Archive for December, 2011

Auburn shows it’s not coming apart at the seams yet

Onterio McCalebb has no trouble filling in for suspended Michael Dyer as Auburn rolled past Virginia. (AP photo)

Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb has no trouble filling in for the suspended Michael Dyer as the Tigers rolled past Virginia. (AP photo)

A year after Cam Newton and Auburn’s slightly lesser beings descended on Atlanta and destroyed South Carolina for the SEC championship (to be followed by a BCS title), the Tigers returned to the Georgia Dome to finish a season with blemishes Saturday night.

Auburn didn’t go undefeated. It didn’t win a conference championship or go to a BCS bowl.

This time, Auburn showed up with a lame-duck offensive coordinator, no defensive coordinator, a backup running back (because the starter was suspended), and a team whose last three SEC losses came to LSU, Georgia and Alabama by a composite score of 132-28.

It’s hard to say exactly what the Tigers projected with their performance Saturday for next season in the SEC. But at the very least, they showed they’re not coming apart. They rushed for 273 yards without the suspended Michael Dyer. They …

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Weekend (Bowl) Predictions: Dogs, Jackets, Alabama win

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Hello. I am back.

Weekend Predictions, which like college football has no playoff system and often makes no sense, one difference being our advisory board has the built-in excuse of the shiitake’s mutant and illegal cousin, traditionally returns for one bowl edition.

It has been another profitable season. W.P. Inc. is 26 games above .500 against the line. But of course all I get are no tips, no thank-you notes, just emails that read, “Ya moron! Ya picked the Gators to beat the Dawgs! Coach Richt is going to smite your liberal West Coast beehind! Hey Marge, I got him good. Pop-Tarts ready yet?”

OK, let’s make this quick. Too many games to get to.

Georgia has had a good week. There has been no news of academic suspensions — fill in name of oft-speculated freshman running back — and I think the Dogs already have clinched the 2012 SEC East title, given Alabama has been dropped from the Hostess-wrapped schedule.

Here’s a nice consolation prize for having their limbs ripped off by …

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Hawks roll again (and what’s this about Dwight Howard?)

Guard Jeff Teague and the Hawks are off to a flying start this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Guard Jeff Teague and the Hawks are off to a flying start this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(UPDATED: 10:45 p.m.)

They won their season opener by 36 points at New Jersey. They won their home opener by an easy 18 over Washington on Wednesday night at Philips Arena.

They have a point guard (Jeff Teague) who is dishing, a sometimes-maddening star (Josh Smith) who is playing under control, a team that is defending and … wait, did somebody just show Marvin Williams where the paint is?

So this is what Hawks’ bliss looks like. Feels like. Sounds like.

Well, maybe not sounds like. Considering this was the home opener, the crowd in Philips Arena was remarkably small (generously announced at 17,750) and relatively staid. But if the Hawks can continue to play like this against teams that figure to finish well north of New Jersey and Washington in the standings, they’ll get some deserved attention. Maybe even a sellout. Maybe they’ll even attract a buyer.

Williams, who has had a largely …

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Poll time: How should we define success for Falcons?

Brian VanGorder and Mike Smith have a lot to get figured out before playoffs. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Brian VanGorder and Mike Smith have a lot to fix before playoffs. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Updated)

The Falcons tell us how that just making the playoffs isn’t good enough any more. So you wonder why they played one of their worst games ever under coach Mike Smith — Monday’s 45-16 loss at New Orleans — the night after they had clinched a postseason berth?

But let’s move on. The Falcons play their final regular season game against Tampa Bay Sunday. The game may or may not their impact playoff seeding and match-up. Nobody’s expecting an overly festive atmosphere in the Georgia Dome for the season’s final home game. (The only way the Falcons could host another game would be as a No. 5 seed if they faced No. 6 Detroit for the NFC championship. Not likely.)

What qualifies as success?

  • Making the playoffs.
  • Winning one game.
  • Winnining two games.
  • Winning three games.
  • Winning Super Bowl.

View Results

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For all of the regular season success under …

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Georgia’s schedule break: Goodbye Alabama, hello Missouri

Mark Richt, Bulldogs react after seeing next year's schedule. OK, maybe not.

Mark Richt, Bulldogs react after seeing next year's schedule. OK, maybe not. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Welcome to Mark Richt’s new charmed existence.

While it’s impossible to project how difficult a schedule will be until a season plays out, it’s safe to assume Georgia just caught a huge break. Instead being forced to travel to Alabama next season as previously scheduled, the Bulldogs will play at Missouri.

That means for the second straight season, the Dogs will avoid Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. And they play Mississippi again.

The SEC released its 2012 schedule Wednesday. There are three changes from the original schedule Georgia was supposed to play. The Sept. 8 game at South Carolina just became at Missouri (which will be making its SEC debut). The Oct. 6 game at Alabama is now at South Carolina. Also, the open date before the Oct. 27 Florida game is now on Oct. 13, the week before the Kentucky game.

When you add the fact that Georgia will open the season against Buffalo against …

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Falcons get their reality check, and it’s not what they expected

Falcons could do nothing to stop Drew Brees and the Saints. (AP photo)

Falcons could do nothing to stop Drew Brees and the Saints. (AP photo)

(UPDATED: 1:03 a.m.)

NEW ORLEANS — So much for the mystery.

There’s no need to wonder how heavily to weigh six consecutive dominating quarters against Carolina and Jacksonville. As it turns out, it means only that the Falcons are better than Carolina and Jacksonville — neither of whom they’ll be facing in the playoffs.

They’re not as good as New Orleans. They’re certainly not as good as Green Bay. It remains to be seen if they’re as good as anybody in the playoff field (although they did beat Detroit. But the Falcons won’t be playing them, either.)

Pecking order was firmly established Monday night. The Falcons got boat-raced by New Orleans 45-16 at the Superdome. At least, that was the score the last time anybody looked up.

“I think it’s an aberration,” coach Mike Smith said when asked what this says about the state of his team.

He had better hope so. The Falcons just suffered their worst loss ever under …

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LIVE: Falcons are in playoffs, now go for South vs. Saints

Falcons are hoping John Abraham can replicate this play against Drew Brees a few times.

Falcons are hoping John Abraham can replicate this play against Drew Brees. (Jason Getz)

NEW ORLEANS — After lunch with D-Led at Mother’s — always my first stop in New Orleans — I’m ready for the afterthought of this road trip: a football game. (Sorry, but everything takes a back seat to food here.)

The byproduct of two straight wins and a few NFC playoff contenders collapsing around them has left the Falcons in a comfortable position going into tonight’s game against the New Orleans Saints: They’ve already clinched a postseason birth for the third time in four seasons.

There's always a line at Mother's.

There's always a line at Mother's.

But is winning that NFC South that implausible?

Three things need to happen for the Falcons to win the South and clinch a home playoff game: 1) They need to win tonight. (The last four meetings between the teams have been decided by a field goal, with two going into overtime, so an upset wouldn’t be monumental); 2) The Falcons need to win next week’s regular season finale at …

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Falcons get another shot at Saints, looking to affirm direction

Are Matt Ryan and the Falcons headed forward? We'll find out Monday night in New Orleans. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Are Matt Ryan and the Falcons headed forward? We'll find out Monday night in New Orleans. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

NEW ORLEANS — There have been enough times over the 40-plus seasons of  Falcons-Saints games when we knew it really told us nothing about the future, other than maybe who would be happier once their hangover wore off.

One team stunk. Both teams stunk. Neither fan base was deluded into believing their team was that great, just better than the other one. It was the closest thing the NFL got to a college rivalry.

But the meeting in New Orleans Monday night will be different. This game likely will tell us something about the future for the Falcons. They’re almost certainly headed to the playoffs, and it’s possible their first-round game will be in the Superdome.

We know about the Saints: They’ve won six straight. Drew Brees, coach Mike Smith said, “is operating at a level we probably haven’t seen,” having thrown 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the last five games. …

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Hawks’ core possibly facing final chance to show something

Can this Hawks' core battling odds to make it past second round. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Can this Hawks' core battling odds to make it past second round. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

After an offseason that saw the Hawks lose their starting point guard (Kirk Hinrich) to an injury, their only bench scorer (Jamal Crawford) to budget constraints and a would-be new owner (Alex Meruelo) because the NBA didn’t trust his financial house of cards –you know, as opposed to the model of stability that currently exists in the front office – here comes the new NBA season.

Ready? Or not?

Maybe the Jeff Teague we saw in the postseason wasn’t an aberration. Maybe the new slimmed-down Josh Smith really is as motivated as he seems. Maybe Tracy McGrady (year 15) and Jerry Stackhouse (year 17) and other remnants of players on the bench can make up for the loss of Crawford’s scoring. But that’s a lot of maybes to count on.

Hopefully, you like mysteries. Two-game preseasons don’t offer much in the way of preview.

This much, we can be fairly certain of: Whatever the Hawks – and this core in …

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Sex abuse scandals in sports likely to continue growing

Child sex abuse is the worst of any sports scandal -- and it figures to grow.

Childhood sex abuse is the worst of any scandal in sports — and it only figures to grow. (AP photos)

This is a different kind of scandal in sports. There are victims.

Steroids have exposed cheaters and diminished statistical achievements. Drugs and alcohol have ruined careers and knocked heroes off of pedestals. Recruiting scandals and academic fraud have reaffirmed the lost mission of college athletics.

But predators who molest young athletes — they ruin lives and cripple souls. It’s not about somebody trying to gain an advantage on the field or losing their moral compass. It’s about never having the compass. It’s being morally bankrupt. That makes this latest scandal to hit sports the scariest of them all.

What does it say when over 400 Penn State football players, rather than merely focusing on the 52 alleged counts of sexual abuse in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case, seem more concerned about signing a letter in support of former coach Joe Paterno, who was fired …

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