Archive for September, 2011

LIVE: Georgia tries to remember what a win feels like

Mark Richt and his team would welcome an easy day against Coastal Carolina.

Mark Richt and his team would welcome an easy day against Coastal Carolina.

ATHENS — Good morning, and welcome back to Victory Lane.

I’m typing this a couple of hours before kickoff, but I don’t think assuming a victory is too presumptuous. Big schools like Georgia schedule little schools like Coastal Carolina for mental and physical therapy, not because it’s going to launch them into BCS bowl contention.

And if there’s one thing the Bulldogs need, it’s therapy. They’ve lost two games. One was ugly (Boise State) and one was competitive (South Carolina), but 0-2 is 0-2 and the Bulldogs do not want to get to the point of ranking their losses this season.

That’s why this game is well timed. Coastal Carolina is an FCS (1-AA) team. It plays in the Big South Conference with the likes of Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian. Despite Georgia coach Mark Richt’s early week contention, the school is here for the paycheck ($475,000), even if the players want to win. The team is called the …

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Weekend Predictions: Falcons, Dogs and Sarah (oh my)

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First, let me address the rumors on everybody’s mind: Neither Jon Bon Jovi, L.L. Cool J nor I will be responding to reports of  anything that may have happened back in the 1980s, and the fact is I was only in Alaska to cover the Iditarod for the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, just on the chance that sled-dog racing would catch on at Venice Beach, and besides, I had long hair back then and Sarah Heath had, wow, hair, back then, and she said funny things like, “Oh look, Moscow,” and, “Obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies,” and, “I want to be President!” But then she asked me if I knew Glen Rice personally, and things just got weird, and … wait, where was I?

Roddy White can even do this after a touchdown if you let him.

Roddy White can even do this, if you let him.

Oh yes, Michael Vick is back.

No, this time he’s really back. He was here as a backup and here as an injured guy. Now he’s rolling. And the Falcons are — well, what are the Falcons? We think they’re pretty good. But they didn’t look the part last week in …

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Beating Vick would be biggest win of Matt Ryan’s career

Matt Ryan has accomplished a lot in three seasons but a win over Michael Vick and Philadelphia would be the biggest of his career. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Matt Ryan has accomplished a lot but a win over Michael Vick would be the biggest of his career. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

It may sound strange considering Matt Ryan won 33 games in his first three seasons, won games that got the Falcons into the playoffs, won games in the fourth quarter and has beaten Green Bay (twice), New Orleans (twice) Baltimore and the New York Jets, among others.

But a win Sunday would be the biggest of Ryan’s career.

The Falcons play Philadelphia, a potential Super Bowl team. More importantly, the game is the first meeting between Ryan and Michael Vick as starters. (Ryan was injured during the first meeting between the teams with Vick coming off the bench; Ryan started the second meeting but Vick was injured.)

Regardless of who wins this game, there still will be Ryan fans and Vick fans, Falcons fans and anti-Falcons fans. But this will be Ryan’s first chance to win a game over Vick, who at his peak probably had a bigger hold on this city than any …

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Texas to ACC? Something tells me conference being used

When Longhorn Network launched, Big 12's life expectancy shortened. But could Texas really join the ACC now? Seems doubtful. (AP photo)

When the Longhorn Network launched, the Big 12's life expectancy shortened. But could Texas really join the ACC instead of the Pacific 12 now? It seems doubtful. (AP photo)

Texas to the ACC? I’m not buying it.

If you missed it, the latest rumor on College Sports Conference Armageddon has Texas holding conversations with the ACC about joining the conference if and when the Big 12 implodes. This would amount to a coup for the ACC, which has been perceived to be less than aggressive than other conferences during this insanity — which probably is a point in the ACC’s favor.

Texas is the domino that is causing most of this mess. When it got into bed with ESPN and started the Longhorn Network, the deal did not go over well with their Big 12 brethren. Having a major TV outlet tends to give a school significant advantages when it comes to matters of recruiting, promotion and almost everything else. That’s what spurred Texas A&M (likely headed for the SEC) to ask out. That’s what may …

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Mark Richt might need 9-1 finish to keep job at Georgia

Georgia coach Mark Richt is 0-2 for the first time in his career. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Georgia coach Mark Richt is 0-2 for the first time in his career. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

ATHENS – Nobody is going to admit now what tight end Orson Charles acknowledged two weeks ago: “Our first two games will make or break our season.”

Because when a team is 0-2 after two perceived make-or-break games, players and coaches must nonetheless publicly cling to a series of improbabilities. Otherwise the rest of the season morphs into a three-month death march.

But reality is that it will take a miraculous finishing kick for the Bulldogs to have a successful season and possibly save coach Mark Richt’s job. What does that amount to? Try 9-1 in the next 10 games.

That may seem extreme. But Richt’s contract situation, the backdrop of the past two-plus seasons, the demands of coaching in the SEC, the divided fan base and a cryptic comment at a recent athletic-board meeting indicates if the Bulldogs do anything less than win the SEC East, which may take a 9-1 finish, Georgia …

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Here comes Vick — and timing couldn’t be better for Falcons

Vick....

Matt Ryan had a tough opener against Chicago.

Vick...

Michael Vick had 285 yards, two TDs in win

After an ugly season opener in Chicago, I’m guessing the last thing most Falcons’ fans want to see right now are the Philadelphia Eagles in general and Michael Vick in particular.

One might be a Super Bowl team. The other remains an open wound for some and, to make matters worse, Vick has turned into a real quarterback and looked solid in the Eagles’ 31-13 win over St. Louis to open the season. But this actually is good timing. We’re about to find out something about the Falcons.

What’s your prediction for Falcons vs. Eagles?

  • Falcons will win.
  • Eagles will win.

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Coming off  an embarrassing performance in a 30-12 loss to the Bears, this will be a major test for players (who looked beat physically in the game and made several mental mistakes on defense) and coaches (who were outcoached by the Chicago staff and took a passive approach to the game …

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‘Explosive’ Falcons just opened season with a dud

What do they say about a picture telling a story? This one of Matt Ryan illustrates the Falcons' day.

What do they say about a picture telling a story? This one of Matt Ryan explains Falcons' day.

CHICAGO – When the Falcons said they wanted to get more explosive this season, did they mean like Wile E. Coyote explosive?

They said the intent was to open up the offense. Stretch defenses. They said they wanted to get more aggressive on defense. Pressure opposing quarterbacks. Let it fly, baby. Light the fuse. Problem is, when you don’t follow your own directions, it’s easy to inadvertently wire your big toe to the ACME dynamite kit. Then when you push the plunger on the season opener . . .

Boom!

The Falcons opened the season Sunday. Three hours later, all the remained was a pile of ashes.

Chicago Bears 30, Falcons 12. How’s that for your potential Super Bowl team? Instead of giving you a reason to forget their 48-21 playoff loss to Green Bay last January, the Falcons succeeded only in extending the hangover. They have been outscored in their last two games by 45 points.

And …

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LIVE: It’s time for Falcons to show that ‘explosiveness’

Do the Falcons have their game faces on? I can't tell from here.

Do the Falcons have their game faces on? I can't tell from here.

CHICAGO — Hey, anybody else realize the Falcons open the season today?

It has been a strange offseason, what with the NFL lockout, postponed free agency, and relatively limited practice time. The Falcons have been somewhat lost on the Atlanta sports landscape, particularly with college football starting last week.

But today, we begin to find out what this team is: a Super Bowl contender (as it seemed to show during a 13-3 regular season last year), or a team that’s not quite at that elite level yet (as it showed in the lopsided home playoff loss to Green Bay last January).

Sports Illustrated has tabbed Curtis Lofton and the Falcons to win the Super Bowl.

Sports Illustrated has tabbed linebacker Curtis Lofton and the Falcons to win the Super Bowl this season.

All we heard from general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith following the loss to the Packers was how this team needed more explosiveness, and they seem to have added that on both sides of the ball. Wide receiver Julio …

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Meanwhile, Tech, Johnson have nothing to complain about

Georgia Tech quarterback had four touchdowns (two running, two passing) in a win over Middle Tennessee State. (AP photo)

Tevin Washington had four touchdowns (two running, two passing) in an easy win.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Pssst. Paul Johnson to Georgia.

Kidding. Just trying to get your attention.

While Athens is on fire, Georgia Tech is … well, on fire.

OK, so maybe we’re not talking apples-to-apples here. More like melons to pits. Georgia has played (and lost to) two ranked teams. Georgia Tech has played (and dismembered) two opponents that could qualify as a charitable write-offs.

But the Jackets are showing signs that they could make things interesting in the ACC this season. After pounding Western Carolina 63-21 last week, the Yellow Jackets came back to body slam Middle Tennessee State 49-21. (They led 28-0 only three minutes into the second quarter, then took off the gas, perhaps fearing the Blue Raiders would not show up for next season’s comic relief in Atlanta.)

So that’s 112 points and 1,258 yards in offense in two weeks. Granted, when a team from a major conference opens with two …

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LIVE: Jackets try to make it two straight (and should)

Georgia Tech players ran onto the field and right past their cheering section.

Georgia Tech players ran onto the field and right past their cheering section.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – This is all you need to know about the relative cushy start of Georgia Tech’s schedule: For the second straight week, the Jackets’ game is being broadcast on ESPN3.com.

But maybe this is a good thing. The Jackets, who crushed Western Carolina 63-21 last week in the season opener, take a slight step up tonight against Middle Tennessee State. It’s not another FCS opponent but it is a Sun Belt team.

Theoretically, in the college football food chain, the Blue Raiders should be lunch. But they have caused fits for ACC teams before – wins over Maryland in the last two years, a near-upset of Al Groh’s Virginia team in 2007 – and some have tabbed this as an upset special. I guess that’s possible, but if the Jackets (11-point favorites) blow this game, it doesn’t project well for the ACC season.

The first five games on the Jackets’ schedule represent a general tick upward …

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