Archive for September, 2011

Live from Sanford Stadium: UGA has the edge at … coach?

Seriously, what's this guy ever won? (AP photo)

Seriously, what has this guy ever won? Nothing, right? (AP photo)

Athens — An anonymous writer for ESPN Insider’s Scouts Inc. assessed the Georgia-South Carolina game yesterday, and he — call me sexist, but I’m assuming it’s a he — gave the Bulldogs the edge at quarterback, linebackers, secondary, special teams and …

Coach.

I admit it: This surprised me. And we can’t say the nod went to Georgia on the strength of its coaching staff; the heading reads, rather simply, “Coach.”

So: ESPN Insider likes Mark Richt over Steve Spurrier. How ’bout that?

For the record, ESPN Insider does believe the Gamecocks will override their brainpower disadvantage and win 21-16.

Me, I don’t know what to think. I picked Georgia to win way back in June, but I also picked Georgia to beat Boise State and we know how that went. I’m still not sure how good the Gamecocks are — they did lose five games last season, and they did trail East Carolina17-0 — but I have even less of a grasp on the …

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Win or lose Saturday, can Richt ever again feel safe at UGA?

"Let's try that play where we jump offside. That's working!" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"Let's try that play where we jump offside. That's working!" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

The label “must-win” has affixed itself to the South Carolina game, but a more precise description is “darn-well-better-win.” There’s a chance an 0-2 Georgia could still make something of its season. Say the Bulldogs win nine of their next 10: Wouldn’t 9-3 with a strong finish coming after 6-7 be construed as, ahem, significant improvement? That said …

Beyond simply saving himself for next week or next season, can Mark Richt ever again be truly safe in this job?

When the second game of any season is deemed, however inexactly, a “must-win,” matters have already deteriorated. When something is so far gone, is there any going back? The Georgia-Tennessee game of Oct. 6, 2007, was considered a “must-win” for Philip Fulmer, and he won it 35-14 and rose from 2-2 to 9-3 and led the Vols to the SEC East title (shading Georgia on a tiebreaker). Great recovery, huh?

Reality check: Philip Fulmer …

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5 (or so) reasons the Falcons’ 0-4 preseason doesn’t matter

Ray Edwards is shown working on his horizontal pass rush. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Ray Edwards is shown working on his horizontal pass rush. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Reasons the Falcons’ 0-4 preseason doesn’t bother me and shouldn’t bother you:

1. You don’t play at real-game tempo or make real-game adjustments in exhibitions. You’re not trying to win but to evaluate. You want to see how your guys react in certain spots. You’re not looking to game-plan those spots to your advantage. Had the Falcons cared all that much about winning a game that doesn’t count, they’d have inserted Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez at the start of the fourth quarter of the fourth exhibition. But nobody’s that crazy.

2. You don’t set a real tone in exhibitions. Because everyone’s tone gets louder come Week 1 of the real season. If you go 4-0, nobody cares. And the only time someone remembers that you’ve gone 4-0 is when you go 0-16 in the regular season. That happened to the Detroit Lions in 2008. (And guess who just went 4-0 again, thereby making …

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Hatefest: That’ll be the Big 12 if Texas A&M is forced to stay

"Before I'm through, I'll impeach Mike Slive!" (AP photo)

"Before I'm through, I'll impeach Mike Slive!" (AP photo)

OK, next question. What happens if Texas A&M is forced to stay in the Big 12-which-is-really-10-and-is-going-on-nine? Wouldn’t that be the grouchiest family this side of the Kardashians?

You’d have everybody hating Texas and its TV network. (Which perhaps will offer its own reality-based Kardashian spin-off: “Bruce Jenner and Lamar Odom take Bevo shopping on Rodeo Drive.”) You’d have everybody despising the Aggies for wanting to leave. You’d have Nebraska and Colorado … actually you wouldn’t, seeing as how they’re already gone. You’d have Oklahoma assessing options, and no school has the options OU does. You’d have Oklahoma State wondering what Oklahoma is doing.

You’d have a mess so panoramic that, at some point, somebody’s going to say: “Was it really such a great idea to threaten to go to court to keep this conference together?” And then everybody would start hating Baylor, who’s seen as the ringleader in the …

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Who’s next on the SEC’s expansion list? Here’s a scorecard

The Dogs didn't fare so well in the Dome against West Virginia, either. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Georgia didn't fare so well in the Dome against West Virginia, either. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

There’s standard-issue velocity (think Jair Jurrjens), and then there’s college football velocity (think Craig Kimbrel). It was barely a month ago that Texas A&M began making noises about leaving the Big 12, and those noises have become all but a roaring reality. A&M has signaled its intent to leave, and the SEC has offered to provide a new home. All that’s left is for somebody to persuade Baylor — and perhaps other spurned Big 12 schools — not to sue.

The apparent threat of legal action delayed what was to be A&M’s grand announcement Wednesday, but the move figures to happen soon enough. And why would Baylor care what A&M does? Because the Aggies’ leaving could lead to Texas and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State bolting to the Pac-12, and by the time the exodus concludes the Big 12 might be reduced to three months of Baylor playing Iowa State. (Which apparently is also reserving its …

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Forget the Phillies. The Braves’ chief target is now Milwaukee

And here we thought Georgia's Pro Combat helmets were garish. (AP photo)

And here we thought Georgia's Nike Pro Combat helmets were over the top. (AP photo)

For the Braves, four regular-season dates with Philadelphia remain. They don’t matter. Nothing that happens now will have any impact on October. There’s no “psychological advantage” to be gained by either side — this is baseball, where everything starts anew the next day — and there’s no realistic way the Braves can catch the Phillies to claim the National League’s top seed. All  the Braves can do these next three weeks is try to get healthy.

And try to prepare themselves for Milwaukee. In October, the Brewers figure to come first.

The National League playoff grid has been all but set for a while: The Phillies will play Arizona, which trails the Brewers by 3 1/2 games in the overall league standings, in the Division Series, while the Braves get Milwaukee.The Brewers shouldn’t be taken lightly. They can hit — they’ve out-homered the Braves, which only one other NL club has done — and their …

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The All-UGA Heat Check: Hot – Mark Richt’s seat. (Duh)

Isaih Crowell: It wasn't all (or even mostly) his fault, folks. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Isaiah Crowell: It wasn't all (or even mostly) his fault, folks. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

The Monday Heat Check arrives, due to the holiday, a day later than usual. Georgia fans might wish it didn’t arrive at all. Because it’s all about the Bulldogs.

Mark Richt’s nerve: It was in place. Georgia won the toss and chose to receive. Get After Their Assets, as the famous Bulldog slogan (sort of) goes. Trouble was, the players’ nerves were jumping all over the place. There was a false start before the first snap, another false start on third down and a delay of game before the punt. Heat Index: Richt tried to be cool, but his players were uncool.

Todd Grantham’s pass defense: Kellen Moore threw 34 passes. One was intercepted. (He was pressured and threw poorly.) Five were incompletions. Twenty-eight were completed. Georgia mustered no sacks. Heat Index: If this is aggressive D at its best, Willie Martinez is Buddy Ryan.

Mike Bobo’s offense: It managed 373 yards, which doesn’t sound …

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After Boise comes an even bigger game for Richt and UGA

There's a heartfelt handshake if I've ever seen one. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Now there's a heartfelt handshake if ever I've seen one. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

There’s a reasonable case to be made that Georgia could lose to South Carolina on Saturday and still have a fruitful season. Trouble is, a loss to South Carolina will render reason inoperative. For the Bulldogs to fall to 0-2 after an offseason of brave talk could turn kneejerk reaction — “He’s lost his first two, so Mark Richt is a goner” — into a feeds-on-itself reality.

Georgia was outcoached and outclassed by a team from the Mountain West on Saturday night, and this happened not on the Boise blue rug but under the off-white roof of the Georgia Dome. Richt’s Dream Team freshmen were presented an object lesson on how a Real Team handles itself under duress: Down 7-0 in hostile environs, Boise State took a deep breath, willed itself to be precise and scored the next 28 points.

As for Georgia … well, I’m not sure what it was trying to do. Contrary to popular belief, Mike Bobo isn’t the world’s …

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Live from the Dome: UGA, Boise meet to decide fate of world

Georgia plans to wear new uniforms! Why did no one tell me? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Georgia plans to wear new uniforms! Why did no one tell me? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

The Georgia team is headed back to Athens tonight. The Georgia athletic director will wait until the morning. Said Greg McGarity, speaking Friday afternoon: “When we lose, I like to get out of town. When we win, I like to hang around and soak it in.”

Can we therefore assume McGarity believes his Bulldogs will win? “Yeah, I do,” he said.

As noted, I do, too. But now you’re asking: Doesn’t Utah State’s near-miss at Auburn today bode ill for Georgia’s chances tonight? (Utah State being a member of the WAC, which Boise State was until just the other day.)

Not really. Auburn isn’t nearly the same Auburn that won the BCS title. You might have heard this already, but Cam Newton and Nick Fairley are ensconced in the NFL. And Auburn did beat USU, albeit only just.

Georgia won’t suffer a national championship hangover, having not won of those since Jan. 1, 1981. Georgia doesn’t have a new …

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No longer a novelty act, Georgia State embarks on Year 2

It was another winning night for the guys in blue. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

It was another winning Opening Night for the Panthers. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Georgia State football was new last season, and new is almost always fun. This year stands to be more successful — having gone 6-5 in 2010, the Panthers should better that — but less noteworthy. The novelty is gone. What’s left is a college team trying to carve a niche in a market not lacking diversions.

The Panthers played their first-ever game Sept. 2, 2010, drawing the surprisingly robust total of 30,237 patrons to the Georgia Dome. That was, however, the maiden voyage’s emotional crest. In six subsequent Dome games, Georgia State didn’t once break 17,000.

Year 2 for GSU began Friday night, and it wasn’t quite the same. The Dome’s lower bowl, which accommodates 28,155 and was packed on Opening Night 364 days earlier, was only two-thirds full. (And the “visiting” team was Clark Atlanta, which sits within the Dome’s shadow.) You could argue that there’s a lot happening this holiday weekend — …

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