Archive for November, 2012

Tech is bound for a bowl, and maybe for the ACC title game

They're Ramblin' Wrecks from Georgia Tech, and they're happy. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

They're Ramblin' Wrecks from Georgia Tech, and they're rather happy. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

A season going wrong has started to see almost everything go right. Georgia Tech can do no worse than tie for the Coastal Division title, and it mightn’t have to share. “We still have all our goals on the board,” quarterback Tevin Washington said Saturday, and if you don’t count winning the national championship, he’s absolutely correct.

Tech can play for the ACC title on Dec. 1 if Miami loses at Duke next week or if the Hurricanes, owing to pending NCAA sanctions, recuse themselves from postseason play. Even if Tech doesn’t land in the conference championship game, it knows now it will grace some brand of bowl. Six weeks ago, none of this was a certainty. Six weeks ago, these Yellow Jackets could have been staring at 4-8.

But now, having beaten Duke 42-24 on Saturday, they’re above .500 for the first time since Sept. 22, and they’re headed for Athens next week on what you’d …

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Live from Tech: An actual big football game against Duke!

Tech co-quarterback Vad Lee runs through the oldly garbed Maryland Terrapins. (Photo by Luis M. Alvarez)

Tech co-quarterback Vad Lee runs through the oddly garbed Maryland Terrapins. (Photo by Luis M. Alvarez)

Let’s face it: To call Duke football the rough equivalent of Georgia basketball would be, over time if not at present, an insult to the hoop ‘Dogs. Duke’s last winning season was in 1994; it has won one ACC championship since 1962, and that bears an asterisk, seeing as how Steve Spurrier was then the Blue Devils’ coach.

But here it is 2012 and Duke has a chance to claim the Coastal Division if it beats Georgia Tech today and Miami next week in Durham. Me, I don’t think the Dookies can win either game, but maybe that’s just me.

As we know, the Jackets are themselves somehow alive and kicking in the carnival ride that is the ACC Coastal. Tech can get to 5-3 in league play and stamp itself as the leader in the clubhouse by beating Duke. And the Jackets have won eight straight against the Devils and 16 of 17. The exception was in 2003, when interim Duke coach Ted Roof startled …

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The SEC in flux: Four teams could be seeking new coaches

Could we soon see the SEC return of the uneasy rider? (AP photo)

Could the SEC soon see the return of the uneasy rider Bobby Petrino? (AP photo)

The mighty SEC could see a 29 percent change in coaches before November is done. Joker Phillips has already been told he’s out at Kentucky, and Arkansas is conducting a search even as interim John L. Smith lobbies to stay. (Good luck there. Smith inherited a Top 10 team and has gone 4-6. He has also declared bankruptcy, which may be why he needs the job.) And two of the league’s flagships — Auburn and Tennessee — figure to be holding we’ve-decided-to-go-in-different-direction press conferences soon.

Gene Chizik won a BCS title in 2010. In 2012 his Auburn Tigers have gone 0-7 in league play and have lost 63-21 to Texas A&M and 38-0 to Georgia at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Matt Scalici of Al.com reports that Chizik is telling recruits he will be back next season, but what’s a coach supposed to say?

After Tennessee lost to Missouri 51-48 in overtime Saturday to fall to 0-6 in SEC play, rumors swirled that …

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Duke beats Kentucky on a splendid night of Dome hoops

Seth Curry beats Julius Mays to the basket in Game 2. (AP photo by Dave Martin)

Duke's Seth Curry beats Julius Mays to the basket in Game 2. (AP photo by Dave Martin)

Nine days before Thanksgiving, there were four on the Georgia Dome floor. Come April 6 there will be four on this same floor, and if the past is a guide, some of these contestants will be included in that Final Four.

The Champions Classic, which alit here Tuesday night, is in Year 2 of its rotation. (Last year it was New York; next year it’s Chicago.) The teams that played in the final game of the 2011 Champions Classic in Madison Square Garden – Kentucky and Kansas – also graced the 2012 NCAA final in the Superdome. That’s known as a leading indicator.

The same foursome from last season’s Champions Classic was in place again, albeit in a different configuration. Kansas got Michigan State this time. Kentucky played Duke, and Kentucky and Duke, as you may have heard, have an NCAA tournament history.

From Rupp’s Runts outgunning Vic Bubas’ team in the 1966 Final Four to Jack …

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Heat Check: Was cutting Ray Edwards a message sent?

"So, Brian, how's this Auburn gig working out?" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"So, former colleague Brian VanGorder, how's this Auburn gig working out?" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Our weekly Heat Check appears a day late but, one hopes, not quite a dollar short.

FALCONS: Lost for the first time this season against the rival that has become an abject nemesis and, in losing, saw their biggest weaknesses – can’t run the ball, can’t stop the run — exposed. And what were the two things Mike Smith, after taking this job in January 2008, said a good team had to do? Run the ball and stop the run. Barometric reading: Barely 24 hours later, the Falcons cut defensive end Ray Edwards, who had little to do with Sunday’s loss but who did little after signing as a big-ticket free agent. Students of Falcons history will note that, after the first loss of the 1998 season, Dan Reeves cut cornerback Juran Bolden for messing up a coverage in San Francisco. Those Falcons would go 14-2 and make the Super Bowl.

(Please see my video chat with Brian Clark of CineSport, …

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Georgia Tech as Coastal champion? Yep, it could happen

It was a stretch to think the Yellow Jackets could be in such a position, but here they are. (AP photo)

It was a stretch to think the Jackets could be in such a position, but here they are. (AP photo)

With one conference game remaining, Georgia Tech stands a real chance of winning the Coastal Division. This development is so outrageous as to shock someone who picked Georgia Tech to win the Coastal Division. Namely, me.

Know how bettors at the horse track turn losing tickets into a cascade of confetti? That’s what I’d done, albeit figuratively, with that prediction. Tech was 2-4 halfway through the season, 1-3 in ACC play. No way, I figured, that Virginia Tech and/or Miami — they’d beaten the Yellow Jackets in overtime — would lose the four conference games needed for Georgia Tech to finish ahead of both. Well, the Hokies have, and Miami might, and even if the Hurricanes don’t, the Jackets could still play for the conference championship. (More on this in a bit.)

There’s also the likelihood that Georgia Tech, should it squeeze into the title game in Charlotte, will do so at 6-6. …

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Here’s why the Falcons’ Smith should have gone for two

To borrow from the great Lousianan Joe Dean Sr.: "Tony G. plays a little stufferino." (AP photo)

To borrow from the great Louisianan Joe Dean Sr.: "Tony G. plays a little stufferino." (AP photo)

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

1. Mike Smith erred in not going for two after the Falcons cut the lead to 28-23. Smith’s position was that, with 13:57 remaining, it was too early. “You don’t even start looking at the 2-point chart until there’s seven minutes to go,” he said. But a 2-point conversion would have drawn the Falcons within a field goal, and the successful 1-pointer pulled them only within four, which is essentially the same as being down five: You still need a touchdown (or two field goals) to take the lead. And a successful 2-pointer would have left the Falcons within tying range on their final three possessions.

2. You might never see a better duel of tight ends. The Saints’ Jimmy Graham caught seven passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons’ Tony Gonzalez caught 11 passes for 122 yards and two …

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The unbeaten Falcons fall in a distressingly familiar way

Just a reminder: This is what it looks like when a running play succeeds. (AP photo)

Just a reminder: This is how it looks when a running play actually succeeds. (AP photo)

New Orleans — First, a spot of perspective. The Falcons are 8-1 and positioned to win their division. Just because they lost an excruciating game to the hated Saints doesn’t override all the good work that came before. That said …

The good work that came before didn’t include much in the way of short-yardage excellence. And when a team that couldn’t convert on fourth-and-1 on three infamous occasions last season loses its first game of another year due to the same failures, a flag gets hoisted. No, not a white one of surrender, but surely a bright red banner of warning.

“I don’t know what situation you’d rather be in,” said Michael Turner, the feature back who managed 15 yards on 13 rushes Sunday. “You’ve got one yard for the lead.”

“You’ve got to punch the ball in,” said Jacquizz Rodgers, the change-of-pace back whose 18-yard burst had pulled the Falcons within sight of that final …

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Live from New Orleans: The Falcons will lose – but not today

Just another example of how the Saints afford us Atlantans no respect. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Just another example of how the Saints afford us Atlantans no respect. (Photo by M. Bradley)

New Orleans – Father Peter P. Finney delivered the homily at the 8 a.m. Mass at St. Clement of Rome in Metairie, La., this morning, and here we note: Father Finney is the grandson of Peter Finney, the gentlemanly sports columnist of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and Father Finney actually gave no homily at all. It’s a St. Clement tradition to do without one during its annual Oyster Festival, which is ongoing this weekend. (There was carnival paraphernalia all over the parking lot.)

Father Finney noted that today’s Oyster Festival session is set to commence at noon –  “when the Saints kick off,” he said. Then he noted: “The Saints’ game will be shown on television.”

Our rather roundabout point being: Even when the Saints stink, they’re still the talk of the town. (Metairie is a suburb off Lake Pontchartrain, of which my hotel affords me a half-scenic view.)

I’m on record — if you …

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Tech opens its new arena, and the present meets the past

The new place on its first night. It was a good night. (AP photo by Rich Addicks)

The new place on its first night. It was a good night. (AP photo by Rich Addicks)

It hasn’t been easy to see, what with Georgia Tech going 13-18 and 11-20 the past two seasons, but there’s history here. And where there’s history, there’s hope.

On Friday the Jackets christened their rebuilt arena. The McCamish Center was nice and bright and, at least for this one night, nearly full. The new place cost $45 million — in baseball terms, $45 million might buy two years of Josh Hamilton’s services — and if it comes to house a serious basketball team the redo will have been worth the cost. If not …

The sad part of 13-18 followed by 11-20 was the memory of what Tech basketball once was. From 1981, when Bobby Cremins arrived from Appalachian State and began charming big-name recruits despite his penchant for wearing a green suit during home visits, until the unraveling near the end of the Paul Hewitt era, this program mattered. It mattered in the high-falutin’ ACC (three conference …

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