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Football fans everywhere. From high school games wherever you live — me and the rest of the 5-at-10 clan were at Hixson for the Wildcats' 19-7 win over Signal — to a full slate of college games Saturday and a full Sunday of the NFL model. What a football-packed weekend.
Coco Gauff and the Joker. That was cool, and I could not care less about tennis. Side question: Is there a phrase more commonly flip-flopped than the "I couldn't care less/I could care less" and of course the latter means you actually care some? Coco became the first U.S. teenager to win a major since some lady named Serena. Novak Djokovic just won his 24th major singles title. Yeah, that works.
The Pac-12. This may be the last year of a league that has been ravaged by poor leadership, conference expansion raiders and perplexing decisions. As Paschall wrote on Friday to the response to a mailbag query, "The Kick Six is the greatest play in college football history; the Cal-Stanford Band of the Field play likely is the best play in ACC history," but the Pac-12ers are going out in style. Before Arizona lost to Mississippi State — and Cal eventually gave a game away to Auburn as well as Stanford losing to USC — the Pac-12 started 18-0, which is a record-setting start to the season for any conference since the FBS/FCS split in 1978. And that league has had some QBs people. Caleb Williams is a bona fide dude. Bo Nix is playing like the 14-year, seasoned veteran that he is. Michael Penix Jr. is slinging it at Washington. And right now Shedeur Sanders at Colorado is the Heisman front runner. (And remember Jayden Daniels was out there before transferring to LSU.)
Which leads us to the Sanders clan. Again. There were a lot of folks who thought there was going to be crashing to Earth moment for Coach Prime and the Buffs against Nebraska. Heck the spread was less than a TD. Colorado smoked 'em, and in truth, who wants to play that "we believe" juggernaut right now?
Steve Sarkisian. What a roller coaster that dude has experienced professionally. Had a dream gig, had a drinking problem and got canned from USC. Got dipped in the Saban cleansing waters and found his way to Texas. And Saturday, became just the third former padawan of the Dark Lord to beat his former master. And did so in style, because this is maybe the most impressive stat in a long list of impressive Saban stats, but Chris Fowler said on the ESPN broadcast that Texas' 34-24 win over Saban and Alabama was the first time Nick Saban has ever lost a home game by double digits. Ever. Read that one again.
Dallas Cowboys. On a day of impressive NFL feats and feet, and a very sad Jay's Plays that I did not offer a bunch of picks last Friday, the Cowboys stole the show Sunday night with a total tail-whipping of the Giants. We will have our NFL power poll Tuesday morning, and yes, we will cover a slew of these things head to toe.
Mel Tucker and Michigan State. Wow. Buckets of wow. For the school that did everything possible to pretend Larry Nassar didn't exist, this is an impossible situation. And it's a situation of alleged sexual harassment against Tucker from Brenda Tracy, who is a champion for females who have been harassed and assaulted by folks in power in powerful college athletic programs. (Side note: I have spoken with Tracy for multiple stories. She survived a gang rape at Oregon State by football players during her college years. She is total aces in my book. Here's a column I wrote with her excellent insight almost a decade ago.) Tucker said the explicit conversations were consensual, and I truly hope justice is found. But man, this does not smell kosher to me.
The SEC West. Texas A&M has a real Jimbo issue. Alabama got whipped in the fourth quarter — at home — by Texas. Auburn should have lost to Cal — and believe me, the Tigers were very lucky — and this is a week after LSU got hammered by FSU. What I believe to be the best division in college football may come down to the Ole Miss-Arkansas game.
USA basketball. OK, I know the FIBA World Cup basketball events are way down the scroll — especially in the first full weekend of full-force football — but there is simply no way the U.S. should ever finish outside of the top three in any basketball event ever hosted in any country.
Zach Bryan. Look, I love Bryan. His style is going to be part of the rebirth of country music. But dude, back-talking the Oklahoma State Troopers to the point they haul you to the hoosegow? C'mon my man. Be better than that.
Mike Vrabel. What was that? Possession is more important than position in today's NFL. And you never got the ball back, did you?
The Bears. Man, it's been almost half my lifetime since Chicago has not had to face a Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame QB1 considering the last quarter century of Favre and Rodgers. Now, Jordan Love continued to own Chicago. Hey, Aaron, best buck up tonight or the chatter come Tuesday will be really interesting.
Fine time at Finley
So last week, I suggested that Rusty Wright's seat should be getting warm.
When you lose against inferior foes that is what can happen. When you are mired in a perpetual race to third, that's what's supposed to happen. When you routinely underperform, that's what should happen.
Whether it was desperation or exasperation — or the ultimate player rally to their coach's time of need — the UTC football program answered the call in the final 30 minutes of a must-have moment against Kennesaw State.
Whether it was the emerging connection between QB1 and a new WR, that can be debated. Whether it was the midweek meeting TFP UTC beat writer Gene Henley shared earlier this week, OK.
But know this: It was potentially program-redirecting. And maybe even coach saving.
Is that over the top? Maybe.
But after losing to North Alabama to open the season, UTC answered every negative viewpoint with a dominating first half and held on for a 27-20 win over Kennesaw State.
Yes, each outcome is puzzling. Yes, finding a consistent "effort + focus = outcome" formula of the first two quarters Saturday and the middle two quarters at North Alabama is paramount for Wright and his staff.
But in a game that could have completely altered the season in either direction, Wright's crew was ready from the opening bell, and that must count for something.
This and that
— Tennessee played. Tennessee won. But very few Tennessee fans you know are happy.
— Paschall had a busy weekend. And you know the rules, so here's his personal page and feel free to catch up on any of the things you may have missed.
— So a Secret Service agent is starting to share his memories of the JFK assassination all these years later. Interesting read. Why now, though?
— Speaking of strange timing, man, my Signal Mountain folks need to start lining up with our park needs if Lookout Mountain is getting a cut of Hamilton County dollars for new lights. And forget the affluence of the various zip codes — or the back-and-forth in this story — I could not help that no one asked this question: How many park users at that Lookout Mountain facility are Georgia residents and pay no Hamilton County taxes?
— I can't call the Falcons a loser — they won, after all — but man, that offense was amazingly conservative, and Desmond Ridder looked like he has regressed from his limited chances last season.
Weekend winners and losers. Go.
Multiple choice Monday will go this way:
Of the young QB1s making their first opening Sunday start, if you could have any of them, which one you taking?
— Brock Purdy.
— Desmond Ridder.
— Bryce Young.
— Anthony Richardson.
— Jordan Love.
As for today, well, I am planning on being at the 9/11 parade today. Hope to see some of you knuckleheads there.
Hard to believe that was 22 years ago, you know?
Amazing on this day in 1773, Ben Franklin wrote the ever-prophetic words, "There was never a good war or a bad peace."
Johnny Unitad died on this day.
Rushmore of pre-modern NFL QBs (think before 1980 or so).
Go and have a great day, friends.