Archive for the ‘UGA/SEC’ Category

UGA, Tech and the Falcons as division champs? I called it

In 2012, there was much cause for local football celebration. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

In 2012, there was much cause for football celebration in these environs. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

For a while there, I had to ask myself, “Old son, did you really change your first name to ‘Homer’?” Because that’s what I was getting called by many of y’all. Prompting this charge was my stated belief that Georgia, Georgia Tech and the Falcons would all win divisions. But with 2013 near at hand, this Homer must confess that he considers his prognosticating work of 2012 a triumphant odyssey.

Because Georgia won its division. And so did Georgia Tech. And so did the Falcons. And who called it way back when?

The jinx of all jinxing. The archduke of addled thinking. Dumb ol’ MB.

Usually the annual Accountability Scoreboard serves a three-course dinner of Crow Soup, Crow Mignon and Humble Pie. Not this time. And yes, I’m as surprised as you are.

I predicted every Georgia regular-season game correctly. I did miss on the bigger part of my UGA prediction: The Bulldogs will not …

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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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Fifteen fateful seconds: The Bulldogs look back in anguish

The heat of the moment: Aaron Murray tells Chris Conley he should have dropped the ball. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Aaron Murray and Chris Conley after the completion that wasn't supposed to be. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Fifteen seconds left, eight yards from victory. We know how the epic SEC championship game played out – for late tuners-in, Alabama beat Georgia 32-28 on Dec. 1 – but what exactly went into those 15 overstuffed seconds? Why did what happened happen?

We begin at the end, or very near it. (All the voices heard below spoke at a Georgia media session this week in Athens.) An apparent clinching interception by Dee Milliner with 45 seconds remaining was overturned by video review, handing the Bulldogs a glimmer of life that would become a starburst. Quarterback Aaron Murray found tight end Arthur Lynch for 15 yards, then wide receiver Tavarres King for 23, then Lynch again for 26.

In 30 seconds the Bulldogs traveled 64 yards against the nation’s top-ranked defense. A game that had seen five lead changes was eight yards from a sixth.

Murray: “We’d gotten a little break (on the …

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Isn’t UGA better than the Capital One Bowl? Why, sure it is

For Georgia, getting over Alabama won't be easy. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

For the Bulldogs, getting over the Alabama game won't be easy. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Athens – Depending on the index, Georgia is ranked No. 5 (USA Today coaches’ poll), No. 6 (Associated Press) or No. 7 (BCS) in the land. Counting the national championship game, the BCS fits 10 teams into five postseason games. Georgia, alas, is not among them.

The Bulldogs are bound for the Capital One Bowl, which is essentially the consolation game for losers of conference championships. (Georgia’s opponent is Nebraska, which lost to Wisconsin 70-31 in the Big Ten title tilt.) With three losses, the Cornhuskers probably belong in the Capital One. Georgia does not.

At worst, Georgia is the nation’s third-best team. It went 11-1 in the regular season and won the SEC Eastern Division, which this time around was no junior circuit. (Florida is ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings, South Carolina No. 10). But the Bulldogs were penalized for falling five yards short in one of the greatest …

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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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Five yards short: In bitter defeat, a winning Georgia effort

The final moments of a fabulous game: Chris Conley catches the ball. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The final moments of a fabulous game: Chris Conley catches the ball. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

There are people who say that only championships matter, that finishing second is the same as finishing last. To those people, we say this: Go away now. Go away while we honor — and yes, that’s the proper word — as gallant a runner-up as we’ll ever see. Go away and let us speak of the Georgia Bulldogs.

They’d waited 30 years for a game this big, and they came as close as you could come to winning it without actually winning. Three times they took a lead over the mighty Alabama, and even after what should have been a crushing Tide touchdown with 3:15 remaining, even after what seemed a clinching Bama interception inside the final minute … even then, these Bulldogs found themselves with first-and-goal and time flying.

That they fell five yards short, that a tipped Aaron Murray pass for Malcolm Mitchell was caught by a falling Chris Conley and the final five seconds ticked away, …

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Bama’s runners, Saban’s gaffe and a classic SEC title game

Georgia's Marshall Morgan's toe meets leather to start the game. (AJC photo by Ben Gray)

Georgia's Marshall Morgan's toe meets leather to start the SEC title game. (AJC photo by Ben Gray)

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

1. Alabama shattered the SEC Championship game record for yards rushing. The Tide ran for 350 yards, with two backs — game MVP Eddie Lacy and backup T.J. Yeldon — each going way over 100. (Lacy had 181, Yeldon 153.) And it was, almost inevitably, the fear of the Alabama ground game that spawned the Tide’s winning touchdown. AJ McCarron threw deep to Amari Cooper, who had run past Damain Swann, for the winning touchdown with 3:15 to play. But Alabama couldn’t run out the clock inside the final two minutes, and it nearly cost the Tide the game.

2. Even the best in the business sometimes whiffs. Alabama coach Nick Saban waited until five seconds remained in the first half to use his first timeout. After converting on third-and-2 at the Georgia 39 with 42 seconds left, the Crimson Tide allowed the clock to tick …

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Live from the Dome: Favored Bama meets hungry Dogs!

That famous jokester Nick Saban leaves Mark Richt in stitches. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

That famous jokester Nick Saban leaves Mark Richt in stitches Friday. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

At the SEC Coaches’ Luncheon at the Hyatt on Friday, emcee Dave Neal asked Nick Saban if it was easier to keep a team motivated as a favorite, or if being an underdog was preferable. Whereupon Mark Richt said, “What does he know about being an underdog?”

Saban’s Crimson Tide is favored today by eight points over Richt’s Bulldogs, but an awful lot of folks — this correspondent included — are picking Georgia. Still, this matchup couldn’t have caught Saban unaware.

“Last summer I was at the lake (Burton, where every  big-name college football coach has a summer house) and I was fooling around in the yard, and two guys rode up on JetSkis,” Saban told Richt at the luncheon. “One of them was your quarterback Aaron Murray and the other was your center (David Andrews). And they said, ‘We’ll see you in the SEC championship game.’ ”

And here both teams are, Alabama ranked No. 2 to …

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For Mark Richt and Georgia, the moment is finally at hand

Twelve years a Bulldog, Mark Richt's breakthrough moment has finally arrived. (AP photo by David Goldman)

Twelve years a Bulldog, Mark Richt's breakthrough chance comes Saturday. (AP photo by David Goldman)

Mark Richt apprenticed at Florida State when the Seminoles played for five national championships in eight seasons, and he came to Athens expecting more of the same. “That was the plan coming in,” he said Friday, “but it hasn’t happened yet.”

It could well happen Saturday. If Richt’s team wins the SEC championship game, the plan will have come to fruition. Twelve years Georgia’s coach, Richt has never been so close to playing for the BCS title. Twelve years Georgia’s coach, the path finally is clear.

A coach can never know when, or if, his moment will arrive. Richt had great early success – three division titles and two SEC championships in his first five years – and then he had rather less. We began to wonder if a fine career could ever bring the ultimate validation. Well, it’s there to be seized under the off-white roof of the Georgia Dome, there to be seized in the kind of …

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Without two key wins over UGA, would Saban be Saban?

The Blackout wipeout of 2008. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

The men of Saban get emphatic in the Blackout wipeout of 2008. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Nick Saban has coached only five games against Georgia (winning three), but two rank as watersheds. As Alabama readies to play the Bulldogs for the SEC championship, we pause to reflect on the role this infrequent opponent has played in the career of the man considered college football’s best coach.

Georgia at LSU, Sept. 20, 2003: This game came early in Saban’s fourth season at LSU at a time when he was considered just another good football man. He had worked five seasons at Michigan State without winning the Big Ten or gracing a significant bowl. His first three years in Baton Rouge had showed promise — the 2001 Tigers won the SEC Western Division with three league losses but upset No. 2 Tennessee for the league title — but LSU went 8-5 in 2002.

Coming off a 13-1 season and its first SEC championship since 1982, Georgia arrived at Tiger Stadium ranked No. 7 to LSU’s No. 11. The …

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