Archive for October, 2011

UGA comes to Knoxville and takes another step up in class

Isaiah Crowell exults after putting Georgia ahead to stay. (AP photo)

Isaiah Crowell exults after putting Georgia ahead to stay in the third quarter. (AP photo)

Knoxville — No Bulldog was seen wearing any hobnailed boots, and nobody ran over a Tennessee defender as emphatically as you-know-who did back in you-know-when. But this victory, achieved on the same field that had yielded two of the most famous comebacks in Georgia history, nevertheless pressed the accelerator on what is becoming a comeback season.

From 0-2, these Bulldogs have risen to 4-2 and have stamped themselves as South Carolina’s only real competitor in the SEC East. Next week brings a trip to Vanderbilt, and then two weeks later the Bulldogs will head to Jacksonville, where they figure to be favored against the hated Gators. No, nothing is assured, and yes, Carolina still has to lose again to give Georgia an opening, but it’s now possible that much can be made from this make-or-break season.

Saturday night’s game, was billed, incorrectly, as a meeting of equals. After the …

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Live from Big Orange Country: It’s a prove-it night for Georgia

Oct. 10, 2009: This is how you look after you lose to Lane Kiffin. (AP photo)

Oct. 10, 2009: This is how you look when you've just lost to that dirty rat Lane Kiffin — by 26 points! (AP photo)

Knoxville — It’s a prove-it night for a team that still has much proving to do. Georgia has won three games against not-very-stout opposition and gives the impression, not for the first time in recent seasons, of finding its feet. But — and you knew there was a “but” in the offing — Georgia won three in a row last season. Then it went to Jacksonville, where it, as ever, lost.

This correspondent sees tonight’s titanic tilt thusly: Georgia has the better team; ergo, Georgia should win. The Knoxville News-Sentinel sees it differently. Three writers — John Adams, Austin Ward and Andrew Gribble — pick Tennessee. Adams has it 30-27; Austin goes with 34-24, while Gribble sees it 35-34. (Let the record also reflect that Ward calls the coaching matchup between Mark Richt, who has won two SEC titles, and Derek Dooley, who has won three SEC games, as “even.” Whoa.)

This …

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Don’t listen to the Falcons: They’re looking to smack the Pack

I'm pretty sure Matt Ryan hasn't forgotten. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

I'm pretty sure Matt Ryan hasn't forgotten that long dark January night. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

At Flowery Branch the other day, I was struck to hear one Falcon after another say the Green Bay playoff loss doesn’t affect their thinking as the Packers come to town yet again. “That was last year,” they’d say, and they’d all but scoff at the notion that payback was on their minds.

This made me think that the men expressing such sentiments are either liars or fools. And I’m pretty sure they aren’t fools.

That one loss hurt the Atlanta Falcons every which way. Sure, it kept them from winning the Super Bowl, but it cut deeper than that. It made us wonder if the 13-3 team of 2010 was as good as its record — a 48-21 home thrashing at the hands of an opponent you’d already beaten will do that — and it impelled more than a few folks who live in this city to adopt an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it approach toward the local NFL franchise.

In August, a guy wondered why the buzz …

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ESPN foresees a bad moon risin’ for Georgia Tech’s defense

These guys aren't exactly wrapping up the ballcarrier, are they? (AP photo)

These guys aren't exactly wrapping up the Wolfpack ballcarrier, are they? (AP photo)

You probably knew this, but here it is again: Georgia Tech’s defense isn’t as good as its offense.

This wouldn’t qualify as the greatest surprise in the history of surprises, given that Tech ranks No. 2 nationally in total offense and scoring offense and No. 1 in rushing and – here’s a surprise — passing efficiency. And then there’s the D:

  • No. 60 (among 120 FBS teams) in rushing defense.
  • No. 49 in pass-efficiency defense.
  • No. 38 (hey, not bad!) in total defense.
  • No. 66 (pretty bad) in scoring defense.

That last number caught the attention of KC Joyner, who’s known as the Football Scientist and who writes for ESPN Insiders. This week Joyner addressed four  “myths” regarding college football, and No. 4 was that Tech’s offense is potent enough to override its defense. Wrote Joyner (link requires registration):

Georgia Tech is allowing an average of 25.8 points per game, a total that ranks …

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Braves fans, take note: The playoffs again defy prediction

Contemplating what might have been and what will never be. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Contemplating what might have been and what will never be. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It became fashionable in the final month of this baseball season — it was likewise fashionable in the final month of most baseball seasons — to suggest that the Braves would be better served by missing the playoffs. The thinking being: They weren’t going to win if they got there, so why bother? But now, one week into a postseason that excludes the Braves, we see the folly therein.

The Phillies, who won 12 more games than Round 1 opponent St. Louis, will face elimination Friday night. The Yankees, who held the American League’s best record, will face elimination tonight. The Brewers, who held the National League’s second-best record and who would have been the Braves’ Division Series foe, will face elimination Friday night.

The only series that has ended is the one that featured the Tampa Bay Rays, who rode a wave of momentum unprecedented into this postseason and who, having won their …

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Four games into a pro career, Julio Jones is already big-time

Julio Jones in his breakout fourth quarter against Tampa Bay. (AP photo)

Rampaging rookie Julio Jones in his breakout fourth quarter against Tampa Bay. (AP photo)

Flowery Branch – Dumb ol’ Thomas Dimitroff messed up. He thought he’d traded up 21 spots to pluck a No. 2 receiver. Turns out he hooked a No. 1.

Actually, the Falcons’ general manager knew full well what he was doing, but it was convenient to label the deal that left this team with Julio Jones as “21-spots-and-five-draft-picks-for-a-No.-2-wideout.” Had Jones’ ceiling been that of a No. 2 but never a No. 1, Dimitroff wouldn’t have made the trade. And now, four games later, we see the prescience therein.

Through two games and three quarters, the Falcons’ offense had been nothing special. Then the thought seemed to occur: “Hey, we moved up 21 spots to draft this guy! Why don’t we throw him the ball?” And nothing special became something very special.

Over the past five quarters, Jones has caught 16 passes for 222 yards. That’s No. 1 receiver stuff. Which isn’t to say he’s the Falcons’ …

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The SEC needs Missouri more for image than for football

Former Mizzou man Sean Weatherspoon, who's now a Falcon. (AP photo)

Former Mizzou man Sean Weatherspoon, now a Falcon. (AP photo)

Missouri’s curators voted Tuesday to ponder the school’s Big 12 exit. Put simply, Missouri’s curators voted — unanimously, FYI — to bail on the Big 12. At issue now is what the school would bring to its new home, which is apt to be the SEC.

Here were pause to note that some folks see Missouri as a better fit in the Big Ten — the Tigers already have a heated basketball rivalry with Illinois — but the Big Ten hasn’t been overt in its ardor to expand. The Big Ten might be happy as is. The SEC needs a 14th member to offset Texas A&M.

The SEC also needs Missouri for another reason: This whole round of conference-hopping has given big-time college sports the look of me-first-and-everybody-else-last Wall Street, and that’s not the look you want in the year 2011. (It’s reality, but it’s still an unseemly image for institutions of supposed higher learning.) Missouri plays pretty good football and good basketball, but that’s …

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Wild, wild SEC East: Garcia benched; Gator linked to assault

Stephen Garcia is sacked by Georgia's Cornelius Washington. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Stephen Garcia is sacked by Georgia's Cornelius Washington. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Intriguing week around the SEC East. (And it’s just gone noon on Tuesday!) The teams tied with Georgia atop the division have generated major news, as in:

• Steve Spurrier has, not for the first time, benched quarterback Stephen Garcia.

• A former Alabama player has alleged that he was attacked by current Florida defensive lineman Dominique Easley outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — after Saturday’s game.

These developments come after a weekend that saw Georgia win and both South Carolina and Florida lose. Not to be outdone in the misdoings department, Georgia linebacker Cornelius Washington was arrested early Sunday morning on charges of DUI and speeding, not 12 hours after he’d registered two sacks against Mississippi State. Mark Richt has suspended Washington for Georgia’s next two games.

About Garcia: He has completed barely half his passes and has thrown more than twice as many …

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Could Tech and UGA be bound for division titles? We assess

"Good luck next week, pal." "You, too, buddy." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"Good luck in your title game, pal." "You, too, good buddy." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

In the not-very-long history of divisional conference football, Georgia Tech and Georgia have never played for league titles in the same year. And I’m not saying it will happen in 2011. What I’m saying is …

It could.

Events of the past weekend augured well for both locals. Clemson beat Virginia Tech, dealing the Hokies, who’d been the consensus pick to finish atop the ACC Coastal Division, a home conference loss. Auburn did the same to South Carolina, which was considered the class of the SEC East and which had already beaten Georgia in Athens. Alabama descended on Gainesville and not only routed Florida but hurt the Gator quarterback in the process. And so:

Georgia Tech leads the ACC Coastal, and Georgia is tied for first in the SEC East with South Carolina and Florida. (Yes, the Gamecocks still hold the tiebreaker over the Bulldogs.) The ACC title game will be played in Charlotte on …

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Heat Check: Julio’s torrid, while Fredi has a new seat warmer

"Wait, wait. Don't tell me. You think we should get the ball to Julio, too." (AP photo)

"Wait, wait. Don't tell me. You think we should get the ball to Julio, too." (AP photo)

Our Monday Heat Check returns, and we begin with the team that will, appropriately enough, carry us through the ol’ Hot Stove League.

The Braves: They haven’t lost a game since Wednesday! They haven’t fired anybody since Friday! They won’t disappoint us in these playoffs! Heat Index: If you take away the entire month of September, they’re still on a hot roll!

The Falcons: Looked great for one half, shaky for the next. But at least they played to their (new) strengths, meaning they threw the ball. Heat Index: I’m pretty sure some hot-button meetings were held at 4400 Falcon Parkway after the loss in Tampa, and if the required change in style was the result, losing to Tampa Bay might have been the best thing to happen to this club.

The Dream: They’re in the WNBA finals. They lead the Minnesota Lynx at halftime of Game 1 and were tied after three quarters. They lost by 14 points. Heat Index: …

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