Saturday, November 29, 2014

GT/GA: The Jaws of Victory

GT/UGA Game Notes: Hadn’t said much leading up to the GA/GT game. What I’d said back in August still rang true: Tech’s defense would not be able to stop Georgia’s offense, and the superior athletes on the Dawg defense would stuff the Tech option. Justin Thomas could make the game closer, but Synjin Days would not be able to duplicate the success of Zack Laskey.

As the game played out, all this proved to be true. What I had not predicted were two things: UGA would twice fumble on the one yard line (the clear difference in the game) and Paul Johnson would do his best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Down a mere seven points in the first quarter, Johnson began calling more passing plays. He should have mixed it up on the ground. UGA might’ve been stuffing the run on the outside, but they’d had success running up the middle – particularly when Laskey finally entered the game. Smelter’s knee was twisted by a UGA DB after he was down, and GT had to settle for a field goal attempt. Harrison Butker took his sweet time and the kick was blocked. Whatever momentum Tech had built driving down the field was lost.

Despite Johnson’s early abandonment of the running game, GT once again drove down the field for a game-tying touchdown just before the half – after a SECOND fumble recovery on the one yard line.

In the second half penalties continued to hound Tech. Needing to play a perfect game to have a chance, the Jackets drew penalties on two of the first three plays of the half. Even the announcers knew Laskey was quicker than Days (who was fortunate to not lose his fumble). This pronouncement would prove to be a game-changer.

With Tech poised to go up 14-7, Thomas’ apparent touchdown turned into a 98 yard fumble return TD for UGA’s Damien Swann – because the whistle had not yet been blown. Horrible call by the officials. Also a horrible call by Johnson – he should’ve had goal line QB Tim Byerly in the game on the first and goal. Momentum continued to swing UGA’s way on the ensuing kickoff when Golden foolishly ran it out of the end zone. An illegal motion penalty, no gain by Days, dropped pass, incompletion, poor punt, dropped interception - GT was in full self-destruct mode.  
But somehow Tech stopped UGA, blocked a field goal, and marched down the field for a game-tying Laskey touchdown. Could’ve been 24-7 Tech or 28-14 Georgia.

In the fourth quarter GT stopped UGA again – only to have a fake field goal give the Dawgs a first and goal. On the tackle the GT defender almost took Marshal Morgan’s head off – but again no call by the inept officiating crew. Georgia was unable to score on five tries, and had to settle for a field goal.  And GT drives 13 plays 13 plays 80 yards 6:51 off the clock to take the lead on ANOTHER Laskey TD run, with four minutes remaining.

While UGA failed to cover the ensuing kick, GT failed to hold onto the ball. Instead of continuing to run up the middle Johnson had Thomas run around in the backfield, taking two straight losses. The replay clearly showed Thomas’ arm moving forward in a throwing motion, but again the officials made the wrong call. Georgia went down to the wire (another 4th & goal) but scored the go-ahead TD on a Mason to Marshall toss.

Thomas scrambled 21 yards and ran out of bounds with four seconds left. The next sequence would decide the game. The play clock started, but the field goal unit took its time setting up. UGA called time out with four seconds remaining on the play clock - though it was obvious Tech would not snap the ball before the play clock ran out. Even if Tech had snapped the ball, the inconsistent Butker would've never made a rushed kick. As it was, Butker’s 53 yard field goal barely made it over the cross bar.

Butker celebrated like he had won the game, when in fact he would soon be called on again with the game on the line. Sure enough, after Laskey scored his third TD of the game, Butker’s all-important point after was blocked. Typical Tech. Only DJ White’s game-winning pass interception saved the Jackets from defeat.

Immediately after the game the very UGA fans who last year were so quick to rub in their win mysteriously disappeared off social media. Tech fans celebrated, but not obnoxiously.  

SC/CLEMSON: On the other channel, Clemson and Deshaun Watson had tied Carolina – then went ahead 21-7 before the freshman’s knee gave out. Instead of running out the clock, much-maligned backup Cole Stoudt threw an interception. The resulting field goal cut the lead to 21-10.

Watson returned in the second half and upped the score to 28-10 – and stopped SC on a fourth and goal. With the momentum, Clemson went on to a decisive victory.

KY/LOU: needing a Kentucky win to enhance Tech’s Orange Bowl chances, the Wildcats jumped out to an early lead. Louisville came back to take a 21-20 halftime lead and win the game in a squeaker. Should Tech lose next week, these wins by Louisville and Clemson could bode bad for Tech's Orange Bowl hopes.

MICHIGAN/OHIO STATE: the underdog Wolverines jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but the Buckeyes were able to tie the game at the half – and cruise to a 42-28 victory despite losing their QB. Oh how I hope they don’t jump into the top four.

MO/ARK: Dawg Disappointment

ARKANSAS/MISSOURI: The Razorbacks started strong but were the victims of two bad calls late in the first half. An Arkansas recovery of a Maty Mauk (above) fumble deep in Tiger territory was overturned, then a defensive lineman’s thoughtless love pat was called roughing the passer. These two calls completely changed the complexion - and outcome - of the game.
The third-string CBS announcers spent the entire game reminding viewers than an Arkansas win meant a Georgia berth in the SEC Championship game. This quickly got old. 
Missouri’s kicker was in a slump and hadn’t made one from longer than 42 yards all year, but instead of making him rush the kick Arkansas called time out. With plenty of time to get set the kicker calmly drilled the 52 yarder. With nine seconds remaining in the half Arkansas once again called time – just when the Missouri kicker pulled the 50 yarder to the left. Given a second chance, the kicker nailed the kick. Missouri led 14-6 at the half, instead of possibly trailing by a 21-3 score.
That Missouri scoring drive that closed the first half completed the momentum shift. At the beginning of the second half the Tigers forced Arkansas to punt, and Missouri drove the field – only to have their field goal attempt blocked.
Arkansas’ poor record can be traced to a lack of discipline, resulting in costly penalties and turnovers. Also questionable coaching decisions. These continued against Missouri. The time outs, a fake punt that worked – though it happened when QB Brandon Allen had gone cold. After completing 6 of his first 7 Allen (above) was hit hard, then went 2 – 10 while sailing pass after pass.

Arkansas lost the lead and fell behind. It was clear to everyone except the head coach that Brandon could not lead a comeback. No wonder Arkansas is such a poor program. This coach is not the answer. Too bad UGA fans had to hope the woeful Arkansas team had to win a third straight SEC game. On fourth down the Razorbacks were called for delay of game and then offsides. Only a questionable personal foul penalty kept Arkansas hopes alive. QB Brandon Allen may have been courageous, but the only reason he should’ve finished the game was because Brandon was better hurt than his brother was healthy.

An Arkansas fumble was clearly recovered by the running back while the tackler was on top of him. As soon as the ball was secured the play was over, yet replay official John Bible erroneously allowed the Missouri defender to steal the dead ball. Game over – as well as UGA’s hopes.
Two plays later RB Hansburough was injured and carted off – along with Missouri’s SEC Championship hopes. Looks like another conference championship for the SEC West.     
LIONS/BEARS: The Stafford to Calvin combo was in full gear, and the Bears did not look good.
EAGLES/COWBOYS: Dallas continues to struggle. I say Romo is the problem. Eagles QB Sanchez continued his return to prominence.
SEAHAWKS/49ERS: Like Dallas, the problem with the 49ers is the low-ranked quarterback.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Secret to Tech's Success

Sorry to wear out the Total Quarterback Rating theme, but here's another post on the topic. The stat accurately rates both passing and running signal-callers, and serves as a barometer to the overall success of the team. ESPN has published this rating since 2004, and with Georgia Tech having perhaps its best season in the past eleven years, it is no wonder that Justin Thomas is having by far the highest rated season over that span.

The rating accurately compares quarterback play from year to year. Based on the rating, Justin Thomas is by far the best quarterback the Jackets have had in some time. In parenthesis is the QB's overall national rank, which until this year has been quite poor.

83.8 Justin Thomas 2014 (5) sophomore
50.8 Josh Nesbitt 2009 (63) junior
49.9 Reggie Ball 2005 (67) junior
49.5 Tevin Washington 2012 (76) senior
48.9 Tevin Washington 2011 (81) junior
46.3 Reggie Ball 2004 (54) sophomore
43.8 Josh Nesbitt 2008 (85) sophomore
43.5 Reggie Ball 2006 (73) senior
43.2 Vad Lee 2013 (104) sophomore
42.8 Taylor Bennett 2007 (90)
41.6 Tevin Washington 2010 (88) sophomore
38.5 Josh Nesbitt 2010 (96) senior
Thomas is the highest-rated ACC quarterback this year, ahead of the troubled Jameis Winston. Having led the Jackets to an ACC Coastal Division championship, Thomas would be a deserving choice for ACC player of the year and first team All-ACC.

This has been the first year that Tech's quarterback has been rated higher than UGA's. It is therefore no wonder that the Dawgs have dominated the series during that time.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

11/22 Total QB Rating

1. 91.8 Marcus Mariota, Oregon
2. 87.0 Blake Sims, Alabama
3. 84.6 Taysom Hill, Brigham Young
4. 84.2 JT Barrett, Oklahoma State
5. 83.8 Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
6. 82.0 Kenny Hill, Texas A&M
7. 81.5 Nick Marshall, Auburn
8. 80.2 Hutson Mason, Georgia
9. 80.0 Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
10. 79.9 Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
11. 79.8 Trevor Knight, Oklahoma
12. 79.0 Jameis Winston, Florida State
14. 78.5 Tyler Murphy, Boston College
15. 78.5 Brett Hundley, UCLA
20. 75.5 Marquise Williams, North Carolina
22. 73.9 Dylan Thompson, South Carolina
24. 73.6 Everett Golson, Notre Dame
30. 70.7 Trevone Boykin, Texas Christian
32. 70.2 Brad Kaaya, Miami
34. 69.7 Brandon Allen, Arkansas
35. 69.4 Kevin Ellison, Georgia Southern
38. 68.5 Bryce Petty, Baylor (Heisman hopeful?)
40. 66.4 Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
42. 64.6 Chad Voytik, Pittsburgh
47. 63.2 Anthony Boone, Duke
50. 61.9 Will Gardner, Louisville
56. 59.5 Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State
62. 58.4 Tyrone Swoopes, Texas
64. 57.8 Justin Worley, Tennessee
68. 57.1 Patrick Towles, Kentucky
70. 55.5 Greyson Lambert, Virginia
77. 53.9 Nick Arbuckle, Georgia State
80. 47.9 Maty Mauk, Missouri
94. 46.6 CJ Brown, Maryland
95. 45.5 Devin Gardner, Michigan
97. 45.4 Cole Stoudt, Clemson
99. 43.8 Anthony Jennings, Louisiana State
100. 43.8 Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech
105. 41.5 Jeff Driskel, Florida (why Muschamp was fired)
107. 40.7 Colin Reardon, Kentucky
119. 32.5 Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
123. 27.8 John Wolford, Wake Forest

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Greatest 31 Ever?

Watched the MLB Network's show listing the greatest player by uniform number, a countdown from 50 to one. Was tempted to list them, but quit watching after the greatest-ever 31 was bestowed on Ferguson Jenkins. The Cubs waited until Greg Maddux retired to retire 31 for both Jenkins and Greg Maddux.

Fergie earned his hall of fame enshrinement, and may have been the greatest Canadian to wear 31, but in every category Maddux bested Jenkins. HOF voters listed Greg on 97% of the ballots but Jenkins garnered only a 75% share. The Baseball Reference Fan-EloRater listed Maddux as the 5th greatest pitcher. Jenkins ranked 45th. 

The show boasted of Jenkins control - he walked only 997 batters in 4500 innings. Yet Maddux pitched 508 more innings and walked only TWO more batters than Fergie. Maddux's winning percentage was higher and his ERA lower.

Maddux won at least 15 games a record 17 straight years. Jenkins could only muster a 6 year streak (though all six were 20 wins or more - in a different era, but for the woeful Cubs). Maddux had more sacrifice bunts than any other right-handed pitcher in history, and won a record 18 Gold Gloves. Jenkins never won a Gold Glove.  


Some other numbers I remember:
50 Sid Fernandez. Sid wore 50 to honor his home state - Hawaii.
47 Tom Glavine
44 Hank Aaron
41 Tom Seaver
29 Rod Carew
25 Barry Bonds

Charles Qualls and I seem to be on the same page about the Braves offseason plans. So far no fan has stepped up with $50 million to fund all the moves the fans think are necessary. The Dodgers and Yankees each spent $200 million last year and neither reached the Series. Neither fired their manager.

MONDAY: I’m working tomorrow and it may be busy. Thursday may not be as busy as Friday, and Saturday the GT/GA game could be more entertaining than SC/Clemson. If the inside info I received late Saturday holds, look for a Clemson upset.

M and A had a guitar lesson. Ceil cooked grilled chicken, salad, hash browns, green beans and white potatoes, and mashed sweet potatoes. Watched Sadie on DWTS, then drove to pick up M.

WEDNESDAY: Woke at 7 am and spent most of the day in front of the laptop. Ate at Beth's Country Kitchen. A buffet. Ate turkey, dressing, mac & cheese, green beans, corn, potato salad, slaw. Some of the dishes were great, others poor. Passed on the ham, fried chicken, rolls, mashed potatoes, and several other offerings. More turkey tomorrow then chicken tetrazzini on Friday. 

Gravity – great movie. Fever Pitch is one of my favorites. Interesting that in the movie Steven King is shown throwing out the first pitch. King says in his book Faithful that the movie people got the Red Sox to get King to throw out the first pitch so it will be in the movie. Funny how those two things intertwined. Sunday I watched “For the Love of the Game” on MLB again. I like that movie as well.

TIRE DEALS: Before she went Ceil kept asking questions about Tire Deals. I told her I’d bought all our tires there for the past ten years, and that Rob was a customer as well. She thought the guy was weird. He talked her into paying $5 more for a better tire. I had called him in advance to give him the tire size. He said there was an hour wait – people must be off for Thanksgiving. Ceil ran some errands first and didn’t have to wait.

Traded for a bobblehead the Dodgers gave away, of Cub Rick Monday rescuing the American flag from protesters trying to set the flag on fire in the Dodger Stadium outfield (it’s just Monday and the flag). 

A and M got to stay out late at Clemson hanging out with college students, so they had fun. They also ran out on the field after the game.

Banana pudding. Some of that stuff looks good not but it’s not all that tasty.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Vintage NFL Jerseys

I’ve done this before, but I this time I tried to reach further back into time for a cool jersey from each NFL team. Picked white jerseys for the Cardinals and Giants since they have stripes. Every team has worn some sort of striped jersey (S) with the exception of the Raiders and Ravens.
Buccaneers 8 Steve Young (cream) S
Falcons 17 Bob Berry (black) S
Panthers 92 Reggie White (black) S
Saints 17 Billy Kilmer (black) S
Cowboys 32 Walt Garrison (blue) S
Eagles 17 Norm Van Brocklin (green) S
Giants 16 Frank Gifford (white) S
Redskins 42 Charlie Taylor (burgundy) S
Cardinals 8 Larry Wilson (white) S
49ers 14 YA Tittle (red) S
Rams 74 Merlin Olsen (white) S
Seahawks 80 Steve Largent (blue) S
Bears 41 Brian Piccolo (navy) S
Lions 71 Alex Karras (blue) S
Packers 64 Jerry Kramer (green) S
Vikings 70 Jim Marshall (purple) S
Bills 15 Jack Kemp (blue) S
Dolphins 21 Jim Kiick (aqua) S
Jets 13 Don Maynard (green) S
Patriots 73 John Hannah (red) S
Colts 82 Raymond Berry (blue) S
Jaguars 5 Blake Bortles (black) S
Texans 66 JJ Watt (blue) S
Titans 80 Randy Moss (light blue) S
Broncos 25 Haven Moses (orange) S
Chargers 21 John Hadl (powder blue) S
Chiefs 3 Jan Stenerud (red) S
Raiders 25 Fred Belitnikoff (black)
Bengals 80 Chris Collinsworth (black) S
Browns 76 Lou Groza (brown) S
Ravens 4 Joe Flacco (Black)
Steelers 5 Terry Hanratty (black) S

Monday, November 24, 2014

Adventures by the Lake

Ceil picked me up at work on Friday at 3:45 and we beat traffic out of town. Showed her mother the Sugarloaf Country Club, where some PGA events take place. Made it to the new Holiday Inn Express in Clemson just before cousin Phil. The eleven of us ate across the street at McAllister’s Deli – a turkey melt and potato salad. After hanging around the hotel Phil and I took the kids over to Vic’s apartment. I was fast asleep when M knocked on the door at 1:30 am.

Met Phil and Rusty downstairs for breakfast early Saturday morning. Drove out to Jackson’s condo to pick up tickets and pick up tailgate supplies from BI-LO. Phil’s beer was on sale super cheap ($9.99 for 24 cans). I almost bought some for myself (joke).

Left the hotel at 11 am and tailgated next to Littlejohn Coliseum, across from the athletic offices. Ate chicken tenders on King Hawaiian rolls, chips and salsa and onion dip, and Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies. Had non-diet Pepsi and Mtn Dew to drink. Ali brought one packet of Chickfila sauce. Walked down to the football practice fields to visit Beau’s tailgate. Missed the Tiger walk.

Rusty loves to get to the stadium early to watch the warm-ups, which was fine with me. A GSU fan was yelling at Clemson QB Cole Stoudt, giving him the business. Saw nephew Ben help with warm-ups. Anna sat with their cousins in the end zone, near where the Tigers run down the hill. In the second half M would join them.

Infrequent game-goers Phil and I broke out the orange for the game. I wore my orange Nike KD basketball shoes (Beau’s friend complimented me on them). During the game I was squeezed in next to tobacco-spittin’ Phil, and I had little footroom to shield my KD’s from the spray. They didn’t get too dirty (wearing them in Sunday’s rain actually cleaned off the neon yellow soles) but when I got home I cleaned them again. Also wore my sweet Nike Clemson coach’s jacket. Bought it five years ago at a thrift store, and got to wear it for the first time. Phil and I were in orange, but 60% of the crowd bought into the “purple out” – wearing purple to match the team’s purple jerseys and pants. GSU broke out a new black alternate helmet.

Since it was senior day each senior came down the hill individually, and then posed for a picture with Dabo. After Army vet WR Daniel Rodriquez had his picture taken I noticed he backtracked to the goalpost, then back up the hill. Since it was military appreciation day, Rodriquez led the team down the hill, carrying a huge American flag with one hand. It occurred to me that I did not know if Rodriquez only carried the flag at the annual military appreciation day, or at every game. Rusty didn’t seem to be a fan, so I didn’t ask (after the game Rodriquez’ name came up, so I asked – only at the military game).

At the end of the national anthem five vintage airplanes flew overhead in formation. Ben’s boss flew with them to film the event but the cameras failed. Two Army skydivers parachuted into the stadium with the game ball. An Army chaplain gave a generic invocation. An impressive pregame.

With Stoudt under center, Clemson’s office was tepid, but managed to score four first-half touchdowns. They stuck with vanilla play calls: mostly runs, screens, and short passes. The defense effectively shut down Georgia State, whose offense posed no real threat the whole way. Rodriquez had a good game, reeling off a 24 yard punt return and darting away for a 21 yard reception. He graduates in December and moves to LA – the book about his journey from wounded soldier to walk-on Clemson Tiger is being made into a movie.

Just before halftime I noticed a group of flag twirlers huddled together in prayer down on the sidelines. I’m sure liberals detested the game-long display of faith and military might. I turned to Matthew and predicted that the Clemson band would repeat the halftime show they performed in Atlanta – and they did.

Near the end of the game I noticed many of the remaining Clemson fans making their way down toward the front row: they were preparing to rush the field when the clock struck zero. When the game ended Rusty and I watched the rush, and laughed seeing the girls sprinting toward the middle of the field. They wanted to snap photos with heartthrob Cole.

Eventually Rusty and I returned to the car. Soon the girls came running up, squealing about their pictures with an oblivious Cole in the background. Hilarious.  Then we walked back to the stadium – Ben had arranged a meeting of Cole and his sister Jordan. Saw the university president drive up in a custom EZGO golf car.

After the photos Ben finally came out and we met the rest of the group (15) at a Mexican restaurant (three tables). The place was packed but the service was great – they’re used to a post-game rush. Ceil and I split a plate. Very good. Got back in time to see Tennessee fail to upset Missouri. Ceil fell asleep. Anna and the girls gallivanted around town, making a late night run to Walmart.

Drove back to Atlanta in the rain. Will had returned from his Ohio trip in time to see the second half of Thomas’ state championship game (their rival beat them). Sunday night Will rode up with Joel to hang out at his school for a couple of days. I did laundry and rested. Ate leftovers. Ceil wanted to watch a movie, so we watched “The Mirror Has Two Faces” and Jay Leno’s Mark Twain Award show. 

Some of the roads in Alpharetta have changed now that the Westside Parkway has been built, so I’ve actually taken a wrong turn or two over there as well. I haven’t checked out the Forum place on Old Milton Parkway yet, but I know there are some new restaurants opening over there. The Forum is kinda like that shopping center across from Perimeter Mall where the Target and lots of restaurants are. I haven’t been to the Forum yet, or whatever it’s called. Matthew is trying to get hired on at a Tex Mex place there.

Clemson is another place I get lost. All the roads look the same, but with the lake nearby all the roads all veer off into the country. Jefferson and nearby Pageland are so small that it’s hard to get lost.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Recently I was reminded of my college days, when the BSU gang would sit together at football games. Fred O and I (and later Jim Johnson) would initiate cheers in the east stands upper deck student section.

My favorite was the Fumble cheer, where we would spell out the word F-U-M-B-L-E and cheer the word twice. I started adding my own words for fun: BUMBLE, RUMBLE, STUMBLE, HUMBLE, and MUMBLE. We’d pronounce humble with the silent H, and for mumble we’d just mutter “mmmmm…” twice.

The cheers were always spur of the moment, and never planned out in advance. It wasn’t like 2014 when I sit in front of a computer and type things out. Had I planned the cheers ahead of time I might’ve added the following words: CRUMBLE, GRUMBLE, JUMBLE, and TUMBLE.

Over the years my comedic mind has become more twisted. If I were still leading the same cheer today I would add some of the following words: BRAMBLE, RAMBLE, SHAMBLE, TRAMPLE, TROMBONE, GUMMBO, GOOGLE, and YAHOO. And maybe JUS-TIN and THO-MAS.

Reminds me of working at the Omni International Chickfila. We re-wrote the “I am a C” song for Chickfila…

I am a C
I am a C-H
I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N
And I have C-H-R-I-S-T in my H-E-A-R-T
And I will L-I-V-E   E-T-E-R-N-A-L-L-Y

I am a C
I am a C-H
I am a C-H-I-C-K-F-I-L-A
And I have C-H-I-C-K  ‘N’ my M-O-U-T-H
and I will R-E-G-U-R-G-I-T-A-T-E   I-T

Saturday, November 22, 2014

ACC Division Champs

Watched Duke/UNC and loved it. Could’ve been even more of a blowout – NC blew three straight scoring opportunities in the red zone. Both teams suffered from numerous mistakes from their supposedly athletic/play-making quarterbacks. UNC QB Marquise Williams sacks and fumbles gave Duke plenty of chances to come back. ESPN’s David Pollock was spot on, reminding viewers that UNC’s weak defense made no lead safe. Boone’s poor play and turnovers lost the game for Duke. Coach David Cutcliffe had done a great job in Durham, building a worthy advisory to Georgia Tech. Duke is now 4-3 in the weak ACC. They’ll beat Wake, but they’re really not that good.

The Jackets have now won the ACC Coastal Division four times in Paul Johnson’s seven years – not too bad of a record. As I have said, of all the Coastal teams Tech provides FSU the toughest competition in the ACC Championship Game. As Mark Bradley wrote not long after UNC’s win, FSU has trailed against opponent after opponent this year. Should Tech take a lead and win the time of possession battle, FSU could struggle to win. With a more experienced Justin Thomas back under center next year, a healthy stable of talented running backs, and an improved defense, Tech should be the favorite to win the division again next year. Miami is improving, but Duke has peaked, Virginia Tech is in shambles, and UNC could be on probation.

Thomas’ Total QB Rating is higher than Winston’s, or any other ACC QB. Thomas has also rushed for the most yards. Justin is deserving of the ACC Player of the Year and first team All-ACC, though the North Carolina-centered press will probably ignore Thomas in favor of the more mistake-prone Williams or Boone.. Voters could also ignore Winston’s numerous transgressions and give the honors to him. Either scenario would be a travesty.

Not sure this birth in the ACC Championship game helps GT’s Orange Bowl chances. Should Tech lose the next two games (and they probably will) they could fall behind Duke or Clemson or Louisville in the rankings. The Orange Bowl invites the top ranked ACC school not headed to the playoff. While it’s doubtful Duke or Clemson will sufficiently rebound, should FSU lose to rival Florida they’d get the Orange Bowl nod. Louisville could also sneak ahead. This could once again drop Tech to a third tier bowl game, though the Peach Bowl often takes the second-highest rated ACC team. The Peach would much rather grab Louisville’s rabid fan base. Since the Jackets are headed to Charlotte for the ACC Championship, they won’t be invited back to the Belk Bowl. If NYC’s Pinstripe doesn’t take Tech, there could be another Sun Bowl trip in the Jacket’s future.  

Last Saturday: at the Tech/Clemson game the lady in front of my got the loaded nachos. Actually looked like tater tots with maybe BBQ. Looked very good.

Tuesday: Ceil took her mother to Athens Tuesday to visit Will. They brought back UGA shirts for A and M. They returned earlier than I expected, around 8 pm. I gassed up all three cars last night so none would have to be filled up when it was so cold on Wednesday. My low fuel light was on, so I filled up on the way home. Anna’s Jeep had 16 miles to empty, so I used Kroger points at Shell. While moving the CRV I saw it had 44 miles to empty, so I had to go out again.

Wednesday: My shoulder had been hurting for almost a month. Thought it was bursitis (whatever that is) or something. Wasn’t getting better. This morning at 5:45 am Barney jumped up on the bed like he usually does, and started his usual rooting around my pillow and head. He stepped on my shoulder and popped it back into place. No more pain!

Will was home. Anna was at art. Ceil cooked chili. TV was on a Food Network show. I caught up on emails. Will is driving to Ohio tomorrow with MC’s older sister to look at a school for her.

Thursday: Soup and salad for supper. Ceil and her mom had eaten lunch with Nancy at Noelle’s, and had brought home the leftover soup. M and A went to the premiere of the new Hunger Games movie.

Friday: Everyone in the office brought in breakfast items this morning, so I am stuffed. Breakfast casseroles, breakfast burritos, biscuits, bagels, doughnuts, sweet rolls, OJ, chocolate milk, two types of sausage, muffins, and more. I brought a huge crock pot of grits that Ceil cooked this morning. Tried to stay away from the bread and grits, but I did have a few sweets. More breakfast for lunch.

Not long ago I lost my credit card and couldn’t find it. Finally ordered a replacement. Took my car to the carwash and they cleaned out the insides. When I got in my car they had found the credit card. I keep losing my black wallet. I need to get a bright yellow wallet.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Divided Loyalties

At work there’s not a huge consensus for a favorite football team. Loyalties are spread pretty thin. Even the always popular Georgia Bulldogs don’t have a huge following. I started with my office, added other workers in the building, and then others throughout the the Southeast.  

Alabama: Debby, Amanda
Arkansas: Tim, James 
Auburn: Tim
Central Florida: Chris 
Clemson: Marsha 
Cowboys: Wanda’s husband
Duke: Andy 
Falcons: Greg 
Florida: Steve 
Florida State: Eric 
49ers: Darryl 
Georgia: Sandra, Andrea, Damon, Doug
Georgia Southern: Clayton 
Georgia State: Dennis, Andrew
Georgia Tech: Thomas, Jeff 
Houston: Kaye 
LSU: Dick
Louisiana Tech: Jeff
Miami: Steve
Missouri: Jim
North Carolina: Gloria
NC State: Brian 
Ohio State: Sue, Rob 
Panthers: Eric 
Patriots: Sue, Joe 
South Carolina: Steve 
Steelers: Kevin
Tennessee: Jon 
Texas A&M: Keith, Alan, Ben  
Valdosta State: Alex
Wisconsin: Dale 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How Will My Obit Read?

Saw where a 96 year old Falcon fan passed away. His obituary said he attended more Falcon games than anyone. Was friends with legend Jeff Van Note, owner Arthur Blank, and coach Mike Smith. Ate with Bill Fralic. Went to the Indy 500 every year and lots other sporting events. Good for him. I may be a sports fan, but I certainly don’t attend 99% of the games. My sister attends more Braves games than me. I go to less than four percent of the Braves games, and far fewer football and basketball games. I hardly ever watch the NFL, NBA, NHL, college basketball or baseball - in person or on TV. I detest the Little League World Series.

I may be a sports fan, but sure I hope that’s not the main topic of my obituary. I’d like to think there’s more to me than that. It would be ok to mention all the Peachtree Road Races I ran (28 so far), the three times I carried the Olympic Torch, or that I scored in the state championship football game. Maybe I made some people laugh. The years and trips serving as a youth leader and summer camp counselor. And most importantly: that I loved and served God, as well as my wife and kids.

My shoulder had been hurting for almost a month. Thought it was bursitis (whatever that is) or something. This morning at 5:45 Barney jumped on the bed like he usually does, and was rooting around my pillow and head like he does. He stepped on my shoulder and popped it back into place. No more pain!

Ceil took her mother to Athens Tuesday to visit Will. They brought back UGA shirts for A and M. I gassed up all three cars last night so none would have to be filled up this morning. My low fuel light was on, so I filled up on the way home. Anna’s Jeep had 16 miles to empty, so I used Kroger points at Shell. While moving the CRV I saw it had 44 miles to empty.

Will is drove to Ohio today with MC’s older sister to look at a school for her, so he will miss the trip to Clemson.

Last Thursday I meant to leave work at 11 am but didn’t leave until 2:45 pm. Drove straight to pick up bed while on phone for work the whole time. Then drove to Kroger while making another 30 minutes of calls. Went home and raked in the dark. Friday I rushed home at noon. Ceil was with her friends mourning the loss of her good friend Nancy’s mother (she was 89). Anna and I cleaned up. Drove M to Woodstock for guitar and bought him a coveted jean jacket and warm stocking cap for the Tech game.

After all the cleaning and yardwork and driving around I’d done the past week and a half, I finally relaxed on Sunday. Ceil’s brother’s gang departed around 10:30. We all went to Moe’s for lunch. Drove M down to PCC and later went back to pick him up. Ceil and her mom went to Publix. Ate chicken salad for supper. Others ate leftover lasagna or grits (Anna). Emily, Anna’s “future roommate” came over to study. For lunch Monday I had leftover oriental chicken and rice. Tuesday leftover chicken casserole. Wednesday leftover lasagna.

COLD! Monday night I saw people out playing tennis. Worked until six. Made a late trip to the library and shipped a bobblehead I’m trading for Rick Monday. His bobblehead depicts the time he rescued an American Flag some Dodger fans were trying to burn in centerfield. Started reading John Grisham’s Sycamore Road. Glad it’s the same characters from previous books.

Ceil cooked pork tenderloin. After supper we watched Dancing With the Stars. 76 year old Tommy Chong (above, right), of Cheech and Chong fame, had made it to the final five. Did a great job but was voted off. It probably is scripted, similar to American Idol, etc. The judges talk up the least popular performers and give them the best scores in an effort to sway the American voters. Isn’t that what ESPN is doing to the college football and basketball polls?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

SunTrust Park: WINNING

Drove past the new Braves stadium for the first time Friday night, on the way to pick up our nephew at the Clemson team hotel next to the Galleria. The wait at the Cheesecake Factory and  PF Chang across the street at Cumberland Mall was two hours, so we went to Mellow Mushroom Pizza on Windy Hill. Unlike the Gwinnett Mall area (at least ten miles outside the Perimeter), the Cumberland Mall / Galleria area has been exploding with growth. Office buildings, hotels, condos, townhouses, apartments, the Cobb Energy Center, stores, restaurants. The growth has already spilled across 285 up Cobb Parkway.

With all the current traffic and congestion south of the Perimeter, building the new Braves stadium, upscale restaurants, and shops just across 285 is a genius idea. The east/west road the stadium complex will be on is already used as a connector to East Cobb, Windy Hill, Powers Ferry, and 75 north. Commuters and residents will have additional, closer options. Instead of starting from scratch in the downtrodden, rarely traveled Turner Field area, the Braves are landing right in the middle of a bustling high traffic area located at the nexus of two major interstates.

Those saying sports teams should be located at the city center forget the Cumberland/Galleria area has as many high rises, amenities, and infrastructure as anywhere besides the overcongested/bottlenecked downtown and Buckhead areas. Parking will be plentiful, and busses serve Cobb County and connect to MARTA. The view from the stands will be scenic: mountains to the north and the high-rises of downtown, Buckhead, and Perimeter areas in the distance – behind the close by Galleria buildings. I can see SunTrust Park hosting more outdoor concerts and other events than Turner Field ever did, competing with other venues on the northside like the Verizon Amphitheater and smaller Cobb Energy Center.   
Why isn’t the AJC reporting all these positives? They’d much rather stir up the populace to increase website traffic and newspaper sales. Their readership resides ITP even though their offices moved OTP year ago. Those ITP bemoan the 75/285 traffic while never mentioning how traffic downtown is much worse. While a shiny new billion dollar dome can be used for much more than eight Falcon games a year, the more successful Braves were made to be outcasts and second-class citizens. Like the Georgia Dome, it’s doubtful the area west and south of the new dome will ever be developed.

Falcon fans are forced to tailgate in a railroad gulch. How attractive is that? Meanwhile the Braves appear to be the team moving into the nicer, higher-traffic, more successful area.     

My expert thinks there is a good chance. The money is available, with Santana, Harang, Heyward, Medlen, and Beachy all gone. How about a rotation of Lester, Teheran, Miller, Wood, and Minor? Beats the Nationals rotation and equals the Cardinals and Giants. Then they can build up the bullpen. Potential Lineup:

Peraza 2B…280 avg 35 SB
Johnson  3B…300 avg
Freeman 1B…25 HR 100 RBI .300 avg
Gattis LF…30 HR 100 RBI 280 avg
J Upton RF…30 HR 100 RBI 290 avg
Simmons SS…270 avg
Bethancourt C…260 avg
B Upton CF…230 avg 15 HR

I say that team competes for the division championship and maybe more.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Say It Ain't Hey

Jason Heyward was one of my favorite Braves players. He plays hard and gives his all – without complaining or mouthing off. Doesn’t swing for the fences. Instead he aims for the gaps. His baserunning and defense are without peer. Some call him a beast. The same could be said for Mike Trout.

But that’s where the comparisons end. Heyward has his faults, and is a year away from free agency. A career .262 hitter. Can’t hit lefties. Holes in his swing. Home run total fell from 27 to 14 to 11. Suffered injury after injury. I’m sure he will be motivated to have a monster season – but can he? Will he stay healthy? Lots of questions the complainers forget.

Despite what Jason says after after the fact, there has been indication the New York native wasn’t going to test the free agent waters at the end of next season. With his beloved grandparents still living in New York, there’s a good chance Heyward will sign with the Yankees. What would fans say if Heyward walked and the Braves received no compensation? (They’d blame the team, as they did when Hudson and McCann bolted for more money – forgetting that their replacements outperformed them).  

In August and September the Braves’ offense fell flat. Fans demanded change. Trade the entire team, they cried. Yet there was outrage Sunday when rookie backup second baseman Tommy LaStella was traded for a top pitching prospect – with TWO better second-sackers ahead of him. LaStella lost his job to the better-hitting, more versatile Gosselin. Room must be made for the second-baseman of the future. You’d think fans in the know would understand. Fans want to hold onto the past - while at the same time saying the Braves shouldn’t repeat what failed in the past. Can’t have it both ways.

It says something that not all fans are crying foul. Many get it. Will’s friend Kevin, who almost joined us on that blog, understood and favored the Heyward trade. Experts Buster Onley and Keith Law thought the trade helped both teams. Rare that I hear about a trade from Matthew. Ceil wondered if the flags were at half-mast for Jason.

Though the Braves had one of the best pitching staffs in the majors last year, many said they need to bolster their pitching. Santana and Harang are free agents. Venters, Medlen, and Beachy are recovering from multiple Tommy John surgeries and are far from sure things. In the past two days John Hart traded for three pitchers – an established starter and two highly touted prospects who can also contribute in 2015. The Braves gave up a third string rookie second baseman, an oft-injured/over-the-hill reliever, and an oft-injured career .262 hitter in the last year of his contract. And there’s 4-1/2 months to make more moves.

Chuck Oliver suggested the Braves sign veteran outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. The King has a point. Ichiro played 146 games last year and hit .284 – better than Heyward, Justin, BJ, and even Gattis. Though 41, Suzuki is in great shape and can be had cheap. Could bat leadoff if needed. His march to 3000 hits (and to break Pete Rose’s all-time hit record) would boost attendance. His unequaled work ethic would be a plus.

Players are traded all the time, and not re-signed as free agents. That’s baseball. What did Brewers fans say when all-star Prince Felder was allowed to walk? What did Diamondback fans say when Justin Upton was traded? What did Oakland fans say when their best offensive player (Cespedes) was traded last year? When was the last time either of those teams won anything? Winners make unpopular decisions as well. The Giants let fan-favorite Sandoval walk. The Cardinals let the greatest hitter in their history (Pujols) walk. The Rangers let Josh Hamilton walk without compensation.    

Though the offense wiltered in the August heat, Heyward hit .298 after the all-star break. His injuries may be a thing of the past. Home runs can be over-rated. Heyward may grow into an even more dominant player. Jeff Schultz says it’s a gamble to trade Heyward, and it is. Trading for Uggla was a gamble most fans loved at the time, considering the rag-tag playoff lineup the year before (Glaus, Diaz, Conrad, Ankiel, Infante, etc). Signing BJ was a gamble that flopped.

Throwing $100 million at Heyward would be just as much a gamble. Even waiting and thinking the Braves could sign free agent Heyward would be a gamble. The Braves made the most reasonable move. In two or three years this could be a trade the Cardinals regret.

ROB SAYS: Emotionally, I hate to see Jason Heyward leave.  He played hard and was fun to watch.

However I think sometimes we (or maybe just me) forget that our favorite players to watch are not necessarily the best players to build a team around.  I wish the Braves would have made an effort to extend Jason.  However from a team building standpoint, I can understand why they did not.  Five years into his career, we still don't know who Jason Heyward really is.  Will he be a premier offensive player?  Or will he be what he is now - an elite defender and base runner with limited power.  I think in St Louis next year, and maybe Boston the year after, he will be put in a role where he can come closer to reaching his offensive potential.  Boston can afford to spend $100MM+ on a player who is not a superstar.  We cannot.

So if you were not going to sign him long term, I think Hart made an excellent trade.  Miller has a high upside and at worst is a solid mid-rotation starter.

I like the Jon Lester rumors I am hearing.  By trading for Miller and signing Lester,  you can non-tender Medlen and Beachy.  Combining that with the money saved from Heyward and Santana, they could afford Lester.  A rotation of Lester, Teheran, Wood, Miller and Minor would give you a chance to win every day.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tale of Three Injuries

JACKET STINGS TIGER: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson goes down in the first quarter, and with him went the Tigers hopes for a victory over Tech and rival South Carolina – and a probable Orange Bowl invitation. The Tigers were gaining 4.1 yards per play with Watson, but only 3.2 yards the rest of the way.  After fifth year senior QB Cole Stoudt’s three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), Dabo put in walk-on Schlosser from Georgia’s Grayson high school. Look for Schlosser to start this week against Georgia State, despite the game being senior day. And look for Clemson to break out the purple uniforms Saturday.

Later in the first half Tech’s most productive tailback Snoddy broke his leg – a terrible sight. With one or two other Tech tailbacks already hurt, the numbers are growing thinner. As I predicted, on Saturday fullback Zack Laskey made the most of his three carries, and the over-rated Synjin Days wasn’t quite as productive. Only after Clemson’s defense tired did Days make an impact – but he still was unable to score a touchdown. When Days broke out into the open it only took one defender to bring him down. Speaking of over-rated, Clemson’s tenacious blockers effectively negated Tech’s great linebacker Q Neely all afternoon.  

As impressive as the 28-6 final score was, Tech left at least five points off the board: a botched PAT, missed field goal, and a failed two-point conversion. And the game ended with the Jackets in position to kick another field goal.

Weird halftime show by both bands. Clemson’s played songs from Spiderman and Ninja Turtles, but GT out-nerded them with the theme “Big Band Theory”, with selections devoted to science and astronomy. The Tiger Band may have only bussed so many bandmembers to Atlanta. Tech’s band seemed to outnumber Clemson’s. But all the halftime numbers bested the horrific piped-in rap music.

DOG BITES TIGER: Likewise the Bulldogs left at least two touchdowns off the scoreboard in their dominant 34-7 beatdown of Auburn. Todd Gurley’s 105 yard return of the opening kickoff that was called back for a totally unnecessary holding infraction. Speedy number 16 dropped a sure touchdown. Later the punter’s pass completion down to the one yard line was also called back on a borderline lineman downfield call. After watching the relatively penalty-free Alabama / Mississippi State game, the Auburn / Georgia game was plagued with penalty after penalty. Malcom Mitchell’s downfield holding penalty negated a 27 yard Chubb reception. Both teams both had calls go against them, though in the second half several penalties against Auburn came at the least opportune times.

The War Eagles could not stop Gurley or Chubb. Mark Richt uncharacteristically went for it on fourth and one, and eleven yards later Chubb glided in for six points. Last week Richt had said the fans would see Gurley (above) early. After the 105 yard TD was called back, Chubb actually started the game in the backfield. Gurley did play his way back into the lineup, practicing the 6 weeks while being suspended. He is also repaying the money, doing community service, and everything else required of him. He continued to encourage his teammates the whole time.

An early elbow injury hardly slowed Gurley, but in the fourth quarter Gurley tore his ACL without being hit – perhaps a cruel end to his meteoric career in Athens. The injury diminishes comparisons of Gurley to SEC greats Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson. Though doubtful, Gurley does have a year of eligibility remaining should the NFL consider the Tarboro NC native damaged goods. That would make a good 2015 team almost invincible. As predicted, Gurley played without the captain’s “C” on his jersey. Cruel joke: Gurley injured his elbow signing autographs.

When the teams changed sides for the fourth quarter, the Bulldog defense forgot how to tackle. Auburn drove deep, until Nick Marshall’s fourth down pass was unwisely intercepted inside the five yard line (of course, batting the ball to the ground was the preferred option). The INT did hurt Marshall’s QB rating. Backed up with the score 27-7, a Georgia turnover here would’ve made it a completely different ballgame. Instead the Dawgs’ 97 yard touchdown drive was the nail in Auburn’s coffin.      

TIGER BITES AGGIE: after falling behind Texas A&M (raising the hopes of Georgia fans everywhere) Missouri finally staged a comeback to stay on track for the SEC Championship game.

ELEPHANT BITES DOG: Bama’s win over undefeated Mississippi State was no surprise to me or my brother-in-law Rusty. Quarterback Blake Sims is finally coming of age. Heisman hopeful Dak Prescott picked a bad day to throw three interceptions. Looks like the Heisman race is leaning toward Marcus Mariota and that Wisconsin running back. Perhaps Nick Chubb will get a vote or two.

INDIAN WEATHERS HURRICANE, SPEARS IBIS: FSU fell behind 16-0 after the kickoff returner fumbled the ball away. Then on the next kickoff the returner dashed upfield with the ball under one arm. Was Winston shaving points again?

Miami had to play perfectly to win – but didn’t. Up 16-7 Miami’s touchdown pass was almost negated by number 44’s great (but unnecessary) block – which looked like targeting to me. Before the half Miami missed an easy field goal. Coupled with a blocked PAT, those four points were the difference in the game. The momentum slowly shifted to FSU. Miami fumbled twice. After losing their lead the Canes’ penultimate fourth down pass was again intercepted by FSU – further damaging Kaaya’s QB rating. At least the DB slid to the ground instead of risking a fumble. After making the catch he appeared to look to his sideline – where everyone must’ve been motioning him the hit the ground.

Duke may hold the tiebreaker over Tech, but the Jackets have the best chance to knock off the Noles, however slim that may be. Head coach Jimbo Fisher’s unshaven face looked shabby. What is this – no shave November?

FALCON CLAWS PANTHER: Good (Matt Ryan) beats Evil (Cam Newton). I figured it would be close. Four words: first place Atlanta Falcons.

STEELER ROBS TITAN: game set the NFL record for the longest names for both starting quarterbacks: Roethlisberger and Mettenberger.