The weekly Heat Check commences with a team that frankly didn’t look so hot Saturday night. But you’ve got to start somewhere.
GEORGIA: Picked in preseason to repeat as SEC East champs, the Bulldogs are a 6 1/2 point underdog to Florida on what is technically a neutral field. This tells us that the Gators have had the more impressive season to date, but you knew that already. Forecast: This doesn’t mean Georgia can’t win. On the contrary, how many times have the Bulldogs gone to Jacksonville with the better-looking team and lost?
FALCONS: Didn’t lose for the seventh consecutive Sunday. (Ha! Little joke!) But now the schedule gets intriguing, if not necessarily untenable. The next four opponents: Philadelphia (3-3), Dallas (3-3), New Orleans (2-4) and Arizona (4-3). Forecast: Win three of those four and the Falcons are looking at the NFC’s No. 1 seed come the playoffs. Win ‘em all and Don Shula and Nick Buoniconti and Mercury Morris get nervous.
GEORGIA TECH: So now we know. It was all Al Groh’s fault. (Kidding again.) Beating Boston College doesn’t prove much, but beats the heck out of not beating Boston College. Forecast: Not trying to get all pie-in-the-sky here, but it now seems the winner of the ACC Coastal will have at least three conference losses. If the Jackets run the conference table, they’ll have three conference losses.
GEORGIA STATE: Alas, the Panthers aren’t apt to run any tables. A week after beating Rhode Island, Georgia State lost to Villanova by 25 points. Of GSU’s seven losses, the closest has been by 21 points. Forecast: There’s a chance we’ve seen the final victory of Bill Curry’s coaching career.
BRAVES: Brian McCann had surgery, which complicates contractual things a bit. (But only a bit.) And the Cardinals, who have suddenly become the Braves’ nemeses, are on the brink of blowing a series in which they led 3-1. Forecast: If you’re the Braves, do you root for or against St. Louis tonight? I’m thinking against, but that might just be me.
HAWKS: They won two exhibition games at home. They’re 3-3 in games that don’t count. Forecast: The Hawks have only one exhibition game remaining — it’s Friday at Detroit — but the regular season doesn’t begin for 11 more days. And you thought the NBA playoffs lasted forever.
By Mark Bradley