Jason Bishop

Hole In One

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The sports world is still a far cry from being normal, but at least one item on my personal checklist returned on Sunday afternoon.

As has happened on countless spring and summer weekends, I accomplished half of the household chores my wife had asked of me, only to be lured to the television – and a nap – by golf.

In a charity event held at the esteemed Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla., Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson defeated Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in a skins match that raised over $5 million.

With every sport trying to figure out what strange new features will enable them to return to play as soon as possible, golf certainly seems like it can deliver the same sort of product while adhering to safety guidelines.

The lack of a crowd didn’t change my personal viewing experience. If anything, it allowed viewers to take in a spectacular Seminole Club course that had never appeared on television before.

The players wore shorts and carried their own bags, but – if anything – that made the action even more relatable to the high-handicappers watching at home who don’t play with caddies and who would never show up to a course wearing slacks on a muggy Florida afternoon.

Following Sunday’s event, it dawned on me that this could be a huge turning point for the sport and for how players choose to promote themselves.

To be sure, the marquee events on the PGA Tour and the four majors aren’t going anywhere. Ratings will be stellar if and when the tour is able to play its amended major schedule this fall, and attendance at those events figures to remain high as soon as crowds are permitted back on the links.

But as for many other dates on the golf calendar, who’s to say?

While current times are certainly an exception and not a rule, it’s not hard to fathom a future where huge names are reeled in for a payday in exclusive one-off events. Years of ratings prove that viewers follow the game’s biggest stars and plenty of non-pandemic TV specials have raked in tons of money.

If the money is there to be had, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to envision a golf club looking to make a name for itself ponying up the purse to put on a show.

If the television and online streaming eyeballs will be focused on the event, it seems like a no-brainer that top brands might organize an event featuring all the stars under their umbrella putting on a five-hour infomercial for the latest line of products.

Golf has been primetime viewing – at least during the biggest events – ever since Tiger Woods burst onto the scene. But prior to the late 90s, there was little hype for lesser events and nobody outside of the top 10-20 players in the world were getting rich off of the game.

And the truth is, anyone not consistently making cuts and finishing on the first few pages of the leaderboard every week still isn’t exactly a legend at their local bank.

It should come as no surprise that the lowest-level tour events – or those played concurrent to majors or big overseas tournaments – feature no-name players with sparse crowds and not much on the way of possible winnings.

The world’s top players already make more money in endorsements than they do through tournament checks.

If special events can guarantee big paydays – while also offering the lack of excessive media obligations, pro-ams, long days due to slow play from a 150-man field, etc. – there’s little that will stop the world’s top players from ditching smaller tournaments in favor of receiving top billing at a special event.

The Premier Golf League is currently trying to compete with the PGA. It aims to be a more global affair, playing only half as many tournaments while still offering huge purses.

However, many of the game’s biggest names have already declined potential offers to join.

But with more singular, unaffiliated events, it would be easy for big draws to pocket more money without the hassle of worldwide travel or learning the rules and format of an entirely new tour.

The PGA isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but if Sunday’s Seminole showdown proves anything, it’s that there could be more opportunities soon for the world’s top players might call in sick to lesser events in order to sneak out for a round of golf.

Wide Open

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Some wide receivers can beat you with their speed, while others can use their size and footwork as an advantage.

To be a productive wide receiver in the SEC, you have to be able to catch, block, and run crisp routes.

The SEC has produced first round wide receivers in 2019 with Jerry Jeudy (Alabama), Henry Ruggs (Alabama) and Justin Jefferson (LSU). The next class of future pro wide receivers in the SEC is ready to strike.

Here are my top five returning wide receivers in the SEC.

5.Elijah Moore, Ole Miss: Elijah Moore is more than just that guy who “pretended to pee on the field” at the Egg Bowl. Moore led all Ole Miss’s wide receivers with 67 receptions, 850 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Ole Miss’s seven other wide receivers combined for 55 catches.

With Lane Kiffen now running the show in Oxford, Moore should get even more opportunities to show he is one of the top SEC wide receivers.

4.Jaylen Waddle, Alabama: Jaylen Waddle has blazing speed. In two seasons at Alabama, Waddle caught 78 passes for 1,408 yards and 13 touchdowns, and had a breakout performance in the Iron Bowl with 230 all-purpose yards and 4 touchdowns.

Waddle’s prowess in the return game is electric. He led the nation in punt return average at 24.4 yards per return with 20 returns for 487 yards and a touchdown. He also returned five kickoffs for 175 yards and a touchdown.

3.George Pickens, Georgia: George Pickens may not have the same 2019 stats as the others on my list, but there are few receivers with his upside heading into 2020.

Pickens posted a stat line of 49 catches, 727 yards and 8 touchdowns (all SEC best for freshmen in 2019).

Pickens took his game to another level in the Sugar Bowl, making a game high 12 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown.

With new offensive coordinator Todd Monken and new quarterback Jamie Newman, Pickens’s game is about to get a lot more exciting.

2.DeVonta Smith, Alabama: It is hard to believe DeVonta Smith is already entering his senior season at Alabama. It seemed like yesterday when Smith wrote his name in college football history when he hauled in that 41-yard touchdown pass in overtime to seal a national title victory over Georgia.

In 2019, Smith caught 68 passes for 1,256 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He is a six foot one, 175-pound receiver who knows how to earn yards after the catch. Smith earned second team All-SEC and All-American honors in 2019.

Smith was one of the best playmakers in the country in 2019, with two first round draft picks on his roster. In 2020, Smith has a chance to be a bigger focal point in the offense and the opportunity to become a household name.

1.Ja’Marr Chase, LSU:  The best returning wide receiver in the SEC is also last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner.

Ja’Marr Chase led the country in receiving yards with 1,780 and ended his season receiving 20 touchdowns.

Chase broke both the SEC single season receiving yards and touchdown catches, while earning unanimous All American and All SEC honors as a true sophomore.

In 2020, Chase won’t have Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow throwing to him, but nevertheless he should still have another monster season.

Just outside the top 5:Terrace Marshall, LSU; Seth Williams, Auburn; Jhamon Ausbon, Texas A&M. Break out player Osirus Mitchell, Mississippi State.

King Bees

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

When we think of the best ACC basketball programs North Carolina and Duke come to mind. The conference has some other very good programs and once upon a time Georgia Tech was in that category. Let’s look at the best players in program history.

Mark Price (1982-86): He was a two-time All-American and four-time All ACC player.

Price lead the Yellow Jackets to an ACC Championship his junior year by beating North Carolina in the ACC Tournament championship game. He was the ACC Player of the Year in the 1984-85 season.

He was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1991 and his jersey was retired. He holds several records and he’s the All-time leader in steals (240), consecutive games started (126), minutes played (4,604) and 3-point field goal percentage (.440). He was the first pick in the second round of the 1986 draft (25th overall) by the Dallas Mavericks.

Kenny Anderson (1989-91): He won ACC Rookie of the Year in 1990. Anderson was All ACC and All-American both years at Tech.

He averaged 23 points per game and 7 assists per game. He was a key member of the 1990 team that got to the Final Four. That team also won the ACC title. He was the second pick in the 1991 NBA draft by the New Jersey Nets.

Stephon Marbury (1995-96): You may have noticed a theme here since we have another point guard on the list.

Marbury was a 1995 McDonald’s All-American along with Kevin Garnett, Antawn Jamison, Paul Pierce and Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

He averaged 18.9 ppg and 4.5 apg and was named a Third Team All-American. Tech was 13-3 in conference play which made them the regular season ACC champs.

They advanced to the ACC Tournament championship game but lost by one point to Wake Forest, led by Tim Duncan.

The Yellow Jackets got to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. He was selected fourth overall by Milwaukee in the legendary 1996 draft.

Chris Bosh (2002-03): Bosh was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2003.

He averaged 15.6 points, 9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 31 games. Georgia Tech had a disappointing season and finished 16-15. They got to the third round of the NIT. He was the No. 4 pick by Toronto in 2003, which is another legendary draft class.

Dennis Scott (1987-90): He led the Yellow Jackets to the NCAA Tournament each year he played.

Scott was ACC Rookie of the Year in 1988, ACC Player of the Year in 1990 and Sporting News Player of the Year (1990). He was also a consensus second-team All-American in 1990. In his career he averaged 21.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 3 apg. He was the No. 4 pick by Orlando in the 1990 draft.

Matt Harpring (1994-98): Harpring was a four-year starter and was named First Team All-ACC three times.

He set career highs in his senior season with 21.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, ranking second in the ACC in both categories.

He finished his collegiate career as Georgia Tech’s second all-time leader in points (2,225) and rebounds (997).

Harpring is the institute’s all-time leader in free throws attempted (675) and made (508).

His jersey was retired in his final regular season home game. He was the 15th pick by Orlando in the 1998 draft.

Travis Best (1991-95): The McDonald’s All-American led Tech to the 1993 ACC Tournament Championship.

He averaged 16.6 ppg and 5.6 apg. He was one of only three ACC players to score 2,000 points with 600 assists. He was the 23rd pick in 1995 by Indiana.

Top Dawgs

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

When you’re contemplating the best players in a college program you have to take into account whether or not you’re counting just their college career or if you’re including their professional one as well.

Michael Jordan is the perfect example of this; he’s arguably the greatest basketball player to ever live, but you can make a very legitimate argument that he wasn’t one of the five best collegiate players to attend North Carolina.

So, for today, I’m basing everything off a player’s tenure at Georgia and ignoring what transpired afterwards. It’s kind of like how I’ll give my wife a hard time about not helping me with dishes, while completely ignoring how she does everything else around the house.

The first one is pretty obvious, regardless of what the criteria is, and that’s Dominique Wilkins. The talent the two time All-American, SEC Player of the Year, and Basketball Hall of Famer possessed is oftentimes overlooked due to his highlight reel dunks, which is a shame, because he was an outstanding player.

Wilkins, the third overall was one of those rare athletes that left school after his junior year, which at the time was almost unheard of.

I’m going to cheat on the next two names and go with Vern Fleming and Jarvis Haves, due to the fact they were both two-time Associated Press All-Americans.

I was only a few years old when Fleming played at Georgia, but his All-American stays, combined with his contribution to Georgia’s only Final Four team as well as his 1984 Olympic gold medal is more than enough accolades to earn him a spot.

I did see Jarvis Hayes play and I always wondered how he ended up at schools like Western Carolina to begin his college career because he could play. Two years at Georgia, two First Team All-SEC awards along with the All-American hardware; not sure you can be more productive than that.

This whole article would be a joke and a sham if the all-time leader in points and assists was excluded from this list, so please give a warm welcome to Litterial Green. The former Bulldog point guard was three-time All-SEC selection and led the program to their first, and I believe only, SEC Championship in 1990. Plus, he may have the coolest name on this list, right next the one remaining player I’ve yet to mention.

With all due respect to Bob Lienhard (2 time Helms Association All American) and Yante Maten (2018 SEC Player of the Year and the one who undoubtedly would’ve had the coolest name on this list) I went with Kentavious-Caldwell Pope to round out the top five. I never saw Wilkins play, and I don’t remember Green, but KCP was the best Georgia player I’ve seen come through Athens.

Of course, the one omission from this list is the likely number one overall pick in this year’s draft, Anthony Edwards.

Look, Edwards was a really good player and may have the best NBA career of anyone from Georgia not named Wilkins, but I would still take any of the five I mentioned over him in terms of college performance.

I know Georgia doesn’t have the history of a lot of other major college basketball programs, but those five players are nothing to be ashamed of. Just don’t look at their professional careers too closely- there’s a reason I left those out.

The Extra Guy

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

This might just be unwarranted optimism, but it is kind of starting to feel like January again.

Not in terms of weather, but in terms of baseball. There seems to be a feeling that a truncated MLB season could start as soon as early July, with about half as many games as normal, expanded playoffs, modified divisions, and – our subject for today – a universal designated hitter.

I’m starting to get that anticipatory excitement I always feel right before spring training. We’ve all felt it once this year, only for COVID to pull the rug out from under us; but that feeling is back and baseball just might be on the horizon.

What could this mean for the Atlanta Braves?

For one thing, it could mean that neither Austin Riley nor Johan Camargo sees any time in whatever the minor leagues look like this season.

They had begun battling it out for the starting third base job before spring training was suspended, but that suspension could very well mean that neither of them needs to worry about not being on the big-league club.

Now, there’s likely going to be a significantly expanded roster at the major league level this season, which might factor into the Braves hanging on to both third basemen more than the DH would. Having that extra spot in the lineup could potentially mean that both guys are essentially starting.

Camargo might get the majority of the starts at third while Riley DHs, with a switch whenever necessary.

On the other hand, a DH could mean that Camargo and Riley platoon and Nick Markakis or Adam Duvall get the DH spot instead. The righty/lefty matchup works out, in a traditional sense, and it would keep both bats from getting stale, especially with Ronald Acuna, Jr., Marcell Ozuna, and Ender Inciarte likely keeping them on the bench otherwise.

There’s also the option of not having a consistent DH (or platoon). Having the extra spot in the lineup would allow manager Brian Snitker to rotate his starting eight through the designated hitter position throughout the week. That would allow rest for the likes of Freddie Freeman every half inning and replacing them on the field with their backup.

That also serves the purpose of providing relatively consistent at bats for the backups, who normally only see pinch hits and a start once every week or two.

The last option would be for the Braves to go out and get themselves a designated designated hitter (not a typo).

There are actually some intriguing options still on the market. For example, the Braves might not have wanted to risk the money or the potential headache of signing Yasiel Puig to a whole season for a whole season’s worth of money. However, with a much shorter risk period, Atlanta could now go out and sign the outfielder to a fraction of what he’s worth and make him their DH with occasional starts in the outfield.

Mark Trumbo is another guy who can be signed for cheap. He’d likely be exclusively a DH. He has lots of strikeouts but a ton of pop, too.

The point is, maybe the Braves will want a guy to show up and mash and not be required to do anything else.

Those are the kinds of possibilities having a DH for the entire season in the National League will bring for the Braves.

Waiting to see which way they go is just a part of the pre-spring-mid-summer training excitement.

Divisional

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

As shelter in place rules begin to ease up our country is more sports starved than ever. Football is still king in this country and especially in the South. Let’s rank the all the divisions from worst to first in the NFL this week.

  1. NFC East: Dallas, Philadelphia, NY Giants, and Washington. This is a division where every member has won a Super Bowl. The division has 13 Super Bowl titles, but currently is the worst division in the NFL.

The Eagles won the NFC East with a 9-7 record in 2019 which speaks volumes. Who does less with more than the Dallas Cowboys? The Giants are rebuilding, and who the hell knows what the Redskins are doing.

  1. AFC East: Buffalo, Miami, NY Jets, and New England.

New England is the premier franchise in the NFL, but with Tom Brady in Tampa the decline seems real. Buffalo is a solid team, but do they have what it takes to win a playoff game? The Jets could be a dark horse for most improved team, and Miami is a total rebuild at the moment.

  1. AFC South: Houston, Indy, Jacksonville, and Tennessee.

I’m just not very high on the division simply because the brand of football is boring.

Tennessee is solid, but watching the Titans is the equivalent of watching paint dry.

Houston has internal issues, Indy is on the rebound, and the Jaguars are trying to revamp the defense.

If you want to catch up on lost sleep then tune into the AFC South this fall.

  1. NFC South: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay.

All of the hype this offseason is with the Bucs with Tom Brady taking over, but this is a bad division.

New Orleans is clearly the class of the division. Atlanta has been searching for a defense since the Super Bowl meltdown against the Patriots. Carolina is a mess at the moment, and Tampa with a 43-year-old Brady, will be a disappointment in my opinion.

  1. AFC West: Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, and LA Chargers.

The Chiefs are the best team in football with the best QB on the planet in Patrick Mahomes, but the rest of the division is weak.

The Raiders move to Vegas and the city is excited. The Broncos can’t seem to gain any traction as of late, and the Chargers have no fan base in Los Angeles. Build a stadium in San Diego and go back home Chargers.

  1. AFC North: Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.

Lamar Jackson is the reigning MVP for the Ravens; Pittsburgh will come back strong in 2020. Cleveland could be a surprise team, and the Bengals with Joe Burrow may be an exciting team this fall.

This is an underrated division.

  1. NFC North: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, and Minnesota.

If Detroit could pull its weight this would be the best division in football.

Green Bay and Minnesota are solid playoff teams and the Bears are a QB away from being a contender with that defense.

Why didn’t the Bears trade for Cam Newton?

  1. NFC West: Arizona, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco and Seattle.

This is the toughest and best division from top to bottom in football.

Let’s start with the Cardinals. Write this down, this could be a division where all four teams finish with a winning record.

The Cardinals are building around Kyler Murray, and look out for them. The Rams were just in the Super Bowl two years ago, and just missed the playoffs in 2019. The 49ers and Seahawks rank in the top 5 best teams in the NFL. This division could produce three playoff teams in 2020.

2021 Super Bowl will be Kansas City vs Seattle and former Glynn Academy star Dee Jay Dallas will play in the Super Bowl as a rookie for the Seattle Seahawks.

Running Back

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

In 2019, the SEC leading rusher was wide receiver Lynn Bowden of Kentucky. It was a strange season for running backs in the SEC.

There are star running backs in the 2020 season at nearly every SEC school. There might not be the star power of Todd Gurley and Derrick Henry, and there might not be a once in a generation player like Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson.

Here is my ranking of the five best running backs in the SEC heading into the 2020 season.

  1. Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M: Spiller started seven games as a true freshman at A&M in 2019 and led the Aggies in rushing.

He finished the year with 946 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He posted 217 yards and 3 touchdowns, tying the school’s freshman rushing record.

Spiller stepped up big time last season after the Aggies lost running back Jashaun Corbin to a season ending hamstring injury in September and Vernon Jackson to a career ending neck injury in the same month.

He was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team, voted on by the SEC head coaches.

  1. Rakeen Boyd, Arkansas: Boyd was the lone bright spot in the Arkansas offense in 2019. He rushed for 1,133 yards and scored 8 touchdowns.

He started his college career at Texas A&M before transferring to Arkansas. Boyd spent one year at Independence Community College (Last Chance U).

Boyd has been the bell cow for the Razorbacks for the two seasons. New Head Coach Sam Pittman should continue to rely on him to be a major contributor in the Razorbacks offense.

  1. Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss: Ealy earned second team All SEC and All SEC Freshman accolades in 2019.

Ealy is a two-sport athlete at Ole Miss playing football and baseball.

He led the SEC in kickoff returns and fifth nationally in all-purpose yardage among freshmen.

He rushed for 722 yards and 6 touchdowns.

New Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin has proven he can make a star of running backs, as FAU’s Devin Singletary set school records and was drafted in the third-round pick under Kiffin’s leadership.

  1. Zamir White, Georgia: White was the number one running back coming out of high school in 2018. With D’Andre Swift leaving for the NFL, now it should be White’s time in Athens.

White gave a sneak preview in the Sugar Bowl against Baylor, with 18 carries for 92 yards.

Health is a major concern with Zamir after the two torn ACLs. He should put up huge numbers in new offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s offense.

  1. Najee Harris, Alabama:  When Najee Harris arrived at Alabama, the five-star prospect was expected to follow in Derrick Henry’s footsteps. Three years later and Harris has not posted the huge numbers some pundits predicted.

The main reason is because Tua Tagovailoa. Tua directed one of the most prolific passing attacks in college football the past two seasons.

In 2019, Harris finished with 1,224 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. He added 304 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns. In 2020, Alabama will have a new quarterback under center and Harris should benefit with a heavier workload.

He is a bona fide star on a team full of five-star athletes. It is not out of the realm of possibility Najee is a top Heisman Candidate.

Players just outside the top five: Larry Rountree, Missouri; Kylin Hill, Mississippi State; Trey Sanders, Alabama; Kenny McIntosh, Georgia and Eric Gray, Tennessee.

Breakout player of the year Dameon Pierce, Florida.

Running Wild

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The SEC has produced a ton of talent over the years.

One of the strongest positions is running back. I want to examine the rich history of the position and see who the best RB in conference history is.

Darren McFadden (Arkansas): He’s the third leading rusher in conference history with 4,590 yards.

McFadden played for the Razorbacks for three seasons (2005-07). He improved his rushing total every year and rushed for 1,830 yards and 16 touchdowns in his final season.

He tied the SEC single game record with 321 rushing yards against South Carolina.

In the 2007 season finale against No. 1 LSU McFadden rushed for 206 yards, 3 TD’s and helped pull off a huge upset.

Bo Jackson (Auburn): Jackson is a legendary athlete and two sport star. He played four years at Auburn and had two seasons with at least one thousand yards.

As a senior he rushed for 1,786 yards and 17 scores. At the time it was the second most rushing yards in a season in conference history.

He won the Heisman trophy in 1985. Jackson is fifth in all-time conference rushing yards with 4,303.

As a sophomore Bo rushed for 1,213 yards, 12 touchdowns and led the Tigers to an 11-1 record.

Kevin Faulk (LSU): This is a forgotten name that deserves some respect. He spent four seasons in Baton Rouge and rushed for more than one thousand yards in his final three.

He was also a threat to catch passes out of the backfield. In that respect he might be the most complete back in SEC history.

As a senior he ran for 1,279 yards, 12 TD’s, 22 receptions and 3 receiving scores. He’s fourth on the all-time SEC rushing list with 4,557.

Errict Rhett (Florida):  When we think of the Gators of the early 90’s Steve Spurrier and passing come to mind.

Rhett did a lot of damage on the ground, racking up two thousand-yard seasons. His lowest rushing total was 845 yards as a freshman, but he averaged 5.7 yards per carry.

He’s seventh on the SEC rushing list with 4,163 yards.

Herschel Walker (Georgia): Walker was a workhorse in Athens. He led the Bulldogs to an undefeated season and national championship as a true freshman in 1980.

He was phenomenal and that was his lowest rushing total of his career. Herschel ran for 1,616 yards, 1,891 yards and 1,752 yards.

He won the Heisman Trophy in 1982 and led the Dawgs to an 11-1 record. They were undefeated and ranked No.1 going into the Sugar Bowl.

He’s the leading rusher in conference history with 5,259 yards. His stats do not include bowl games, which is impressive.

Derrick Henry (Alabama): Henry is a big, bruising back.

His first two seasons weren’t spectacular. As a junior in 2015 he broke out with 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns.

He led the Crimson Tide to a 14-1 record and national championship. Henry also won the Heisman as a junior before departing for the NFL.

Emmitt Smith (Florida): Smith ran wild in Gainesville for three seasons (1987-89). His only season under one thousand yards was as a sophomore (988) but he missed two games due to injury.

He averaged over 5 ypc each year. As a junior he ran for 1,599 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Honorable Mention: Nick Chubb (UGA), Dalton Hilliard (LSU), Mark Ingram (Alabama), Charles Alexander (LSU), Cadillac Williams (Auburn)

There are several great backs to choose from but I think Herschel Walker has to be at the top of the list.

Place Your Bets

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

One of the things fans love about the Super Bowl are all the prop bets taking place.

Whether it’s who wins the coin toss, which song the halftime musician will play first, or which player will score the first touchdown, almost all the bets are just good-natured fun.

Why wait until the Super Bowl though, when an entire season of prop bets can be made?

Here are some prop bets for each team in the NFC South- some serious, some not so much- you can follow throughout the year in the NFC South.

How long until everyone gets tired of all the inevitable Tom Brady storylines coming out of Tampa? For most of you, I imagine the answer ranges somewhere between “Since the day he was born” and “Well, I’m a Tampa fan, so I’ve always liked him.” (I’m calling out anyone who claims the latter as a liar.)

Regardless of where you do fall on that spectrum, prepare for an onslaught of stories that may make even the most ardent NFL fan wish they had cancelled the season.

Number of games until the “Panthers are better without Cam Newton” argument begins to appear? There’s a slight (very, very, very, slight) possibility the Panthers could win 3 of their first 4 games, which would trigger the above statement, so I’ll go with four.

If that were to take place, those making the argument would likely pull a hamstring during the following weeks due to backpedaling from that statement; I just can’t bring myself to think the Panthers will be at all formidable this year.

Anything more than 5 wins and it should be viewed as a successful season.

What’s more likely to happen, Todd Gurley rushes for 1,000 yards or finishes the season on the Injured Reserve? Gurley is the only known entity in a backfield full of “I think that guy was my waiter at TGI Friday’s” names at running back.

If Gurley can stay healthy, he’s going to get 15-20 carries a game, which should be enough to get him over 1,000 yards for the season, even if he averages the same anemic yards per carry (3.8) that he did last year.

Of course, all this is predicated on Gurley making it through the season, which I’m not sure he’ll be able to do. I have no idea which of these two will happen, but it feels like it’ll be a feast or famine type of season for the Tarboro native.

Will Alvin Kamara finish the season with more yards rushing or receiving? A few years ago this question would’ve been as absurd as asking who the worst Batman is (George Clooney, obviously), but with players like Le’Veon Bell, Christian McCaffery, and Kamara it’s more relevant than ever.

After logging more receiving yards than rushing during his rookie campaign, the 3-time Pro Bowler saw those numbers flipped over the last two years; he also saw a decrease in production this past season, due to the addition of Latavius Murray. Because of the Saints array of weapons, Kamara’s overall numbers may mirror last seasons, but how they utilize him will be telling.

There may be other prop bets that will play a greater factor in the outcome of the season, but they’re all just a warmup to the most important one- what color will the Gatorade shower be in the Super Bowl? I have green as the early favorite.

Brave Title

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Fox Sports recently satiated our collective thirst for baseball, albeit briefly, by airing the Atlanta Braves’ greatest triumph: the 1995 World Series against the Cleveland Indians.

For six straight nights, Braves Country was treated to a Braves squad at the height of their powers, barely a third of the way into their 14-straight division titles. I don’t usually go for reruns – I never watch the next-day replays during the season – but this was compelling television, despite knowing the outcome.

The 90s and early 00s Braves went through little eras within those 14 years, but that 1995 team’s pitching staff and batting lineup is usually the one people could name.

Sure, the early 90s had Otis Nixon, Terry Pendleton, and Steve Avery in his prime, but no Chipper. The early 2000s had Andruw Jones and Rafael Furcal, but that scrappy Jeff Blauser/Mark Lemke tandem was gone (and then, eventually, so was Tom Glavine).

I think the 1995 team was almost perfectly constructed. Ironically, I don’t think they were the best team the Braves fielded in the 90s, but they’re the one that won it all. So, since they’re fresh on our minds, let’s look back at what made that team special.

Let’s get this out of the way first: the starting pitching was firing on all cylinders. Greg Maddux captured his 4th straight Cy Young award in 1995 (going 19-2 with a freaking 1.63 ERA), and Glavine and Smoltz were in their primes (they both had sub-3.20 ERAs, plus  Glavine was World Series MVP and the next season Smoltz would be the first Cy Young winner in five years who wasn’t Mad Dog).

Avery was on the downside of his short career and Kent Mercker put up serviceable but not great numbers in the five spot. The three-headed monster at the top of the rotation made up for any deficiencies.

The bullpen gets little credit, but Mark Wohlers had a 2.09 ERA and led a stellar group of relievers with Greg McMichael, Brad Clontz, and Pedro Borbon. All of those guys had fantastic years on the bump.

The starting lineup was a classic baseball lineup. You had speed at the top of the order in Marquis Grissom, who won a Gold Glove in center field in 1995, followed by a scrapper in the two-hole in Lemke.

Then came the bashers: Bobby Cox thrust the weight of the three-hole onto rookie Chipper Jones, who rose to the occasion and was protected by sluggers Fred McGriff and David Justice hitting fourth and fifth, respectively.

Underrated slugger, Ryan Klesko was up next (he hit .310 along with his 23 homers in 1995), then catcher Javy Lopez, who hit .315 (the two highest averages on the team, for those keeping track at home).

Bringing up the end of the batting order was light-hitting (unless it was a contract year) shortstop Jeff Blauser (who I didn’t remember not playing the Series in ’95 due to an injury – Rafael Belliard took over in his place.)

The interesting thing about this lineup was that it was well-constructed enough that no one really needed to rise above the rest – note that McGriff led the team with 27 home runs and 93 RBIs that year.

McGriff and Klesko were the only members of the team that slugged over .500 (in just 107 games, mind you). But the offense worked and coupled with the pitching, they won 90 games.

More impressive is how that offense got the job done when stacked up against a Cleveland Indians team that was for the ages. A young Manny Ramirez was hitting 7th. And I’m not talking about a green, unproven Manny Ramirez; this guy hit .308 with 31 home runs and 107 RBIs. From the 7-spot.

But they couldn’t get it done. The 1995 Braves were a team of destiny but they were also a team of immense talent.