5-at-10: Power five conference confusion, Should Rusty Wright’s seat be hot, Braves shining stars

Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr., left, celebrates with Austin Riley, right, after a win against the Los Angeles Angels, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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College conversation

We are into August. This should be about college football questions.

Can Georgia three-peat?

Can Tennessee replicate last season's magic with a new QB and lofty expectations?

Can Alabama rebound (and how cool would it be if your program viewed an 11-2 season with two losses coming by four total points as something from which you needed to "rebound")?

Can LSU get to Atlanta?

Can either of the Mississippi schools contend in the West? (Side note here: MSU QB Will Rogers was playing as well as any QB1 in the SEC late last year.)

Can Arkansas keep KJ Jefferson healthy, which would go a long way?

Can the West be any tougher?

Can, you get the idea. And since it is August, here are the quick-trigger responses:

Yes; Can, but not sure they will; Of course there are still five-stars littered on the two-deep; Absolutely; Doubtful; Yes, and the Hogs are gonna shock someone; Nope, and that stinks when you are in rebuild mode like Auburn.

Rather than bellying up to the bar-room debates that make the SEC a year-round endeavor, the head-spinning news of conference crossovers continues.

How crazy is the super conference criss-cross? By 2024, the Big Ten will have 16, the Big 12 will have 13, the Pac-12 will have nine and the SEC will be well into the midwest.

Got it? Good.

The Pac-12 is teetering on the brink. The ideas of TV money — the modern lifeblood of college athletics among the major conferences — for the Pac-12 are Pac-poor and hinge on streaming subscriptions that could be few and far between regardless of Bill Walton's lofty opinion of the league.

UCLA and USC are Big Ten bound, and that conference is eyeing Washington, Stanford, Oregon and Cal which would make it the Big 10(x2).

Colorado is headed to the Big 12. The Big 12 is also looking at the Arizona schools and Utah.

To make matters even more crazy, FSU sounds like it could be a free agent — lamenting the divide in conference media rights deals between the ACC and the SEC — sooner rather than later too.

Which leaves us with a couple of big-picture best guesses.

> The Pac-12 looks cooked, and man how panicked are you if you are in the AD's office at Washington State or Oregon State? Hey, remember us?

> If FSU is serious and not just blowing smoke signals, the ACC better figure this out ASAP. If the Seminoles ride into the sunset, Miami likely would be looking, and if the SEC thinks it needs to get to the super-sized Big10(x2), it will do so at the expense of the ACC and in states that would expand its footprint. That would put Duke and UNC into play as well.

> If the Pac-12 dissolves, which looks more and more likely, it's not that hard to see four super leagues of at least 16 teams, and those schools governing themselves in football only. The rest of college sports would have to go along, too, because if those 64-plus teams decide to do something other than be the Goliaths in the NCAA tournament, it will lead to March Sadness for all of us and be the death knell of the NCAA.

Closer to home

Of course the college sports conference machinations should concern UTC fans. The Mocs have to beg, borrow and steal to make the ends meet while FSU is angling for a better media deal in which the increase would fund all of UTC athletics for the next two years.

Think about that, and as you do, you have to be impressed with the continued efforts and achievements of the Mocs across multiple platforms.

But it's college football time, and speaking of traditional college football banter, here's TFP UTC ace Gene Henley with five questions as the Mocs report.

A lot of the basic positions are covered including the elephant in the room, and in truth, on an anything-goes-Thursday, wow, how badly does UTC need a bona fide dude lining up at QB1?

The final of Gene's five questions deals some with 'realistic' goals, which seems fair, but I would add to it.

In fact, I guess my question is this: Is Rusty Wright on a hot seat?

In his four seasons at his alma mater he has four third-place finishes. Yes, he's redirected the Mocs from the Tom Arth slide, but for a program that was a playoff fixture under Russ Huesman before that, well, the Mocs need to find the postseason.

Rusty is a good football coach, and a really good dude. And there was a time when consistent third-place SoCon finishes would have put the UTC football coach on the fast track to a bigger job.

Unless those days are part of the plan, this feels like a year Wright and Co. find a way to play a postseason game, no?

Back again

The Braves played. The Braves' bats went nuts. A 12-5 win leads the Braves to the suddenly smoking Chicago Cubs with the best record in baseball at 69-37.

Yeah, that seems pretty stout.

And all the credit goes to an offense that is powerfully relentless and relentlessly powerful.

Matt Olson, Austin Riley and Ronald Acuña each went yard Wednesday afternoon. My goodness what a lineup.

Riley has been the best offensive player in the game since the All-Star break, going 19-for-59 (.331) with eight homers (yeah, that's one every 7.4 ABs) and 17 RBIs in that stretch.

Riley, simply put, has the look of a dude who will an MVP. And he's far from the only one.

If the voting were held today, Olson would likely finish no worse than third in the MVP balloting. The Braves first baseman leads the NL in homers (37) and the majors in RBIs (91).

And since it's been a hot minute, let's deep dive into the monster season Ronald Acuña Jr. is posting for Smyrna's favorite crew.

Across all of baseball, Acuña is top four in average (third at .335), on-base (third at .420) and slugging (fourth at .582). He leads all offensive-only players in WAR at 5.5 and is top-10 in homers (25) and leads in stolen bases (51) and runs scored (97).

Those are eye-popping, and now know this: Acuña's growth as a hitter — remember dude is just 25 — is truly shown in his improved plate discipline.

Before his incredible 2023 season, Acuña's biggest weakness was striking out. Coming into this season, his K-to-BB rate was 582-to-261. That's less-than-ideal for a lead-off hitter, even one with Acuña's transcendental power.

This year, that K-to-BB rate is almost 1-1 with 58 walks and 59 Ks.

No matter where this Braves season ends as we get closer and closer to the -er months, Acuña almost single-handedly has made this Braves season as entertaining as any since the magic and mystery of 1991.

This and that

— Got to let him play through right? Here are the details of a Canadian golfer who had his clubs and bag swiped by a mischievous bear. Yeah, seriously.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on some of the uber-talented UT freshmen heading into camp.

— Here's the latest on the Pat McAfee social media backlash.

— We got football tonight, people. Football. Yes, it's the Hall of Fame NFL preseason game, but rest assured, there will be a pick in this afternoon's Jay's Plays email. War Football. Here's the viewing intel.

Today's questions

Yep, it's an anything goes Thursday — the ol' AGT you know — and we have some offerings above.

UTCMocs, DD, and others connected to UTC, is it fair to say Rusty's seat should be hot this year? Thoughts?

Also, will you watch the NFL Hall of Fame game tonight?

Here's one more: What was the most enjoyable season you have experienced as a fan? Mine was easily Auburn's 2010 run, which ironically enough also was the football season that gave birth to the 5-at-10.

As for today, Aug. 3, let's review.

Tom Brady is 46 today. Yeah, that seems like a pretty good life.

On this day in 1492, Columbus set sail across the ocean blue.

On this day in 1936, Jesse Owens won the 100 meters in front of Hitler at the Berlin Games.

On this day in 1949, the NBA was formed.

If the NBA had a Rushmore, which four faces make it? Go, and remember the mailbag.