Now that college basketball season has started, I’m doing a new feature for SDS called the “Starting 5.” A couple or three times per week during basketball season, I’ll take you on a tour of what’s going on both in the SEC and around the country.

Here’s a look at what you can expect from the column (it’s the first one I ever did, so go easy on me), and I’m hoping to continue with that throughout the season.

Give them a read and follow me on Twitter @AdamSpencer4 for updates on when the Starting 5 will be coming out.


Here are your questions for this week’s SDS Mailbag:


What credibility do you give to the notion that an expanded Playoff creates less hype and tension for regular-season matchups (e.g. LSU vs. Bama)? Bama almost certainly gets in an 8-team Playoff. Does that make the regular-season game less important? Thoughts?

With your Alabama-LSU example, has losing that regular-season game ever mattered? Alabama got in with a loss a couple of years ago and won the title. But this goes back to even before the four-team College Football Playoff.

Let’s go back to 2011, when LSU beat Alabama 9-6. Remember who played for the title that year? Yep, Alabama and LSU.

While I certainly see your point about cheapening some of these big games, I have faith that the CFP committee will pick the best teams to play in whatever size of Playoff we have. Of course, there will always be those who feel like they got left out, whether we have four, eight, 16 or even 32 teams.

You’re never going to make everyone happy, and the second we go to an eight-team Playoff, teams No. 9 and No. 10 will be outraged every year.


Who’s your favorite choice for Arkansas’ next head coach?

I agree with my SDS colleague Connor O’Gara. You force Washington State coach Mike Leach to say no before you even attempt to talk to anyone else about the job.

Leach makes a ton of sense. He can recruit the Texas area he’s so familiar with from his time at Oklahoma as offensive coordinator and as head coach at Texas Tech. Also, it allows him to get out of Washington State, where he’s apparently not too happy with his players.

Washington State’s Mike Leach should be atop Arkansas’ list to fill its coaching vacancy. Photo by: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

I think Arkansas could absolutely land him if it was willing to give out a Gus Malzahn-like seven-year, $49 million deal. That would take Leach through his mid 60s and give him time to rebuild the program.

Will Arkansas actually do that? We’ll find out over the next few weeks.


Why do schools looking to hire a new coach outsource that work to search firms? Do they serve a purpose other than making a list of (obvious) candidates?

The main answer is very simple — background checks. If you want to hire a coach with some baggage (we won’t name names), and you’re the AD at a big-name program, you’re going to want plausible deniability on things. Let’s say you hire this unnamed coach, and then something comes up in his background that makes media members and fans upset. Well, you’re going to want to be able to point to a search firm that did its — and these are two very key words — “due diligence” on that candidate.

But that’s not the only reason to pay good money for a search firm.

Andy Staples of The Athletic, then with Sports Illustrated, explained earlier this year why there’s a more cynical reason that schools hire search firms:

The cynical reason is the search firm also placed the AD, and the AD is repaying that favor by giving business to the firm. And that definitely happens at times. But that’s also not the main reason a school would use a search firm for a high-profile hire.

So there you have it. It’s a strange world at the top of big-time college athletics. It seems things should be much more efficient, but here we are.


Have any great holiday recipes you want to share?

If this were my wife Rachel’s column, I’m sure she’d have a number of incredible recipes to share. Other than nearly cutting her thumb off last week, she’s incredible in the kitchen and loves cooking way more than any rational person should.

For me, I’m more of the mixologist of the household, so when it comes to holiday recipes, I’m here for the alcohol. And, lucky you, I have a recipe to share.

It’s for mulled wine, which is absolutely delicious when the weather gets cold. Here’s how to make it:

  • Get a large pot or a decent-sized crockpot
  • 2 bottles of red wine (I prefer cabernets, but I assume merlots would work well, too)
  • 8 cups of apple cider
  • Add between 1/8 and 1/2 cup of honey, depending on how much you like honey
  • Toss at least one orange’s worth of zest in there
  • A couple of star anise pods (honestly, you can leave these out if you don’t want to spend the money)
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks

Let it slowly build up to a boil then turn down the heat slightly (don’t want any burned tongues). Boom, now you’ve got yourself a nice, warm drink that will be a hit at your Thanksgiving/Christmas parties.

BONUS: Dobbe’s Locks of the Week went 2-1 for the second straight week. Can he dig himself out of his early season hole and finish the year above .500? Here are this week’s picks:

  • Ohio State (-52.5) at Rutgers — I’m going to watch this game, so the only way to make it entertaining is to bet this hilariously high line. The Buckeyes won by 49 last year. Make it 59 this time around.
  • Texas at Iowa State (-7) — The Cyclones are wearing their black-and-white uniforms they wore against TCU, but with black pants this time. Please note, I picked against Boise State for wearing black alternates last week, but Iowa State works black into the color scheme more.
  • Florida (-7) at Mizzou — Vegas apparently hasn’t been watching Mizzou much lately.

Dobbe’s Locks of the Week 2019 record: 14-20-1

Have a question for next week’s Mailbag? Tweet at us using #SDSMailbag or email me at