Archive for November, 2010

Reporting from Auburn, this guy here likes South Carolina

RoboCoach Gene Chizik dazzles the media with bon mots. (Photo by M. Bradley)

RoboCoach Gene Chizik dazzles the assembled media with bon mots. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Auburn, Ala. — I’m sitting here listening to Gene Chizik. And if you’ve ever wondered how RoboCoach would sound, listen to Gene Chizik. But I digress.

I’m sitting here listening to Gene Chizik, and I’m thinking, “I really like South Carolina’s chances Saturday.”

Not because of Gene Chizik. He’s obviously a good coach. But the guy who’ll be on the other sideline in the Georgia Dome is pretty good, too, and Evil Genius is bringing a pretty good team with him. And it’s a pretty good team that won’t be shocked by anything Cam Newton does, given that it was South Carolina against which the Camster had his night of arrival.

Auburn has had a great season — doesn’t get any greater than going undefeated in the SEC, does it? — but I still wonder about its defense. I especially wonder about Ted Roof, the Georgia Tech grad whose uncoordination of George O’Leary’s defense doomed the Jackets to being one …

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5 reasons Mark Richt won’t leave UGA for Miami or anywhere

"Leave all this? And give up showbiz?" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"Leave all this? And give up showbiz? Are you crazy?" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

First it was Colorado. Now it’s Miami that’s believed to be interested in Mark Richt. As noted earlier, it might be best for both Richt and Georgia if he found a new job. But I’m guessing he won’t see it that way. And the reasons for that guess are:

He makes too much money. Neither Colorado, which might not be seriously considering Richt, or Miami, which surely is, can match the $3 million Georgia is paying. His job security might be eroding — he needs to win at least nine games next season to feel safe — but he’s not so near unemployment he needs to take a pay cut.

He works at a big-name school in the biggest-name league. You don’t exit the SEC to take a job anywhere but the NFL. (The weirdo Dennis Franchione is the exception that proves the rule.) The SEC is the place a college coach works all his life to land; it’s not the place you leave, at least not of your own volition.

He’s …

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The doc is back: What Tech must do to rise above mediocrity

Just sayin': Special teams matter, too. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Just sayin': Special teams matter, too. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Step 1: Get players AND playmakers. Paul Johnson has proved he could win an ACC title with Chan Gailey’s recruits but hasn’t proved he can recruit as well as Gailey did. That will become an ever bigger issue next fall, when there’s no Joshua Nesbitt. Tech needs pretty much everything — speed, size, depth — and the loss of recruiting coordinator Giff Smith, who was hired away by Gailey last winter to coach linebackers in Buffalo, was a major blow.

Tech doesn’t so much need to light up the recruiting scoreboard — if rankings meant all that much, Georgia wouldn’t be where it is — as to find players capable of changing a game. The difference between 10-3 and 6-6 wasn’t the failing of Johnson’s stylized offense or Al Groh’s 3-4 defense but the absence of a Demaryius Thomas and a Derrick Morgan. (And neither, it must be noted, was a five-star recruit.)

Step 2: Get holistic. There’s more to football than offense, …

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The doctor is in: What UGA must do to rise from mediocrity

Yes, but being 6-6 isn't cause for celebration. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Yes, but being 6-6 shouldn't ever be cause for celebration. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

This is the week, Mark Richt said late Saturday night, to recruit in earnest. And it’s true that one of the teams that played in Sanford Stadium on Saturday  needs a talent infusion, but it’s not Richt’s Bulldogs.

Georgia Tech has a clear idea of what it is but insufficient manpower to get it where it wants to go. Georgia has, and has long had, enough players — not that it couldn’t use more — but has come to lack direction. As these middling-by-definition teams head into December and then 2011, we address their respective needs. First, Georgia’s.

Step 1: Get stronger. It has long been suggested that Georgia’s conditioning program has gotten soft, and we saw striking evidence again Saturday night. Tech ruled the line of scrimmage. Dave Van Halanger, Georgia’s strength coach, had a hand in building SEC championship teams here — those were his offseason mat drills, transferred from Florida …

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A canny loss to UGA leaves Tech fans giddy about their coach

Paul Johnson, thinking of something. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Paul Johnson thinks of something. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

This we know: Georgia Tech folks obsess over Georgia. (An unkind reference to UGA is included in the song “Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech.”) And it’s beyond dispute that the Jackets lost to the Mutts (another unkind reference) in Athens on Saturday. And yet …

Tech people walked away from that game feeling good about themselves, which never happens when Tech loses to Georgia in any sport. But it happened this time. It happened because Techies, who pride themselves on brainpower, were tickled at having outsmarted Big Brother.

OK, I know what you Bulldogs are saying. I’ve read the responses to this little missive from late last night. To paraphrase the stance of (some) Georgia folks: “If Paul Johnson is such a genius, how come he lost to Mark Richt again? Isn’t the name of the game to win?”

Well, yes. But there can be honor in defeat, especially when the defeat is so hard-fought and cleverly wrought. There can be …

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Outmanned Tech fights to the end but can’t finish the drill

One guy coached a winning game. The other coach won. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

One guy coached a winning game. The other coach won. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Athens – Give Paul Johnson a couple of months and he could take the remaining Rolling Stones and have those geezers rushing for 300 yards a game. Say what you will about the man, but he can coach the heck out of what he has. At issue Saturday night was whether he had enough.

There aren’t many coaches who can outdraw Johnson with the X’s and O’s, but the game, as we’re constantly reminded, isn’t played on a whiteboard. It’s played by real-life players. And Johnson’s Jackets lost to Georgia here Saturday not because they didn’t play hard or well but because in the end they just weren’t as skilled. Try as they might, and they tried mightily, they could never take the lead.

If anything, Saturday’s game showed us how clever Johnson is. He bled 512 yards out of an offense missing its best player. Tech held the ball for 38 minutes and 14 seconds, ran 92 plays to Georgia’s 48. And even at the end, when …

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Live from Athens: Does anybody really think Tech can win?

It could be a long and gloomy night for the visiting Jackets. (Photo by M. Bradley)

A lovely day could become a long and gloomy night for the visiting Jackets. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Athens – The most intriguing part of what isn’t a very intriguing game — how riveting does it get when the teams have an aggregate record of 11-11? — is how few people are giving Georgia Tech a chance. And by people, I don’t just mean Georgia fans or Vegas neutrals. I mean Tech fans, too.

I haven’t yet met anybody who thinks the Jackets can keep this close, let alone win. Indeed, the consensus seems to be that the betting line — it’s at 14 points as I type — may actually flatter the visitors. And I wouldn’t disagree. I think this is at least a two-touchdown game.

Having said that, we must also note a couple of things. First, the Jackets enter as the team already bowl-eligible. Georgia, as we know, has to win tonight for the privilege, such as it is, of gracing a postseason game in either Memphis or (shudder) Birmingham. Which leads us to our second notation:

Georgia is, on the …

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Tech versus Georgia: This year it’s the duel of the dual duds

Georgia's Ben Jones after the upset of Tech last season. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Georgia's Ben Jones after the upset of Tech last season. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Call this the season of dual lead balloons. Georgia was ranked No. 23 in the preseason Associated Press poll, dropped from the Top 25 on Sept. 12 and hasn’t received a vote since. Georgia Tech was ranked No. 16 in the preseason poll, dropped from the Top 25 on Sept. 12 and received its last votes on Sept. 19.

Add their records together and you get 11-11, which is the essence of mediocrity. Add their conference records together and you get 7-9. Add their road records together and you get 3-7 (or 3-8 if you count Georgia losing in Jacksonville, which was technically Florida’s home game this year).

Total the records of the teams they’ve beaten and you get 44-76, and that’s skewed by the 9-2 of South Carolina State, which Tech defeated on Sept. 4 and which will face Georgia Southern in Round 1 of the FCS playoffs today. Together, Tech and Georgia own victories over two FBS bowl-eligible …

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Sure to delight no one! Our annual look at Tech and UGA fans

Two years later, Tech's hedge fun still rankles. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Two years after the fact, Tech's hedge fun still rankles. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

I ask: What would Thanksgiving be without our annual Field Guide to Tech and Georgia fans? You answer: “A heck of a lot better, you jerk!” Being the stickler for tradition that I am, I choose to ignore you and offer, in the spirit of the holiday, something guaranteed to make both sides spit cranberry sauce across the room. Enjoy!

• Georgia fans refer to Bobby Dodd Stadium as the Joke by Coke; Tech fans refer to the gesture made in Jacksonville by defensive coordinator Todd Grantham as the Choke by the Dope.

• Tech fans aren’t looking forward to a bowl trip to Shreveport; having heard about Shreveport every day for the past year, Georgia fans look forward to the Independence Bowl being renamed the Karma Bowl.

• Georgia fans are still miffed that Tech players appropriated some of Sanford Stadium’s hallowed hedges after winning two years ago; Tech fans are miffed their team has beaten …

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After further review … the Hawks are in really big trouble

Sometimes you get caught up in a moment, and sometimes it’s a bad moment. The Hawks were so awful Monday night as to beggar belief, but in the interest of fairness I’ve spent some of the subsequent hours reflecting on what I saw/wrote. (Other hours were invested in sleeping.) And in my reflection, I have asked myself: “Marky boy, do you think you made too much of one game in November?”

My now-considered answer: No.

My rationale: When you fire the head coach and promote his assistant, you’re not committing to a new five-year plan. You’re betting on continuity with a few tweaks. There’s not going to be a long shakedown cruise. The change is either going to take immediately or not at all.

That the Hawks started 6-0 offered some indication that the players had bought into the Larry Drew Method, but those six games have been revealed for what they were: The softest early schedule the NBA could possibly provide. When better opponents began arriving, the Hawks, as we say in horse …

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