Archive for August, 2012

A big night for the Big Orange – and Barbara’s baby boy

Tyler Bray's weird non-touchdown at the end of the first half. (AP photo by John Amis)

Tyler Bray's weird non-touchdown at the end of the first half. (AP photo by John Amis)

Her younger son is beginning his third season as Tennessee’s coach, but the sight of Barbara Dooley in orange still serves as a shock to the senses. For the first night of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic, the former grande dame of Georgia football came wearing the following:

Orange jacket. White blouse. White slacks. White sandals with orange piping, or whatever it is you call that mesh stuff on the top of women’s sandals.

Her husband, who once made his red-and-black living trying to squeeze the daylights out of the Big Orange, came more sedately clad. Vince Dooley had on khaki pants, a white polo shirt and white socks with Birkenstocks. (OK, I’m kidding about the footwear.)

“I’m doing fine now,” Barbara Dooley said, speaking 30 minutes before kickoff. “But in two hours I might not be.”

Ninety minutes later, Derek Dooley’s Vols were leading North Carolina State 22-7, having scored 16 points …

Continue reading A big night for the Big Orange – and Barbara’s baby boy »

Why I believe UGA, Tech and the Falcons are bound for glory

`

When next these teams collide, they'll both be division champs. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

When next these two collide, both will be division champs. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

As best I recall, I’ve never picked Georgia, Georgia Tech and the Falcons to win their respective divisions in the same season. As some might have noted, I’ve done so this time. In the attempt to disprove the notion that I’ve gone completely (as opposed to partially) insane, I’d like to offer a few words in the defense of my mental health.

There was no grand design to my three-fer. I didn’t sit down and say, “Boy, wouldn’t it be neat to pick everybody to win something?” For the record, Georgia was the easiest choice and Tech the hardest. For the record, I would not have picked the Bulldogs to win the SEC West or Tech to take the ACC Atlantic, but at last check neither is switching divisions anytime soon.

Not to get all grandiose about it, but I’d like to think there’s a method to my madness. Why do I think these three locals — sorry, Georgia State, but I couldn’t stretch my …

Continue reading Why I believe UGA, Tech and the Falcons are bound for glory »

Video: For the Braves, is just making the playoffs enough?

Continue reading Video: For the Braves, is just making the playoffs enough? »

What we learned from the biggest week of the Braves’ season

J-Hey by the bay: Four games, three home runs. That'll do. (AP photo)

J-Hey by the bay: Four games, three home runs. A good weekend's work, I'd say. (AP photo)

It started badly and could have spiraled into something far worse. The Braves played seven road games — three on one coast, four on another — against two division leaders, each possessing the kind of starting pitching that can make a good team look bad.  If there’s to be an Epic Collapse II, it figured to start here.

But it didn’t. The Braves lost the first two games in Washington to fall seven games behind the Nationals, and they also lost the first two in San Francisco. But they somehow went 3-4 and drew within 4 1/2 of first place, having gained a sliver of ground in the season’s most difficult week. And now the Braves have 34 games remaining, 28 of those against sub-.500 teams, and they’re 2 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis for the first wild-card spot and four games ahead of Los Angeles for the second.

In sum, they’re in good shape. But they were in good shape last year, and they went …

Continue reading What we learned from the biggest week of the Braves’ season »

Heat Check: Braves aren’t hot, but they’re getting warmer

From bullpen to bellweather: Give that man (Kris Medlen) a great big hand. (AP photo)

From bullpen to bellwether: Give that man (Kris Medlen) a great big hand. (AP photo)

College football commences this week, with the NFL not far behind. Even so, our Heat Check begins with baseball.

BRAVES: A key week opened badly — the Braves lost the first two games in Washington to fall seven behind the Nationals — but ended rather better. The Nats dropped their next four, and the Braves won three of five to draw within 4 1/2 games. Better still, they won’t face another opponent that is currently above .500 until Sept. 14. Heat Index: Can’t really call a losing (3-4) week hot, but it could have been much worse.

SIX-MAN ROTATION: Well, that didn’t last long. Ben Sheets is on the disabled list, which is where Braves pitchers who stop pitching well land. So now there’s no real debate over who should be sent to the bullpen. Heat Index: This means Tommy Hanson will apparently stay in the rotation, which might not be a great thing. He has worked as many as six innings only once …

Continue reading Heat Check: Braves aren’t hot, but they’re getting warmer »

Game by game: How UGA will go 11-1 and win the SEC East

Spoiler alert: This will be Georgia's lone regular-season loss. (Photo courtesy of The State)

Spoiler alert: This will be Georgia's lone regular-season loss. (Photo courtesy of The State)

Sept. 1, Buffalo, noon. Last year’s opener was against the Boise State Broncos, and for Georgia it didn’t go well. This year’s opener brings the Buffalo Bulls (not to be confused with the Buffalo Bills) to Sanford Stadium. This should work out rather better. The Bulls were 3-9 last season, 2-10 in 2010. They played Tennessee in October and lost by three touchdowns, and the Vols wound up 5-7. In sum, no sweat. Bulldogs win.

Sept. 8, at Missouri, 7:45 p.m. Sweat will be required in Week 2. This is the Tigers’ inaugural game in their new conference, and Memorial Stadium, forecasts coach Gary Pinkel, “will be pretty cramped.” Mizzou has lost only one home game the past two seasons, that to No. 4 Oklahoma State last year. In 2010 it beat No. 1 Oklahoma in Columbia. This is a very dangerous and losable game for the visitors. That said … Bulldogs win.

Sept. 15, Florida Atlantic, 7:30 p.m. A …

Continue reading Game by game: How UGA will go 11-1 and win the SEC East »

What do we make of the inspirational Lance Armstrong now?

Lance Amstrong was once an American hero. Is he still. (AP photo)

The great Lance Armstrong was once an American hero. Question is, is he still? (AP photo)

Lance Armstrong was more than a guy on a bike. Indeed, he titled his as-told-to autobiography, “It’s Not About the Bike.” And he wasn’t  just a guy who had cancer and lived to tell the tale. He was an inspiration, a role model, an object lesson regarding the power of the human will.

He beat testicular cancer and didn’t just go on with his life. He became bigger than life. He won the Tour de France seven years running. He was named Sports Illustrated’s 2002 sportsman of the year and took multiple ESPYs as the male athlete of the year. Above and beyond all that, he was the guy who gave us the yellow bracelets, the ones bearing the name of his foundation — Livestrong.

And now he stands revealed as … what? A craven cheat? The hypocrite of all hypocrites? The guy who swore his innocence right up until the point where he decided to stop swearing?

“I am … finished with this nonsense,” was …

Continue reading What do we make of the inspirational Lance Armstrong now? »

How the Falcons will go 12-4 and reclaim the NFC South title

There'll be a new champion of the NFC South this season. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

There'll be a new champion of the NFC South this season. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

I think the Falcons will be really good, Super Bowl good. Maybe that makes me a raging homer. Or maybe it means I see a team that has won 23 games the past two years and is poised to break upward. While you’re discussing among yourselves, I’ll tell you how this regular season will go.

Sept. 9, at Kansas City: The Chiefs aren’t bad, but this will be a coming-out party for Dirk Koetter’s new offense. Expect Matt Ryan to throw 35 passes. Expect Julio Jones to catch 10 of them, three for touchdowns. Falcons 28, Chiefs 20.

Sept. 17, Denver: It’s a Monday night game, and the Falcons haven’t done so well in those. Peyton Manning now plays for the Broncos, but this will serve as a prime-time showcase for the other starting quarterback. Falcons 30, Broncos 17.

Sept. 23, at San Diego: Here’s where the issue of logistics rears its head. The Falcons face a short week against a West Coast team that …

Continue reading How the Falcons will go 12-4 and reclaim the NFC South title »

So the remade Hawks won’t be as good? Hold that thought

For the record, both these guys are still here. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Just for the record, both these worthies are still around. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Maybe we’ve got it wrong. Most of us figure the Hawks won’t be as good next season without Joe Johnson — they’re also without Marvin Williams, which seems more reason for optimism — and that not being as good is something new GM Danny Ferry is willing to accept in the short term. (One step back to take two steps forward, et cetera.) But now comes a stunningly rosy forecast that projects the new-look Hawks to …

(Pause for effect.)

Finish second in the NBA East.

It comes from Basketball Prospectus by way of ESPN Insider (link requires registration). According to BP, the Hawks will win 48.7 games, putting them behind only Miami in their conference. (Well behind, we should note. The projection is that the Heat will will win 60.5 games.) Behind the Hawks, BP slots the Knicks, the Celtics, the Bulls, the Pacers, the Nets and the 76ers.

Writes Bradford Doolittle of BP: “The Hawks’ offense without …

Continue reading So the remade Hawks won’t be as good? Hold that thought »

A (slightly) stronger Matt Ryan will power the Falcons upward

He's a team leader, all right. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

He's a team leader, in more ways than one. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Flowery Branch – Matt Ryan changed his offseason workout regimen. Some interpreted this as the quarterback’s admission that he needs a stronger right arm. Sure enough, we watched the Falcons’ first two exhibitions for signs that Ryan was indeed throwing harder and longer. Sure enough, we thought — kind of, sort of — we saw such indications.

Which only makes Matt Ryan shake his head at the power of perception. Ryan has no idea if his right arm (or his left, for that matter) is markedly mightier, nor is he of the opinion that he was ever lacking in that area. “I kind of trained different,” he said, speaking after Monday’s practice. “I got a little heavier. I moved some weight from one place to another.”

From, say, his left hip to his right shoulder?

Said Ryan, laughing: “From fat to muscle.”

Then: “It’s a total-body thing. I just wanted to get a little bit stronger. And I feel great.”

Those in search of …

Continue reading A (slightly) stronger Matt Ryan will power the Falcons upward »