When the Fayetteville Rotary Club asked former Tennessee football coach Johnny Majors to speak last week, he had no idea he was walking into a trap. John had a speech prepared but was speechless when he arrived and learned it was instead a roast with former teammates, media hounds and longtime friends on hand to deliver one funny story after another.
High school teammate Don Schultz, who played with Majors at Huntland High before becoming a minister, said that not long after Johnny took the coaching job at Tennessee, the younger John Majors came home from school and his daddy asked him what he had learned. “We read about the three bears,” said the tyke and Johnny yelled, “Good Lord, surely there aren’t two more of them!”
Joe Biddle, a longtime Nashville writer, was hysterical as he did his famous imitations of Majors, who won the national championship coaching Tony Dorsett at Pitt, but it was legendary TV announcer Hope Hines, who recently retired in Nashville, who had the day’s best tale.
It seems that just after the indoor facility was built, Majors collared three players who had been caught in mischief and, in the meeting room, ranted and railed about always doing things the right way and never doing anything stupid.
But just before John doled out suspensions and punishments, he told the somber-faced players he wanted them to spend the next ten minutes thinking about what happens, and how it hurts everybody, when something really stupid takes place.
The fiery Majors them jumped up, darted to the door and slammed it behind him. About 30 seconds later a very red-faced coach emerged from what was the cleaning closet, stuffed with custodial gear. “OK, gentleman, no one will ever hear a word about what just happened here and any of you who tells will be off the team. There will be no curfews, punishments or suspensions but nobody will ever hear about me in the janitor’s closest. Have we got a deal?”
Majors laughed the hardest and then told Mike Organ of the Tennessean, “I just had to suck it up and take it. I couldn’t deny it very well. I didn’t have time to defend myself at the end and didn’t bring legal counsel … I was too surprised,” he said, “but they got some pretty good gigs at me.”
That said, here is how I am picking this week’s games:
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No. 22 WISCONSIN (5-2, 3-1 Big 10) at IOWA (5-3, 2-2 Big 10), 12:00 Noon – Ohio State beat UW by 7 and UI by 10 so this one will be close. Add the fact that Iowa's three losses are against teams who have a combined 23-1 record and answer me this --how are the Badgers favored by nine? UW coach Gary Anderson said the two are very much alike. “We obviously both want to run the ball. The play-action is a part of the throw game on both sides. Defenses are both physical. Very salty kids on both sides that love the game of football." MY PICK? Wisconsin, 27-25.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-3, 1-2 SEC) at No. 14 SOUTH CAROLINA (6-2, 4-2 SEC), 12:21 p.m. SEC-TV – Giant-slayer Connor Shaw, the SC QB who came off the bench to engineer the 27-24 overtime win over Missouri, won’t have as much trouble at home tomorrow because State simply can’t match up, despite the fact MSU has won four in a row. SC is favored by 13 and, with the bitter taste of the UT upset still around in the SEC East quest, look for the Ol’ Ball Coach to hammer down. MY PICK? South Carolina, 41-14.
GEORGIA (4-3, 3-2 SEC) vs. FLORIDA (4-3, 3-2 SEC) in Jacksonville, 3:30 p.m. on CBS – Everybody is figuring the return of UGa runner Todd Gurley will be the difference but all he will do is draw attention away from spectacular QB Aaron Murray, who’ll do his thing against the injury-riddled Gators. Murray will sling the ball all over the lot and, while Florida’s defense is a good one, Georgia has too many options coming into the Cocktail Party. Conversely, the ‘Dawg defense will determine if Georgia should be favored by more than 3. MY PICK? Georgia, 36-21.
No. 23 MICHIGAN (6-1, 2-1 Big XII) at No. 24 MICHIGAN STATE (7-1, 4-0 Big XII), 3:30 p.m. – Spartan Stadium has never been kind to many in the Big Ten and this is the one MSU hates the worst. Last year’s 12-10 loss to the Wolverines is all MSU heard about all summer but here are two more teams that are surprisingly similar. State is favored by 6, having won the last four games, and that’s about right if MSU can contain a Michigan bunch that has scored 40-plus points in each of the last three games. MY PICK? Michigan State, 34-24.
No. 9 CLEMSON (7-1, 5-1 ACC) at VIRGINIA (2-6, 0-4 ACC), 3:30 p.m. – A Top 10 team should most certainly be favored over a UVA team that is 0-4 in conference play and lost the last five but 17 isn’t enough with Clemson’s might and its post-season aspirations. Tiger boss Dabo Sweeney will be searching for points in Charlottesville because big wins matter most in the month of November. CU is relatively healthy while UVa coach Mike London is feeling the heat. MY PICK? Clemson, 45-13.
NORTHWESTERN (4-4, 0-4 Big10) at NEBRASKA (5-2, 2-1 Big 10), 3:30 p.m. – This has been a very bad week for UN coach Bo Pellini after the 34-23 upset to Minnesota and his brother’s ouster at Florida Atlantic but the Huskers are still favored by 7 over Northwestern, a team spiraling after four straight losses. Husker QB Taylor Martinez (10 TD passes) says his foot still hurts but RB Tevin Coleman has scored 9 so far and says he feels fine. MY PICK? Nebraska, 34-21.
No. 8 AUBURN (7-1, 3-1 SEC) at ARKANSAS (3-5, 0-4 SEC), 6:00 p.m. on ESPN2 – I am thinking this is a post-Halloween trick. Once-beaten AU is only favored over hapless Arkansas by 9? I remember when Georgia was just a 10-point choice over UT … and what happened! I’m thinking the Tigers will paste the Razorbacks and we’ll soon see if the players really do have Coach Malzahn’s back. The goal at Auburn is to host Alabama in the greatest Iron Bowl in years but first the Tigers have to take care of business and, with Gus a favorite son in Arkansas, I suspect he’ll want to put on a show. MY PICK? Auburn, 38-14.
TENNESSEE (4-4, 1-3 SEC) at No. 10 MISSOURI (7-1, 3-1 SEC), 7:00 p.m. on ESPN – Last week’s 45-10 loss to Alabama tempered the Vols but, with freshman QB Josh Dobbs upbeat before his first start, at least UT has a chance in Columbia. Mizzou is a 12-point favorite but, curiously, I felt this would be a “swing game” for UT back in the summer and still like the Vols with the points. UM’s defense is solid and the SEC East race will inspire the Tigers but don’t be surprised if UT plays its most complete game of the year. MY PICK? Missouri, 34-32
No. 18 OKLAHOMA STATE (6-1, 3-1 Big XII) at No. 15 TEXAS TECH (7-1, 4-1 Big XII), 7:00 p.m. – OSU’s Desmond Rolan ran for 219 yards in his first-ever start at Iowa State so we’ll see how the Red Raiders plan to deal with him, especially after Oklahoma handed Tech its first loss last week (38-30). TTU’s Jace Amaro has had at least eight catches in seven straight games and will tie a school record if OSU defenders allow it. Tech is favored by two at home but OSU has the momentum. MY PICK? Oklahoma State, 31-27.
No. 7 MIAMI (7-0, 3-0 ACC) at No. 3 FLORIDA STATE (7-0, 5-0 ACC), 8:00 p.m. – “Famous Jameis” Winston is the real deal but for an undefeated Top 10 team to be a 22-point underdog doesn’t make sense. Sure, FSU clobbered a great Clemson team, 51-14, but this is a rivalry where strange things can happen. FSU wins this one and the ‘Noles run the table, but a Miami win would elect Al Golden as governor. I don’t see a runaway, although UM’s defense has given up at least 21 points in the last four games, because pride runs deep in the Sunshine State. MY PICK? Florida State, 40-24.
IN OTHER SEC GAMES
ALABAMA STATE (6-2) at KENTUCKY (1-6, 0-4 SEC), 7:30 p.m. on CSS – Kentucky could be in for a long night with ramped-up State smelling (blue) blood but it gets down to quality players and I’m thinking a UK win would stop the bleeding temporarily until four more SEC teams wallop the ‘Cats this year. Then again, a UK loss could cause some signees to decommit so there is cause for concern. UK had a good chance against Miss. State and being free last weekend also helped. MY PICK? Kentucky, 27-21.
TEXAS-EL PASO (1-6) at No. 12 TEXAS A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC), 9:00 p.m. on ESPN2 – This is one of those senseless games but at least the game guarantee will stay in-state. The line is about 45 but Johnny Manzeil won’t play much and against UTEP I don’t think there will be a feeding frenzy. A&M has Miss. State waiting in the wings and will then take a week off before playing LSU. MY PICK? Texas A&M, 42-7.
IDLE THIS WEEK
No. 1 ALABAMA (8-0, 5-0 SEC) will host LSU in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9 at 8:00 p.m. (CBS)
No. 11 LOUISIANA STATE (7-2, 3-2 SEC) will play Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9 at 8:00 p.m.
OLE MISS (5-2, 2-3) will host Arkansas in Oxford on Nov. 9 at 12:21 p.m.
VANDERBILT (4-4, 1-4 SEC) WILL PLAY Florida in Gainesville on Nov. 9 at 12:00 Noon (TV TBA)
TV Note: On Nov. 9 CBS will have a double-header with Miss. State-Texas A&M at 3:30 p.m. and LSU-Alabama at 8 p.m. The other five SEC games that day will all start before 12:30 p.m.
AND ONE MORE …
UT-CHATTANOOGA (6-2, 4-1 SoCon) at APPALACHIAN STATE (2-6, 2-3 SoCon), 3:30 p.m. – This is a huge game in UTC’s climb towards the playoffs. Appy snapped a four-game losing streak with a convincing 38-14 upset over ranked Georgia Southern last week but the Mocs, led by a brawny defense, are playing well with four straight conference wins. ASU has a habit of beating UTC but Chattanooga could usher Appy out of the conference by snapping a 14-game losing string in Kidd Stadium. MY PICK? Chattanooga, 34-21.