Archive for August, 2012

Gonzalez knows if Braves fizzle, he’ll be one to catch heat

Fredi Gonzalez knows criticism goes with the job, whether it's justified or not. (Hyosub Shin/AJC

Fredi Gonzalez knows criticism goes with his job, whether it's justified or not. (Hyosub Shin/AJC

(UPDATED: 11 p.m.)

One refreshing thing about Fredi Gonzalez, unlike so many in his position, is that he’s not going to try to project himself as someone who has all the answers.

He’ll listen to criticism. He’ll seek feedback from his Yoda-like predecessor, Bobby Cox. He’ll talk to former managers who are now long into retirement, and even managers on other teams. If ultimately Gonzalez fails as manager of the Braves, it won’t be because of ego, arrogance or obstinance.

“I talk to other managers all the time, people I respect,” Gonzalez said Friday. “Why not? I talk to them about dealing with different situations, dealing with crisis. But the bottom line, what most of them say, is you just have to be yourself. You have to be honest with players. You’re going to make decisions that are going to be second-guessed. That goes with the territory. But at the end of the …

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Weekend Predictions: Dogs yes, Jackets no, Hawaii (duh)

picks 007

(Updated)

Because Jim Donnan needs a little investment advice (and possibly a mallet to the head), because we’re either in the midst of economic recovery or one hiccup away from all sweeping streets in a Habitrail (depending on political affiliation, or whether Donnan has you on speed dial), and because Bobby Petrino was kind enough to give me another full season’s worth of material (”Watch me cry. Where’s camera 2?”) . . .

Hello. I am back.

Don’t worry. Your money is safe here. We rely neither on Jim Donnan’s economic indicators nor Todd Akin’s wealth of knowledge about the human anatomy  (”Two Pop Tarts before sex is a proven contraception method, and if you forget you can still do the Royal Zulu Dance to prevent pregnancy. Hey, where’d everybody go?”)

Jim Donnan carries his imaginary pot of gold.

Jim Donnan carries his imaginary pot of gold.

Weekend Predictions returns every year because we have a proven method of success. We don’t do market research. We don’t care about tendencies. Actually, we try to avoid facts …

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Georgia State pounded in opener as growing pains continue

Georgia State coach Bill Curry didn't have much to cheer about again Thursday. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Georgia State coach Bill Curry didn't have much to cheer about in opener. (Jason Getz/AJC)

If you haven’t kept up on the uniquely metamorphosing Georgia State football program, it goes something like this:

The Panthers started playing games in 2010. Their first schedule of Colonial Athletic Association games is this season (Year 3). But they’re not eligible for the CAA championship because they’ve already decided to jump to the Sun Belt. The NCAA’s mandated two-year transition to FBS means they can’t compete for championships or bowls until 2014 — not that it was realistic anyway — which effectively means they will have played four years of exhibition games (45) by the end of 2013.

And you thought the NFL preseason was long.

There’s an obvious advantage to this: New programs typically get beat up, and Georgia State has been no exception to this. So this extended stretch of unofficial-ness allows Georgia State athletic director Cheryl Levick to tell prospective …

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Paul Johnson will defend Tech’s offense, but not defense

Al Groh must know that whatever he's doing, Paul Johnson is watching. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Al Groh must know: Whatever he's doing, Paul Johnson is watching. (Johnny Crawford)

There are at least two things Paul Johnson has committed to memory. One is his offense. The other is his counterattack for anybody who questions his offense.

It’s like the other day, when I mentioned to Johnson that his team needed significant improvement on defense and his run-run-run-run-run-oh-look-it’s-third-down-run-run offense needed some semblance of a passing threat for Georgia Tech to move up to the next level. (I never claimed either observation was a stunning revelation). Johnson’s response was expected: both amusing and unrelenting.

“Well, the second part I’m not so sure of,” he said. “We beat Clemson last year, and they were ranked fifth, and we didn’t throw the ball. We beat Georgia in my first year throwing for 19 yards. Would it help if the other team has everybody committed to the run and we could throw it over their heads? Sure. But we’re not going to throw it 30 …

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Countdown: Vandy’s she-QB, ESPN’s ‘power,’ creepy bobble

Here's Jerry and I walking out of Schwab's.

Here's Jerry and I walking out of Schwab's.

So I was a young bat with stars in my beady eyes, sitting at the soda counter next to Lana Turner (tramp) at Schwab’s Pharmacy on Sunset when this guy named Jerry approaches me and asks, “How much would a 12 percent tip be on cheeseburger and a plasma float?” And right away I responded, “$1.27.” Soon after, Jerry said he would help cast me in a new TV show, and there was even a chance I could become the show’s star because all I had to do was beat out a green frog who for some reason had a thing for a pig, and even in Hollywood, I’m thinking, “Really? A frog and a pig?” Alas, the unpredictable whims of  5-year-olds left me with a supporting role. But at least I’m here to say: It’s time to count down . . .

10. Goodbye to my mentor, my fingers

The Count has been overwhelmed (and somewhat amused) by the number of people who have sent “condolences” on email, Twitter and Facebook — I have yet to check messages via Ouija board — …

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Video blog: Talking Georgia, Georgia Tech, ‘Sack Schultz’

As we’ve learned here in the South, college football never really stops. The teams just stop playing games for several months. But the season begins again this week, and I discussed the expectations at Georgia and some of this week’s games with CineSport’s Noah Coslov. Noah also selected a few games so he and I could go head-to-head in picks each week as a sort of sidebar to the “Sack Schultz 2012″ contest. (If you haven’t signed up, there’s still time. Register here.)

By Jeff Schultz

Last 10 from the writing jukebox

College football, Week 1: Somehow it keeps getting better

Predicting Georgia Tech’s season, game-by-game

Isaiah Crowell ‘happy,’ seeking fresh start at Alabama State

“Sack Schultz 2012″:Hawaii, tickets, gift cards … I want it all!

Da’Rick Rogers suspended, and Dooley still cleaning up

Now on Internet: It’s Mike Vick Injury Bingo! (ouch)

MLB’s drug policy too soft — teams should be docked wins

VIDEO: Augusta National forges ahead into the …

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College football, Week 1: Somehow it keeps getting better

Paul Johnson.

Paul Johnson: Darkhorse?

Mark Richt.

Mark Richt: BCS contender?

Bill Curry.

Bill Curry: A step up?

Elevating college football to the appropriate level of importance in his small but powerful world, Bear Bryant once noted, “It’s kind of hard to rally around a math class.” And as if we needed reminding, the man operated at a time before outlandish concepts like “academic reform” and truth-in-scholarship limits.

Emotionally, however, not much has changed in the past several decades. For many, particularly in the South, the opening of college football season this week is like finally being given clearance to rip the gift wrap off of a box that has been sitting in the corner, seemingly taunting you, for eight months.

It’s time.

“If you grew up around here, the excitement is one of those things that you often think back to, like significant holidays,” said Bill Curry, the 69-year-old Georgia State coach, who is entering the final season (we assume) of his career.

“You remember where you were …

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Isaiah Crowell ‘happy,’ seeking fresh start at Alabama State

Isaiah Crowell is getting ready to compete at a school far from SEC spotlight.

Former Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell is getting ready to compete at far from SEC spotlight.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – About 225 miles from Athens, in the opposite direction from where most people will be looking when the college football season opens, you can find Isaiah Crowell here.

Take the last exit of I-85 south, make a left under the overpass and drive straight down Decatur and into the projects. There you will see a weathered sign reading, “Hornets Stadium,” and a football practice field bordered on one side by a small college campus and on the other by less-than-idyllic surroundings.

“The culture is a little different here,” Alabama State coach Reggie Barlow said with understatement.

Alabama State is in the midst of a makeover. A 30-year, $600 million wish list of constructions projects includes several new athletic facilities, including a $62 million football stadium scheduled to open on Thanksgiving. In that sense, this is an appropriate place for Crowell …

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Football special: Predicting Georgia Tech, game by game

Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets must open at Virginia Tech. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Paul Johnson's Jackets have a difficult opener at Virginia Tech. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

(This will run in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s football preview section. It’s my game-by-game prediction of Georgia Tech’s season. I have them losing at Virginia Tech, at Clemson and at Georgia. The only win I waffled on was at North Carolina. They should win all of their home games. — Jeff Schultz)

• 

Sept. 3, at Virginia Tech, 8 p.m.

It’s not quite a year ago, when the Jackets had the luxury of playing their first three games against non-conference dumplings Western Carolina, Middle Tennessee State and Kansas. Paul Johnson’s option offense may have trouble against what is expected to be one of the nation’s top defenses. Johnson is 1-3 against the Hokies, with his teams scoring 17, 28 (win), 21 and 26 points. Prediction: Jackets lose

Sept. 8, Presbyterian, 7 p.m.

Somewhere it is written: No BCS school ever should lose to a team called the Blue Hose. Clearly, somebody at …

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Sack Schultz 2012: Hawaii, tickets, gift cards–I want it all!

Win nationally, and you're in this hammock.

Win nationally, and you're in this hammock.

In the first two years of the “Sack Schultz” contest, I deluded you, the reader, into believing that you could pick college football winners as expertly as me.

Hah! It was a trick. Finishing 1,177th out of 6,978 entries last season was all part of a master plan into making you think that my secret system for picking winners was something as pedestrian as, “Eenie, Meenie, Miny, Moe,” when in fact it’s, “Eenie, Meenie, Jelly, Beanie,” something far more spiritual (kids: Google “Bullwinkle”).

But this year, I’m serious. There’s too much at stake. It’s why I’m also going to

Win among local entries and you get tickets to this game. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Win among local entries, you'll get tickets to this game. (Johnny Crawford)

enter my dog, Lilly, in the contest as a backup plan, just to see if she can pick winners any better than me. (Her method of selection will be forthcoming.)

Let me start with the whopper prize: If you can pick winners better than me (and everybody else) among national entries, you will win a …

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