As head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, Mark Richt has spent 13 years giving the Bulldog faithful an average of 10 good reasons for his continued tenure and three rationales for his ouster that often seem far more compelling. He perennially appears on the coaching hot seat lists while different names tell the same story: He can’t win The Big One, though that can mean either the Cocktail Party, the SEC championship, or the national championship. He can’t beat UGA’s archrival, which could be Florida, South Carolina, or Auburn. He lets the doormats stick around and, eventually, they get lucky and steal one. And it’s not like basketball season will rain revenge on Kentucky or Vanderbilt.
This season, Georgia boasted an absurd, near Pac-12 style offense featuring inevitable all-time SEC passing leader Aaron Murray at quarterback, an unfair underclassman halfback surplus in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, and a wealth of receiving options. And sure, the defense lost a ton of NFL talent, but the team could simply outscore anyone, particularly the Stone Age offenses Florida and South Carolina were putting out there. Besides, you started to hear whispers about how Jarvis Jones was overrated, Justin Houston played out of control, and Alec Ogletree, Cornelius Washington, and Bacarri Rambo were replaceable. And hey, look how that schedule plays out — LSU and South Carolina at home, no Texas A&M or Alabama, at least until the SEC championship, and that seemed all but assured.
In case you were busy arguing that Lane Kiffin really hasn't gotten a fair chance to prove himself as a head coach with a particularly stubborn stop sign, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Tom Brady finally synced up with his young receiving corps, as the New England Patriots built an early lead and held on late, beating the Atlanta Falcons 30-23. "It's tough to beat them when Brady is back on track, but we gave it our all, and I'm impressed with my team," said a gray-haired man claiming to be Atlanta's head coach. "Wait, seriously, I'm Mike Smith," the man said, giving a clearly fake name, before adding, "You've heard of Dan Reeves? Well, I'm the most successful coach this franchise has ever had. We were in the NFC title game last year." The man, likely a deluded extra who wandered off the set of Boardwalk Empire, then added, "No, I'm not the mayor from Boardwalk Empire. For chrissake, come on, are you messing with me?"
The Major League Baseball regular season ended, but there's yet more to be decided as the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers finished the season tied for the second AL wild-card slot, and will play a one-game playoff. That game will determine which team will face the Cleveland Indians in another one-game playoff, which will determine who will be the AL wild-card representative in the postseason. This will be followed by a series of three-inning "mini-games" to determine home-field advantage in each round, which will be followed by a series of three-out home run derbies to determine which manager will be forced to turn in his lineup card first. Then, naturally, will come the dizzy bat competition, which will be just for fun, followed by a three-legged race, which will supplant this year's World Series, and for which, naturally, the Boston Red Sox are the favorites to win what with their flashy red socks likely to be advantageous for maintaining a three-legged race rhythm.
In case you were busy laboring like a laborer, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
College football's opening weekend is in the books, and the marquee matchup went to Clemson as the Tigers protected their home field in a 38-35 win over Georgia. The win was Clemson's second consecutive over a top-10 SEC opponent, which, unbeknownst to the school, triggered the little known Assimilation Clause in the NCAA bylaws, meaning that the ACC school will be forced to join the SEC unless head coach Dabo Swinney can win a staring contest with Alabama head coach Nick Saban or a pig feet–eating contest with LSU coach Les Miles.
With quarterback Johnny Manziel suspended for the first half, it was surprisingly Texas A&M's defense that struggled early against Rice, before the Aggies pulled away late in a 52-31 win. Manziel again found himself at the center of attention after throwing three touchdowns, but also being penalized for taunting, and using gestures that suggested he wants monetary compensation for his play. Now you know that we here at About Last Night are all about debate, and no one is more worthy of some debate time than Johnny Manziel. Now I think it's clear that Manziel has finally gone too far. An athlete making a gesture related to signing autographs? Making a gesture suggesting he wants to be paid for playing well? What world are we living in? Backwardtopia? Oh, we are? Well, I'm sorry I'm not a resident of the capital of Backwardtopia, Thugopolis (population: Football, Johnny), but I want my athletes in contact sports to actively refuse monetary compensation and autograph opportunities at every turn, until they have been out of Thugopolis High School (mascot: The Fighting Manziels) for exactly three years, at which point I want them to do the exact opposite. What is confusing about that? I'm sorry I'm not the county commissioner of the Mefirstland Prefecture, but our institutions must not fall in the face of such shenanigans.
Every year, as the NFL draft process drags on, a handful of players spark the same conversation about what evaluators should trust. Most often, they’re debates about the importance of 40 times or three-cone drills compared to what a player has put on film during three or four years of a college career. The consensus is often that the latter takes precedence. Few positions in the NFL are ever required to run far in a straight line, and if the tests and the tape have disparate results, falling back on 30 games is safer than falling back on 40 yards.
There are cases, though, when the stopwatch has been enough to scare teams off. Terrell Suggs’s final season at Arizona State included 24 sacks, still an NCAA record. When the draft process began that spring, Suggs was a top-five talent based on the film, but when he turned in a pair of 40-yard dashes in the 4.8 range, doubt started creeping in. Suggs went 10th overall to the Ravens, and we know what’s happened since.
This year's version of that player is Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. In college, Jones was a two-time All-American and probably the best defensive player in a conference littered with them. He can rush the passer, track down ball carriers, and has a knack for big plays. There was a point, before players were putting on track spikes, when he was considered by some to be the best player in the draft. Now, at the end of March, a suspect 40 time and some medical concerns have some analysts projecting him in the bottom half of the first round.
Whether it’s the BCS poll, the Oscar nominations, or the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop albums list, year-end lists reduce an array of highs, lows, hints, rumors, allegations, and things left unsaid into a simplified fiction that lies to our children and our children’s children by insinuating, “Hey, everything was great!” when the truth is, the narrative was informed almost as much by the disappointment. For every Johnny Manziel there was a Taylor Martinez. Likewise, for every Japandroids album that reminded us of how invigorating shout-along/drink-along punk rock can be when imbued with undeniable melody and drum solos you can pound out on your steering wheel, Green Day made three proving you better get your kicks in before you turn 35.
The Misery Index has honored the teams throughout the year who have served as a reminder of how fleeting glory can be, how expectations can ultimately lead to resentment, how ambition is the first step to failure, while giving a nod to the artists, movies, and musicians who did the same. And now it’s time to honor a season’s body of work; they started 2012 out as Most Likely To Succeed and ended it as Most Likely To Be Forgotten, though the Misery Index hopes to keep their spirit of futility alive for generations to come.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
A last-minute drive came up short when no. 3 Georgia opted not to spike the football inside the 10 and instead mistakenly completed a pass to the 5-yard line, allowing the clock to run out and giving no. 2 Alabama a 32-28 win in the SEC championship game and a spot in the BCS title game opposite Notre Dame. Georgia coach Mark Richt insisted that he kept trying to yell at his team to spike the ball, but that his vocal cords felt painfully constricted, while video footage of the Alabama sideline shows Nick Saban reaching across the field with one hand at that exact moment.
This is it, gang. This is the last Semi-Ignorant Guide of the year. Thank you for joining me on this ride as I spouted half-truths and outright lies, took credit for lucky upset predictions, and generally learned nothing of value. This, in the end, is what being a sports fan is all about. Let's get right to the top 10 games (all times EST).
10. No. 16 UCLA at no. 8 Stanford (Friday, 8 p.m.)
I've told you before about my college football pool, in which 18 of us pick the 10 most prominent games each week against the spread. So far the leader has 68 points through 13 weeks, for an average just barely above .500. All but two people are at .500 or below. Some of us know football pretty well, others are clueless, but it doesn't matter. It's impossible to pick games against the spread. But over the course of the season, I've come to realize that Las Vegas knows everything. Every once in a while, there's a point spread that seems absolutely ridiculous. Last week, when Louisville (undefeated in the Big East) was an underdog against Pittsburgh (1-4 in the Big East, 4-6 overall), everyone in the pool thought it was a gimme. The result? Pittsburgh won, 27-6. Somehow, Vegas knows all.
When Nick Saban and Will Muschamp get into a pissing match, there’s only one thing to do: Call Paul Finebaum and wait on hold. But in this case, we’ve got to do more, because Saban vs. Muschamp points out a sneaky flaw in the upcoming college football playoff. Call it the loser’s advantage.
Here’s what happened: Florida, which plays in the SEC East, is 11-1. Georgia, which also plays in the SEC East, is 11-1. In October, Georgia beat Florida, so the Bulldogs won the division and will play Alabama in Saturday’s conference championship game.
Advantage, Dawgs, right? This year, that’s true. Bama-Georgia is a mini-playoff for a shot at Notre Dame. But what if this game were taking place in 2014, when we’ll have a four-team playoff? The Bama-Georgia winner would definitely snag a spot in the playoff. And Florida, at 11-1, would also snag one. But the Bama-Georgia loser would be eliminated. Meaning, by virtue of losing their division and skipping a tough 13th game, the Gators would get a leg up. That’s the loser’s advantage.
It's Rivalry slash Thanksgiving Week, when teams who have historically aggravated one another by virtue of shared geography, but who may not even be in the same conference in 2012, meet up for an annual gathering of bad feelings. This is the week for Florida–Florida State, Georgia Tech–Georgia, South Carolina–Clemson, and more. But before we get to the top 10 games, let's take a quick look at the perfect scenario for the final few weeks of college football, and let's do it in stream-of-consciousness form. For the ultimate comedic and poetic payoff, here's what has to happen:
Oregon loses to Oregon State, Georgia loses to Georgia Tech, Florida loses to Florida State, Alabama loses to Georgia in SEC title game, Georgia Tech beats Florida State in ACC title game, Kansas State loses to Texas, Stanford beats UCLA then loses to UCLA in Pac-12 title game, Louisville beats Rutgers but loses in a bowl game, Wisconsin beats Nebraska in Big Ten title game, Notre Dame loses to USC, Oklahoma wins out, Kent State and Northern Illinois both lose in bowls.
First, none of those outcomes are unlikely. All of them put together? Highly unlikely. But humor me for a second, because these are the teams that would earn automatic BCS berths if that scenario plays out: Georgia Tech, Georgia, Louisville, Wisconsin, UCLA, and Oklahoma. And the national title game would probably be Notre Dame vs. Georgia. Now, let's say Notre Dame, at 11-1, loses to 11-2 Georgia. Also, Ohio State beats Michigan this week.
The result? Zero bowl-eligible teams with even a one-loss record, and a BCS champion in Georgia that lost 35-7 to South Carolina, and suffered a hypothetical loss to Georgia Tech. The whole college landscape is a dusty wasteland. And then, rising amid the destruction, like a glorious phoenix, is Urban Meyer with his 12-0 Ohio State team. So riddle me this — could the AP poll, which is independent of the BCS, really put the Buckeyes anywhere but no. 1? I say no, and that means Ohio State would win a split national championship. The same Ohio State that's banned from postseason play because some kid got a free tattoo, and the same Ohio State that barely beat Cal at home, escaped from Indiana, and needed a miracle to beat Purdue in overtime.
And when all that happens, I'm going to phone up the BCS and just start laughing in their faces. A dude can dream.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns as the 49ers trounced the Bears 32-7. "Not bad for an intellectual," sneered Randy Moss, just before snapping Kaepernick with a towel. Kaepernick seethed with pain and anger, but he knew from experience that it was useless to explain the difference between himself and the 16th-century Polish astronomer Copernicus.
Despite Alabama's loss to last year's Big 12 also-ran Texas A&M, reports of the SEC's death are greatly exaggerated. And entirely premature. That conference is like the sunrise. You can't stop it.
From a statistical standpoint, there is only a 1-in-7 shot that all three of the remaining unbeatens in college football — Notre Dame, Oregon, and Kansas State — finish the regular season without a loss.
People freaking out that a 12-0 Notre Dame might not play for a national championship are having the wrong nervous breakdown. Those people should have the heebies and/or jeebies about either of the SEC teams in the current BCS top five (Alabama and Georgia) ending up in Miami. Historically speaking, it's not at all unlikely that multiple teams near the top of the polls still lose. Should that happen, and should the SEC step its way into another title game, it might also be totally undeserved.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
The San Francisco Giants are World Series champions. Marco Scutaro hit the go-ahead single with two outs in the 10th inning as the Giants beat the Tigers 4-3 to sweep the series. Pablo Sandoval, who hit .500 in 16 at-bats with three home runs, a double, and four RBIs, was named the Series MVP. "Total bullshit!" said delusional Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks, who got his first hit of the series in the sixth inning of Game 4. "The MVP is so political now. It's all about who you know."
A quick one this week, amigos, with a rundown of the top 10 games and Your Perfect Saturday:
10. Kent State at no. 15 Rutgers
Big Ten fans will be unhappy to see that I chose this one over Michigan-Nebraska, if only because the Big East is starting to look like a pretty interesting race, and Kent State, at 6-1, is on a crash course with Ohio for a MAC East championship game on November 23. It feels like there might be upset potential here, but Kent State's blowout loss to Kentucky earlier in the season should give you pause.
O Meyer. O Saban. O Miles, you mysterious, grass-eating prophet
Sorry, you caught me in the middle of my daily prayer to the Southeastern Conference. Like a lot of college football fans, I consider the SEC my guiding light. Only by praising its six straight national titles can I justify my miserable existence as a Big 12 fan. But through three weeks of football — through bumps in the road against Louisiana-Monroe and Western Kentucky — my faith in the SEC has begun to waver. If we college fans are expected to bow before our SEC overlords, we ought to clear up just who’s worth bowing to.
I’ve got three names: Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Urban Meyer. When we talk about the SEC, it’s tempting to imagine a southern behemoth that stretches from Columbia to College Station. The recent spasm of SEC greatness, though, is largely the work of three guys.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Despite recent trade rumors, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he is confident that Rajon Rondo will remain with the team until the season's end. "He can't leave," said Rivers, with a disturbing grin. "I've got his whole family held captive in my basement." He then held a single finger to his lips, smiled broadly, and made a long "shhhh" sound.