Given that this is Thanksgiving week, our Heat Check begins about where you’d expect.
GEORGIA: Will play for the SEC title. Could play for the BCS title. First, however, the Bulldogs must win the state title. This hasn’t been much of an issue for Mark Richt — he’s 10-1 against the North Avenue crew — but the one blip (in 2008, in case you’ve forgotten) was monumental. Barometric reading: Remember when we wondered if things would ever again get really good for this coach at this school? Richt’s team has a chance to finish all drills.
GEORGIA TECH: Will play for the ACC title, thanks to Miami’s decision to remove itself from postseason play. For a team that wasn’t sure it could wangle even a trip to Shreveport, that’s a nice bit of rallying. Barometric reading: Chances are, Tech will be an underdog — the opening line for this weekend favors Georgia by 14 points — in every game from here on, but any team coached by Paul Johnson has the potential to be a mighty live ‘dog. No pun intended.
THE SEC: Forget having no team in the BCS title game. If Southern Cal beats Notre Dame and Florida beats Florida State, the only league that matters will again have two of its members, one of whom didn’t even win its division, playing for the national championship. Barometric reading: Things always break the SEC’s way. Does anybody not understand that?
THE ACC: Could have a 6-6 team (er, Georgia Tech) play for the conference title. Could lose Maryland to the Big Ten, which would be a major blow for a league that believed it had solidified its future by adding, sort of, Notre Dame. (Update: According to ESPN, Maryland has indeed voted to leave the ACC.) Barometric reading: Only the SEC get all the breaks all the time. Does anybody not understand that?
FALCONS: The halting victory over Arizona did nothing to quell any doubts. Still couldn’t run the ball, and this time Matt Ryan had a tough time throwing it to the right team. And now a trip to play Tampa Bay, which has won four in a row, awaits. Barometric reading: The Falcons are still positioned to be the NFC’s top seed, but they’re starting to look a tad seedy.
HAWKS: Fought through the stomach flu and a West Coast swing to come home at .500, which isn’t half-bad. Barometric reading: Don’t be surprised if this team gets hot. Only one of its next eight games will come against an opponent that currently holds a winning record, and seven of those eight will be staged at Philips Arena.
GEORGIA HOOPS: Mark Fox’s Hounds had an awful week, losing at home to Youngstown State and Southern Miss, neither of which is a basketball power on the order of, say, Indiana. Barometric reading: At 5:30 p.m. tonight in Brooklyn, the Bulldogs will meet the real Indiana, ranked No. 1 in the land. But there’s precedent at work — Chaminade did once topple Virginia and Ralph Sampson.
GEORGIA TECH HOOPS: Managed fewer points against Presbyterian than the football Jackets scored against the Blue Hose. Still won, though. Barometric reading: Are about to embark on a long road trip — three games in an Anaheim tournament, followed by a stop in Champaign, Ill., to meet the Illini in the ACC-Big Ten challenge. If Tech is still unbeaten after all that, Brian Gregory and his men will be on to something.
BRAVES: Signed Gerald Laird, free-agent catcher, to replace David Ross, free-agent catcher. That’s a slight net loss, but Laird is something of the new Eric Hinske — he keeps showing up in the World Series. Barometric reading: Pretty sure there’s a bigger move than Gerald Laird to come.
Further reading: Can Tech ruin Georgia’s season? It’s possible. But probable?
By Mark Bradley