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      Smack Zone — Jameis Winston

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      5 Things: Bye-bye Bama? Sooner ... or later? Oh, no, Romo

      [caption id="attachment_1030" align="aligncenter" width="474"]Sooners Football After a big victory against Tulsa, Oklahoma is 3-0 and rolling, and just might be poised to bounce back from last year's fourth-place finish in the Big 12. Illustration: Steve Hill.[/caption] It's just one loss. These days in college football, one loss does not a season end. Yet, dropping one at home against Ole Miss Saturday was troubling if you're an Alabama fan. Not since 1988 had the Rebels defeated the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa -- and this was only their second victory there ever. Also, this: Never before had 'Bama lost to Ole Miss in consecutive seasons. So, where does this leave Nick Saban's men in their quest for a national title? For now, it leaves Alabama ranked 12th in the Associated Press poll, which means virtually nothing but is the best gauge we have for the time being. Three games in, Alabama finds itself looking up at Ohio State, Michigan State, TCU, Notre Dame, LSU, Baylor, Georgia, UCLA, Clemson and FSU. And of course, Ole Miss. Now, there are future losses to be found among those 11 teams. Bama can take care of LSU and Georgia itself. Baylor and TCU play in November, as do Ohio State and Michigan. Bottom line: As embarrassing as it was to drop one at home against Ole Miss, it would be a HUGE mistake to go to sleep on Saban's team the rest of the way. Would anyone really be shocked to see them right there in the Final Four at the end of the year? Nope. Not a bit. Oh, no! Romo! Who would you rather be in the NFC East this morning? The 0-2 Giants and Eagles, scuffling, but with relatively few injury issues? Or the 2-0 Cowboys, facing the prospect of moving ahead without quarterback Tony Romo (broken collarbone, out 8-10 weeks) and receiver Dez Bryant (broken foot, out indefinitely)? Oh, and before you answer, keep in mind that Dallas backup quarterback Brandon Weeden will be relying on banged up tight end Jason Witten (sprained ankles, sprained knee). OK, considering how hapless the Giants and Eagles have looked so far, you'd take the 2-0 and take your chances with Weeden and a Cowboys run defense that held former teammate DeMarco Murray to two years on 13 carries Sunday. Still, this division suddenly is wide open, and even Washington -- which is the only other team with a victory so far -- might be right in the thick of it. Brace Your Knee CCThe Yankees are still here It looks like the Blue Jays might have the AL East well in hand. It has done since the trade deadline, actually. They made by far the best moves in the division, and they made the Yankees look old, slow and old. Also, old. A 2.5-game lead is not a lock, though. There's still plenty of baseball to play. The Yankees might bear watching, after all. This is especially true if the AL Wildcard leaders can get the kind of pitching performances from former ace C.C. Sabathia that they got Sunday against the Mets. Sabathia has allowed one earned run against the Mets and Rays in 12.2 innings in his last two starts. That doesn't mean the big man is back, necessarily, but it might mean that New York could be poised to make one, last push at the Jays before settling for the one-game wildcard playoff. Sabathia reportedly has a new knee brace to thank for his recent success. Since returning three starts ago with his new brace, his ERA is 1.04. The Sooners are back, baby ... maybe Oklahoma was a non-factor in last year's first college football playoff season, which had to stick in the Sooners' collective craw. After thumping Tulsa this past weekend, 52-38, Coach Bob Stoops' crew appears to be ready to bounce back from last year's 8-5 disappointment -- which ended with an embarrassing 40-6 loss to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Last year's fourth-place finish was Stoops' lowest in the conference since taking over the program in 1999. A 3-0 start with victories against Akron, No. 24 Tennessee and Tulsa might not seem like something to get wild about, and yes -- the Sooners started last year 4-0 before stumbling. But with no ranked opponents on the schedule until Baylor on Nov. 14, Oklahoma has plenty of time to build confidence behind quarterback Baker Mayfield -- who set a school record with 572 total yards Saturday in his third start for the Sooners. Jameis Winston ... Hall of Famer? From first-round bust to Hall of Famer in one week. That's the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston so far. Witness this quote from Tampa Bay receiver Louis Murphy after Winston's solid performance in Sunday's victory at New Orleans: "He's going to have a great career," Murphy told Fox Sports. "He'll do great things, set records, and I believe he's going to be a Hall of Fame player. You can't put the carriage before the horse. He'll be fine." We'll just let that quote dangle out there for now.  

      5 Things: Winston in Good Company, Gator on Gator, a Little Soccer Talk

      OK, it was ugly. Uglier than pre-boiled crab meat. Uglier than school cafeteria lunch smeared on the walls after a food fight. Uglier than a lot of things associated with Jameis Winston. Bucs fans could not have imagined anything this ugly, this soon: Titans 42, Tampa Bay 14. And it wasn’t even THAT close. It actually was uglier than the average four-TD blowout. What we need is perspective. So, here’s a related, ugly little statistic to keep in mind after Famous Jameis’ less-than-stellar debut as quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-10. That was the combined record in debut NFL starts for the past 12 QBs selected with the No. 1 overall pick. These guys, like Winston, all lost their first NFL starts as rookies:

      • Andrew Luck, Colts
      • Cam Newton, Panthers
      • Sam Bradford, Rams
      • Matthew Stafford, Lions
      • JaMarcus Russell, Raiders
      • Alex Smith, 49ers
      • Eli Manning, Giants
      • Carson Palmer, Bengals
      • Tim Couch, Browns
      • Peyton Manning, Colts
      Among the quarterbacks selected with the No. 1 overall pick since 1998, only David Carr (Texans) and Michael Vick (Falcons) celebrated victory in their first NFL starts. Carr’s team finished 4-12 that year, and Vick was 4-for-12 passing in his first Atlanta start. What can we read into Marcus Mariota’s brilliance (158.3 passer rating) for Tennessee and Winston’s ugly incompetence Sunday at Raymond James Stadium? Not much, frankly. One horrible day does not a bust make. Similarly, one fantastic day does not mean Mariota is destined for the Hall of Fame. Still, if you’re a Bucs fan today, the question naturally becomes: What if? And that’s legit. It’s perfectly reasonable to wonder if the result would have been reversed if Mariota wore pewter, red and white on Sunday instead of Titans red, white and blue. It’s a question we won’t be able to answer for months or even years. Yet, today, it is telling that Bucs fans can ask that question without an ounce of hesitation. It’s OK to ask the question in the wake of that kind of embarrassment on the football field. Now, how will Winston answer? That’s what we’ll be watching in the weeks ahead. Gator on Gator [caption width="300" id="attachment_980" align="aligncenter"]Gators Tackling Image: SB Nation[/caption]Jarrad Davis made perhaps the most important tackle of the day for the University of Florida Saturday in its 31-24 victory against East Carolina. What made it newsworthy was that the Gators defender didn’t tackle a Pirate – he tackled teammate Alex McAlister after McAlister recovered a fumble and headed needlessly to the end zone. Ah, nice job, Jarrad. Heads up play. A far, far better instance of Gator on Gator than this infamous moment from 2013 against Georgia Southern: [youtube] Super Dumb The Giants had it locked up Sunday night against Cowboys. It could have been a game that threw Dallas into disarray already – a tough opening week loss, compounded by losing star WR Dez Bryant to a broken foot for at least five weeks. Instead, the Giants inexplicably gave the Cowboys a last gasp by passing, rather than running, when the game clock was winding down. Think the New York media was pissed about it? Check out this game story from the Daily News: Questionable Call Costs Giants. Coach Tom Coughlin took the blame, as he should have. It’s a comfort, actually, to know that multiple-Super Bowl winners like Coughlin and Eli Manning can suffer this kind of serious brain cramp. It puts our own fallibility into perspective. We’re sure Giants fans can appreciate that big-picture outlook. Right? Yeah. Sure they can. Chelsea's Not-So-Special One  During the 2014-15 Premier League season, Chelsea was as dominant as a club could be. It won the league by a whopping eight points (87 points to 79 for second place Manchester City), it won the League Cup domestic tournament, and it lost three games in league play ALL SEASON. With the “Special One,” Jose Mourinho, back in the manager’s chair, a long stretch of prominence among Europe’s soccer elite seemed inevitable. Nope. After a 3-1 loss to Everton Saturday, Chelsea finds itself in 17th place out of 20 teams. It was Mourinho’s third league loss in five games already. So far this season, Mourinho has complained about his own team physician taking too long to treat an injured player during a game and has cursed out Everton manager Roberto Martinez when Martinez had the audacity to speak first to members of the media after Saturday’s game. This is glorious for Chelsea haters all over England and the world. Watching the Special One implode is an unusual experience, and the schadenfreude is thick in the air in London these days. Want an American equivalent? It would be like if defending national champion Ohio State had lost a squeaker at Virginia Tech, then got blown out at home against Hawaii this season. Chelsea’s struggles are a wonderful life lesson. Take nothing for granted, even if you have a Russian billionaire bankrolling your season. Oh, and it gets no easier for Mourinho’s lads this week. After a Champions League match against Maccabi Tel-Aviv Wednesday, they face title contenders Arsenal Saturday in what will surely be a scintillating London derby match. Brace yourself. The Special One is slipping. Uncle The biggest winners of the football weekend were, without a doubt, the competing one-week fantasy sports services Draft Kings and Fan Duel. We sincerely hope you didn’t give in to temptation and play the latest drinking game – slam your beer/beverage of choice throughout the duration of every Draft Kings or Fan Duel commercial. If you did, we don’t envy you the headache you woke up with this morning. Remember: Friends don’t let friends play drinking games tied to the hundreds and hundreds of Fan Duel and Draft Kings ads.

      Winston-Mariota: Birth of a Great QB Rivalry?

      [caption id="attachment_973" align="aligncenter" width="474"]Jameis Winston-Marcus Mariota Illustration: Steve Hill[/caption] For better or worse, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be linked throughout their NFL careers. It’s an amazing quirk of the schedule that the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks from the most recent draft will make their professional debuts together Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Are we witnessing the birth of the next great NFL quarterback rivalry? Hard to predict. After all, the anticipated long-time rivalry between Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb (No. 1 and 2, Class of 1999) never quite materialized, did it? And the potential RGIII-Andrew Luck rivalry hasn’t exactly emerged, even though their careers began with such promise in 2012 and both are still young. What makes a great NFL QB rivalry? It requires individual greatness and superior achievement, certainly. It also requires something more. In order for a rivalry to develop, they must face each other frequently over the years, and the stakes must be high. People have to care. There has to be a buzz all week long. We all know it’s not really QB vs. QB in an NFL game. Intellectually, we know that the true competition is between the defensive coordinators and the great QBs. But history says something else. History says quarterbacks are measured not only by their team and individual achievements. They are measured by their success against one another. Fair or not, that’s how Winston and Mariota will ultimately be measured, too. And it all starts this weekend. Here is a quick look at some of the top QB rivalries in NFL history. Perhaps Winston-Mariota will join them one day: Tom Brady (Patriots)-Peyton Manning (Colts, Broncos) New England fans can argue that the 16 regular-season meetings between two of the game’s four or five all-time greatest passers have not constituted a rivalry. That’s because Brady’s teams have defeated Manning’s teams 11 of those 16 times. However, they are 2-2 in four postseason matchups, and Manning’s teams actually are 2-1 against Brady’s teams in AFC Championship Games. Still, Brady’s four championship rings trump Manning’s one pretty easily. The rivalry was stirred a bit this offseason when a less-than-complimentary email written by Brady about Manning surfaced during the Deflategate investigation. Brady apologized and Manning took the high road. They meet again Nov. 29 in Denver. Joe Namath (Jets)-Johnny Unitas (Colts) Their teams met in Super Bowl III (Unitas was sort of a bit player because of injury), then met again in 1972 when the Jets beat the Colts, 44-34. Namath passed for 496 yards and six TDs that day, which marked the official changing of the guard from the short-cropped Unitas Era to the shaggy-haired Namath Era in the NFL. Roger Staubach (Cowboys)-Terry Bradshaw (Steelers) A lot of NFL fans who grew up in the 1970s wanted to be Staubach, and just as many wanted to be Bradshaw. They both embodied bravado and charisma as much as any athletes of their generation. They met twice in the Super Bowl. Bradshaw won them both, but Staubach got two rings of his own against other teams. Dan Marino (Dolphins)-Joe Montana (49ers) They met in Super Bowl XIX, but not often after that. Still, their rivalry was more about historic production and statistics (Marino had the clear edge) versus simply winning (Montana might have been the best of all time at that). Troy Aikman (Cowboys)-Steve Young (49ers) They met three consecutive seasons (1992-94) in the NFC Championship Game. Aikman won the first two and Young won the third. Brett Favre was in the mix here, too, but Aikman-Young was the premier QB rivalry in the league for nearly half a decade. Andrew Luck (Colts)-Russell Wilson (Seahawks) This is one for the future. Both have out-shone fellow 2012 draftee RGIII, and Wilson has clearly staked his claim as the best young QB of this era. Luck, however, is poised to make a move this year and it would surprise no one if they led their teams to the Super Bowl. Sure, we know. We’ve left off a bunch. Otto Graham-Bobby Layne, John Elway-Jim Kelly, Marino-Kelly, Bradshaw-Ken Stabler, Dan Fouts-Jim Plunkett, and so many others. Where will Winston-Mariota end up on the list? It starts Sunday. Jameis Winston Crab Shack