Archive for January, 2013

If you’re looking for the Mark Bradley blog, it has moved

As of Friday, Jan. 11, this blog upped sticks (as they say in England) for a new locale. The new Web address is http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/mark-bradley/.

The new blog has, not surprisingly, some new features. Take it for a spin. If you like it, I’ll even throw in free undercoating.

And thanks, as ever, for your continued patronage.

Continue reading If you’re looking for the Mark Bradley blog, it has moved »

Falcons-Seahawks: Better record against better numbers

"Nothing to sweat, guys. We'll beat 'em with analytics." (AP photo by Matt Slocum(

"There's nothing to sweat, guys. We'll dazzle 'em with analytics." (AP photo by Matt Slocum)

Two sets of numbers are at play in the run-up to Falcons-Seahawks. There are your basic W’s and L’s — quoth Bill Parcells: “In the NFL, you are what your record says you are” — and the Falcons were 13-3 in the regular season to Seattle’s 11-5. But more advanced analytics exist, and nearly all suggest that a road team with a lesser record and a rookie quarterback should win Sunday.

“On a play-to-play basis, Seattle has been a much better team that Atlanta,” said Rivers McCown of Football Outsiders. “That doesn’t mean that’s how it’s going to play out on the field.”

“Back in 2010, when Atlanta was the No. 1 seed, all the advanced metrics said Green Bay was the No. 1 team in the NFC,” said Chase Stuart of Football Perspective. “Seattle fits that mold a little bit.”

The Falcons tied with Denver for the NFL’s best record. According to Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average …

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Alabama will begin 2013 as No. 1, duh. Who’ll give chase?

Will these two teams go at it again this December? Maybe. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Will we see these two teams go at it again this December? Maybe. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – On the morning after securing his fourth BCS championship ring, Nick Saban was asked what he does with his BCS championship rings. Does he wear them all at once? Rotate them by month, by week, by day?

Said Saban: “I just put ‘em on the coffee table for recruits to look at.”

This drew a huge laugh — such a kidder, that Nick! — but it does underscore the problem facing the rest of college football. Success on the field begets success in recruiting, which begets even bigger success on the field, which is how one team in a cutthroat conference has come to claim consecutive BCS titles and three of the past four.

And Alabama now has bigger fish to fry. Only three programs — Notre Dame in the late ’40s, Nebraska in the ’90s and Saban’s Alabama — have taken three (legitimate) national championships in four seasons. No school has ever won three in a row, or four in …

Continue reading Alabama will begin 2013 as No. 1, duh. Who’ll give chase? »

A classic game? Nope, just classic Alabama domination

Touchdown, Alabama! And there were a bunch of those Monday night. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Touchdown, Alabama! And there were a bunch of those Monday night. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

UPDATED WITH NICK SABAN QUOTES

Miami Gardens, Fla. – For a minute, this felt like a real event. That was the minute before kickoff, when the stadium was alive and both sides lived in hope. Then the game began, and it got …

Ugly? If you’d hoped for a competitive BCS championship game, yes. But in another way, what came after was a kind of brutal beauty. A great football team played at the peak of its power, and how often are we privileged to witness such brilliance? If this wasn’t quite UCLA beating No. 1 Houston 101-69 in the 1968 Final Four, it was pretty darn close.

Alabama led by seven points after three minutes, by 21 four seconds into the second quarter. At that moment, the Crimson Tide had outgained No. 1 Notre Dame 203 yards to 23 and had scored more points than the vaunted Irish defense had allowed in four quarters this season. It’s easy to say now that Notre Dame stands …

Continue reading A classic game? Nope, just classic Alabama domination »

Live from the BCS title game, where the Irish have landed

The view from my seat. There are more folks here now. (Photo by M. Bradley)

The view from my seat. There are several more folks in the stands now. (Panoramic photo by M. Bradley)

Miami Gardens, Fla. – Maybe it was because this correspondent spent more time counting ocean waves than hanging out on South Beach, but it was hard to get a read on the fans. I saw far more Alabama folks walking around, and it wasn’t until Sunday that I saw more than a few Notre Dame shirts. (And I’d even gone to Mass, where there were actually more folks wearing crimson. Go figure.)

That changed today. When the first media bus rolled into the parking lot at Sun Life Stadium — that’s what this place, which has known many names, is now called — at 3:40 p.m., we saw Irish fans by the boatload. If I had to guess, I’d say the crowd will be 55-45 Bama, but I’m bad at estimating crowds.

I’m sometimes bad at predicting games, too, but the responsibility to offer a pick comes with the job. I’m on video record with Noah Coslov of CineSport as taking the Tide to win 17-10, but I’ve …

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Heat Check: Will the Falcons again feel the January chill?

Here's how it was when last the Falcons were the No. 1 seed. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Here's how it was when last the Falcons were the No. 1 seed. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Fort Lauderdale – Owing to the national championship game, our weekly Heat Check emanates from warm environs. We begin, however, with professional football.

FALCONS: It has already started. The No. 1 seed hasn’t yet stuck its toe in playoff waters, and again we’re hearing that it’s out of its depth. The local franchise sits behind five other teams on the odds-to-win-the-Super-Bowl tote board, and it’s even with Seattle, which has to play in the Georgia Dome on Sunday. Technically the Falcons are a two-point favorite over the Seahawks, which is the same tepid betting line the 13-3 Birds faced when playing host to Green Bay two years ago. And they lost that one 48-21. Atmospheric reading: I’ve been saying since August that these Falcons are different. Here’s where they prove me right.

GEORGIA: Won the Capital One Bowl, lost Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree to the NFL, kept Aaron Murray. That …

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Aaron Murray stays, which puts Georgia back in the hunt

"Maybe we'll get us one of those crystal trophies next year." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"Coach, maybe we'll get us one of those nice crystal trophies next year." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Fort Lauderdale -- The cream of football journalism had gathered for a media party at our hotel overlooking the ocean — the Atlantic, I believe it is — when esteemed former colleague Mark Schlabach, lately of ESPN, rushed over and said, “Aaron Murray’s staying.” And we managed to tear ourselves away from our paella to ponder where this puts the Georgia Bulldogs headed in the 2013 season. (Never mind that the 2012 campaign has one game to go.)

Pretty darn high, we decided. (I know exactly where Mr. Schlabach has the Bulldogs in his not-yet-published Top 25 for 2013, but I’ll let him do those honors.) I’d say Georgia has again become the favorite to win the SEC East, and I’d say — this is just me — this again puts the Bulldogs at/near the top five.

Figure Alabama will be preseason No. 1. Figure Notre Dame will be up there, too, and Texas A&M. (I sat in on a press conference …

Continue reading Aaron Murray stays, which puts Georgia back in the hunt »

Bama-Notre Dame? A big game. Nick Saban? Even bigger

"You know, Brian, these crystal things can break if you drop them." (AP photo by John Bazemore)

"You know, Brian, these crystal things can break if you drop them. Just a warning." (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Fort Lauderdale – Taking a break from leveraged buyouts, the Wall Street Journal devoted four full Friday pages to college football, labeling Alabama-Notre Dame “the biggest game ever.” And it well may be. Alabama claims 14 national championships, Notre Dame 11. Alabama had the Bear, Notre Dame the Four Horseman. But you know all this already.

The mood on the ground in South Florida is a bit different. In January 2005, USC met Oklahoma here for the BCS title, and that, at least until kickoff, felt like a bigger game. Four of the top five vote-getters in the 2004 Heisman Trophy balloting — Matt Leinart, Adrian Peterson, Jason White and Reggie Bush — were on display, and three of those would actually win a Heisman before leaving school. (Then the game began and a Sooner named Mark Bradley fumbled a punt and the Trojans won 55-19. So much for buildup.)

Before the other …

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Bama’s Geno Smith went the wrong way on UGA’s last play

That's Geno Smith at Chris Conley's feet on the final play. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

That's Geno Smith of Atlanta at Chris Conley's feet on the frantic game's final play. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Miami Gardens, Fla. — Geno Smith sat in the stands at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday. Come Monday night, the freshman cornerback from Atlanta’s St. Pius X will play for Alabama in the BCS title game, and his mother and grandmother will be on hand to watch. But on this humid Media Day,  Smith was answering questions about the final play of the Tide’s last game.

“It all ended up working out,” Smith said, but here in South Florida it has been revealed that not everything about the last snap of the classic SEC championship game against Georgia went according to Bama plans. Ten Tide defenders did what they were supposed to do; Geno Smith was the exception.

He dropped into coverage when he should have blitzed. He doesn’t know why. He heard the defensive call — “Spear,” in Alabama parlance — and just went elsewhere. “I was going to take the back (Georgia’s Todd Gurley),” …

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History may favor the underdog Irish, but Bama is too good

Precedent? This guy eats precedent for breakfast. (AP photo)

Precedent? This guy eats precedent for breakfast! (AP photo)

Fort Lauderdale – The history of the BCS title game isn’t exactly exhaustive, dating as it does to that long-ago time of January 1999, but even in that small sampling a commonality winds through. Since this “system” was implemented, no school has repeated as BCS champ.

On Monday night, Alabama is favored to annex a second consecutive national title (and a third in four seasons, and the 115th in Tide annals if we go by Bama’s ever-escalating count). The worst thing we can say about this Tide team is that it’s superb, but other superb defending champs have arrived at this juncture only to trip over the final hurdle.

Three times a program has sought to stack BCS titles end to end. Three times it has failed, and each failure came as a shock. Favored by 10 ½ points, Florida State was beaten 13-2 in January 2001 by Oklahoma – the Seminoles’ offense was overseen that night by a distracted Mark Richt, who had already taken a …

Continue reading History may favor the underdog Irish, but Bama is too good »