Archive for August, 2011

The wild scramble begins: Texas A&M is leaving the Big 12

And the Aggies come marching into the SEC. Who'll join them? (AP photo)

And the Aggies come marching into the SEC. Who'll be joining them? (AP photo)

The mad shuffle has begun. Texas A&M has told the Big 12 not to leave the light on for any Aggies anymore, and if you’re counting you’ll note that the Big 12 has been reduced to a Puny 9. That’s the way of this zero-sum game: Your loss is somebody else’s gain.

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said in a statement Wednesday: “We are seeking to generate greater visibility nationwide for Texas A&M and our championship-caliber student-athletes, as well as secure the necessary and stable financial resources to support our athletic and academic programs.” And if that doesn’t sound like, “Hellooooo, SEC!” … well, my name’s not Rockey Felker.

It’s all but certain the SEC will seek to balance the Aggies’ arrival by enfranchising a 14th team, but these endeavors can assume a momentum unforeseen. (Back in 2003, who’d have thought the ACC would wind up with Boston College and not Syracuse?) The SEC might …

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5 things that could go wrong for Tech: Most involve talent

Linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu: Is he a playmaker? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu: Is he a playmaker? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

To reiterate: I think Georgia Tech’s going to be OK this season. Not great, but OK. That said …

Tech is coming off a 6-7 season. With such a team — and Georgia is also such a team — there can be no givens. I’ve picked the Jackets to go 8-4, and with NCAA winds swirling around Miami and North Carolina it’s possible Tech could rise to second in the ACC Coastal Division. (Can’t see anybody catching Virginia Tech, though.) Things could, as things sometimes do, also go wrong. Such things include:

1. Nesbitt could prove irreplaceable. The new quarterback is redshirt junior Tevin Washington. The backup is redshirt freshman Synjyn Days. The people’s choice is freshman Vad Lee. They’re following a truly tough act.

Starting quarterback is the most important position on any team, and his value increases exponentially in Paul Johnson’s stylized offense. Johnson’s quarterback has to make choices — as opposed to …

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Of concern: The Braves’ playoff rotation is no longer a given

Jair Jurrjens after yielding one of three homers Tuesday. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Jair Jurrjens after yielding one of three homers Tuesday. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

The good news: The Braves will enter September not having to worry about making the playoffs. The less-good news: They’ll enter September with growing cause to worry over what might happen in the Division Series.

More to the point: Is Derek Lowe looking more and more like your Game 2 starter?

To recap: Jair Jurrjens hurt his knee and has been substandard — 33 baserunners in 18 1/3 innings, 11 earned runs — since exiting the disabled list, and Tommy Hanson is on the DL with a torn rotator cuff (but doesn’t need surgery). You’d have to figure Jurrjens will find himself over this next month, but what if he doesn’t?

Tim Hudson in Game 1: Any team could live with that. But the Lowe of 2011 hasn’t much resembled the Lowe of 2010. (Lest we forget, he was the Game 1 and Game 4 starter in last season’s NLDS.) His ERA in July was 5.86. His ERA in August — he’ll start tonight, so this is subject to …

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Buzzworthy: SI’s Peter King picks Falcons to win Super Bowl

From a Sports Illustrated release. I don't believe this is a hoax.

From the official Sports Illustrated release. I have no reason to believe this is a hoax.

Last we wondered about the absence of a buzz regarding the 2011 Falcons. Perhaps this will get one started.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated picks them to win the Super Bowl.

Albeit in a roundabout way.

He has them going 10-6 and finishing second to the Saints, whom he also tabs at 10-6, in the NFC South. Then Ol’ Pete envisions the Falcons embarking on a Packer-like run: Beating the Rams, the Packers and the Saints — all on the road — to win the NFC crown and then taking down San Diego in Super Bowl XLVI.

We should take Pete seriously. Last season he had the Steelers and the Packers playing in Super Bowl XLV, and sure enough they did. And he and I are in agreement — scary for him, I know — regarding the Falcons being a wild-card team. (Though I have them at 12-4, not 10-6.) And I have the Falcons playing the Eagles for the NFC title, whereas PK has Philadelphia losing to the Saints in …

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Heat Check: UGA’s Boykin doesn’t let sleeping Broncos lie

Brandon Boykin shows the swagger. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Brandon Boykin shows the swagger. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

The Monday Heat Check comes to you a day late but not nearly a dollar short. We begin, as we increasingly do, with Twitter.

Brandon Boykin’s Tweet: The Georgia returner issued a challenge to Boise State: “Dear Coach [Chris] Petersen: I DARE you to kick to me. Sincerely, me and my Dawgs.” Boykin subsequently averred, also via Twitter, that he “meant no disrespect” and that “peeps should be scared to play the Dawgs.” Also: “We need swagger — don’t mistake it for anything else.”

Sorry, but this comes across as a little too much Chad Ochocinco to me. If you’re you’re the underdog in Saturday’s game and you’re coming off a 6-7 season, wouldn’t the better Bulldog course be to creep in — sorry to play fast and loose with my animals — on little cat feet? I doubt Boise is going to be terrified at the thought of facing the Tweetster, and if you have to rely on a gimmick for your swagger, is it really swagger at all? Heat …

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5 things that could rain on my sunny forecast and undo UGA

These folks seem cheerful. Well, don't they? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

These folks seem rather cheerful. Well, don't they? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

I’m on record as having picked Georgia to go 10-2, win the SEC East and finish No. 11 in the land. I would say that qualifies me, just this once, as an optimist.

But I wouldn’t be gloomy ol’ MB if my every thought was sweetness and light. I’m willing to concede that this season could come undone … if all (or most of) this happens.

1. Isaiah Crowell is overrated. I don’t think he is. But not everyone can be The Next Herschel Walker. The Bulldogs have searched for three decades and haven’t quite found another. (Although Tim Worley and Rodney Hampton and Garrison Hearst and the pre-surgical Robert Edwards and Knowshon Moreno were pretty good. And Terrell Davis would have been had Ray Goff gotten him the ball.)

Since Signing Day, Mark Richt has acted if Crowell, borrowing from the soccer coach Jose Mourinho, is indeed “a special one.” When asked last month if he feared his backfield, without the …

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My college football Top 25: UGA is No. 11, and LSU is …

Will Loquacious Les and his Fightin' Tigers be singing in January? (AP photo)

So: Will Loquacious Les Miles and his Fightin' Tigers be singing in January? (AP photo)

File this under Adventures in Prognosticating. Due to print schedules, this list was compiled and submitted several days ago. It was printed — the special Sunday football section had an early run — the day LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard was suspended and the day before charges were brought against Tigers quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who was then himself suspended.

I supposed I could have changed the Top 25 for AJC.com purposes, but that way I’d inevitably wind up being wrong twice. Better to remain mulishly consistent, I say. (This time, anyway. Where mulish consistency is concerned, I’m sometimes inconsistent.) And besides: It would be just like LSU to win the BCS title without two key contributors. I mean, who among us doesn’t have great faith in Zach Mettenberger?

But enough. Here’s the Top 25, at least until somebody else gets arrested/suspended.

In keeping with the Les Miles Way of …

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Georgia Tech will go 8-4, and here, game by game, is how

One losing season was quite enough for these folks. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

One losing season was quite enough for these folks. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Paul Johnson has had two losing seasons as a head coach. The first was in his maiden voyage, so to speak, at Navy. The second came last year at Georgia Tech. A year after they went 2-10, his Midshipmen went 8-5. Don’t expect Tech, which went 6-7 in 2010, to improve by six victories — that would put the Jackets back in the Orange Bowl — but do expect a bounce.

Thursday, Western Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

The Catamounts were 2-9 in 2010. That would seem to make them the ideal opening opponent. Expect the Jackets to rush for their usual 500 yards and fumble the expected half-dozen times in this Thursday night tilt. Expect Tevin Washington to look good at quarterback. Expect freshman Vad Lee to look good enough to make people wonder how long it’ll take him to become the starter.

Prediction: Jackets win.

Sept. 10, at Middle Tennessee, 7 p.m.

The trip to Murfreesboro could be scary, and not because of the …

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Mark Richt gives a doubting Bulldog Nation reason to believe

Lots of Georgia folks still like this guy. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Bottom line: A lot of Georgia folks still like this guy. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Here’s one case of goodness being its own reward. The events of this offseason have reminded us that it was never this coach Georgia fans had come to dislike; it was only this coach’s diminishing record. Mark Richt has given those folks reason to believe the record is subject to sudden change, and the cloud of gloom that figured to shroud the 2011 season has all but lifted. (At least for now.)

Georgia folks are optimistic. Cynics among us will insist that Georgia folks are always optimistic until reality descends — then they’re ready to fire their coach. After the Bulldogs lost to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl to finish 6-7, there were a couple of anxious days when some who know the inner workings of the program weren’t certain Richt would keep his job. But here he is, and he’s not acting like a coach about to get canned.

He’s cheerful, almost aggressively so. “I plan on having a hell …

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Javaris Crittenton: From budding star to murder suspect

Javaris Crittenton on the night he was drafted by the Lakers. (AJC file photo)

Javaris Crittenton on the night he was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. (AJC file photo)

We pause to consider the arc of a young life.

• In 2004 Javaris Crittenton — a sophomore and already a team captain — teams with Dwight Howard to lead Southwest Atlanta Christian to the Class A title.

• In 2006 Crittenton graduates from high school — where he’d been a 3.5 student and a member of both the Beta Club and the Future Business Leaders of America — and enrolls at Georgia Tech.

• In 2007 he exits Tech after a good-but-not great freshman season and is taken by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 19th pick of the NBA draft.

• In January 2010 he pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge resulting from the infamous guns-in-the-locker-room that involved Crittenton and Washington Wizards teammate Gilbert Arenas, who on Christmas Eve engaged in an argument regarding gambling debts. Both players are suspended by the NBA for the rest of the season.

• On Aug. 26, 2011, a warrant is issued for …

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