Archive for November, 2012

Predictions: Georgia wins on Red-and-Black Saturday

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Before we get to this week’s big question — will Georgia be caught looking ahead to the SEC Championship game, the BCS title game, world domination, next year’s rankings, global peace, contact with an alien life form and a voice from a burning bush somehow lose to Georgia Tech — let’s get to what really matters.

The continuing devolution of mankind. I speak, of course, of Black Friday.

Once we’ve finished our annual Thursday tradition of consuming four helpings of turkey, three pieces of ham, 17 side dishes, six rolls (or was it seven?), three desserts and a Diet Coke and lapsing into a food coma, we’ll segue into Shopping on Steroids. Black Friday is that wonderful time when we rise at 3 a.m. after four hours of sleep to save $40 on a laptop, $6 on a sweatshirt and 27 cents on Play-Doh.

December wasn't good enough. He just had to start after Thanksgiving.

December wasn't good enough. He just had to start after Thanksgiving.

We’ll be overcome by feelings of a tremendous conquest, until the following week when these same items are on sale for …

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Vince Dooley: Joy from Georgia’s rise, pain from son’s firing

Some of Vince Dooley's joy over Georgia's resurgence took a hit with his son's firing. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Vince Dooley's joy for Georgia's resurgence took a hit with his son's firing. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

On Sunday, when everybody associated with Georgia football was still basking in the afterglow of the season’s 10th victory and the anticipation of a dramatic flip at the top in the BCS standings, the Dooleys of Athens received a phone call from their son, Derek.

“I knew it was going to happen,” Vince Dooley said. “I felt for sure it was going to happen. Then on Sunday when he contacted us and told us, it was difficult. You hurt for your family. You hurt for your son.”

Seldom do the extreme highs and lows of competitive athletics collide like this.

Dooley hired Mark Richt and watched him win two SEC championships in his first five seasons. He saw the program slip back for a couple of seasons and Richt try to navigate through “crises” while four other SEC schools won six national championships and so many called for the coach’s head. Now the Bulldogs are more than relevant again. …

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Wonder why SEC on top? Look at other conference finals (with video)

SEC's Mike Slive: "Yes, I am king. Are there any questions?" (AP photo)

Can you hear SEC commissioner Mike Slive? "Yes, I am king. Are there any questions?" (AP photo)

While it’s easy to understand why any fan of a conference not named the SEC grows tired of hearing and reading about the SEC, the evolution of this year’s conference championship match-ups screams why the landscape is so lopsided.

This came home Monday when Miami announced that the football program was going to self-impose a bowl ban (hoping to beat the NCAA to the punch) and therefore would not accept a bid to the ACC championship game. This allowed Georgia Tech to back through the door as Coastal Division “champions.” The Jackets will face Florida State for the ACC title.

This isn’t meant to pick on Georgia Tech. It’s not the Jackets’ fault they have been given this opportunity, despite a relatively crummy season. But if you want to know why the SEC commands the attention it does, just look at how the ACC and other conference championship games compare.

Here are the conference …

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Falcons win (but run before somebody changes their mind)

Falcons' real stars came on defense, like this fumble return for a touchdown by Jonathan Babineaux. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Falcons' real stars came on defense, like this fumble return for a touchdown by Jonathan Babineaux. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Sometime after the game’s first pass went off Roddy White’s hands and turned into an interception, and Michael Turner was stuffed for no gain and then dropped a pass on the Falcons’ second and third plays, and Matt Ryan (five interceptions) mutated into some unrecognizable being, it probably occurred to everybody: This wasn’t going to be one of those games when we would all fawn over the Falcons’ offense.

“We were kind of sleepwalking through the first quarter,” coach Mike Smith said.

Sleepwalking? Actually, that would’ve been improvement. Curly mixing up the cake flour with the dynamite powder is when things kind of went sideways.

Five interceptions. Six turnovers. A coach who forgot the challenge rule and as a result was penalized and potentially lost an overturn of a fumble.

They won anyway.

This is kind of like a Big Foot sighting. Don’t believe that …

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Short takes: Ryan awful, defense great, win important

Matt Ryan had rough first quarter with three interceptions and taking hits like this. (AP photo)

Matt Ryan had rough first quarter with three interceptions and taking hits like this. (AP photo)

(I’ll be back shortly with my column off the Falcons’ game against the Arizona Cardinals. Until then here are my three “short takes” on the game.)

1. Ryan’s nightmare afternoon: If the Falcons weren’t playing Arizona, which has one of the NFL’s worst offenses, they would’ve been blown out Sunday. As it was, Matt Ryan threw three interceptions in the first quarter (one actually was the fault of Roddy White, who dropped a pass and it was picked off in mid-air) and a career-high five in the game. With a fumble, the Falcons actually turned over the ball six times but Arizona capitalized with only one touchdown and two field goals — 13 points. Ryan had thrown as many three interceptions only twice previously in his career. But he did come through on the go-ahead drive, completing four of five passes and setting up the Falcons’ lone offensive touchdown drive (a one-yard run by Michael …

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LIVE: Falcons hope to avoid hangover from Saints loss

Matt Ryan is hoping for better results when he hands off to Michael Turner today. (AP photo)

Matt Ryan is hoping for better results when he hands off to Michael Turner today. (AP photo)

Hello. Sorry, but I’m a little rushed today. I just posted a new column on Dawgmania in the BCS, following losses by Kansas State and Oregon late Saturday night. Now it’s time to switch gears to the pro team.

The Falcons play host to Arizona today. This is kind of a big game. I know that sounds strange for an 8-1 team with a three-game lead in the NFC South, but consider the circumstances.

They are coming of their first loss of the season, an emotional defeat to rival New Orleans (31-27), a game in which they felt they should have won (largely because of six red zone possessions that resulted in only three touchdowns). A loss to Arizona wouldn’t devastate the team but it has the potential to make things uncomfortable in the NFC South, with three straight divisional games to follow (at Tampa; home against New Orleans; at Carolina).

The questions about the Falcons now are the same …

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Georgia’s new reality: From on the brink to BCS possibility

Mark Richt and the Bulldogs know if they can win two more games they'll play for BCS title. (Brandt Sanderlin/AJC)

If Mark Richt and the Bulldogs win two more games they'll play for BCS title. (Brandt Sanderlin/AJC)

This is why we love sports. This is why it’s the greatest reality show we have going – unscripted and unexpected, with fluctuating emotions of fan bases from game to game.

Who foresees this? Who looks at a 0-2 Georgia team last season, with coach Mark Richt under assault by fans and media, with the program a non-factor in the SEC for more than two years, boat-raced in the conference by Alabama, Florida and LSU, and thinks: By the end of next season, those Bulldogs may have a chance to play for the BCS championship?

After some early hiccups in Athens Saturday, Georgia buried Georgia Southern 45-14. That’s one development that surprised nobody. What changed the landscape of college football’s national race is what occurred later that evening.

Kansas State, the BCS’s No. 1 team, got body-slammed 52-24 by Baylor (the same Baylor that was 1-5 in the Big 12 before kickoff). Oregon, …

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Upsets launch Georgia into BCS title picture (UPDATED)

It took a little while but Aaron Murray and Georgia eventually took charge. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

It took a little while but Aaron Murray and Georgia eventually took charge. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

(LAST UPDATED: 12:18 a.m.)

ATHENS – For as much as Mark Richt prefers his Georgia players focus on opponents (Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech) and not acronyms (SEC, BCS) in these final two weeks of the regular season, it was difficult not to notice what was scrolling on the Sanford Stadium video board before Saturday’s game.

First came the screen shot with large bold letters screaming: “BCS STANDINGS.” Then came the screen shot listing the nation’s top ranked teams, from No. 1 Kansas State to No. 5 Georgia.

The topic is impossible to ignore. It’s why, even in games with seemingly foregone conclusions like Saturday’s against Georgia Southern, some will look at the way things started for the Bulldogs on this day and think, “Uh-oh.”

But don’t overthink this.

Did Georgia come out a little flat, a bit sloppy and probably unfocused against an FCS opponent? Clearly. When a team is …

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Short takes: Slow start but Murray wakes up offense

This late first-half touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell was first of four straight by Aaron Murray. (AP photo)

This touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell was first of four straight by Aaron Murray. (AP photo)

(I’ll be back with a column on Georgia’s win over Georgia Southern shortly. Until then, here are my three “short takes” on today’s game.)

1. Georgia’s fortuitous scheduling: The Georgia Southern game was scheduled for Saturday because its option offense mirrors that of next week’s opponent, Georgia Tech. Smart. But the Bulldogs needed this game for another reason: Almost on cue, they come out flat, unfocused and sloppy. It wasn’t surprising, given the emotion of a four-game winning streak that culminated in last week’s SEC East-clinching rout at Auburn. But it’s still something that great teams shouldn’t do. That said, the Dogs woke up, starting with a late first-half touchdown drive, and went on a 31-0 run through the third quarter after Southern tied the game 7-7.

Todd Gurley was held toi 27 rushing yards in first half, an example of Georgia's early struggles. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Todd Gurley was held to 27 rushing yards in first half, an example of Georgia's slow start. (Brant Sanderlin)

2. …

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LIVE: Georgia hopes for easy day against Georgia Southern

Mark Richt wants players to focus on game, but BCS standings on scoreboard.

Mark Richt wants his players to focus on game but BCS standings are on Sanford Stadium scoreboard.

ATHENS — For the first Saturday of the season, Georgia will take the field today as SEC East Division champions. And by the time this game ends, the Bulldogs hope nothing will have happened to dampen that title.

A week after clinching the East title at Auburn, the Dogs play host to Georgia Southern. Nothing against the Eagles, who have an impressive winning tradition at the Division 1-AA/FCS level, but this one shouldn’t be close.

Georgia has three simple goals: 1) Tune up defensively for next week’s game against Georgia Tech, which, like Southern, runs an option offense; 2) Build a big enough lead to get into position to pull starters in the second half; 3) Get out of this game without any significant injuries.

A berth in the SEC championship against Alabama is secure, but Georgia could have more on the line after that. The Dogs’ No. 5 ranking in the BCS creates an outside

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