This year ends in a way few years have ended for this famously erring prognosticator. It ends with me getting to say, “Know what? I actually got some stuff right.”
For once, the annual Accountability Scoreboard isn’t a tale of woe. I picked Georgia to go 10-2 and win the SEC East, which it did. I picked Georgia Tech to finish its regular season 8-4, which it did. I picked LSU to win the SEC, which it did, and finish as the BCS titlist, which it well might. I picked Auburn, which won the last BCS title, to lose five games, and sure enough …
I picked the Hawks to beat the Magic in Round 1, which indeed occurred. Heck, I even picked VCU to crash the Final Four. (OK, now I’m embellishing.)
About the only thing I got close to right in 2010 was picking the Falcons to go 12-4 and win the NFC South. (They actually went 13-3.) This time I was right, sort of, in the grand scheme — I picked the 2011 team to grab a wild card — but had it going 12-4, and the best it can do is 10-6. I even managed to whiff on the outcome of the season’s first five games, which was pretty bad even by my tepid standards. So I’m thinking this probably isn’t the moment to note that I’ve also projected this team to win at least one playoff game.
I also tabbed the Braves as a wild-card team. (I know picking the local club as a wild card is kind of a waffle, but seriously … did anyone think the Braves could trump the Phillies over 162 games?) But I also guessed, way back when, that 91 wins would be the ceiling for the 2011 Braves, and lo and behold they got stuck on 89.
That said … did I see the epic collapse coming? Absolutely not. Even with three games to go, I thought the Braves would make the playoffs. Even with three outs to go in Game No. 162, I still thought they’d qualify. Sometimes I’m hard-headed. This was such a time.
I picked the Hawks over the Magic not because I loved the Hawks, but because I thought Orlando was running on fumes. After Kirk Hinrich was hurt in the Round 1 clincher, I suggested the Hawks would do well to take one game from Chicago in Round 2. They actually took the first game, and also the fourth.
I was 0-for-4 in picking the 2011 Final Four, having gone with Ohio State to win it all. (The Buckeyes were upset by Kentucky in the Sweet 16. Shouldn’t I have learned that the Big Ten can’t handle the SEC in postseason? Or is that just in football?) I also had Georgia toppling North Carolina in the Big Dance, which the Bulldogs might well have done — had they managed to beat Washington in their tournament opener. But I overrated UGA all season, even to the point of thinking it might win the SEC East.
I did, however, have Brian Gregory on my original short list of candidates to replace Paul Hewitt at Georgia Tech. Though, in the sake of full disclosure, I must mention that I’d relegated BG to being “a fallback choice” by the time the search commenced. And I believed Tech’s Iman Shumpert had erred by staying in the NBA draft, thinking he might not get picked at all. (He wound going to the Knicks with the 17th pick of Round 1.)
Back to college football: I missed by saying that Nebraska would win the Big Ten, that Florida State would win the ACC, that Stanford would win the Pac-12 and that Andrew Luck would take the Heisman. I was pretty close on Tennessee going 6-6 (it went 5-7) and Florida going 7-5 (it went 6-6). I was right in saying South Carolina would finish 10-2, wrong in saying it would lose the SEC East to Georgia on a tiebreaker. (It lost straight-up.)
I was right in believing LSU would beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa, wrong in believing the Tigers would lose to Mississippi State in Starkville, wrong in choosing Oklahoma as LSU’s BCS opponent. I did have Virginia Tech winning the ACC Coastal, but I also had Southern Cal going 7-5, and it went 10-2. (Lane Kiffin, genius boy!)
I was right about three of Tech’s four losses. (I had the Jackets losing at North Carolina State and winning at Virginia.) I was wrong on both of Georgia’s losses. (I had the Bulldogs beating Boise State and South Carolina, but losing to Mississippi State and Florida. Yes, I bought the Dan Mullen hype.) I was way wrong about Georgia State: I had the Panthers going 8-3, as opposed to 3-8.
Yes, I know. That’s a lot of being wrong for what I’m claiming as a pretty good year. But viewed alongside my bleak 2010, I feel entitled to strut a bit. And to offer this one long-range prediction:
In 2012 Georgia will go 11-1 in the regular season and will win the SEC championship.
By Mark Bradley