There is a radio announcer in Athens, Ga., named Tim Gribble who almost got a whipping Thursday morning. It all started when he had two Knoxville sports writers, Andrew Gribble and Dave Hooker, on his morning show. The two writers, both with the Knoxville News-Sentinel, wondered at one point if Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley would be on the hot seat if his Vols lose to Georgia this Saturday night in Neyland Stadium.
Within a matter of minutes Derek’s mother, Barbara, who lives near the station in Athens, was pounding on the front door of WGAU-AM and she quickly let it be known she isn’t going to listen to any harsh talk or foolishness about her youngest son.
Barbara’s husband, of course, is legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley but - don’t you worry – she’ll be wearing Big Orange tomorrow night.
Let’s listen in to what was said:
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Barbara: “I want to ask you guys something. Back when I was in coaching with my husband, the press was our best friends. Now all y’all want to do is beat the coaches to (expletive) and back.
”Hooker: “That’s not me, that’s Andrew.” (laughter)
Barbara: “I want you to listen about my baby.
”Bryant: “You have to hurry because we’ve got a congressman standing by.
”Barbara: “Well, he can just wait. Football is important. (more laughter) Let me say this: Derek Dooley walked into kind of a mess. Florida (coach Will Muschamp) walks into talent just oozing out of their ears. Jimbo Fisher walks into FSU with talent. And y’all are telling me that Derek Dooley is on the (expletive) hot seat? Are you crazy?”
Bryant: “Did anybody say the word hot seat?
”Barbara: “Yeah, I heard them!
”Hooker: “I didn’t say that.”
Barbara: “Oh, come on, get out here! You’ve got Mama’s rile up now, buddy. Did you know (Derek) played 17 freshmen against Florida?
Barbara: “I just want you to be nice and fair and know that you probably have the best coach in the country and he’s going to be there 25 years.”
Bryant: “And they’ll probably name the stadium after him. Guys, thanks for joining us. Andrew Gribble, Dave Hooker and Barbara Dooley. Like I said, we’ve got a congressman (Tom Graves) standing by and he’s had to listen to all this.”
That said, here’s how I pick this week’s top games:
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No. 3 OKLAHOMA (4-0) vs. No. 11 TEXAS (4-0) in Dallas, 12:00 Noon (ABC) – Sooner quarterback Landry Jones has completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,447 yards and UO is better than Texas at almost every position but this edition of the Red River Rivalry should be just another in a line of classics. The Sooners feel shunned by the polls after both LSU and Alabama has jumped ahead and need a solid win to enhance their bearing but unbeaten Texas has erased the memories of last year’s wretched 5-7 season and young QB Case McCoy is a winner. OU is picked by 10 with WR Trey Franks back but that’s a lot of points. MY PICK? Oklahoma, 25-21.
MARYLAND (2-2) at No. 13 GEORGIA TECH (5-0), Noon (ESPNU) – The Yellow Jackets, scoring twice as many points as they’ve allowed this fall, should continue to roll this this ACC headliner because the Terps have given up more than they have scored. Unbeaten Tech has only struggled against UNC so far while UM, losing to Temple 38-7 two weeks ago before whipping little Towson last Saturday, will struggle to contain GT, averaging 587 yards per contest. MY PICK? Georgia Tech, 42-15.
No. 23 FLORIDA STATE (2-2) at WAKE FOREST (3-1), 12:30 p.m. – Oh sure, I know FSU is a 13-point favorite but Wake has just lost once and it was a 36-29 overtime loss to Syracuse in the opener. Add the fact this one would give WF the first 3-0 record in ACC history and it could get dicey. FSU QB E.J Manuel is back so expect the top two passing teams in the ACC to put on an air show. Wake coach Jim Grobe likes the Demons. "I think our guys know they can win, and I think they know that they have to play to win. They figured it out after the Syracuse game, and again after NC State and Boston College, that they have to make plays down the stretch if we are going to win," he said. "I think we've grown up a lot." MY PICK? Florida State, 31-24.
No. 17 FLORIDA (4-1, 2-1 SEC) at No. 1 LOUISIANA STATE (5-0, 2-0 SEC), 3:30 p.m. (CBS) – Whoo-whee, no question here. With top UF QB out (John Brantley) and back-up Jeff Driskel a hobbled freshman, LSU’s terror will be just as bad as the romp Alabama put on UF last week. LSU has two solid QBs so with Driskel being heavily pressured by a salty Tiger defense, look for the Bayou linebackers to put heat on UF’s two speedsters, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. LSU is a 14-point favorite but I think the final will be much like Alabama’s 38-10 win over the Gators last Saturday. MY PICK? LSU, 41-14.
MIAMI (2-2) at No. 21 VIRGINIA TECH (4-1), 3:30 p.m. (ABC/ESPN) – When Clemson smashed Tech, 23-3, last week you could almost hear the lights go on in Miami. The ‘Canes, still reeling from that 4-point loss to Kansas State, now feel they’ve got a chance. UM lost, 31-9, the last time they played here but keep an eye on UM RB Lamar Miller, who is averaging 127 yards per game to be ranked No. 8 in the country. ‘Cane QB Jackory Harris is also a constant threat so no wonder VT is just a 7-point pick. Tech QB Logan Thomas isn’t worried. “Special teams and defense have always been the face of this program," he said. But here’s one I think will go the other way. MY PICK? Miami, 27-21.
IOWA (3-1) at PENN STATE (4-1), 3:30 p.m. (ABC/ESPN) – Iowa has beaten Penn State in eight of the last nine Big 10 games and after PSU struggled against lightweight Indiana last week (16-10), tomorrow’s game won’t exactly be played in Happy Valley. PSU fans are rumbling almost as badly as UI followers were when the Hawkeyes dropped the 44-41 overtime loss to Iowa State. PSU’s defense is nationally-ranked in the top five so, while you look for a slugfest, the question is which team can score. PSU, a 3-point pick, has countered nagging QB questions with RB Silas Redd while Iowa’s young receivers are improving. "This is the real meat of your season, especially going on the road to Penn State. We haven't won a game on the road this year, so obviously that's going to be a challenge," IU QB James Vandenberg (10 TDs) said. MY PICK? Iowa, 21-17.
No. 24 TEXAS A&M (2-2) at TEXAS TECH (4-0), 7:00 p.m. (FX) – Tommy Tuberville has TTU off to a fast start and a win here would put Tech into the Top 25. "We need to protect QB (Seth) Doege a little bit better - if we can do that he'll have a heckuva year," he said. Sure enough, TTU is seventh in the FBS with 525.0 yards per game, and they have scored 22 of 23 times inside the 20-yard line. A&M, after two bitter losses, is still favored by 8 and Mike Sherman says the pending SEC membership is on the back burner. "We're in the Big 12 right now and we need to win in the Big 12. We're focusing more on this season.” The Aggie secondary is worrisome and this one’s in Lubbock. MY PICK? Texas A&M, 32-17.
No. 15 AUBURN (4-1, 2-0 SEC) at No. 10 ARKANSAS (4-1, 0-1 SEC), 7:00 p.m. (ESPN) – Auburn is last in the SEC in pass defense and against Arkansas that’s deadly; Razorback QB Tyler Wilson threw for a school record 510 yards in last week’s 42-38 thriller at A&M. Auburn isn’t flinching after last week’s 16-13 win at South Carolina. "We've got to do it again. That's exactly how I feel," Auburn defensive end LaDarius Owens said this week. "People are waiting in the back just trying to say, `I told you so.' What we did last week, yeah, it's good and great. But if we don't do it this week, they'll be like, `I knew it was a fluke." I don’t think it was a fluke but I don’t think Auburn can stop Arkansas, a 10-point favorite, either. MY PICK? Arkansas, 37-15.
GEORGIA (3-2, 2-1 SEC) at TENNESSEE (3-1, 0-1 SEC), 7:00 P.M. (ESPN2) – If you’ll study, Georgia has out-recruited UT for a long time and with the Vols playing 17 freshmen at Florida, you have to feel experience will be the difference in a great football game. UT’s Tyler Bray and WR Da’Rick Rogers are bright spots but UGa QB Aaron Murray, RB Isaiah Crowell and the Bulldogs’ better defense will give Mark Richt his 100th victory. UT was hammered by Florida, 33-23, while UGa has now won three straight. If we keep emotion out of it and remember Georgia beat UT 41-14 a year ago, I still think UT is a year away and more than a 1-point underdog. MY PICK? Georgia, 29-14.
OHIO STATE (3-2) at No. 14 NEBRASKA (4-1), 8:00 p.m. (ABC) – "We need some guys to step up and man up and start playing football," UN coach Bo Pelini growled this week and, as a former Buckeye player, Bo ain’t about to lose the first time he faces OSU. A 10-point choice, the ‘Huskers stadium will be red with rage for the Buckeyes, which have never played in Lincoln and lost two of the last 3 games. "We all don't like where we are (in terms of record)," OSU coach Luke Fickell said. "We all know there's ways we need to get better." So with the Buckeyes sputtering, count on Pellini to pull all the stops in what will hopefully salve last week’s 43-17 loss to Wisconsin. MY PICK: Nebraska, 37-20.
IN OTHER SEC GAMES
MISSISSIPPI STATE (2-3, 0-3 SEC) at UA-BIRMINGHAM (0-4), 12 noon – (FoxSports) – State showed great promise in the 41-34 loss to Auburn but when the Bullies were forced to go into overtime before nipping La. Tech and then lost by 14 to Georgia, there is a worry in Starkville. UAB should be a get-well card before MSU hosts South Carolina next week. MY PICK? Mississippi State, 34-10.
KENTUCKY (2-3, 0-2 SEC) at SOUTH CAROLINA (4-1, 2-1 SEC), 12:21 P.M. (SEC Network) -- The Wildcats, after big losses to Florida and LSU, couldn’t arrive in Columbia at a worse time. Steve Spurrier is still fuming over the 16-13 Auburn loss and with Conner Shaw back at QB, USC will revive RB Marcus Lattimore to run like thoroughbreds over UK. This is big in the SEC East – even with USC favored by 21 - and, with Carolina two weeks away from UT, it will be fun to watch how soon QB Stephen Garcia gets out of the doghouse. MY PICK? South Carolina, 37-14.
VANDERBILT (3-1, 1-1 SEC) at ALABAMA (5-0, 2-0 SEC), 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU) – New Vandy coach James Franklin caused a big stir when he used a helicopter to skip from one high school game to another in Atlanta last week but tomorrow night he will need three aircraft carriers, eight attack bombers and nuclear arms to stop Alabama, a 29-point favorite. As a Florida lineman said after last week’s debacle in Gainesville, “They don’t just beat you, they beat you up!” MY PICK? Alabama 45-3.
IDLE THIS WEEK: Ole Miss (2-3, 0-2 SEC) has an open date and will host Alabama next Saturday.
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AND ONE MORENo. 23 CHATTANOOGA (2-3) at No. 1 GEORGIA SOUTHERN (4-0), 3:05 p.m. (WTCI-TV) – Scrappy Chattanooga, losing a heartbreaker but learning a great lesson in Citadel’s come-from-behind chiller last week, could earn the greatest signature in school history by knocking off top-ranked Georgia Southern in the SoCon Network game. The Mocs have the talent and moxie, losing to then No. 3 Appy State by 2 two weeks ago, and if GSU will stumble just once over its ego, who is to say the bounces may go the Mocs way? MY PICK? Chattanooga, 24-21.