Archive for January, 2012

LSU-Alabama BCS title game is another win for SEC

One of these coaches will hold the BCS trophy. But the SEC already has won it. (AP photo)

One of these coaches will hold the BCS trophy. But the SEC already has won it. (AP photo)

NEW ORLEANS – If it is true, as Socrates once said, that, “Envy is the ulcer of the soul,” every other college football conference in America has been speed-eating Tums for the past six years.

LSU and Alabama play in the BCS championship game on Monday night in the Superdome. But this is sort of like two gladiators battling for the right to be viewed as the favorite son of the emperor. The emperor already has won.

This will make six consecutive BCS titles won by SEC schools. It will make eight championships in the 13 years the game has been played, far exceeding the closest member of the lower class (the Big 12 with two).

One would have to go back to the early 1900s of Ivy League domination to find a conference with such a run. But to wax on about the greatness of Princeton, Yale and Harvard football is sort of like referencing the Tyrannosaurus rex ruling over the animal kingdom. Ivy …

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Kirby Smart says he’s ready to make jump to head coach

Kirby Smart used to be sought after as a defensive coordinator, but he seems ready now to be a head coach. (AP photo)

Kirby Smart was sought after as a defensive coordinator, but now he seems ready for top job. (AP photo)

NEW ORLEANS — Two years after saying no to his alma mater, Kirby Smart can take comfort in one thing: The next time somebody picks up the phone to offer him a job, it won’t be for a lateral move.

Georgia wanted Smart back as their defensive coordinator, a position he already held at Alabama. But there was a thought by some in Athens, including Mark Richt, that the promise of a more-than-doubled salary – and the option of an attractive escape route from under Nick Saban’s thumb – could lure Smart back to the Bulldogs.

It didn’t happen — and that was the wisest decision Smart ever made.

When Alabama faces LSU on Monday night, Smart will have a chance to win his second BCS championship in three seasons. He no longer is viewed as merely a hot young assistant ready to jump at any head coaching job. He sounds more head coach-ready than ever before, and, to a large degree, he can …

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Digi-Blog’s snapshot of New Orleans before BCS title game

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NEW ORLEANS — As a general rule, the Digi-Blog tries to take you to unusual places you might not be familiar with. I’m pretty sure most of you are familiar with New Orleans, perhaps even that there are bars there. But during my morning drive here for Monday’s BCS title game between LSU and Alabama, I thought, “Why not?” One more little blog justifies at least a few more meals on the expense account. (This is the only road trip I don’t measure by deals — I measure by meals.) So here’s a snapshot of Nola, with a few surprised guests!

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So I picked up all of my stuff for work in the media room, just in case I actually do any. (I’ve always thought it would be a much better job if the stories didn’t get in the way of things. You know: travel, eat, drink, go to a game, talk to the players, second-guess the coach, then go back to the hotel and get ready to do it again in the next city. Damn stories throw off the pacing.)  Anyway, you’ll find this free souvenir BCS bag and several …

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Matt Ryan is ready to make amends in playoffs

Matt Ryan: Hear me loud -- I'm ready for playoffs this time. (Jason Getz/jgetz@ajc.com)

Matt Ryan: Hear me loud — I'm ready for playoffs this time. (Jason Getz/jgetz@ajc.com)

FLOWERY BRANCH – If Matt Ryan speaks the truth, the television is off this week. If the radio is on, it’s tuned to therapeutic jazz, perhaps against the backdrop of rhythmic wind chimes and burning incense. Computer use: limited to email, golf tips and perhaps new meatloaf recipes.

This seems so much better than subjecting himself to a jackhammer against his cranium by media cretins (present company excluded, of course) who insist on bringing up the interception on his first career playoff pass at Arizona, or the fumble and ensuing touchdown return by Antrel Rolle that turned around that game, or the first interception last year against Green Bay that led to a 14-point swing, or the head-slapping, pick six by Tramon Williams just before halftime, which pretty much buried his team, or …

Hmmmmmm. Soft breeze. Golden sunset. Serenity. Opening up the chakras now. I’m sorry, did you say …

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Giants were no better vs. winning teams than Falcons

Matt Ryan is only 2-4 vs. winning teams ...

Matt Ryan's Falcons went 2-4 vs. winning teams …

... but Eli Manning isn't any better at 1-3.

… but Eli Manning's Giants were worse at 1-3.

OK. No more picking on the Falcons for going only 2-4 against teams with winning records this season. It turns out they’re better than at least four other NFL players — five if you go by percentage points and include their opponent Sunday, the New York Giants.

Since I noted the other day that the Falcons (10-6) largely fattened up on mediocre opponents this season while going only 2-4 against winning teams, I thought it would be only fair to break down every team in the NFL playoff field.

It turns out they’re near the middle of the pack. Guess what? Even the Giants, Sunday’s wild card opponent, went only 1-3 (.250) against winning teams this season (beating New England; losing to San Francisco, New Orleans and Green Bay). The Falcons’ 2-4 mark actually factors out to a better winning percentage (.333).

The best teams in the playoffs aren’t a surprise: Green Bay (5-0 against …

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S.I. reverses field, but most pick Falcons over Giants

Most media outlets predict Falcons will upset the New York Giants this week, but not Sports Illustrated.

Most major media outlets predict Matt Ryan and Mike Smith will win a playoff game, but not S.I.

Last August, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made some friends in Flowery Branch when he picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl. (Early grade: He nailed four of the NFC’s six playoff teams: Falcons and Detroit as wildcards, and Green Bay and New Orleans as division champions, but whiffed on Philadelphia and St. Louis.)

Now, this isn’t to pick on Peter, who’s a friend of mine, but he clearly has changed his outlook on the Falcons. Sports Illustrated sent out PDFs of King’s NFL playoff preview and a Falcons preview by staff writer Jim Trotter (they’re not posted online yet). King predicts the New York Giants to win Sunday’s wildcard game over the Falcons 24-20. He also has adjusted his Super Bowl prediction from Falcons over San Diego to New Orleans over New England.

King doesn’t offer much in the way of commentary on the Falcons in the main story. (Trotter’s story recounts what led …

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Mike Smith trying to instill playoff toughness in Falcons

Falcons coach Mike Smith realizes the Falcons will be "scrutinized" for their playoff performances. (AP photo)

Falcons coach Mike Smith realizes the Falcons will be "scrutinized" for their playoff performances after two postseason losses.

First, let’s get past the flaws.

The Falcons are thin on the offensive line, sporadic in the secondary. Passes have been dropped. Tackles have been missed. Dunta Robinson, Ray Edwards – sorry, no rebates.

But every NFL playoff team has flaws, even the best one. Ask the Green Bay Packers about their 32nd-ranked defense.

The playoffs open this week. This is a good time for the Falcons to remind themselves of the one absolute truth in football that’s never changed, regardless of any second-guessing of the offensive coordinator or the quarterback’s Tramon Williams’ blind –spot: A punch in the mouth is the great equalizer.

The Falcons have talent. But they are 0-2 in the playoffs under this regime and they’ve struggled against good teams this season. To succeed in this postseason, they’ll need to win on the road, in the cold and/or difficult …

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Ranking coach-QB duos in playoffs (Smith-Ryan are 7th)

Mike Smith and Matt Ryan are looking for their first playoff win. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Mike Smith and Matt Ryan are looking for their first playoff win. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The top seeds sometimes flop. (Last season, the Falcons and New England were the No. 1 seeds in the playoffs for the NFC and AFC, respectively and each lost their first game.)

The wild cards don’t always fail. (Green Bay was an NFC wild card last season and won four games on the road, including the Super Bowl. Since 1970, 10 wild card teams have reached the Super Bowl and six have won it all.)

So there is hope, Falcons’ fans.

But NFL playoff success almost always starts with coaches and quarterbacks. The Super Bowl winner doesn’t always come from the perceived best duo of the group but it’s as good a gauge as there is.

So with that, here’s how I rank the 12 coach-quarterback duos in the field. Noteworthy: The first five on the list all have won Super Bowls.

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers: Primed for another Super Bowl.

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers: Primed for another Super Bowl.

1. Green Bay (Mike McCarthy-Aaron Rodgers): The Packers are beat up …

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Falcons beat another bad team, but can they beat good one?

Two touchdowns by Julio Jones (left) helped stake the Falcons to an early 42-0 lead over Tampa Bay. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Two touchdowns by Julio Jones (left) helped stake the Falcons to an early 42-0 lead over Tampa Bay. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(UPDATED: 11:30 p.m. The New York Giants defeated Dallas, which means the Falcons will face the Giants next Sunday at 1 p.m.)

If there is one absolute this season about the Falcons, it’s that they know how to wipe their feet on the lampooned and downtrodden. They create excitement for punch-drunk fan bases dreaming of Andrew Luck. They can beat any team that has been considered as an emergency replacement by the Big East.

But can the Falcons win a playoff game and, you know, actually beat somebody good?

They beat Jacksonville. They beat Indianapolis. They beat Carolina twice. They didn’t beat Tampa Bay on Sunday so much as they dodged exploding parts and avoided hyperventilating from laughing. The Falcons led 42-0 after 23 minutes — aided by three turnovers — pulled most of their starters early and somewhat wobbled to the finish line (not that the …

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LIVE: Falcons close season (but will it mean anything)? (UPDATE: It does: Lions’ loss means Falcons would face winner of Dallas-NYG)

Detroit just took a 16-10 lead over Green Bay on the Georgia Dome video board.

Detroit just took a 16-10 lead over Green Bay on the Georgia Dome video board.

(UPDATE: Detroit’s 45-41 loss to Green Bay means if the Falcons defeat Tampa Bay, they will be the NFC’s No. 5 seed and will face the winner of tonight’s New York-Dallas game next week in the playoffs.)

In the interest of full disclosure, here goes: I hardly thought about the Falcons all week.

I don’t know if it was the holidays, or the hangover from last week’s annihilation in New Orleans, or just the thought that today’s game against Tampa Bay might be rendered meaningless. But I’m thinking that when it’s the final regular season game for a playoff team and they’ve slipped off the radar, that’s a problem.

First, let’s break down exactly what this game means: Possibly nothing. The Green Bay Packers are resting their starters today against Detroit (as I type this the Lions lead 19-17). If the Lions win, they’ll clinch the No. 5 seed, will play the winner of the NFC East (Dallas or New York) in the …

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