Archive for September, 2010

5 reasons Georgia Tech is even worse off than you’d think

A happy Paul Johnson after the N.C. State game. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

A happy Paul Johnson after the N.C. State game. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

1. Apparently B-backs aren’t interchangeable. Jonathan Dwyer rushed for 1,395 yards in both 2008 and 2009. Over the winter Paul Johnson said he’d be willing to bet his new B-back would gain 1,000 yards. Anthony Allen has rushed for 267 yards in four games, which would translate to 801 over a full regular season.

2. Apparently Bay-Bay was indispensable. Joshua Nesbitt passed for 1,701 yards last season, most of them to Demaryius Thomas. Nesbitt has thrown for 316 yards over four games, which projects to 948 over a full regular season. His completion percentage, which was 46.3 a year ago, is 32.6 now.

3. Apparently it wasn’t all about the defensive coordinator. Dave Wommack’s defense ranked 54th nationally last season, yielding an average of 360 yards per game. Al Groh’s defense ranks 71st, yielding 367 yards. In pass defense Tech was 45th last season; it’s 69th now.

4. Apparently “depth” isn’t …

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5 reasons the Georgia Bulldogs are better off than you think

Aaron Murray has been pretty darn good. (AP photo)

Aaron Murray has been pretty darn good. (AP photo)

1. A.J. Green returns this week. Rule of thumb: Having your best player in the lineup tends to help.

2. The Bulldogs shouldn’t lose again until the day before Halloween, if then. The next four games: At Colorado, Tennessee in Athens, Vanderbilt in Athens, at Kentucky. The first three shouldn’t be much trouble, and surely Kentucky can’t beat Georgia two years running. (I mean, could it?) There should be much momentum-building done before UGA heads for Jacksonville, and who knows how good Florida is?

3. Aaron Murray looks legit. Even behind an offensive line that hasn’t blocked a lick, the redshirt freshman quarterback hasn’t been overwhelmed. He has five touchdown passes against two interceptions, and he has completed 61 percent of his passes. And now he gets to throw to A.J. Green.

4. The defense is better. That’s still not to say it’s good, but it’s better. Last season the Bulldogs yielded 78 points in victories over South …

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Viral video: The ‘Mark Teixeira’ songsters say ‘Thanks Bobby’

The Mark Teixeira trade wasn’t an Atlanta Braves highlight: It did nothing for them in the standings and rid them of two young players — shortstop Elvis Andrus and closer Neftali Feliz — who have helped the Texas Rangers win the American League West. But the 2007 trade was memorable for one thing:

The song (and accompanying YouTube video) “Mark Teixeira” by two Auburn students who called themselves “Tito and the Gun Show.” (Real names: Andrew Hall and Tyler Crawford.) And today I bring happy news:

They’re back.

With a song (and accompanying YouTube video) called, “Thanks Bobby.” (And if you’re asking, “Bobby Who?,” you’re reading the wrong blog.)

The new magnum opus is of a piece with “Mark Teixeira” — one guitar being strummed (by Hall), two guys sitting on a beige couch, wordplay run riot.

Key points of reference in “Thanks Bobby”: A hotel lobby, a lumberjack, plaid, ejections, a pier, chin-nose-chin, Ann Boleyn, a fat kid and pie.

I’m not going to say it trumps “Teixeira,” …

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These ragtag Braves: They’re very close to the playoffs now

We ask again: Who ARE these guys? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

We ask again: Who ARE these guys? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

They’re very close now. In three days these Braves have gone from a half-game behind San Diego to assuring themselves of being no worse than a full game ahead when next they play. They’re very close to securing a playoff spot with a roster of kids and retreads and no-names who had no position until everybody started getting hurt.

On Wednesday they won their 90th game behind a pitcher the general manager tried to trade over the winter, a pitcher who has gone 5-0 in a month that began with cries for him to be sent to the bullpen. And Derek Lowe, believe it or not, has been a relative constant amid shifting sand. Of the nine players in the Braves’ lineup for the season’s 159th game, only three — Lowe, Melky Cabrera and Jason Heyward — started on Opening Day.

“It’s been awesome,” Lowe said. “When we left spring training, we knew one of the strengths of our team was our bench, but nobody knew for sure how things would …

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Live from the ballyard: The Lowe-down on a big-game pitcher

Derek Lowe started Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS in the old Yankee Stadium. No pressure there. Only 85 years of Red Sox angst bottled into one night in the Bronx.

He won the game. Went on two days’ rest. Pitched six innings, yielded one hit and one earned run.

One week later, Derek Lowe started Game 4 of the World Series in the old Busch Stadium. No pressure there. Only the Curse of the Bambino and all that other sad New England history to put to rest.

He won the game. Pitched seven innings, yielded three hits and no runs.

Yeah, 2004 was a while ago — but not so long as 1918 was to Red Sox Nation — and we in Atlanta haven’t seen much of that D-Lowe in his two seasons here. But the Braves signed him for $15 million per annum for two reasons: First, Lowe never misses a start, and second, he’s a big-game pitcher.

Lowe missed one start this season. It came early this month after he received a cortisone shot for the bone chip in his elbow. He’s 4-0 since. He has yielded three earned runs …

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In the year’s biggest game, the Braves go with Derek Lowe

If the Braves win today — and they’re playing at an odd time (4:35 p.m.), so affix a Post-It to your computer — they’ll assure themselves of leading the wild-card chase by a full game headed into the season’s final series. And that would be huge, given that San Francisco and San Diego play one another this weekend.

The Padres are a game and a half behind the Braves as we speak, but San Diego plays tonight and again tomorrow. (The Braves are off Thursday.) Were the Braves to lose today, the wild card could be a dead heat with three games left. Lose today and it would be possible for both the Giants and the Padres to make the playoffs (one as the winner of the National League West) ahead of the Braves.

Even if the Braves win today, they could still miss the playoffs — but they’d have to get swept by the Phillies, who will surely be playing their J.V. squad this weekend, to do it. If the Braves win today and take one game from the Phils, they’ll finish 91-71. If the Padres win …

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A long and painful night ends with a walk-off Braves win

On a winning night, another essential man was lost. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

On a winning night, another essential man was lost. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This is painful. The Braves are straining for the postseason and collapsing before our eyes. They’re trying to  gain ground while losing men, and it’s excruciating to behold.

The final week of a six-month regular season — seems as if it has lingered six years, no? — began Monday at Turner Field. The Braves faced Florida trailing the Padres by a half-game for the wild-card lead, and as the evening progressed the home side learned that the National League East, which they’d led for 99 days, had been won by another team. (The unbelievably terrific Phillies clinched behind Roy Halladay.)

That meant one of the two avenues to the playoffs had been officially closed, not that much hope of winning the division remained after getting swept last week in Philadelphia. It now has to be the wild card or nothing, and the Braves went out and produced only a bit more than nothing over nine innings.

Brian McCann …

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Live from the ballyard: For Bobby Cox, the end really is nigh

He announced his plans to retire more than a year ago, and he and I have talked about it a half-dozen times since. But it didn’t really hit me until after the third game in Philadelphia last week, when the Philly and national writers stopped to shake his hand as they were leaving. Bobby Cox really is going away.

Love him or lampoon him, he has become part of our lives. He has managed the Braves since June 22, 1990, and we pause here to note that Georgia’s football coach on that distant date was Ray Goff, that Georgia’s basketball coach was Hugh Durham and that Juan Antonio Samaranch had not yet announced that the 1996 Summer Olympics were coming to “the city of Atlanta.”

Twenty years in the same job. Fourteen first-place finishes. One World Series title. (And only one, as his critics constantly remind us.) That’s a Hall of Fame resume, but  sometimes I wonder if anyone around here can cut through the blather to see it.

It has become locally convenient to credit Bobby Cox for …

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Somebody Up There must really like the Atlanta Braves

The Braves are 10-14 in September. They’ve won one of the past seven series. They’ve gone from three games ahead of Philadelphia on Sept. 1 to six games back with six to play. And you know what?

They still should win the wild card.

They start the week a half-game behind San Diego, which is a half-game behind San Francisco in the National League West. The Braves play the Marlins these next three days. The Padres have four against the Cubs. The Giants have three against Arizona. But here’s the catch:

The Padres and Giants finish against one other. One of them has to lose each of the season’s final three days. The Braves end against the Phils, who have already clinched a playoff berth and a tie for the East title. That quirk of scheduling should be enough to get the Braves into the postseason. Provided the Braves remember what it is to win a series, which is, as we know, not exactly a certainty.

The Braves have lost three series to last-place clubs in three weeks. Of their 10 …

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There’s no other way to say it: Mark Richt is in trouble at UGA

This was Mississippi State's first touchdown. It would add two more. (AP photo)

This was Mississippi State's first touchdown Saturday. It would add two more. (AP photo)

I wouldn’t have thought such a thing possible a month ago or a week ago or even 24 hours ago, but here it is:

Mark Richt is in trouble.

It was possible to write off Georgia’s first two losses as having come against superior opposition. It is not possible to write off losing in Starkville. It is not possible to square all those ballyhooed recruiting classes with being 0-3 in the conference. It is not possible to look on the Bulldogs as anything more than a middling SEC team.

Five years ago, how many other league schools would have gladly traded their coach for Richt? Nine? Ten? How many would today? Maybe three, and that’s depending on how Ole Miss feels about Houston Nutt this week. Too many SEC programs have caught and passed Georgia, and this has nothing to do with the superpowers in Tuscaloosa and Gainesville. Consider:

Last year Georgia lost to Tennessee in Year 1 of Lane Kiffin. Last …

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