Archive for October, 2012

Live from Columbia: Georgia aims to bag the Big Chicken

I'm guessing this Gamecock fancies his team's chances, too. (AP photo)

I'm guessing this Gamecock fancies his team's chances, too. Other Gamecocks do. (AP photo)

Columbia, S.C. – Big game here. Maybe you’ve heard.

Listening to the pregame show on the radio riding in — and here let me note that it took Team AJC nearly 2 1/2 hours to negotiate the final five miles — was to hear a heaping helping of Gamecock bravado. Every interview (including one with the famous South Carolinian Darius “Hootie” Rucker) went thusly: Interviewee paid tribute to Georgia’s talent, then opined that there was no way the home side could lose.

I think the home side can lose. I picked South Carolina to win this game several months ago. (I also picked Georgia to finish 11-1 and still win the SEC East and the SEC title.) But Georgia has been the better team to date, and I say this largely because, as a Kentucky graduate, I’m leery of any team that trails the Wildcats by 10 points after two quarters.

Beyond that, I’ve got nothing that you don’t already know. Whoever wins will …

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Lousy call, lousy game, lousy system: A lousy Braves’ exit

This was a warm and fuzzy moment. The rest of the night stunk. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This was a warm and fuzzy moment. The rest of the night stunk. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Why to hate baseball’s newly minted play-in game: Because you can be, as the Braves were over the course of six months, the demonstrably better team and still give a performance that fuses the three-error Brooks Conrad game of October 2010 and the Epic Collapse of September 2011. Because you can go home having sipped from the postseason cup for all of 189 minutes. Because you can put yourself in position to be rooked by those darn replacement umps.

Wait. These aren’t replacements? These are the real umpires? Is this a real sport?

Had Andrelton Simmons’ pop that dropped been allowed to stand, the Braves would have had the bases loaded and one out. When you’re trailing by three runs in the eighth inning, that’s rather different than having men on second and third with two out, which is what they wound up having. But not before the game was halted for 19 minutes as the field was cleared …

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More ESPN: Somebody believes the Braves will win it all!

At least one ESPN expert thinks this cat will go out on top. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

At least one among ESPN's experts thinks Chipper will go out on top. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Speaking of the Worldwide Leader and its many voices: ESPN has polled its baseball writers, and one of them believes these Braves are bound for glory. Good news: Enrique Rojas of ESPN deportes picks the local nine to beat the Yankees in six games in the Fall Classic.

Bad news: Twenty-eight other ESPNers feel otherwise.

The breakdown: Twenty-five of the 29 see the Braves prevailing in the play-in game against St. Louis today; 11 of those 25 have the Braves beating the Washington Nationals in the Division Series; four of those 11 have the Braves handling either the Reds or the Giants in the NLCS, and good ol’ Enrique Rojas has Atlanta going the distance.

For the record, here’s the breakdown on the predicted-by-ESPN champ: Tigers seven votes, Yankees and Giants and Nationals five each, Reds four, Texas and Oakland and Atlanta one apiece. That means nobody is picking St. Louis or …

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ESPN hates UGA! No, wait! ESPN loves UGA! (Ah, clarity)

Don't fret, Dog-lovers. ESPN says you've got the edge in coaching. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Don't fret, Dog-lovers. ESPN says you've got the edge in coaching. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

There are times when fans of every college team seem to believe ESPN is Out To Get Them. Tennessee backers have long held this to be true, insisting that the Worldwide Leader’s blather was the reason Charles Woodson won the 1997 Heisman Trophy over Peyton Manning. Georgia supporters, still recalling how Kirk Herbstreit dismissed the Bulldogs’ case for inclusion in the 2007 BCS title game, aren’t above such suspicion, either.

Not to rain on anybody’s conspiracy parade, but it could just be that the Worldwide Leader’s problem is that it employs every pundit in the world. When you have so much being said/written by so many different voices/scribes, you’re bound to tick off everybody at some juncture. This weeks offers an schizo case study.

Georgia’s game with South Carolina will be aired by ESPN, which knows no bounds when hyping itself. There has been so much written about the game …

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Braves-Cardinals: Who holds the play-in edge? Flip a coin

Michael Bourn after a circuit clout against the Cards back in May. (AP photo)

Michael Bourn after a circuit clout against the Cards in May. Circuit clouts never hurt. (AP photo)

If the playoffs are a crap shoot, the newly minted play-in game is a coin flip. There’s really no handicapping the Braves-Cardinals game. There’s only “heads” or “tails.”

And yet: We wouldn’t be doing our duty if we didn’t make the attempt at determining what might (and might not) be important. So here, as the saying has it, goes nothing, even as we know full well such factoid-finding might indeed amount to nothing.

Hitting: This isn’t close. The Cardinals lead the Braves in runs, batting average, home runs and on-base percentage. The Cardinals have also struck out 99 fewer times than the Braves, which might sound like a big deal but probably isn’t. (It means St. Louis batters have whiffed, on average, .61 fewer times per game.)

The Braves have drawn 43 more walks than the Cards, but since Kyle Lohse, who has walked only 38 batters over 211 innings, is scheduled to start Friday, …

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Video: On Georgia, South Carolina and the enormity of it all

Continue reading Video: On Georgia, South Carolina and the enormity of it all »

Heat Check: Braves lose the NL East; Falcons haven’t lost

If you're not going to win something, the division title is the thing not to win. (AP photo)

Well, if you're not going to win something, the division title is the thing not to win. (AP photo)

The regular Monday Heat Check was delayed because of logistics. It arrives today, and we can only hope that absence really did make the heart grow fonder.

BRAVES: They can’t catch Washington. They were eliminated from the divisional chase last night. That’s a disappointment, but — speaking of logistics — it might not be the worst thing in the world. The thought of having to play a division tiebreaker in D.C. on Thursday and then, if they were to lose, play the wild card elimination game here on Friday and then, if they were to win, start the best-of-five NLDS here on Sunday was rather daunting, not to to mention confusing. Forecast: The play-in game is a coin flip, but if the Braves prevail — and Kris Medlen hasn’t lost since May 23, 2010 — they’ll be a tough out. And I say that knowing full well they managed only two hits against Pittsburgh on Monday.

FALCONS: You can’t really …

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UGA needs a signature win; South Carolina could use one

"If you don't acknowledge my genius, I'll have you fired, too." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"If you don't bow to my visored genius, I'll have you fired." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

As they used to say in tire commercials, here’s where the rubber meets the road. Georgia looks really good, but that’s not the same as being really good. Until these Bulldogs whip somebody of national consequence, we can’t say for sure that this is again a team of national consequence.

Yes, Georgia is ranked No. 5 in the polls, and off the strength of its first five games it has looked (that hedging verb again) the part. But who have the Bulldogs beaten? Missouri? Good win, but the Tigers were/are unranked. Tennessee? Good win, but the Vols are unranked and were handled more easily by Florida in Knoxville than by the home side on Saturday. And that’s just this year.

Georgia’s 2011 season was equal parts rousing and confounding. The Bulldogs won 10 consecutive games and took the SEC East for the first time since Matthew Stafford was in high school. They also lost to the four best teams …

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Update: Ray Hamilton’s response to Mike Smith’s apology

Falcons coach Mike Smith during Sunday's heated game. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Falcons coach Mike Smith during Sunday's heated game. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Falcons coach Mike Smith today expressed remorse for his actions on the sideline near the end of his team’s breathless victory over Carolina on Sunday and said he has apologized to defensive line coach Ray Hamilton.

“It was something that happened in the heat of battle,” Smith said, speaking by phone from team headquarters in Flowery Branch.

Of Hamilton, Smith said: “Ray and I have worked together for 10 years [including five when the two were assistants in Jacksonville]; he’s one of my closest friends in coaching … I apologized to him this morning. I said, ‘I’m very sorry about my action. I’m very sorry about what happened last night.’ ”

Said Hamilton, also via phone: “Mike mentioned it to me this morning. I didn’t even realize anything had happened. I didn’t give it a second thought until somebody called me and asked about it this morning.”

Of Smith’s apology, Hamilton said: “His apology is …

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3 points regarding the Falcons, who won on a 3-pointer

Michael Turner, again the Burner, on his touchdown jaunt. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Michael Turner, again the Burner, on his touchdown jaunt. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

1. On a day when Carolina’s pressure made it hard to throw, Michael Turner had his biggest game of the season. Roundly castigated after two indifferent games and his subsequent DUI arrest, Turner rushed for 103 yards on 17 carries and caught three passes for 68 yards, 60 of them coming on a dinky screen pass that the Burner turned into something greater. On that burst, he didn’t look old or slow or chubby. He looked pretty much like the Michael Turner of old, which is welcome news for the Falcons.

2. Often great, Roddy White has rarely been greater. Falcons wide receivers caught 10 passes Sunday; White had eight of them, for 169 yards. Three of his receptions either scored points or led to them: The leaping-over-Haruki-Nakamura 49-yard touchdown in the first quarter; the 14-yard slant for a touchdown in the second quarter, and the 59-yard victimization of Nakamura on the first play of the …

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