Archive for November, 2011

Should Georgia rest Crowell against Tech for SEC title game?

Isaiah Crowell had only two carries against Kentucky before being taken out. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Isaiah Crowell had only two carries against Kentucky before leaving. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

This is not to short-change the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry in any way. Whichever school wins the annual game owns 12 months of bragging rights — or to be more precise, mocking and taunting rights.

But no matter how big the Tech game is to Georgia, the potential LSU game next week is bigger. Ten years from now, whether the Bulldogs won an SEC championship in 2011 will carry far more weight than whether they defeated the Jackets, rivalry banter notwithstanding.

That’s why Georgia coach Mark Richt has to answer a difficult question this week: Should the Dogs rest running back Isaiah Crowell against Tech?

The Bulldogs have to believe they have a chance to win the SEC championship because, even if they’re a heavy underdog to LSU or Alabama, it’s not far-fetched to believe they can win one game in the Georgia Dome. But without a reasonably healthy Crowell — and with Carlton Thomas lost in a …

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Georgia opens as 5.5-point favorites over Tech (surprised?)

Mark Richt got the obligatory shower after clinching the SEC East.

Mark Richt got the obligatory Gatorade shower after clinching the SEC East. (AP photo)

Paul Johnson's team is 8-3 but had some hiccups at Duke.

Paul Johnson's team is 8-3 but had some hiccups at Duke. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Welcome to Georgia-Georgia Tech week. Is it just me or does the point spread seem a little thin?

Most sports books have installed Georgia as a 5½-point favorite. Granted, the game will be played at Tech — home field is worth three points in wagering circles — and this is a rivalry game, which generally screams, “Beware!”

There’s also the uncertain status of Georgia running backs (either because of injury or immaturity).

But the Bulldogs (9-2) have won nine straight and secured a spot in the SEC championship game. The Jackets (8-3 after a 6-0 start) have had a better season than expected, but they just allowed 31 points to Duke in a 38-31 win (the Blue Devils entered the game ranked 99th nationally in scoring offense at 21.8 points per game).

Georgia is ranked 13th in the BCS and the Associated Press. Tech is 23rd …

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Falcons bounce back against Titans, as they always do

Michael Turner ran over and around Tennessee defenders and the Falcons rolled over Tennessee. (Curtis Compton)

Michael Turner ran over and around the Titans, and the Falcons rolled to a win (Curtis Compton)

Let’s put aside for a moment that the Falcons set out to serve us a gourmet meal Sunday but their quest for perfection was slightly marred by the overcooked lobster and then dropping the dessert in our laps.

They won again. That’s what they do after losses. No matter how physical or emotional it was. No matter how long public debate seems to stretch into the following week. Of all the things this regime has achieved, one of the most remarkable is that the team’s ability to rebound after defeats.

The latest illustration was Sunday’s 23-17 win over Tennessee, which came on the heels of last week’s overtime loss to New Orleans. The game may have left an after-taste, the result of the offense turning six red zone possessions into only two touchdowns. But there’s something to be said for this team’s resilience.

Under coach Mike Smith, the Falcons are now 16-3 after losses, …

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LIVE: Falcons still solid for playoffs (if they beat Titans)

Falcons receiver Julio Jones, who aggravated his hamstring strain last week, will not play today against Tennessee.

Julio Jones, who aggravated his hamstring strain last week, will not play today against Tennessee. (AP photo)

With the hangover from last week’s fourth-and-one and the Falcons’ loss to New Orleans subsided, its worth noting: This team is still in pretty good shape for the playoffs.

Just don’t lose to Tennessee today.

The Falcons (5-4) already have one more loss than last season (13-3). But their remaining schedule and the current standings suggests they’re still in solid position to win an NFC wild card berth and can still catch New Orleans (7-3) for the South title.

The Saints have a bye this week. They come out of the off week with home games against the New York Giants and Detroit and then travel to Tennessee. The Falcons travel to New Orleans on Dec. 26. If they win today and can stay within one game of the lead, that game will mean something.

Here’s a mini-breakdown of the wild card race. I’m projecting Chicago (6-3), which has won four straight and five of six, will get …

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Georgia seizing chance to put problems in distant past

Mark Richt's team has won eight straight after going 20-17 since early in 2008.

Mark Richt's team has won eight straight since going 20-17 from early in 2008. (Brant Sanderlin)

Every win pushes the agony a little further back into history. Every significant moment – the comeback against Florida, the domination of Auburn – quiets the anger just a little bit more.

Georgia has positioned itself to clinch the SEC East on Saturday against Kentucky in Athens. But of greater significance actually is what the program may be starting to show about the future.

The Bulldogs likely have four games remaining: Kentucky, Georgia Tech, the SEC championship and a bowl game. How they perform in those four will say a lot about where things are headed and to what extent the fan base can again become unified, as it was from Mark Richt’s arrival through 2007 – and until the “blackout” game against Alabama in 2008.

If the Dogs defeat Kentucky, it will secure a division title unlike any other under Richt. He won a conference championship in only his second season in …

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Weekend Predictions: Dogs roll, Falcons win boring (please)

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Legend has it that W.C. Fields was lying in a hospital bed, his organs significantly pickled, when somebody walked in and was astonished to see Fields holding a Bible. When asked why he suddenly had interest in the Bible, Fields responded: “I’m looking for loopholes.”

I’m not sure why this story reminds me of Georgia. Maybe because at 0-2, nothing short of locusts overtaking the rest of the SEC East figured to leave the door open for the Bulldogs. Then came the Stephen Garcia-Marcus Lattimore-John Brantley trifecta of Old Testament plagues and suddenly Mark Richt had a loophole to drive his F-150 through.

W.C. and the Dogs found the loophole.

W.C. and the Dogs found the loophole.

And now all the Bulldogs have to do is … beat Kentucky? This is sort of like the Allied Forces overrunning Eastern Europe and then being told, “OK. So there’s this nice little coffee and danish stand in Liechtenstein. Take over that, and we’ll declare you the winner.”

Georgia has won eight straight. It’s coming off a 45-7 win over …

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Todd Grantham needs to worry about coaching, not contract

Todd Grantham shouldn't be making an issue of his contract in November. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham shouldn't be making an issue of his contract in November. (Jason Getz)

If there is one thing that we have learned this season at Georgia, it’s that Todd Grantham is a pretty good coach. The Bulldogs’ defense has improved almost every week this season, and is miles ahead of what it was a year ago.

But we’ve witnessed, courtesy of YouTube, that sometimes Grantham just does dumb things – and here he goes again.

If you missed the stories earlier this week from our Chip Towers, Grantham’s agent is publicly pushing for a raise and contract extension for Georgia’s defensive coordinator. Never mind that the contract still has 14 months to run.

Agent Michael Harrison has been rebuffed by athletic director Greg McGarity, who says he won’t address coaches’ contracts until after the season. And sorry, but Mark Richt’s contract is a slightly higher priority.

Grantham is a coach. It would be a good idea to stick to that for possibly …

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Roddy White not in denial: ‘I just have to get better’

Falcons wide receiver Roddy White acknowedges he needs to be better. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Falcons wide receiver Roddy White admits he needs to play better. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

FLOWERY BRANCH – The Falcons wore their throwback uniforms last Sunday against New Orleans, and some unfortunate symmetry that day was we witnessed a throwback version of Roddy White.

Until two catches in the team’s next to-last possession of the fourth quarter, White had two catches, two drops and two 15-yard penalties. It was a reminder of the young and immature White who looked like a draft mistake for two seasons, not the player who evolved into a three-time Pro Bowler and a difference-maker who commanded a $48 million contract.

White has not had a great season. He openly admits it. There’s something to be said for that, especially given he plays a position that breeds prima donnas. But if the Falcons’ wide receiver doesn’t start resembling something closer to the player who caught 28 touchdown passes in his previous three seasons and had a career-high 115 receptions last year, there …

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NBA players just committed a major blunder

NBA players union chief Billy Hunter, flanked by Derek Fisher (left) and other players, have no leverage. (AP photo)

Union chief Billy Hunter, flanked by Derek Fisher (left) and other players, has no leverage.

The NBA players can tell themselves that the owners created this mess. They would be right.

They can say it was the league’s owners who handed them the last collective bargaining agreement, the owners who gave them long and lucrative contracts, the owners who have done inexplicable things like give Joe Johnson a $119 million contract. And they would be right about all that, too.

But this was the bonehead move of all bonehead moves.

The NBA players decided Monday to reject the owners’ latest proposal for a new CBA. They plan to decertify the union and take the league to court for antitrust violations. This is what it looks like when an entire league of players commits suicide.

If the players are serious about all this, forget this season. At least.

Commissioner David Stern said Monday, “If I were a player, one of 450, I would wonder what it is [NBPA] Billy Hunter just did.”

Stern also …

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Oddsmaker: Georgia would be 10.5-point underdogs to LSU

Les Miles.

Les Miles' team is ranked No. 1 by the BCS.

Mark Richt.

Mark Richt's Dogs have won eight straight.

As Georgia fans begin to allow themselves to dream the impossible dream — beating LSU in the SEC championship game — here’s a clue about how big of an underdog the Bulldogs would be that week.

Todd Fuhrman, the senior race and sports analyst for Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas, said Monday that he projects LSU to be a 10½-point favorite over Georgia at the SEC title game at the Georgia Dome on Dec. 3. That assumes the Dogs win their final two games against Kentucky (which would clinch the SEC East) and Georgia Tech (road), and LSU defeats Mississippi (road) and Arkansas (home).

Fuhrman, reached by phone on Monday, said the point spread will be about 10½ “unless something unexpected happens, like LSU struggles against Arkansas. The [SEC title] game is going to be played in the Georgia Dome, but in championship games there’s not a real home field advantage.”

Georgia fans might perceive …

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