Our weekly Heat Check commences with a team that just aced its final regular-season exam.
FALCONS: Beat the reigning Super Bowl champion 34-0, which, according to Elias, is the worst shutout loss ever suffered by a reigning Super Bowl champion (Elias also notes that only three previous teams in NFL history had been shut out the week after scoring 50 points. You mightn’t be surprised that the Falcons, who beat the Saints 62-7 in 1973 and then lost to the Rams 31-0, made that list.) Atmospheric reading: The Falcons can finish the regular season 14-2. Every single Falcons team to finish a regular season 14-2 has reached the Super Bowl. (OK, so that’s a grand total of one.)
HAWKS: Were briefly tied for first place in the NBA Southeast before losing here to Golden State by 22 points. Atmospheric reading: At hand is a case of extremes — tonight the Hawks play in Washington, owner of the league’s worst record, and Wednesday they play host to Oklahoma City, owner of the best. But the Hawks have beaten the Thunder the past two meetings, including one in OKC on Nov. 4.
GEORGIA: Held a Capital One Bowl media session last week, which turned into — I’ll confess that questions from this correspondent contributed — a lengthy review of the SEC championship game. Atmospheric reading: It’ll be interesting to see how interested the Bulldogs are in playing Nebraska. Not very, would be my guess, and I can’t really blame them.
GEORGIA TECH: After years of losing to lesser lights in bowls — Fresno State twice, Utah twice, Air Force once — Tech now gets to play one of the biggest Big Names. As you’ll recall, USC was ranked No. 1 in preseason. Atmospheric reading: The Jackets haven’t won a bowl since Reggie Ball was a sophomore (and also the bowl MVP). The date was Dec. 21, 2004. The opponent was Syracuse, which promptly fired its coach.
GEORGIA TECH HOOPS: Just received a talent infusion courtesy of the Poole family. Stacey Poole, a transfer from Kentucky, will become eligible this week, and younger brother Solomon, who started the fall as a high school senior but is now an enrolled-and-eligible collegiate freshman, played six minutes against Alabama State on Monday. Atmospheric reading: Remember how thin last year’s 11-20 Jackets were? This team can go 10 deep, and it’s a pretty fair 10 at that.
GEORGIA HOOPS: Only one basketball program in the Big Six leagues has suffered seven losses already — this one. Atmospheric reading: As we speak, the Bulldogs are about to play a morning game at the Stegesaurus against Mercer. Georgia has already lost home games to Youngstown State, Southern Miss and Iona. It would behoove Mark Fox to beat the Bears. Update: Georgia beat Mercer 58-49.
By Mark Bradley