Archive for the ‘UGA/SEC’ Category

UGA’s path to the BCS title game? It’s not a straight shot

These are the Oregon Ducks. Georgia wouldn't mind seeing them lose. (AP photo)

These are the Oregon Ducks. Georgia wouldn't mind seeing them, er, quack up. (AP photo)

The last BCS title game not to include an SEC representative was staged in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4, 2006, exactly one year before Nick Saban was introduced as Alabama’s new coach. The last BCS title game to include a team from a conference other than the SEC was staged in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 10, 2011, and by now you’re sensing where I’m going with this.

Georgia is No. 5 in the BCS standings. If it wins the rest of its games, it will be 12-1 and the SEC champion. Is there any way a 12-1 SEC champion would NOT play for the BCS title?

Yes, this is putting a wobbly cart before a skittish horse. To get to 12-1, the Bulldogs have to beat Auburn, and then Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, and then would come Alabama. (Provided Alabama doesn’t do something crazy like lose to Texas A&M and Auburn, which it won’t.) Let’s assume Georgia arrives at the Dome on Dec. 1 having lost only once to play …

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Heat Check: Falcons and Bulldogs and Hawks, oh my!!!

Michael Turner is pumped after scoring on Big D. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Michael Turner, who can still play a bit, is pumped after scoring against Big D. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Our weekly Heat Check begins with the hottest team around. No, not Georgia State.

FALCONS: Made it to 8-0, disappointing Al Michaels and especially Cris Collinsworth in the process. Stacked 453 yards on Rob Ryan’s star-spangled Dallas defense. Next up is New Orleans in the Superdome, site of last December’s Drew Brees rub-it-in record-breaking. Barometer reading: Some in the national keep saying none of this matters if the Falcons don’t win a playoff game. When last I checked, there are no playoff games scheduled until January. Bradley’s Rule: Can’t win in January unless you qualify for the postseason, and being 8-0 makes qualification one less thing to sweat.

GEORGIA: That wobble at South Carolina aside, the Bulldogs are almost exactly where we figured they’d be. Picked to win the SEC East, they’re in position to do just that. Ranked No. 6 nationally in preseason, …

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On Aaron Murray, the TO binge and those scoring Ogletrees

Alec Ogletree gets bonus points for this soaring INT. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Alec Ogletree racked up major bonus points with this soaring interception. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

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

1. Aaron Murray is pretty darn good. He was sacked five times in the first half, twice off play-action fakes. (Generally speaking, play-action should buy an extra second.) He wound up completing 21 of 28 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns. The second touchdown came three seconds before the half after Murray pumped left, ducked right and threw long to Tavarres King. The third was a deep throw to Malcolm Mitchell down the right sideline for the touchdown that put Georgia ahead 21-10. Murray completed 13 of 15 second-half passes, with no sacks. Update: Murray now ranks sixth nationally in passing efficiency.

2. Five plays, four turnovers: Has there ever been a wilder sequence? For posterity’s sake, we recap the dizzying minute midway through the second quarter. Georgia’s Keith …

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UGA beats Ole Miss, and it’s back to Auburn for the clincher

Tavarres King takes it to the house -- and the band. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Tavarres King takes it to the house — and the waiting Redcoat Band. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Athens — Back to Auburn, another SEC East title on the line. Back to Auburn, where Mark Richt’s Bulldogs clinched the SEC East and knocked the lid off Georgia football  in 2002. Back to Auburn, and then back to the SEC championship game.

“We wish we hadn’t lost to South Carolina, but they took it to us,” said Alec Ogletree, the splendid linebacker. “But we came out every week still playing like we were going to get to the (Georgia) Dome. And now we control our own destiny.”

Back to Auburn for the clincher, back after a difficult beginning to this post-Florida letdown game. Back, not incidentally, off the strength of a play not unlike 70x Takeoff, the play that spawned the David Greene-to-Michael Johnson that won at Auburn 10 years ago.

Inside the final 30 seconds of this first half, the clock ticking after consecutive sacks, Georgia trying not to burn its final timeout, Ole …

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Live from UGA: Will we see a Cocktail Party hangover?

It won't be easy coming down from this. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

Coming down won't be easy. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

Athens – Let’s stipulate that Georgia cannot possibly be as energized for this week’s game as it was seven days ago. Let’s also stipulate that Georgia has more talent than Ole Miss and is playing at home. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Rebels took an early lead and held it awhile. It would, however, be positively stunning if Ole Miss led after four quarters.

It’s also worth noting that Florida, which lost to Georgia, trailed Missouri 7-0 at the half in Gainesville today. (Hey, wasn’t it just yesterday than even some Georgia fans considered Florida too good to lose?) But the Gators have since forged ahead 14-7. Which doesn’t mean they’ll hang on and win. It does, however, underscore the peril inherent in post-big-game blahs.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but motivation — especially the motivation of 20-year-old amateurs — is an ephemeral thing. The Bulldogs have had a week of being slapped on the back. (Surely some of …

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Heat Check: Dogs and Falcons are smokin’; Tech’s a-mopin’

Who's sitting pretty now? Alexander Ogletree, for one. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

Who's sitting pretty now? Alexander Ogletree, for one. His team, for another. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

Our weekly Heat Check was set back a day due to logistics (delayed-but-thankfully-not-canceled flight from Philadelphia on Sunday night), fatigue (mine) and breaking news (Dan Radakovich). But we’re up and running again. And we begin with:

GEORGIA: The Bulldogs won the game they had to win. (Some nut predicted as much, I do believe.) They’re exactly where I expected them to be, albeit not quite in the manner I expected. The question now becomes: Can they beat Alabama/LSU? Forecast: The same nut who liked Georgia to beat Florida sees no reason why the Bulldogs can’t give the West champ a run in the Dome come Dec. 1.

FALCONS: I put a 50 percent premium on road victories. (Even a lousy team, I figure, can luck out at home.) Sunday’s performance under ominous skies in a city that has never been kind to the Falcons was the most impressive regular-season road victory I’ve …

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Not many are picking Georgia over Florida. I am, though

This isn’t exactly a revelation, given that I made the prediction nearly five months ago, but here, for late tuners-in, it is: I like Georgia over Florida. Believe it or not, I’m not alone.

The many men of Scouts Inc.Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl – have declared on ESPN Insider (link requires registration) that the Bulldogs will beat the Gators 26-23. Their reasoning, conveniently enough, dovetails with what I’m now thinking. Back in May, I was thinking Georgia would simply be the better team. It hasn’t been to date, which doesn’t mean it can’t be Saturday.

From the Scouts Inc. preview:

Signs can’t always be trusted, especially in rivalry games. So don’t be surprised when Georgia turns in its most emotionally charged effort of the year. For 60 minutes, all the elite individual talent on Georgia’s defense will work together as a unit, and it will be enough to hand the Gators their first loss of the season.

I just watched Georgia barely beat one of the …

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Florida in Jax: Big for UGA, it’s even bigger for Mark Richt

"Did you know my team is 6-1?" (AP photo)

"Did you know my darn strong football team is 6-1?" (AP photo)

The surest sign that Mark Richt is miffed: He cites numbers. He did it back in 2006, when Georgia was 5-0 but coming off shaky victories over Colorado and Ole Miss. (Those Bulldogs would lose four of their next five games, FYI.) He did it at the end of the 2008 season, which began with Georgia ranked No. 1 but wound down with Richt trying to make 10-3 sound like a major achievement. He did it again Saturday night.

Responding to a question (mine, actually) about the possibility that the halting performance against Kentucky had been a function of focusing more on the Florida-South Carolina score than the opponent at hand, he stopped in mid-answer. “Know what?” he said, his voice rising. “I’m happy with the victory. We’re 6-1. That’s not bad.”

Know what? He’s right. Georgia is 6-1, and 6-1 isn’t at all bad. (It’s good enough for 10th place in the BCS standings.) But now comes Florida, and this game will do more than …

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Heat Check: UGA isn’t exactly the hot choice in Jacksonville

Mark Richt poses with the only Gator coach against whom he has a winning record. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Mark Richt with the only Gator against whom he has a winning record. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

The weekly Heat Check commences with a team that frankly didn’t look so hot Saturday night. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

GEORGIA: Picked in preseason to repeat as SEC East champs, the Bulldogs are a 6 1/2 point underdog to Florida on what is technically a neutral field. This tells us that the Gators have had the more impressive season to date, but you knew that already. Forecast: This doesn’t mean Georgia can’t win. On the contrary, how many times have the Bulldogs gone to Jacksonville with the better-looking team and lost?

FALCONS: Didn’t lose for the seventh consecutive Sunday. (Ha! Little joke!) But now the schedule gets intriguing, if not necessarily untenable. The next four opponents: Philadelphia (3-3), Dallas (3-3), New Orleans (2-4) and Arizona (4-3). Forecast: Win three of those four and the Falcons are looking at the NFC’s No. 1 seed come the playoffs. Win ‘em all and …

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On UGA’s good offense, patchy defense and weary coach

Mark Richt points out ... well, something in Georgia's victory over Kentucky. (AP photo)

Mark Richt points out … well, something in Georgia's victory over Kentucky. (AP photo)

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

1. Mark Richt looked tired after this one. It was late, and it had been a tough night, but still … the usual Richt bonhomie was missing. He said he was “very excited about the victory” and complimented Kentucky’s coaching and preparation, but after a round of questions bearing a distinctly negative tone he’d had enough. He stopped in mid-answer and said: “Know what? I’m happy with the victory. We’re 6-1. That’s not bad.”

2. Mike Bobo might not be a fan favorite, but he’s the Georgia coordinator having the better year by far. Had the Bulldogs’ offense sputtered here, they’d have lost. But they made no turnovers, which was huge, and Aaron Murray threw for 427 yards and three touchdowns against a Wildcat front that was stacked against the run. Thus did the Bulldogs escape, if only just. “I didn’t see any …

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