Archive for October, 2012

Florida in Jax: Big for UGA, it’s even bigger for Mark Richt

"Did you know my team is 6-1?" (AP photo)

"Did you know my darn strong football team is 6-1?" (AP photo)

The surest sign that Mark Richt is miffed: He cites numbers. He did it back in 2006, when Georgia was 5-0 but coming off shaky victories over Colorado and Ole Miss. (Those Bulldogs would lose four of their next five games, FYI.) He did it at the end of the 2008 season, which began with Georgia ranked No. 1 but wound down with Richt trying to make 10-3 sound like a major achievement. He did it again Saturday night.

Responding to a question (mine, actually) about the possibility that the halting performance against Kentucky had been a function of focusing more on the Florida-South Carolina score than the opponent at hand, he stopped in mid-answer. “Know what?” he said, his voice rising. “I’m happy with the victory. We’re 6-1. That’s not bad.”

Know what? He’s right. Georgia is 6-1, and 6-1 isn’t at all bad. (It’s good enough for 10th place in the BCS standings.) But now comes Florida, and this game will do more than …

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Heat Check: UGA isn’t exactly the hot choice in Jacksonville

Mark Richt poses with the only Gator coach against whom he has a winning record. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Mark Richt with the only Gator against whom he has a winning record. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

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 …

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On UGA’s good offense, patchy defense and weary coach

Mark Richt points out ... well, something in Georgia's victory over Kentucky. (AP photo)

Mark Richt points out … well, something in Georgia's victory over Kentucky. (AP photo)

This post is an adjunct to the Georgia-Kentucky game column, which can be found here.

1. Mark Richt looked tired after this one. It was late, and it had been a tough night, but still … the usual Richt bonhomie was missing. He said he was “very excited about the victory” and complimented Kentucky’s coaching and preparation, but after a round of questions bearing a distinctly negative tone he’d had enough. He stopped in mid-answer and said: “Know what? I’m happy with the victory. We’re 6-1. That’s not bad.”

2. Mike Bobo might not be a fan favorite, but he’s the Georgia coordinator having the better year by far. Had the Bulldogs’ offense sputtered here, they’d have lost. But they made no turnovers, which was huge, and Aaron Murray threw for 427 yards and three touchdowns against a Wildcat front that was stacked against the run. Thus did the Bulldogs escape, if only just. “I didn’t see any …

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A nervous night in Kentucky: UGA wins but doesn’t impress

Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch scores the touchdown that would be the winner. (AP photo)

Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch scores the touchdown that would be the winner. (AP photo)

Lexington, Ky. – Georgia got a gift Saturday afternoon. Florida beat South Carolina, re-opening the door to SEC championship game for the Bulldogs, who had lost to the Gamecocks by four touchdowns two weeks ago. This should have spurred the recipients to make light work of a Kentucky team that’s bad even by Kentucky standards, but Georgia was in a re-gifting mood.

The Wildcats entered the game ranked last in the SEC in rushing offense and next-to-last in total offense. The benevolent Bulldogs allowed Kentucky to move the ball, which was surprising, and score a quick touchdown, which was stop-the-presses stuff. Not since November 2010, or 20 games ago, had the ‘Cats managed a first-quarter offensive TD. And now here was Georgia, with all its NFL prospects minus the injured Jarvis Jones and with its $825,000 defensive coordinator, making a 1-6 opponent look like a real team.

It took Georgia …

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Live from Lexington: UGA’s back in the ol’ SEC East chase

The team in blue is on the minds of the Bulldogs, who play a different team in blue tonight. (AP photo)

The team in blue is on the mind of Georgia, which plays a different team in blue tonight. (AP photo)

Lexington, Ky. – Two weeks after Georgia lost by four touchdowns in Columbia, the Bulldogs again have the opening they need. Yes, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. But if Georgia is good enough to beat you-know-who you-know-where next Saturday, the Bulldogs will stand atop the SEC East with only two winnable conference games (Ole Miss and Auburn) remaining.

Dept. of details: Georgia does need to beat Kentucky here tonight.

Dept. of reality: Georgia should beat Kentucky by 30 points.

Even if Kentucky were any good, I can’t imagine the Wildcats could stand with a Georgia team that’s coming off a bye and is sure to be enthused by the news that is Florida whipping South Carolina in Gainesville. Kentucky, however, is not any good. Even by UK standards, this is an awful assemblage. Its four SEC losses have come by 38, 21, 13 and 42 points. The 42-point loss at Arkansas was …

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Empty seats? Team choking? This time it’s NOT Atlanta

National Anthem, Yankee Stadium, ALCS Game 1. Note the unpacked pews. (AP photo)

National Anthem, Yankee Stadium, 2012 ALCS Game 1. Note the unpacked pews. (AP photo)

Well, this sounds familiar. Empty seats at postseason games. Team not hitting in the clutch.

Talking about the Atlanta Braves, right?

Wait. One more clue.

Superstar flirting with women from the dugout during an extra-inning game.

OK, not the Atlanta Braves. (At least so far as we know.)

Answer is: The New York Yankees.

Pardon me for being provincial, but how long have we Atlantans been told, often by New York-based media types, that we’re a lousy sports city because we don’t — or at least didn’t; the Braves’ wild-card game was sold out — pack the house for playoff games and that our team pretty much stinks anyway because it won Only One World Series and that hard-bitten New Yorkers would Never Stand For That Sort Of Thing and that All Any Yankee Cares About Is Winning? Pretty much every day for the past 15 years, right? Well, here’s where we get to say …

Heh, heh, heh.

The Bronx Bombers’ …

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Should the Braves keep Brian McCann? For one year, yes

Brian McCann packs his gear, but probably not for good. Not yet, anyway. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Brian McCann packs his gear. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Brian McCann underwent shoulder surgery Tuesday and is expected to miss four to six months. This came at an awkward moment for both player and club. The Braves have until three days after the World Series ends to exercise their option to keep McCann for the 2013 season at $12 million. Should they decline, McCann would become a free agent.

To allow McCann to walk away — it’s doubtful he would be responsive to any Braves’ overture to re-sign at a lower price — is within the Braves’ contractual rights. Letting him leave, however, would not be in their best immediate interests.

Even as we stipulate that the McCann of the past 15 months has been a shadow of the man who made the All-Star team six years running, we must also acknowledge that, assuming a return to health, he’s an above-average catcher. The worthy backup David Ross notwithstanding, the Braves will need a No. 1 catcher in 2013.

Asked Wednesday if McCann’s surgery …

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For UGA and Tech, a significant second half is at hand

Georgia and Georgia Tech entered their bye weeks on major downers. The Bulldogs had lost to South Carolina by 28 points; the Jackets had lost three games in a row having yielded at least 40 points in each. Picked to win the SEC East, Georgia had fallen behind the Gamecocks and the rejuvenated Florida Gators. Picked to finish second in the ACC Coastal, Tech had fallen to fifth place in a six-team division.

But half the regular season remains for both teams, and already there has been some recalibration. Tech fired defensive coordinator Al Groh. Georgia, for its part, has fired nobody. At least not yet.

The good news: There figure to be a lot of wins left on both schedules. Georgia should finish no worse than 10-2, and if South Carolina loses to Florida on Saturday and the Bulldogs run the table, they’ll be back in the Dome for the SEC title game. It would take a heapin’ helpin’ of harmonic convergence for Tech to win the Coastal now — it has already lost to division …

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The Falcons are 6-0, but certain other numbers don’t add up

Mike Smith and VP of Communications Reggie Roberts leave to check the stats. (AP photo)

Mike Smith and Falcons VP of communications Reggie Roberts exit to check the stats. (AP photo)

There’s only one unbeaten NFL team, and it’s based in Flowery Branch. And we know, courtesy of Bill Parcells, that in the NFL you’re as good as your record says you are, which would suggest that the Falcons are flat-out great. But here’s where we run the numbers, and numbers, as we also know, can be pesky things.

The biggest number, duh, is 6-0. The Falcons have never been undefeated this deep into a season in their previous 46 years of doing business. But here’s another number: 11-21. That’s the combined record of the six teams the Falcons have beaten. Of those six, only San Diego is above .500. (And the 3-2 Chargers play Denver on Monday night.) This wasn’t entirely unexpected. The Falcons’ schedule always seemed tougher on the far side of the bye week. To look again, however, is to wonder.

We all thought Philadelphia and Dallas and New Orleans — the Falcons’ next three opponents — …

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Heat Check: Falcons are unbeaten; Georgia State’s on a roll!

Sean Weatherspoon leads cheers: "Our team is red hot!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon leads the cheers: "Our team is red hot!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Truth in advertising: This week’s Heat Check isn’t the most scintillating, given that the bulk of our local teams didn’t actually play. But we press on nonetheless.

FALCONS: They’re the only NFL unbeaten remaining, and here I offer the boldest prediction of my so-called career — they won’t lose next Sunday, either. Forecast: They’ve got a bye, and they could use one to refocus and recalibrate. When you’re 6-0, there’s obviously nothing grievously amiss. But the past three games weren’t nearly as emphatic as the first three.

GEORGIA STATE: The Panthers won a game! And won it big! Thank goodness for Rhode Island! Thank goodness Bill Curry won’t ride off into the sunset on an 0-11 nag of a season! Forecast: OK, back to reality. They play 5-2 Villanova in the Georgia Dome on Saturday.

GEORGIA: The Bulldogs got what they wanted even as they weren’t playing. South Carolina lost to …

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