Archive for the ‘Tech/ACC’ Category

Heat Check: History says 14-2 Falcons would be Super lock

Go 14-2 and it's a lock! (AJC photo by Marlene Karas)

How the last 14-2 Falcons fared. (AJC photo by Marlene Karas)

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 …

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Heat Check: Division-winning Falcons are in cold storage

Carolina coach Ron Rivera is peeved, while Mike Smith is perplexed. (AP photo)

Carolina coach Ron Rivera is apparently peeved, while Mike Smith is perplexed. (AP photo)

Our weekly Heat Check arrives, perhaps inappropriately, on a chilly morning.

FALCONS: The good news — well, to some ears — is that they’re getting a new stadium. The bad news is that they stunk out Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, losing by 10 points to the last-place Carolina Panthers. Atmospheric reading: The Falcons are in a really weird place, and by this we don’t mean Flowery Branch or the doomed Georgia Dome. They clinched the NFC South with a month to spare, which essentially thrusts them into another preseason. They know they’re going to the playoffs and they know they’ll need to play well once there, but the reality is that these final regular-season games mean next to nothing.

HAWKS: Had a chance to nose ahead of the Miami Heat in the NBA Southeast. Didn’t do it, losing by nine after a pretty stout first half. This came two days after an eye-opening road victory at Memphis. …

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By adding Louisville, the ACC shows that it’s getting antsy

A good basketball conference gets even better, but is that enough? (AP photo)

A good basketball conference just got even better. In a football world, will that be enough? (AP photo)

Back in those distant days of September, the ACC believed it had fortified itself against all assaults. It had added Notre Dame, albeit with an asterisk, and by imposing a $50 million exit fee it had surely given any any member institution with wandering eyes cause for pause. But here it’s not yet December and the same proactive conference is having to scramble to play catch-up ball.

Last week Maryland, thumbing its nose at 60 years of tradition and that $50 million penalty, bolted for the Big Ten. If Maryland, which isn’t much good at football and has become ordinary in basketball, could be lured by the promise of bigger money elsewhere, what happens when some other league pitches serious woo at Florida State and/or Clemson?

By raiding the Big East for Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the ACC enhanced its already-exalted hoops profile, but basketball doesn’t pay the bills the way …

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This nutty Tech season could yield a truly hilarious ending

Believe it or note, both of these teams could land in Miami. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Believe it or not, both of these teams could land in Miami come New Year's. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Georgia Tech could wind up in the Orange Bowl, or it could grace no bowl at all. At this moment, the Jackets are bowl-eligible; come Saturday night, they might not be. Got that?

“It’s been a different year,” Paul Johnson said Tuesday, which is an understatement on a par with, “Bill Gates isn’t hurting for money.”

After a full regular season, Tech is neither a winning or a losing team — but it might yet be a conference champion. Generally speaking, when serendipity takes a hand it lifts a good team to greater heights. Somehow serendipity seems to have taken a shine to these middling Jackets, who lost by 21 points to Middle Tennessee and by 32 to Georgia.

The Jackets have played 12 games, losing half. They have beaten one team (North Carolina) that finished above .500. Carolina was one of three teams that tied for first place in the ACC Coastal Division, but the Tar Heels …

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Heat Check: Destiny’s Dogs? No-bowl Jackets? Whoa, Nelly

Surrounded by the enemy: Tech's band in Athens. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Surrounded by the enemy: The Georgia Tech band in Sanford Stadium. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Our Heat Check arrives just in time to warm what promises to be a chilly week. Face facts, folks: There’s not much happening in local sports.

Kidding.

GEORGIA: Will play for the BCS title — some guy I know predicted they would — with a victory over Alabama on Saturday. Barometric reading: Three weeks ago, people were saying the Bulldogs would have no chance against the mighty Tide. A lot of those same people seem to have changed their minds, and I’m not just talking about Georgia fans. I’m talking about neutrals who see the Dogs as no less talented as Bama. Just as Bacarri Rambo said.

GEORGIA TECH: Paul Johnson now believes his Jackets didn’t give much of an effort in Athens. (Who knew, huh?) But if Tech can rouse itself to topple Florida State — maybe the nation’s most overrated team — in Charlotte on Saturday, the Jackets will be headed for what Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports calls

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On Paul Johnson’s poor early choice and Tech’s lack of fans

This was not the happiest of days for the men of Tech. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

OK, so this was not the happiest of days for the men of Georgia Tech. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This post is an adjunct to the Georgia Tech column off today’s game, which can be found here.

1. Paul Johnson’s first tactical error came before the game began. Georgia Tech won the coin toss and chose to defer its choice until the second half. This is, we must note, standard coaching procedure. But this was not a standard game. The Yellow Jackets’ only hope rested on their offense and its capacity to steal an early lead and then play keep-away. Instead Johnson chose to put his special teams and his defense on the field first. Malcolm Mitchell returned the kickoff past midfield. Georgia led 7-0 after 63 seconds. When finally Tech exercised its option at the start of the third quarter, it trailed 28-3. Asked about his decision to defer, Johnson said: “Pick your half. They’re going to get it sometime.”

2. Time of possession can be the world’s most misleading statistic. The Jackets …

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His Jackets pull a no-show, and Paul Johnson is not pleased

This one picture is worth a hundred thousand words. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

This one picture is worth a couple of hundred thousand words, give or take. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Athens – There were two snippets of good news for Georgia Tech on an otherwise wretched Saturday: The Jackets still get to play for the ACC Championship, and the Georgia Bulldogs will be occupied elsewhere.

Other than that, this was a wipeout of epic dimensions. It wasn’t quite as bad as the 51-7 loss here in 2002, but at least that drubbing came in Year 1 under a new coach. This one arrived in Year 5 under Paul Johnson, who seemed the anti-Chan Gailey. Meaning: A man who could hold his own against the hated mutts. (Gailey went for 0-for-6.) But now Johnson, after stunning the Bulldogs on his first try, has lost four in a row to Georgia, and the series has again gone lopsided.

And Johnson, who on taking this job ordered that the slogan “Beat Georgia” be displayed on Tech’s practice field, was not pleased. Afterward his voice could be heard — at great volume and great …

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Can Georgia Tech ruin UGA’s season? (Video added)

The dynamics changed Monday morning. With Miami’s decision to exclude itself from postseason play, Georgia Tech claimed the ACC Coastal Division title. So now, for the first time, Tech and Georgia will meet with both having, to borrow Paul Johnson’s pithy phrase, bigger fish to fry. Win or lose Saturday, both will play for conference championships a week later.

But these two division titlists are not equal. The Jackets are 6-5, and the best they can do is to play in the Orange Bowl. (Not that the Orange Bowl, given that Tech just nosed above .500, would be a bad deal.) The Bulldogs are 10-1, and with two more victories they will play for the BCS crown. Georgia has much more to lose. The Jackets are 14-point road underdogs against an opponent they’ve beaten once since George Godsey ran through Jim Donnan’s crew of NFL-caliber defenders in 2000.

If these teams met 10 times, Georgia would win nine. But the Jackets have only to beat Georgia once to make their season and …

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A long, strange trip: Tech is headed for the ACC title game

"Really? Seriously? We're going to the ACC championshp game?" (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

"Really? We're going to the ACC championship game? How'd that happen?" (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Updated 9:55 a.m.

A team that wasn’t sure until Saturday night that it could play in a bowl is now bound for the ACC championship game. Georgia Tech learned this morning that Miami has decided to forgo postseason play, thereby handing the Coastal Division to the Yellow Jackets, who started 1-3 in league play and who still might finish the regular season 6-6.

It’s a stunning turn for a program that was reeling only six weeks ago. The Jackets had lost two ACC games in overtime after blowing late leads and been hammered at home by Middle Tennessee of the middling Sun Belt. Two days after his team lost at Clemson to slide to 2-4,  Paul Johnson moved to fire Al Groh, his defensive coordinator of 2 1/2 years.

At that point the season seemed all but lost, but the Jackets steadied — well, after another home thrashing, this at the hands of BYU — and the schedule eased and events …

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Heat Check: Hot ‘Dogs face a warm swarm of Yellow Jackets

This was the one time the Richt-coached Bulldogs didn't beat Tech. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

This was the one time the Mark Richt-coached Bulldogs didn't beat Tech. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

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 …

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