

Chicago 27, New Orleans 24
Looks like the Saints are done in their quest for the playoffs. And it looks like Kyle Orton has become Rex Grossman with a beard.

Tampa Bay (9-4) at Atlanta (8-5)
If Atlanta loses, they're most likely out of the playoffs, which will end all this Matt Ryan for MVP talk (which is legitimate right now). If Tampa Bay loses, America wins because no one wants to watch a 16-10 first round playoff game involving the Bucs.

Washington (7-6) at Cincinnati (1-11-1)
I just noticed the Bengals record is actually a palindrome. That's pretty much the most interesting thing about a game between the slumping Redskins and a Bengals team whose coach really might have to be implicated in a murder in order to get fired.

Detroit (0-13) at Indianapolis (9-4)
The following people have thrown passes as a quarterback for the Lions this season:
Dan Orlovsky
Daunte Culpepper
Jon Kitna
Drew Stanton
Drew Henson

And Colts backup Jim Sorgi might be better than all of them.

San Diego (5-8) at Kansas City (2-11)
The Chargers need to win out and need the Broncos to lose out in order to win the AFC West. This, of course, means that Norv Turner will rise to the challenge and lead the Chargers to three straight losses.

Seattle (2-11) at St. Louis (2-11)
Let's take this time to get to know Texas Tech coach Mike Leach a little better...

And currently, on the NFL Network postgame show, Rich Eisen is either wearing a fedora or a bowler.

San Francisco (5-8) at Miami (8-5)
Apparently, the threat of seeing Mike Singletary's junk again has spurred 49ers players on to two straight wins. If Miami can win out, I look forward to my conversation with the Roach about yet another first round Dolphins exit from the playoffs, ala late '90s or early '00s.

Buffalo (6-7) at NY Jets (8-5)
Nothing would make me happier than to see Brett Favre get a head start on making more crappy Wrangler jeans commercials in the offseason. Unfortunately for me, he'll have to out suck Trent Edwards, which is probably impossible.

Tennessee (12-1) at Houston (6-7)
The Texans have the best receiver you've never heard of in Kevin Walter. The same guy who's on my fantasy team that managed to finish the regular season with the highest point total in the league, but didn't make the playoffs.

Green Bay (5-8) at Jacksonville (4-9)
Again, Fred Taylor called this the worst team (in terms of chemistry) on which he's ever played. Let's go ahead and put the Jags down for 4-12.

Minnesota (8-5) at Arizona (8-5)
The Cardinals are already in the playoffs and if the Vikings can hold steady, they're in. Gus Ferotte and/or Tarvaris Jackson in the playoffs is sort of like when you were little and let the kids who stink take their turn in the game just because you feel sorry for them.

Denver (8-5) at Carolina (10-3)
Playing running back for Denver this season is sort of like being the drummer for Spinal Tap. You'll get your one or two games of 100 yards rushing, but in a flash, your season will be over.

Pittsburgh (10-3) at Baltimore (9-4)
What if Troy Smith hadn't been injured? I don't think the Ravens would have five wins right now.

New England (8-5) at Oakland (3-10)
I know the Raiders have won three games, but if they were to play the Lions, would you take the Raiders? I don't see any scenario in the world were I would take them over the Lions, even if Dan Orlovsky somehow found his way back under center.

NY Giants (11-2) at Dallas (8-5)
Who would have guessed Terrell Owens and his quarterback don't really like each other? What will it take for this guy to not have a job in the NFL anymore?

Cleveland (4-9) at Philadelphia (7-5-1)
Ah, just what this NFL season needed, some more Cleveland Browns in primetime. And on an unrelated note, Lil' Wayne, if he were a closer in baseball, would come into a game to Semisonic's Closing Time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From the Weekend That Was

21-year old Tim Tebow didn’t need Percy Harvin, but 24 years from now 45-year old Tim Tebow wishes he had played. Without Harvin, Tebow carried the ball 17 times (and 16 the previous week against Florida State when Harvin was injured), which was the highest number of carries since the Ole Miss game when he rushed 15 times for 7 yards and lost, 31-30 (maybe you heard about it).

Florida’s offense wasn’t as strong without Harvin (which is scary since they still scored 31 points), but they were able to take advantage of some good field position, hit a few big pass plays and run the ball when they needed to do so. Alabama needed a perfect game from its offense, mainly John Parker Wilson, in order to win and didn’t get it. Wilson delivered his normal performance (12 of 25, 187 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT) and if not for Julio Jones, wouldn’t have done much of anything.

I thought Alabama made some odd play-calling decisions when they mixed in a few deep balls and some non-play action pass plays after they were really punishing Florida on the ground. That got them in some long yardage situations, which always favors the team trying to defend Rush Probst’s student. And for the love of all things holy, how has Alabama not developed a fade play in the red zone for Julio Jones? I’m not a huge fan of the fade, but when you have a giant receiver that can’t be covered and catches everything in sight, perhaps you should look into such a play.

One last comment, up 20-17 heading into the fourth quarter, Alabama’s defense really melted away (especially after spending most of the third quarter on the sideline). Really good defenses slam the door shut when given that opportunity. Of course, it’s a little harder against Tebow and an appearance by the Florida running backs, but Alabama was in a great position to win and couldn’t hold on.

Oh, and again, Urban Meyer, please send those flowers and thank you note to:

Houston Nutt
c/o The University of Mississippi
1810 Manning Way
University, MS 38677

Hide the women and children. Ohio State is back in the BCS. Seriously? No, seriously? Have the past two years taught the BCS people nothing? I guess beating Michigan State means more now than it once did. I’m not a big fan of Boise State, but I’d rather see them in the Fiesta Bowl than Ohio State. We know what Ohio State is. A team that was skull-drug by USC and a team that lost in Columbus to Penn State and its backup quarterback.

I said after last year’s debacle against LSU if Ohio State made it back to the BCS, those in the BCS deserved to have their houses burned to the ground (which they may anyway for this money-whoring system we’re in now). I still think it’s an appropriate response.

Will SEC defenses prove to be the offenses’ of the Big 12 kryptonite? I’m really looking forward to seeing how Oklahoma and Texas Tech’s offenses do against Florida and Ole Miss’. Eleven SEC defenses rank ahead of the top defense in the Big 12 (Texas is at number 50, while Mississippi State is the lowest of the 11 at number 38). This could be because of the juggernaut offenses they all face or because they really stink. And maybe the SEC rankings are inflated because of the plethora of inexperienced and bad quarterbacks operating the conference’s offenses. I’m thinking we’ll find out that the Big 12 offenses aren’t as spectacular as they’re made out to be. Someone remind me of this when Texas Tech throws for 600-plus yards against Ole Miss.

Is it possible a BCS game could have a lower attendance than the ACC championship game? If Virginia Tech and Cincinnati have anything to say about it, it will. Well, probably not because Virginia Tech should travel fairly well and Cincinnati should bring more than the seven fans Boston College brought to the ACC championship game. All I really wanted to do here is point out this is an actual BCS game, not a Thursday night ESPN game.

Alabama, don’t pull a Georgia. No one wants to hear about Utah and the Mountain West. Remember a few years back in the Sugar Bowl (when it was held in Atlanta after Katrina) when Georgia found a way to lose to West Virginia? Well, that game is the reason we’ve been hearing so much about the Big East and why Cincinnati is playing in the Orange Bowl. Before then, the only time we ever heard about the Big East was when Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech announced they were leaving the conference. Now, they’re on ESPN every Thursday night in the fall and talking heads sing the praises of Rutgers and the rigors of going to Tampa to play South Florida. So, seriously Alabama, don’t screw this up.

Three games away from 0-16. Mark your calendars, Sunday, December 28 the Detroit Lions should be playing for history against the Green Bay Packers. The Lions have teased us before in 2001 when they started out 0-12, but rallied to win two games late in the year to finish 2-14. I think this team may be for real though. The soul-crushing loss on Sunday to Minnesota should have taken the last bit of fight left in them.

$3.99 buffets and Indians/Cubs trade talks. It can only mean one thing: Baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas! I think ESPN created these winter meetings as an excuse to get Buster Olney, John Kruk and the rest of the Baseball Tonight people to work a little extra for their paychecks. Technically it could be called a vacation for these guys, but ESPN at least makes them report once a day on what Yankees GM Brian Cashman said at 4 a.m. while waiting in line for the seafood buffet.

And speaking of the Yankees, it appears they’re trying to sign every free agent pitcher on the market. All 76 of them. Not sure how they’ll all fit on the roster, but if they throw enough money at enough players, some of it should stick and they’ll have a new pitching staff. It's science and responsible spending.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Everything You Need to Know About Week 14 in the NFL in Two Sentences

San Diego 34, Oakland 7
Uncle Jonathan’s corn cob pipe, the Raiders are bad. And thanks to everyone on the Raider’s coaching staff for ruining Darren McFadden’s fantasy season.

Jacksonville (4-8) at Chicago (6-6)
Fred Taylor claims this is the worst “team” (chemistry-wise, not skill) on which he’s ever played. Jags wide receiver, and former Raider, Jerry Porter takes umbrage with that remark.

Minnesota (7-5) at Detroit (0-12)
Looking at the schedule, this is probably the Lions’ last chance at a 1-15 season. It’s also the first time in the history of fantasy sports that fantasy owners are knowingly and willingly starting a back-up running back (Chester Taylor) because of the potential for massive points in mop-up duty, which should start in the second quarter.

Houston (5-7) at Green Bay (5-7)
How horrible is the NFC North? At 5-7, the Packers are still considered a solid favorite to come back and win the division.

Cleveland (4-8) at Tennessee (11-1)
Stealing from Bill Simmons, “That’s Ken Dorsey’s music!!!” Did anyone think we’d see a Ken Dorsey/Kerry Collins match-up this season?

Cincinnati (1-10) at Indianapolis (8-4)
What does it feel like to spend a couple thousand dollars on Bengals season tickets? Probably something similar to spending a second round fantasy pick on Reggie Wayne.

Atlanta (8-4) at New Orleans (6-6)
At this point in the season, Matt Ryan has a more legitimate claim to be an MVP candidate than Drew Brees. Just so we’re clear, this is the same Matt Ryan who spent last season killing Boston College’s chances of winning games.

Philadelphia (6-5) at NY Giants (11-1)
I’d like to formally send out a big, hearty f-you to Brian Westbrook for miraculously finding out his legs could hold up for last Thursday night’s game. Your last-second discovery prevented me from putting you in my starting lineup, and subsequently cost me 37 points in a game in which I lost by 27.

Kansas City (2-10) at Denver (7-5)
Chiefs coach Herm Edwards is, or at least should be, considered a dead man walking right now. But can someone explain to me why Carl Peterson (GM, President and CEO of the Chiefs), who’s made all the horrible personnel decisions, is still going to keep his job?

Miami (7-5) at Buffalo (6-6)
I feel for the city of Buffalo. They live through 8 months of 25-degree temperatures, 6 feet of snow on the ground during that time, they lost four straight Super Bowls and now their team is moving to Toronto.

NY Jets (8-4) at San Francisco (4-8)
I believe Mike Singletary has gone 4 weeks without dropping his pants. So, congratulations to him.

New England (7-5) at Seattle (2-10)
By the beard of Zeus, the Seahawks are bad. The only team more lifeless in Seattle than the Seahawks is the Sonics.

St. Louis (2-10) at Arizona (7-5)
I believe I read that the Rams players would love for Jim Haslett to be named head coach for next season. It’s like his time in New Orleans never happened.

Dallas (8-4) at Pittsburgh (9-3)
Why in the hell has the NFL not forced the Steelers to put artificial grass on their field? Mud football is an intramural sport, not a professional one.

Washington (7-5) at Baltimore (8-4)
Geographical rivals that aren’t rivals at all. Probably because they don’t recruit against each other, play in the same conference or fire coaches when one coach doesn’t match the success of the other coach.

Tampa Bay (9-3) at Carolina (9-3)
Both of these teams are 9-3? If you’re scoring at home, Jeff Garcia and Jake Delhomme are prominently involved with these teams.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

From the Weekend That Was

After setting a blistering pace heading into the final week (60-15, .800 winning percentage), I stumbled through the finish line thanks to two SEC teams stinking it up against ACC teams and LSU blowing a 30-14 against Arkansas.

Last Week: 4-4
Season Record: 64-19 (.771)

Ole Miss 45, Mississippi State 0
Inmates in third world country prisons don't get abused as badly as State did on Friday. I've never seen Ole Miss do anything remotely close to what they did to the Bulldogs. At one point, I actually felt bad for laughing when State would attempt to pass the ball. No quarterback should have to endure the punishment all three of State's were getting. Although, Tyson Lee seemed to get a good laugh when Chris Relf was smashed on his first pass attempt, a right which Lee probably earned since he was nearly killed a few times.

As you know by now, the abuse was so severe that Sylvester Croom was told he would not be coaching at State anymore. I know officially he resigned, but resigning coaches don’t usually get buyouts for themselves and their assistants. And someone as stubborn and arrogant as Sylvester Croom doesn’t just resign unless there’s a really good reason. Like, say a big buyout for himself and guaranteeing money for his assistants, which is a good thing for those often forgotten in coaching changes.

Over the past few days, we’ve been bombarded with statements saying Croom is a man of character and did things “the right way” at State. Now, I’m not going to argue with the character statement. By all accounts from people who know him or have worked with him, he is a good guy. But I’ll take issue with the doing things “the right way” claim.

Does someone really need to be praised for doing what they’re supposed to do? Don’t cheat (or get caught), make sure your players make their grades, keep your players out of jail (it’s been ignored he gave Jackie Sherrill a run for his money in this category), and get your players to play hard. These are pretty much the basic things expected from a college football coach, with winning being the major requirement.

Sylvester Croom tried to do all of these things and was constantly given a media high-five for his attempts. As long as high-fives were being given out for doing what he was hired to do, why not give him some recognition for getting out of bed in the morning, practicing proper hygiene and not murdering people? This whole “right way” thing is completely absurd. Hundreds of other coaches have been doing the exact same thing and never once do we hear he’s doing things “the right way.”

A coach referred to as doing things the right way is like the quarterback that’s called a game manager. It’s a nice way of saying, “This guy is a good guy and tries hard, but he stinks.” Or, more importantly, it’s an excuse given to someone that doesn’t deserve one. Sylvester Croom no doubt was well liked as a person and tried hard as a coach, but he was not a head coach. He had five years to find a quarterback, five years to change his offense, five years to build on offensive line and five years to turn a bad program into a competitive one. He did none of these.

He refused to change when it was clear change was needed, both with certain coaches and his offensive scheme. He never blamed his team’s failures on his offensive scheme, which never worked in five years, but on individual players’ inability to make plays over that span. He claimed they were always in position to make plays, but never did, in effect, throwing them under the bus. In the end, that’s what brought him down. He was waiting on the players to change their performances when it was he who needed to change.

And one final note about Ole Miss in this game, when Peria Jerry finishes the year, gets drafted and moves to the city in which he’ll be playing, I hope he’s open to the idea of us getting an apartment together. My man-crush is reaching the same level it reached with Darren McFadden.

Actually, two more final notes about the Ole Miss game. One, when was the last time Ole Miss went undefeated in November? The ‘60s? This season was like the anti-David Cutcliffe season. Rocky start, strong finish. With Cutcliffe, we shouldn’t have even bothered playing games in November. And to be fair to Cutcliffe, this entire season was like the anti-Ed Orgeron season. Good coaching, winning record. And two, we outscored teams in November 152-20. That’s an average score of 38-5.

Arkansas 31, LSU 30
This co-defensive coordinator business needs to change before LSU goes to their bowl game. Up 30-14 in the third quarter, the defense allows Casey Dick, seriously, Casey Dick, to lead not one, but three scoring drives to win the game. Oh, and they gave up almost 400 yards of total offense.

Les Miles may not be destroying the LSU program, but if he drops another 7-5, 3-5 SEC stinkbomb next year, he’ll be looking for a new job. Luckily for him, Michigan should be canning Rich Rodriguez right about the time he would be getting fired. So he’s got that going for him, which has to be nice.

Georgia Tech 45, Georgia 42
Stafford and Moreno’s stats?

Stafford: 24 of 39, 407 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT
Moreno: 17 carries for 94 yards 1 TD and 4 receptions for 74 yards

Georgia’s offense is like 2007 Golden State Warriors. All the starters are fantastic for a fantasy team, but the team itself isn’t quite good enough to do any real damage.

Clemson 31, South Carolina 14
I just realized Chris Smelley is only a sophomore. What are the chances he and Spurrier will be together for his senior year? -25%? -75%? -10,000%?

Florida 45, Florida State 15
At some point last football season, I wrote that instead of watching the Saints and Bucs battle to their inevitable 16-9 final twice a season, the NFL should scrap those two games and we should get to watch a staying awake contest between Ed Orgeron (Saints D-line coach) and John Gruden. Watching Orgeron inhale Red Bull, beef jerky and recruiting videos, while seeing Gruden think of ways to come up with longer names for his plays, would be infinitely more compelling than watching the Saints and Bucs play.

Well, I think a similar contest should be in order for Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno to determine the greatest coach of all-time. Whichever one has the lead in career coaching victories should just retire and let the other one catch him. Then, the guy who ties the record retires, and the two basically try to see who can outlive the other one. That way Penn State and Florida State fans don’t have to watch as a couple of guys in their 90s try to coach major college football. It’s just stupid at this point.

Alabama 36, Auburn 0
Kudos to me for correctly picking Florida (7-1) to win the SEC East. Massive fail to me for picking Auburn (2-6) to win the SEC West.

Tennessee 28, Kentucky 10
Too bad Tennessee waited until games 11 and 12 to find out they actually have a better chance to win when they throw less than 10 passes. Granted, it was against Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but give Phil Fulmer credit for scrapping what wasn’t working and doing what he had to do to win.

Wake Forest 23, Vanderbilt 10
Congratulations to Vanderbilt for tying that Memphis team from last year or year before as the worst bowl eligible team in the history of college football. And another congratulations on finishing strong after the 5-0 start. They should have plenty of momentum headed into bowl season with a 1-6 finish.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Weekend Picks

The NFL previews in two sentences or less are on the shelf this week due to the holiday week and college games on Friday. They will return next week at the regularly schedule time and date. On to the picks...

Made spanning two nights......

Last week: 3-1
Season: 60-15

LSU at Arkansas
Nothing sends Tiger fans into a state of dementia quite like a home loss to Alabama, an escape at home against Troy and a public beating by Ole Miss at home. Listening to the LSU call-in show on the way out of town last Saturday, you would have thought LSU was on their way to their third straight 6-6 season. Callers were not just questioning the coaching, which is understandable, but they were questioning whether Les Miles was leading their program into the crapper. Seriously. The same guy who won those ungrateful bastards a national championship about 11 months ago.

Now, I'm all for questioning moronic coaching, and certainly Les Miles deserves some of flak he gets, but destroying the LSU program he is not. He's cleaned up in recruiting since he's been there and, oh yeah, won the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP last season. I agree with LSU fans when they say there's plenty of talent on defense and this co-defensive coordinator business is just stupid, but when you're opening the season with a Harvard transfer, yes, a Harvard transfer, and a redshirt freshman as your top two quarterbacks, you're going to have problems on offense. Major problems.

If there's one certainty about the SEC, it's that if you don't have a an experienced, semi-talented quarterback (or say an Eli Manning-like talent that doesn't have to be experienced to be good) your offense isn't going to be so great all the time. Take a look at the teams that stink or at times have struggled in the SEC this year. State, Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina and Ole Miss have all had quarterback issues this season, whether it has been for the entire year or a stretch of games. All of these teams have either a first year starter or someone who isn't very good.

So LSU's problems aren't related to Les Miles doing a hack coaching job. Their biggest problem is inexperience behind the center. Give Jarrett Lee (if he doesn't suffer a mental breakdown) or Jordan Jefferson another year or two and LSU will probably be looking at another trip to Atlanta.

At this point, I think it's impossible for someone to lead the LSU program into the crapper, unless they dust off Gerry DiNardo. They've set up a dominant recruiting base in talent-rich Louisiana and can go into Texas to get even more good players. Talent will never be a problem at LSU. However, I do believe Les Miles is nothing more than a mediocre coach and will eventually leave or be run off (for 8-4 or 9-3 seasons), but his replacement, as long as he's competent, will win right away.

Now that we're 445 words into this post, I suppose I should actually get to this game. I expect Arkansas will rebound from their brutal loss to State and give LSU a game. And, thanks to Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Troy and Ole Miss, Arkansas has a pretty good idea as to how they should attack and defend LSU. The problem for Arkansas is that one of the brothers Dick will be playing quarterback and their defense actually has to play. Both of those are definitely not good times for Arkansas.

I also found out from my trip to Baton Rouge that LSU hates, and I mean hates, going to Little Rock. So that's one more advantage for Arkansas. There's nothing like a playing a team that doesn't want to be there. But, in the end, I believe LSU will come out of this one with a win. They've got more talent and are still playing to go to Dallas or Orlando and, let's face it, Arkansas just lost to State. I see an ugly, gross game in which LSU pulls away late.

Georgia Tech at Georgia
This game will probably mark the last appearances of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno in Athens, until they're standing on the sideline at a game during their off weeks in the 2009 NFL season. So Georgia fans will get one last great performance out of those two and a mediocre performance from the team as a whole. It's amazing to me that in just about every Georgia game Stafford and Moreno come away with big numbers, but Georgia doesn't dominate. Everywhere else in the sporting world when your stars play well, your team wins big. It's like Georgia is in the bizzaro sporting world. Down is up. Hello means goodbye.

I don't know much about Georgia Tech other than they run an old school option offense. They're also in the ACC, which, this season, means they've beaten teams they shouldn't have and inexplicably lost to teams they shouldn't have. So nothing they do makes sense. We could see the Tech team that destroyed Miami or the team that lost to Virginia at home. The possibilities are endless with this team.

Georgia Tech hasn't seen on offense like the one they'll see on Friday and I don't think Georgia will have a problem moving the ball. However, Georgia's defense can easily be classified as shaky, meaning Tech should have some success as well. Even thought Georgia's defense isn't that great, when an SEC defense faces a one dimensional offense, they'll usually come out on top. I can see a little back and forth in this game, but I'm taking Georgia to put them away late.

*I wrote about the two games above on Wednesday night with full intentions of writing as much for the rest of the games on Thursday. However, Thanksgiving festivities limited me from doing so, but here are the rest of the picks of the week in a much shorter fashion.

South Carolina at Clemson
I would think a 4-4 team in the SEC is better than a 4-4 team in the ACC. And in a semi-related story, the two starting quarterbacks for this game, Chris Smelly and Cullen Harper, have combined for 23 interceptions on the year. You'll get the chance to watch this bloodbath on ESPN2 Saturday night. I'm taking Spurrier in a game that is the complete opposite of compelling and rich.

Florida at Florida State
Florida State has won eight games? Welcome to the 2008 ACC! Florida continues its Michaels and MacElroy "freight train from hell" run.

Auburn at Alabama
I did see that the weather in Tuscaloosa should be a little nasty on Saturday, which could make this game a little closer than expected. But even with bad weather and a few gift turnovers from Alabama, Auburn doesn't have enough of anything. Alabama will get away with hiding John Parker Wilson for one last game.

Kentucky at Tennessee
This game is worse than the time the raccoon got caught in the copier. Kentucky sends Phil Fulmer into unemployment with one last loss.

Vanderbilt at Wake Forest
I would think a 4-4 ACC team is better than a 4-4 SEC team. Especially one that is ranked in the 110s in at least one major offensive category. And one that lost to a Tennessee team that threw 9 passes for 21 yards. I still can't believe Ole Miss lost to this Vanderbilt team.

Mississippi State at Ole Miss
I expect this game to be tight early, but I think Ole Miss is out for blood against State. After last year's meltdown in this game and playing now for a potential trip to the Cotton Bowl, I look for the Rebels to hammer the Bulldogs. State's defense should hold up for a little while, but they'll get no help from their offense and will eventually collapse. No word on whether Houston Nutt plans to grab an Ole Miss flag and run around the field like a high school kid if Ole Miss is to win on Friday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From the Weekend That Was

First off, if you don’t want to read about Ole Miss’ thrashing of LSU and what it meant to the Ole Miss players and fans, then I suggest you not even read. I didn’t see another game or even the highlights and frankly, I don’t care.

Ole Miss 31, LSU 13
I don’t know if there is a way to accurately describe what it felt like to be crammed in the corner of the south endzone in Tiger Stadium, watching Ole Miss do whatever it wanted to do against LSU and experiencing the celebration that took place after the game. I was there for wins over Florida in Oxford in ‘02 and The Swamp in ‘03. I saw the win over Auburn in the Tuberville revenge game in ’99 and the ’03 game in which I didn’t think I was going to live through the fourth quarter. I was in the stadium when we finally beat Alabama in ‘01 for the first time in what seemed like a million years, and in ’03 when we destroyed them. I was even in Tiger Stadium in ’97, ’99 and ’01 when we won so often there we started paying taxes for ownership.

All of those games were great and are some of my favorite memories, but none of them, none, compare to what happened on Saturday. Yes, it was absolutely tremendous kicking the crap out of a long-time rival, who had won six straight over us, on their home field, and watching their fans start filing out of the stadium in the third quarter. But it was more than that.

For the past four years, Ole Miss fans have endured some of the most miserable football of my lifetime. We watched as the foundation laid in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s for a successful program collapsed into a giant sinkhole caused by a coach who quit recruiting and stubbornly played undeserving juniors and seniors, and another coach who loved Red Bull and recrootin’ but had no idea how to actually coach or run a football program.

We sat through blowouts, watched as the team found new ways to lose close games in the most painful ways possible and witnessed coaching incompetence that could only be described as criminal. It was so awful many fans considered (many actually did) giving up. Why should we waste our time and money on a program that wasn’t going anywhere, and, if anything, was getting worse? It was, in short, the worst of times.

Then, a small glimmer of hope happened. We sent the Shrimp Boat Captain packing and had a proven, competent head coach fall into our lap. This season started out with some stinging losses to Wake Forest and Vanderbilt, but things seemingly started to get better when the team went to Gainesville and beat Florida. When we lost to South Carolina in Oxford the following week, we all thought this was just the same Ole Miss we’ve seen over the past four years. One step forward, ten steps back.

But then the team went to Alabama and showed some heart, coming back from a 24-3 deficit and had a chance to win the game before losing 24-20. Yes, it was a loss, but the team started to believe they could win every time they played. We saw it when they squeaked out a win at Arkansas and carried it over to three straight wins in November. An Ole Miss team, which won zero SEC games last year, won three straight in November. That just doesn’t happen.

With the LSU game next on the schedule, everyone knew how big the game was. It was a chance for the team to prove they had finally turned the corner out of a loser’s mindset into one of a winner. It was a chance to show that they really were a good team. And it was chance to prove they belonged.

For the fans, it meant erasing four years of frustration and doing so at the expense of a hated rival. It meant a close to the past four years and moving forward. And it meant we were finally supporting a real winner.

When the players got off the bus on Saturday, I could tell they were ready for this game. There weren’t any of the dead man walking stares that I’ve seen on countless road trips. Instead, they were enjoying the moment, smiling and encouraging the crowd to yell even louder. While this may have seemed like a simple thing, as an Ole Miss fan, it doesn’t happen often, and it meant this was a team that finally believed in themselves.

As the final minutes of the game ran off the clock, the emotion started to pour out of the Ole Miss section. One Hotty Toddy after another, chants to score again before time ran out and waving goodbye to LSU fans dumb enough to still be in the stadium. And when the game finally ended, the players joined in and pure joy exploded from the Ole Miss crowd and the players on the field. The players high fived people in the front row, grabbed signs out of the crowd to show off and directed the band as they played.

Everything they did sent the crowd into another roar. Even the stupid triangle of the Magnolia Bowl trophy looked great being passed around from player to player. And when I thought it wasn’t possible to yell anymore, the whole Ole Miss section began chanting Houston Nutt’s name, in appreciation for the man who stopped the last four years. The postgame celebration truly was one of those moments that, unless you were there, you’ll never be able to understand how happy everyone was.

Thirty minutes after the game ended and the players and Nutt finally left the field, we started to leave the stadium. People were yelling just to yell and screaming about the Cotton Bowl. For the first time since 2003, Ole Miss fans had reason to be hopeful about their team. What happened on Saturday wasn’t just a win over LSU, it was a team that pulled itself, a program and its fans out of an abyss. And it felt good. Damn good.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Weekend Picks

Made while watching Ben Howland butcher another UCLA basketball game. I think it's time to start referring to him as the Mark Richt of college basketball.....

Last week: 5-1
Season: 57-14

Tennessee at Vanderbilt
The leadoff batter in a miserable set of games this weekend. And it just so happens this leadoff batter is Willy Taveras. Actually, that's probably an insult to Willy Taveras. I just spend ten minutes looking up who is considered the worst leadoff batter in the history of baseball and came across a guy named Ivan DeJesus, who played shortstop for the Cubs in 1981. DeJesus started 59 games as the leadoff batter and hit a whopping .173 with an on-base percentage of .272 in the top spot. So there you have it. This game is the Ivan DeJesus of leadoff games. My apologies to Willy Taveras.

As for the teams involved in this epic struggle of the 115th (Tennessee) and 116th (Vanderbilt) ranked offenses, Vanderbilt became the worst bowl eligible team in the history of bowl eligible teams last week with their win over Kentucky and will probably be a little looser in their final two games now that their sphincter muscles have relaxed. I don't think that will necessarily jump start the 116th ranked offense, but it will certainly decrease their chances of blowing a 24-9 fourth quarter lead in this game like they did last year.

Tennessee has to be playing to avoid losing to Vanderbilt in the same season in which they watch Vandy in a bowl game while they sit at home. But given their performance against Wyoming, the Vols may not attempt to try the rest of the season. That is, if they were trying before then. I don't care if Tennessee isn't trying anymore, Vanderbilt is busy thinking about all the gentleman's establishments they'll be visiting in Shreveport, Memphis or, in what would be perfectly fitting for a Vandy team finally bowl eligible, Nashville. I'm taking Tennessee here in a classic 3 1/2 hour JP game where neither team breaks 20.

The Citadel at Florida
Remember the story from the Old Testament where one of the prophets (Elija or Elisha? Can't remember.) decides to show some pagans the power of God against the power of theirs? He has two huge altars built, covers them and everything around them with water, and waits to see whose god can light the altar to burn the sacrificial animals on the respective altars. So the pagans dance around and cut themselves, calling out for fire from their gods to light the altar, and nothing ever happens. Then it's Elija/Elisha/Someone else's turn and he prays to God and a fireball the size of Montana falls out of the sky and completely incinerates everything on both altars and anything remotely close to them.

Well, Florida is that giant fireball that consumes everything. While they are presently not God, they're at least an extension of a finger. And yes, The Citadel is playing the role of the altars on Saturday.

*Note: No doubt I screwed up the significance of that story, but hopefully I got most of the details right.

Arkansas at Mississippi State
How was I unaware that Casey Dick has a younger brother who also plays quarterback at Arkansas? And because he's a redshirt freshman, we're guaranteed the ability to have three more years to make immature jokes involving the family's last name. And even more good news, both might have a chance to play this weekend. Casey may still be suffering from the concussion he got against South Carolina and apparently his brother has been deemed the most competent backup. Now, I don't believe for one second that Casey Dick's brother is the most capable backup, but that this is just Bobby Petrino amusing himself. I'm sure there's an immature joke to be made here, but I'll pass for now.

As for this game, Sylvester Croom has never beaten Arkansas and I don't think that's going to change this year. While the brothers Dick aren't anything worth noting at quarterback, State is bringing nothing to the table at that position. Tyson Lee plays hard and has some mobility, but let's be honest, he stinks. And Wesley Carroll? Surely you jest. In a battle of badly quarterbacked teams, Arkansas will prevail and increase the wailing and gnashing of teeth in Starkville.

Ole Miss at LSU
I'll be braving Somalia West this weekend as I head to Baton Rouge for the game. So if an empty liquor bottle should find the side of my head, this could be my last pick of the week so I'll try to get it right. Oh, I forgot to mention bags full of urine. I don't think one would kill me, but if one hit me I'd certainly vomit everywhere, which could possibly cause me to choke and die.

This game will come down to which quarterback screws up the least. Both defenses are pretty good against the run (Ole Miss is 13th and LSU is 15th in the country) and horrid against the pass (Ole Miss 84th and LSU 63rd), meaning the team that passes well will probably win the game. And the plot thickens there. Jarrett Lee leads the conference in interceptions with 15 and Jevan Snead is close behind with 11, so both quarterbacks are wildly inconsistent in their passing abilities (and both are around 54% in completion percentage). That means both teams need to do the thing they don't really want to do in order to win.

Even though he's improved, I still don't trust Jevan Snead to take care of the ball and not make dumb decisions. But, luckily for Ole Miss fans, Jarrett Lee is in charge of the other team. The longer he plays and the more he's called on to throw, the higher Ole Miss' chances for a win go up. At this point in the season, I think Lee is a bigger liability than Snead so I'm taking the Rebels in a miserably close, emotionally draining win. That's right Jim Jones, pass the lighter, I'm about to freebase some of that Kool-Aid.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Feature: Every NFL Game Previewed in Two Sentences or Less

In a never-ending effort to bring you quality material (my opinion of quality, not yours), I decided it was time to add a third post each week, and one that wasn't about college football or the latest buffoonery from someone employed by the University of Mississippi Athletic Department. So, as the title of this post reads, I give you a preview of all the NFL games in two sentences or less. This feature will appear each Wednesday night until the end of the NFL season. Also, I'm working on a title for it, but haven't settled on anything yet, so suggestions are welcome.

One other note, look for the review of the weekend post on Sunday nights and the picks of the week on Thursday nights. That's the schedule I'd like to keep, but I do enjoy being lazy. On to the previews....

Cincinnati (1-8-1) at Pittsburgh (7-3)
The Bengals have beaten someone? But kudos to the Bengals for knowing that games could end in a tie.

Tampa Bay (7-3) at Detroit (0-10)
Right now in Detroit, it's 34 degrees with flurries, the Pistons just landed a shoot-first point guard, the Tigers were one of the biggest busts of the 2008 baseball season and now the Lions are six games away from the perfect season. The good news for Detroit is that the snow should be off the ground in late April, early May.

NY Jets (7-3) at Tennessee (10-0)
When Brett Favre was making that Wrangler jeans commercial, how many interceptions did he throw? Also, I can guarantee you he told the director, "If so much as one drop of mud, one drop, gets on me, the next time you'll see me is in a Lee jeans commercial on the TV you're watching while you're supposed to be asking a customer if he'd like to try some shrimp poppers or extreme fajitas."

Buffalo (5-5) at Kansas City (1-9)
Someone actually has to win this game. No, wait, how could I forget about ties!!!

Chicago (5-5) at St. Louis (2-8)
If you would have told me Jim Haslett would be a head coach in the NFL again, I'd have told you, "Yeah, and Kyle Orton will one day not suck." Looks like you got the last laugh.

New England (6-4) at Miami (6-4)
The loser is probably done as far as the playoffs go, and the winner will cling to playoff hopes until the last week of the season only to have them crushed in the most bitter of fashions. First round of the NFL playoffs gambling alert: Chad Pennington on the road.

Minnesota (5-5) at Jacksonville (4-6)
The Vikings can still make the playoffs thanks to their division of mediocrity (everyone but Detroit is 5-5). Jacksonville....well, other than stink, I don't know what they can do.

Philadelphia (5-4-1) at Baltimore (6-4)
My fantasy football and the Eagles' hopes are riding on a guy who gets totally out of breath after one play and stays that way for the rest of the game. And, until last Sunday afternoon, was unaware teams could tie in the NFL.

Houston (3-7) at Cleveland (4-6)
Do you realize when LeBron James leaves Cleveland in a couple of years, this will be Brady Quinn's town? I hope the National Guard is already on standby.

San Francisco (3-7) at Dallas (6-4)
Congratulations to Mike Singletary for keeping his pants up two weeks in-a-row. Life as a grown man can be hard.

Oakland (2-8) at Denver (6-4)
Is every other team in the NFL 6-4 or hovering around .500? This season sucks.

Washington (6-4) at Seattle (2-8)
On cue, another 6-4 team!

NY Giants (9-1) at Arizona (7-3)
A potential second round playoff match-up preview on Sunday. Only this one won't end with the Giants winning by 40 and Kurt Warner throwing four picks before having some bone in his body snapped in half.

Carolina (8-2) at Atlanta (6-4)
I have no evidence to back this claim up, but I'm certain every game in the history of the NFC South has ended with a score of 13-9.

Indianapolis (6-4) at San Diego (4-6)
Just when you think we're getting another 6-4 team, the Chargers pull a fast one and go 4-6. Enjoy another Norv Turner debacle.

Green Bay (5-5) at New Orleans (5-5)
I once went to a Saints game and sat by a drunker-than-drunk man who was dressed as a nun and waved a Saints flag the entire game. My ass the Packers have the best fans in the NFL.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

From The Weekend That Was

Georgia 17, Auburn 13
Here's a great example of how dysfunctional Auburn's offense is. Mario Fannin had a 35 yard touchdown run that gave Auburn the lead with 11:05 left in the game (and he had a 52 yard touchdown reception in the first quarter). In the two Auburn possessions after his touchdown run, do you know how many times he touched the ball? Zero. Instead, Ben Tate got four carries, which he turned into a spectacular seven yards. For the game, Tate had 14 carries for 37 yards (2.6 yds/carry) and Fannin had 8 carries for 59 yards (7.4 yds/carry).

Maybe Fannin was hurt or maybe he expressed his longing for the return of Tony Franklin because those are the only two reasons I can see why he wasn't in the game on the last two possessions. And I don't think he was hurt because Tuberville said after the game they went with Tate because they felt like he was running the ball better. That explanation makes as much sense as firing your first year offensive coordinator six games into the season. Strange things are afoot in Auburn, Alabama. Amazingly, Auburn still has a chance to go to a bowl game if they upset Alabama in two weeks.

Ole Miss 59, Former Directional School 0
Bowl eligible. Since 2003, that was a phrase as common to the Rebels as David Cutcliffe playing deserving underclassmen and Ed Orgeron not watching recruiting tapes and refraining from using some variation of the word "compete." Psychologically, this is an enormous boost for fans of and everyone in the Ole Miss program. We're one year removed from winning ZERO SEC GAMES and spent the past four years living in football hell. Seriously, one year ago all we could hope for was a win over State to avoid losing every conference game. Now, I can't really put into words what it means to be spending late December or early January looking forward to a bowl game and not wondering how many recruits we're going to lose between the Egg Bowl and February. It's sort of like Andy Dufresne crawling through 500 yards of shit-smelling foulness to his freedom. Except we crawled around for four miserable years.

Florida 56, South Carolina 6
Okay, I was a little off on this one. Not only was it not close, South Carolina wasn't even remotely competitive. I said the GarciMelley probably couldn't produce enough points for South Carolina to win, but I didn't anticipate they wouldn't have a pulse. I haven't seen quarterbacks that terrified since 2005 when Ethan Flatt stared across the line at LSU's defensive front four.

As for Florida, I referred to them last week as an F5 tornado. I was wrong. They're like an F5 tornado that sprays fire, Tomahawk cruise missiles and a general cloud of death at anything in its path. What they're doing right now is something I've never seen or will likely ever see again. It's sort of like what the Patriots did early last season in the NFL, but with more death and burning of villages. 38-7, 51-21, 63-5, 49-10, 42-14 and 56-6. Those are their scores since they lost to Ole Miss. That's six conference games and three top 25 teams. I'm not even mad, that's amazing.

But of course, 31-30 still stands.

Alabama 32, Mississippi State 7
As I watched part of this game, I kept thinking about how cold it must have been sitting in the upper deck in Tuscaloosa. When I saw Sylvester Croom on the field dressed like he was about to face a Siberian winter, I could only assume the people up top were experiencing a cold even Jack Daniels couldn't break. Nor could he add any entertainment value to the State offense. For State fans there, it was probably a toss up on whether the cold or their offense was more brutal.

Alabama was just about as ugly as predicted, but they could afford to be when facing a State offense that sputtered its way to 167 total yards. I expect Alabama will play a game almost exactly like this one in two weeks when they try to end their losing streak to Auburn.

Vanderbilt 31, Kentucky 24
I looked for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on Saturday night, but didn't see them. Yet. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Vandy is going to a bowl. I just hope they don't get destroyed playing a C-USA team. But seriously, be on the lookout for these guys:

LSU 40, Troy 31
Troy lead 31-3 with 11:13 to play in the third quarter and 31-10 going into the fourth. Then, they showed their Sun Belt colors and promptly surrendered 30 points in the fourth quarter. The only thing more amazing than giving up 30 points in the fourth quarter is Jarrett Lee had his SEVENTH interception returned for a touchdown this season. Lee, who was booed and benched in the first half, now has 15 interceptions on the year and same confidence the Chicago Cubs have displayed over the past 100 years. He was one more soul-crushing interception return for a touchdown away from dropping out of school and applying for Ryan Leaf's now-vacant coaching position at that small college in Texas.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Weekend Picks

Made while watching the Jets/Patriots game, but flipping over to the Miami/Virginia Tech game during a break and heard Jesse Palmer refer to a player as a "little warrior." This immediately made me think of David Cutcliffe and his nickname for L.J. Taylor, which, of course, was "Little Warrior." Then I had a few minutes where I remembered how much I don't like David Cutcliffe because he played crappy players like L.J. Taylor merely because they were upperclassmen....

Last week: 4-2
Season: 52-13

Georgia at Auburn
At first, this game was not a priority to watch for me because of two things: One, it's the JP/LF/Raycom game. I'm not against watching JP games, but I don't know anyone who wakes up Saturday and can't wait for Dave, Dave and Dave to come on the air (unless it's your team playing). Looking forward to a Dave Cubed game where your team is not involved is like looking forward to a doctor putting on a rubber glove and telling you to bend over and cough. Like a prostate exam, this game is healthy for your college football knowledge, but you don't want it.

And two, watching Georgia hang 35+ on another below average team has zero appeal to me. However, tonight before the Thursday night game Reece Davis mentioned that Auburn players were still upset over the way Georgia's players danced the entire game last year to that Soulja Boy song. Now there's some intrigue. So Auburn is ticked off because of dancing and not that they were destroyed 45-20. That makes sense. I don't know how Auburn plans on getting their revenge because it won't be winning the game, but I hope it involves some dance fighting. Maybe even some breakdance fighting. That would be pretty awesome.

Oh, I forgot, this game is still not a priority to watch.

Former Directional School at Ole Miss
Barring any nuclear bomb-like implosion, Ole Miss will be headed to its first bowl since the Cotton Bowl in the 2003/2004 season. It would be a perfect ending to the season to beat LSU and State to most likely go back to the Cotton Bowl, but it doesn't really matter to me. I'd be thrilled to go back to Shreveport. The only drawback to going to the Cotton or Independence is that we'd most likely play a Big 12 team that throws about 60 times a game (right now it looks like it would be Oklahoma or Missouri, respectively) and we would be obliterated. But that's why they sell beer at bowl games. Am I right? Am I right? Hey-oh!!!

South Carolina at Florida
Spurrier's last trip to The Swamp saw his team bumble its way to a 17-16 loss, which ended on a blocked field goal in the final seconds. But what we learned from that game is that Spurrier is a better coach than Urban Meyer (even though Meyer revolutionized the college game with his desire to have the fastest team in America). I know Florida destroyed South Carolina last year (51-31), but I attribute that to Tim Tebow's insane overall performance last season and a heavily injured South Carolina defense. Well, those reasons and Blake Mitchell.

While Tebow is starting to play like he was last year (I'm not saying he stinks this year because he's playing really well, it's just that he's more human this year), the South Carolina defense is playing about eleventy million times better than it was last year, mainly because they've avoided the injuries they had last season. I don't think we're going to see Florida continuing their impression of Denzel Washington in Man on Fire after he declares he's going to kill anyone who had anything to do with the girl's kidnapping, but I do see them winning a close game.

I don't think the two-headed monster of Garcia and Smelley can score enough points to win the game. They're too mistake-prone and even when the South Carolina offense is clicking, or at least not screwing up, they aren't exactly lighting up the scoreboard. Their highest point total of the season has been 34, which they hit against NC State and Arkansas. Expect to see plenty of sarcastic smirks and headset rip-offs from Spurrier when GarciMelley fails to convert on another third down.

Mississippi State at Alabama
Sylvester Croom owes a chunk of his coaching success, albeit limited, to John Parker Wilson. It was Wilson who melted down in the past two meetings between these schools and gave State a pair of games even Sylvester Croom couldn't screw up. It's been so bad that Alabama last scored a touchdown against State in 2004, but amazingly Alabama is only 1-2 during that time. Credit the Sly Croom offense for that one win.

I expect to see another ugly, gross game in which John Parker Wilson stinks it up, but the Alabama defense gives the offense plenty of short fields to work with, so all that really has to be done is run the ball to get into field goal range. However, I think Alabama finally ends their touchdown problem against State and wins a game that, if not for the time of day, you would assume was a JP game.

Vanderbilt at Kentucky
That massive gagging sound coming out of Nashville is not the city still dry heaving after last night's "Country Music" Awards, but the Vanderbilt team choking away a 5-0 start. Seriously, this collapse has to be one of the all-time greats. The Dores are one game away from being bowl eligible with seven to play and they aren't going to make a bowl. If this were anyone but Vanderbilt, the national media would be going crazy over this story. The sports world is still getting stories out of the Yankees collapse in 2004 against the Red Sox, so can you imagine what would have happened if the Yankees lost a 5-0 lead in an 11 game series? Buster Olney and all the other Baseball Tonight dorks' heads would have exploded.

All Vanderbilt has had to do since their October 4th win over Auburn was win one freaking game. Sure they weren't going to beat Florida or Georgia, but Mississippi State and Duke? Embarrassing. Kentucky sends Vanderbilt away praying they can find a way to beat Tennessee, and showing that Bobby Johnson isn't the "good" coach that everyone claims he is. This would be two years in-a-row his team has choked away a chance at a bowl game and I'm willing to bet he catches no flak for it. He had his shot against State and Duke (and will against Tennessee) and watched as his team dropped stinkbombs against teams not any better than they were. If he's going to be praised for some of his wins, he needs to be criticized for games he lost that he probably shouldn't have.

Troy at LSU
I just want Jordan Jefferson to stink so Jarrett Lee has to play next week against Ole Miss.

Monday, November 10, 2008

From the Weekend That Was

Georgia 42, Kentucky 38
Georgia nearly hung half a hundred on the Wildcats and had Mohamed Massaquoi not fumbled twice in the fourth quarter, they probably would have. While the Georgia offense continues to destroy everything it faces (minus F5 tornado Florida), the defense has the stopping power of Israel against the Babylonians and Romans. There's no way a Randall Cobb-led team should score 38 points on a defense, unless that defense belongs to a Norfolk State. Especially after the previous week when same offense lit up the scoreboard in Starkville for 14 points.

More than likely, Georgia will end the season in 70 degree weather in Florida and they'll be happy (as they should be to some degree), but what would it take to finally get Georgia fans fed up with these 9-3 seasons where they beat who they should and lose every big game they play? I know getting upset with a 9-3 season sounds ridiculous, but when you're the only big school in a state with lots of high school talent from which you have your pick, at some point you need to break through. I know they played in the Sugar Bowl last year (and deservedly so), but they were matched up with a crappy Hawaii team and destroyed them as they should have. I'm not so sure they wouldn't have folded like a wet sack against a more equal opponent, like when they lost to West Virginia and single-handedly gave the national media the right to claim the Big East is a real conference. And now, because of that, Pittsburgh or Cincinnati have a shot at going to a BCS game this year. Seriously.

I think it's going to take 35,000 Georgia fans freezing to death at a 24 degree outing in the Music City Bowl before national championship appearances become the demand of every Georgia fan.

South Carolina 34, Arkansas 21
Steve Spurrier tapped his inner Steve Spurrier and brought back the rotating quarterback system, which we've all dearly missed. Smelley hands off for a two yards gain, Garcia comes in to run the next play, only to have Smelley return on the play after that. On the surface, there appears to be no method to the madness, but somewhere deep in the recesses of Steve Spurrier's brain it makes perfect sense. We mere mortals will never be able to understand, but to Spurrier that bare spot in his backyard and the black Honda Civic around eleven o'clock with grapes and oranges combined with the record player couch table and hummingbird television paper gives him all the reasons in the world to rotate quarterbacks.

Wyoming 13, Tennessee 7
You know what I like about hockey? A guy cheap shots one of your teammates and it takes all of .6 seconds for someone on your team to start fighting that guy.

Oh, and Wyoming should play more games in SEC country. 2-0 since 2005.

Auburn 37, Tennessee-Martin 20

Alabama 27, LSU 21
John Parker Wilson didn't have to win this game when Jarrett Lee did everything he could to lose it. While Lee was a little worse than awful, and it was obvious he was from the start, he was called on to throw the ball 34 times even though LSU was having great success running the ball. That well thought-out formula lead to four interceptions, including the killer one in overtime. And in the bigger picture, he moved into a tie with Casey Dick, who threw three of his own, for the overall lead in the SEC interceptions race. Amazingly, six of Lee's interceptions have been run back for touchdowns, which most certainly gives him the edge in the tiebreaker.

With this win, we'll see Alabama and Florida in Atlanta in December. Then John Parker Wilson, then the bell will toll for thee. Well, that is unless, no, I can't say it. Well, remember Starkville last year? Oh, and Auburn? But surely not. I mean that would be silly.

Florida 42, Vanderbilt 14
I look forward to seeing the pennant/banner in the University Avenue Abner's celebrating Florida's national championship with the score to the Ole Miss game marked. And, of course, it will hang next to the pennant/banner created for the '77 Notre Dame team.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Weekend Picks

Made while watching Brady Quinn throw the ball to everyone but Braylon Edwards, who happens to be on my fantasy team...

Last week: 6-1
Season: 48-11

Georgia at Kentucky
Nothing helps cure a thrashing at the hands of your biggest rival in the SEC like a giant helping of Kentucky Wildcats. While the Kentucky defense has been respectable (minus the Florida disaster), the offense has the firepower of the Polish Army circa 1939. And I fully expect Mark Richt and Georgia to treat the Wildcats much like Germany treated Poland.

Georgia is at least playing to spend the first few days of January in warm, sunny Florida and not freezing their tails off in Nashville or Dallas. Kentucky is all but booked for Nashville so they'll be playing not to have half a hundred dropped on them, which is a real possibility. Nothing says we're not as bad as you think like a 50 point win over Kentucky.

Arkansas at South Carolina
Welcome to the least intense conference battle in the history of sports. The schools are a little over 900 miles apart, have no memorable history, and didn't know one another existed until they both joined the SEC in 1992. Amazingly, after their win over Tulsa, Arkansas is only two wins away from being bowl eligible. With South Carolina, Mississippi State, and LSU left on the schedule, their best chance for two wins comes this week and next week against State. In order to get those two wins, they'll need Casey Dick to play like whoever this person is that he's become (667 passing yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs in the last two games). I don't think he can keep it up, but I also thought Tulsa would score 50 points on Arkansas. So what do I know.

South Carolina is threatening to fulfill my prophecy of finishing third in the SEC East and should move closer to that destiny this weekend. They've won five of their last six and are really playing well on defense. Spurrier, of course, is still upset his offense is not lighting up the scoreboard, but someone should remind him he's playing with a quarterback known more for his moronic behavior than his ability to throw a catchable forward pass. Let's work on cutting down the community service hours, then we can focus on dissecting the 2-3 roll-up zone. Baby steps Steve, baby steps.

Wyoming at Tennessee
The last time Wyoming ventured into SEC country they smacked around Ed Orgeron's hapless Ole Miss team. And yes, smacked and hapless are the correct words there. It was, without a doubt, the worst college football game I've ever attended. I don't see the Cowboys repeating their success this weekend, but it has more to do with how bad they are and not Tennessee. Not that the Wyoming team of '05 was the New York Giants, but that Ole Miss team was awful and it was piloted by the Shrimp Boat Captain, which automatically makes any team 60% worse than they actually are.

Tennessee-Martin at Auburn
Be careful, the Skyhawks are 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference. The sad thing about that sentence is that I'm not sure if I'm joking or not. This game will have a fun rating of -53 (however you rate fun). Auburn comes within a game of being bowl eligible.

Alabama at LSU
Nick Saban! Baton Rouge! Revenge! Hate! Booze! Drunken Revelry! Fights! Anger! Shirtless Fat Guys! A Little More Booze! Armageddon! It's Alabama and LSU, next on CBS!

If you take out "Nick Saban" and possibly "Armageddon," this is pretty much just another LSU home game. LSU has won the last five meetings, but in those previous five meetings the Tigers have had much better defenses. This LSU defense is clearly not very good against competent offenses. However, the good news for LSU is that Alabama's offense is not exactly Florida or Georgia's offense. I look for LSU to load up against the run and dare John Parker Wilson to have the game of his career. And I don't think he can beat them.

I know LSU got torched by Florida and Georgia, but both of those teams have quarterbacks about ten levels above John Parker Wilson. It's like the old AFC East when the Patriots were trotting out Tom Brady and the Colts had Peyton Manning under center, while the Jets hitched their wagon Chad Pennington's star. Wilson is a decent college quarterback, but he's not in the same sentence as those other guys. I think this will be the one game of the season he'll have to have his top game in order for Alabama to win. LSU's defensive line and linebackers are good enough to shut down the running game, so it will most likely be John Parker Wilson versus the LSU secondary.

If Jarrett Lee takes a break from running the turnover machine, LSU has a really good chance to win this one. And if John Parker Wilson plays like John Parker Wilson, LSU has a good chance to win. In a close one, I'm taking LSU.

Florida at Vanderbilt
Just a little over a month ago, Vanderbilt was undefeated and hosting GameDay. Now they've lost three straight and are streaking to another season without a bowl appearance. And, even better, they're about to be the next victim of Florida's buzzsaw. Ladies and gentlemen, the Bobby Johnson era!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

From the Weekend That Was

An extremely abbreviated version.....

Ole Miss 17, Auburn 7
Kodi Burns, the Ole Miss MVP, threw 3 picks against one of the league's worst secondaries. He also threw for 319 yards, mainly because the Ole Miss defense didn't let Auburn get any form of a running game going. Finally, Ole Miss wins a game it should have won. It was miserable to watch, but they got it done. Oh, and yes, it was especially nice to drive one of the final nails in the coffin of the coach who screwed us over 10 years ago.

Arkansas 30, Tulsa 23
What has three letters and absolutely nothing to do with Conference USA?

Kentucky 14, Mississippi State 13
Reading the recap of this game was probably as rich and compelling as actually watching the game. Just think State fans, if Michael Henig hadn't broken his arm last year, you'd be three games away from being done with the Sylvester Croom era.

Alabama 35, Arkansas State 0
John Parker Wilson's actual line: 15 of 28, 152 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT. The only thing I got right was the interceptions. Alas.

Florida 49, Georgia 10
As much as I don't like Urban Meyer, I found watching him trying to score an f-you touchdown on Mark Richt to be highly entertaining. And Urban, send the thank you note and flowers to the following address:

The University of Mississippi Football Office
c/o Houston Nutt
1810 Manning Way
Oxford, MS 38677

South Carolina 27, Tennessee 6
After Spurrier banished Phil Fulmer to the underworld for good, David Cutcliffe announced he was not interested in the Tennessee job. If you're scoring at home, that's two consecutive SEC job openings in which David Cutcliffe has said he had no interest when the respective schools, Alabama and Tennessee, had no interest in him. He should send out a blanket press release saying he is not interested in Kansas State, Toledo, Washington and whatever other jobs are open, including NFL jobs that will be open at the end of this year.

LSU 35, Tulane 10
Big win for LSU since they really need this one for recruiting rights in their st.....what's that? Oh, right. They are the only school in their state. Nevermind.

Weekend picks coming tomorrow night.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Weekend Picks

Before I get to the picks, a few other items of note...

-What's grosser than gross? This or this?

-ESPN has lost its damn mind. They're going to let, nay, appoint Chris Berman to interview Barack Obama and John McCain at halftime of the upcoming Monday night game. The guy who's the master of "uhs" and "ahs" while doing highlights, horrible nicknames, the same crappy shtick, and the used car salesman-like short-sleeve dress shirt will be interviewing the men running for President of the United States. Seriously. Chris freaking Berman. I can't even express how outrageous this is. I don't really want to see either one of these guys interviewed at halftime of a football game, but I sure as hell at least want a competent individual conducting the interview. Like one who won't do something like this:

Berman: "Senator John 'We McCain Win This Election.' I haven't seen you since the days at the old Polo Grounds when the NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS played there. Ha! Just pulling your leg. How are you, sir?

McCain: "Ah, well, ah, Chris, I'm doing just fine. It's great to be here in front of my fellow Americans, watching America's favorite game on the night before what I hope is a great victory for our country and the Republican party."

Berman: "Eh, uh, ah so you're feeling good about tomorrow?"

McCain: "Chris, let me tell you, I have complete confidence in the American people that tomorrow, they will make what they believe is the right choice by electing me to be their next President. And we're looking forward to it."

Berman: "Well, best of luck Senator. Godspeed. We wish you well. And maybe you'll get to spend the next four years watching these Redskins play."

(Joint forced laughter)

That was horrible just to write. Let's move on (I had one for Obama too, but reading two of those would have been awful for you. That and I had a hard time coming up with a Berman nickname for him. Barack 'Oooo-bama We're Going to Win This Election' was the best I could do.).

Oh, and here's a reminder what a bitch Chris Berman is (language warning).

As for the picks, they were made while pondering which "I didn't try to kill myself" story was less believable, Isiah Thomas' or Terrell Owens'.....

Last Week: 6-1
Season: 42-10

Auburn at Ole Miss
Ole Miss' SEC road record: 2-1. SEC home record: 0-2. If the Rebels want to go bowling outside of Memphis, they've got to close out with two conference wins at home (Auburn and State). An interesting story this week was Ole Miss fullback Jason Cook calling out the Ole Miss fans and basically telling them they suck (my word, not his). While I agree with Cook that Ole Miss fans are awful, Cook and the rest of team should probably be more focused on why they turn into teenage girls and can't beat or put away teams they're better than (SC, Vandy, and Arkansas). Get some mental toughness and a killer instinct and you'll see what happens in the stands. Even crappy fans can recognize and appreciate watching a team with both of those.

As for this game, Auburn is about as dead in the water as a team can be. Ole Miss should win and, if they play like they're capable of, win by double digits. But who knows if the Rebels will fold like a wet sack when the first thing goes wrong or they get scared, like they love to do.

Tulsa at Arkansas
Gus Malzahn returns to Arkansas to exact reven.....nevermind. But I'm sure sportswriters across America would love to see him destroy Bobby Petrino. Look for Tulsa to light up Arkansas, even though the Hogs may not throw a pass, just to keep the clock running. For the record, if Ole Miss does make a bowl and that bowl is the Liberty Bowl, Tulsa will do the same thing to us.

Kentucky at Mississippi State
I can't think of anything remotely interesting to write about this game. Nothing. I guess it's worth noting that if Kentucky wins, and I say they will, the Wildcats become bowl eligible. Anything else?

I think that's about it.

Arkansas State at Alabama
My attempt to predict John Parker Wilson's stat line:
8 of 17, 118 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT. We'll see how that turns out.

Florida at Georgia
A few years ago, both schools wanted people to stop calling this game the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party because they felt like it accepted or promoted massive alcohol consumption. I have no idea what they're talking about.....

(the last thirty seconds are where the gold is)

Both offenses come into this game clicking, while only one defense appears to be working. I don't think Georgia has enough defense to stop Florida. LSU turned it over three times and still hit Georgia up for 38 points. Unless Florida turns it over, I don't see them getting much less than that. And Florida, since the Ole Miss loss, has outscored three teams 152-33. No, that is not Alabama's combined scores against David Cutcliffe teams in Tuscaloosa, but really what Florida has done to Arkansas, LSU, and Kentucky. I think Florida is putting it together at the right time for a push to Atlanta. I'm taking them here. They're so hot right now!!!

Tennessee at South Carolina
Do you think Steve Spurrier is going to take any satisfaction in driving the final stake into Phil Fulmer's undead heart? Yeah, me too.

Tulane at LSU
How about some classic Les Miles....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From the Weekend That Was

West Virginia 34, Auburn 17
Auburn fans, welcome to the Kodi Burns era. Complete with 33 yards of offense in the second half of a game in which they dominated early. While a national television audience got a great look at the disaster that is the Auburn offense, they also got a look at a defense allergic to tackling and about as interested in playing football as I am in watching Frank TV. The Auburn defense was shredded for 445 yards and, at my last check, still has not tackled Noel Devine. Oddly enough, the offense held onto the ball for over 35 minutes, but only produced 260 yards. I'm guessing the 3.9 yards per play probably didn't help in the total yards category.

I have to believe Auburn coaches are busy right now burning the midnight oil in their offices. You know, sprucing up their resumes, contacting moving companies, and seeing if Tony Franklin would be interested in having them on his staff when he is eventually named a I-AA school's head coach.

Florida 63, Kentucky 5
Dear Kentucky (and LSU),


Ole Miss

Duke 10, Vanderbilt 7
It's hard to play football, much less win a football game, when you've got both hands wrapped around your throat. I hope all Vandy fans enjoyed losing the way other teams have lost to them this year. Two missed field goals and three turnovers. Way to make your opponent win the game. But hey, at least you'll be able to hear the PA from the Music City Bowl.

Georgia 52, LSU 38
Ok, so LSU's defense does stink. Not shaky, it stinks. And so does the Georgia defense. And so do choppy sentences. I can't stop. Too easy. And too fun.

Anyway, I thought this was one of, if not the, best game I've seen Stafford play. He pretty much did whatever he wanted when he wanted. I'm not positive, but I believe a couple of his throws traveled close to 464 miles an hour. That's just my estimate so I could be wrong.

Obviously, a horrible LSU defense contributed to this loss, but the three turnovers by LSU's offense were huge (two of which were run back for touchdowns). All of sudden Jevan Snead, Casey Dick, and Chris Smelley have some competition in the not-so-coveted interceptions title. Jarrett Lee moved into a tie for third place with Smelley. Now that Smelley isn't starting anymore, look for Lee to certainly claim third for himself and possibly make a run at Snead for the top spot.

Mississippi State 31, Directional School 22
Sylvester Croom on if he was OK with burning true freshman Arceto Clark's redshirt eight games into the season (especially after Clark's stat line - 1 carry, 2 yards):
"Yeah. We're going to play him some more. Guys, I'm not worried about what's happening four years from now. I'm going to let somebody else worry about that if that needs to be. I'm worried about winning a game today. And burning a redshirt? Hey, all I want to do is win today. We're going to play him next week, we're going to play him the week after that, and what happens four or five years from now, I'm not concerned about."

Ladies and gentlemen, your reigning SEC Coach of the Year!

Ole Miss 23, Arkansas 21
I'm just glad it's over. If Arkansas hadn't have gotten screwed on that offensive pass interference call and kicked the field goal to win by one, I don't think I could have watched another Ole Miss game this year. This one nearly killed me as it was. Can we please stop this last possession of the game crap? People are going to die if this keeps up. I'm serious. Someone is literally going to keel over at an Ole Miss game. I just hope it's not me.

Alabama 29, Tennessee 9
A cyber high-five to all those smart enough to take Alabama at -6.5. That was one of the dumbest (and most rewarding) lines I can remember this year. It's a sad state of affairs in Knoxville when the most rewarding thing they'll be able to say at the end of the year is that they helped keep Vanderbilt from going to a bowl.