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Already setting Georgia State records, Hunter dreams bigger

Ron Hunter reacts placidly to the defeat of William & Mary. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Ron Hunter reacts placidly to the defeat of William & Mary. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Nine months on the job, Ron Hunter has already done something only one other Georgia State basketball coach ever did: He has won eight consecutive games, matching the record established by Lefty Driesell’s Panthers on their run to Round 2 of the 2001 NCAA tournament. Here, however, comes a disclaimer:

Not one of the eight teams the Panthers have beaten holds a winning record, and if you’ve ever wondered how an  8-3 team can have an RPI of 287, here’s your answer. According to ESPN Insider’s numbers, Georgia State has played the worst schedule among the 345 Division I teams. And here, bang on cue, came Hunter’s rebuttal.

“First of all, I didn’t make the schedule, but I’d rather play the Sisters of Poor 27 times and be 27-0. It’s more about winning than RPI. If my mother brought her team down here, I’d want to beat her — and I love my mother.”

And here Hunter, who in addition to being smart …

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Live from UGA’s clincher: Could Sugar be falling from the sky?

Georgia's last taste of Sugar. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Georgia's last taste of Sugar. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Athens – Overheard a fascinating conversation in the McDonald’s on Prince Avenue this morning, and I found it so fascinating I rushed to Ye Olde Stadium and started asking my colleagues if the gist of the conversation could in fact be true.

My fellow patron — didn’t catch his name, but he was wearing a Georgia cap, which I believe differentiates him from everyone else in town today — was speaking of Oklahoma State’s loss to Iowa State and saying it could clear the way for the Bulldogs to lose in the SEC championship game and still play in the Sugar Bowl. His reasoning: LSU and Alabama appear bound for the BCS title game, leaving the tied-to-the-SEC Sugar without a conference representative.

And this old eavesdropper put down his Sausage McMuffin and said, “Hmmmmm.”

Upon entering the press box, the first person I saw was esteemed colleague Tim Tucker, who’s the best person to see when you have a question about …

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Who saw Kimbrel-as-rookie-of-the-year coming? Well …

Gotta love the hermit-crab stance. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Gotta love the hermit-crab stance. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Not to say I’m smart or anything — we all know better — but I wasn’t surprised that Craig Kimbrel beat Freddie Freeman more than 2-to-1 in voting for the National League rookie of the year. (Kimbrel had 160 points, which is the maximum; Freeman, who finished second, had 70.)

I wasn’t surprised because having been a card-carrying member of the BBWAA since 1984, I’ve done this voting-for-awards thing and I know a bit about how baseball writers work. Maybe this gave me an unfair advantage, but when you’re as lousy at predictions as I am you need all the help you can get.

(A note: I haven’t done the voting-for-awards thing lately. The AJC decided a few years ago that its writers shouldn’t vote on yearly awards.)

Baseball writers look at numbers first. (Remember, a baseball writer can’t watch every inning of every team’s games.) When a baseball writer sees Freeman’s numbers, he/she thinks: “The guy hit .282 with 21 …

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Vince Dooley on Joe Paterno: ‘It’s an unfortunate situation’

Joe Paterno on the day he announced his intention to resign. (AP photo)

Joe Paterno on the day he announced his intention to resign at season's end. (AP photo)

Vince Dooley has known Joe Paterno for nearly 50 years. “We’re friends,” Dooley said. “Not close friends, but we started out together [Dooley became Georgia's head coach in 1964; Paterno took over at Penn State in 1966] and we coached in a college all-star game in Atlanta, and we went on a lot of Nike trips together. We got to know him and his wife Sue very well.”

Dooley spoke Wednesday morning, moments after Paterno announced his intention to retire at season’s end. And the man who retired from coaching in 1988 at 56 said this of the man who kept going until age 84: “It probably was time for him to retire.”

Dooley won one national championship at Georgia. On New Year’s Day 1983, his Bulldogs were denied another title by Paterno and Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. A defense coordinated by Jerry Sandusky held Heisman winner Herschel Walker to 103 yards rushing and lifted the Nittany Lions to a …

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The Braves aren’t in this World Series, but they’ll make it soon

It didn't end well for Michael Bourn and the Braves, but there's always next year. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

It didn't end well for Michael Bourn's team, but there's next year. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

A World Series is set to begin Wednesday without the Atlanta Braves, which has been the case with every World Series this millennium. And I know some among you were so disgusted by the Braves’ collapse that you can’t see this team reaching the Fall Classic for the next thousand years, but that’s just disappointment talking. In truth, the Braves aren’t far away.

Last October, the Braves were one out from taking a 2-1 Division Series lead over San Francisco, which would win the World Series. This fall the Braves were two outs from forcing a play-in game against St. Louis, which just won the National League pennant. I know most of you wouldn’t have given a farthing for the Braves’ chances in such a game, but consider: The Cardinals would have started Kyle Lohse in Game No. 163, and in his two postseason appearances he’s 0-2 with a 7.45 ERA.

That said, the two seasons were different. In …

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Auburn to the SEC East? It’s a cushy move – for the moment

Howdy there, Tiger folks. Welcome back to the neighborhood. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Howdy there, folks. Welcome back to the neighborhood. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Provided Kenneth Starr and Baylor don’t get litigious again, Missouri is expected to become the SEC’s 14th member at any moment. And with Missouri and Texas A&M arriving as Nos. 14 and 13, somebody from the current SEC West will have to move to the East for the sake of balance. Most folks expect the mover to be Auburn — although Alabama, being its selfish self, is making noises about preferring that its arch-enemy stay put — and how would Auburn feel about upping sticks?

Pretty darn good.

Auburn is based in the Central Time Zone by the grace of 25 miles. It’s almost as close to Atlanta’s southern suburbs as to the capital of Alabama. The Tigers’ greatest rival has always been the school in Tuscaloosa, duh, but for most of Auburn’s existence its next-biggest rivals were Georgia and Florida and Tennessee. (And don’t forget Georgia Tech, which is now out of reach in the ACC, which will require …

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Parrish the thought: Braves change minds, can hitting coach

Larry Parrish, seen in his one and only spring training with the Braves. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Larry Parrish, seen in his one and only spring training with the Braves. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

It made no sense that Fredi Gonzalez would announce, barely 12 hours after the worst collapse in National League history was complete, that his entire coaching staff would return. It made no sense that such a flop wouldn’t spawn at least some measure of re-evaluation.

Today the Braves started making sense. They fired hitting coach Larry Parrish. We can only assume Frank Wren saw what everybody else except Fredi G. saw — that the hitting had been substandard all season.

To reiterate: This should not have been a bad-hitting team. This wasn’t a lineup built around the fanciful notion that Troy Glaus might revert to 2002 form. (Although Troy Glaus did, in May 2010, revert to 2002 form.) The lineup the Braves trotted out after the trading deadline was comprised of seven guys who have made an All-Star roster and the league’s best-hitting rookie. Wren stitched together a fine everyday …

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Alas, fixing UGA will require more than a few Richt ‘tweaks’

"How the heck did we win that thing, anyway?" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"How the heck did we win that goshdarn thing, anyway?" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Looking lousy against Boise State was one thing. Looking good but losing anyway was, in its way, worse. After the Georgia Bulldogs congratulated themselves on their Great Effort against South Carolina, the thought occurred:

Does Nick Saban congratulate himself after losses?

There are two ways to regard the bizarre doings of Saturday night. Mark Richt’s sunny-side-up stance was to speak of his team having “all the ingredients” and just needing “to tweak a couple of things.” The burnt-toast way is to reference the scoreboard and note that, once again, Richt’s team did whatever it took to lose.

You don’t go from losing half of your past 30 games to winning championships by tweaking. If anyone should know, it’s Richt. The march to the 2002 SEC championship was fueled by the desire — Richt’s words — to knock the lid off Georgia football. (The Bulldogs had gone two decades without a title.) …

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If nobody kept score, UGA did well. Someone did, and it lost

His teams used to win these games. What happened? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

His teams used to win these games. What happened? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Athens – It was there for Georgia, the second-biggest game of Mark Richt’s stewardship, same as the biggest game this coach has worked had been there that cold day at Auburn nine years ago. His Bulldogs needed one drive to win. On Nov. 16, 2002, the prize had been Georgia’s first SEC East title. On this warm and frenzied Saturday, the prize was ….

A sliver of job security? Yes. A hushing, even if only a temporary one, of a roiled Bulldog Nation? Sure. A leg up on another SEC East title? Absolutely.

One drive to win. At Auburn, it had come down to fourth-and-14, to 70-X-Takeoff, to David Greene throwing and Michael Johnson leaping over Horace Willis. That was the victory that made us believe Richt’s Bulldogs could win any game, degree of difficulty be hanged.

But that was then, and this, sorry to say, is now. And now we can say of the same coach — the same but different — that his team can  manage …

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The All-UGA Heat Check: Hot – Mark Richt’s seat. (Duh)

Isaih Crowell: It wasn't all (or even mostly) his fault, folks. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Isaiah Crowell: It wasn't all (or even mostly) his fault, folks. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

The Monday Heat Check arrives, due to the holiday, a day later than usual. Georgia fans might wish it didn’t arrive at all. Because it’s all about the Bulldogs.

Mark Richt’s nerve: It was in place. Georgia won the toss and chose to receive. Get After Their Assets, as the famous Bulldog slogan (sort of) goes. Trouble was, the players’ nerves were jumping all over the place. There was a false start before the first snap, another false start on third down and a delay of game before the punt. Heat Index: Richt tried to be cool, but his players were uncool.

Todd Grantham’s pass defense: Kellen Moore threw 34 passes. One was intercepted. (He was pressured and threw poorly.) Five were incompletions. Twenty-eight were completed. Georgia mustered no sacks. Heat Index: If this is aggressive D at its best, Willie Martinez is Buddy Ryan.

Mike Bobo’s offense: It managed 373 yards, which doesn’t sound …

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