The Great Debate: Georgia vs. Alabama

Tyler Andrews (@TylerAndrews92)
Kyle Sandy (@KyleSandy355)


UGA Run vs. Bama D

A: I think we can both agree that the game will be won and lost in the trenches with the front sevens of each team trying to stop the opposing team’s running game. Nick Chubb is great and all, but has he faced a defense like Alabama’s? The answer is no. Sorry, but the Tide is a little better than Vanderbilt, who is the best team the Dawgs have played all season…seriously.

Alabama might not have the vaunted defense it once had, but it is still pretty darn good. Through four games this year the Crimson Tide has allowed just 56.8 yards per game on the ground – that’s a miniscule 2.0 yards per carry! Alabama hasn’t given up over 120 yards per game on the ground over a season since Nick Saban’s first year in 2007.

The best defense UGA faced last year was that of the lowly Florida Gators. As a team the Bulldogs rushed for 141 yards on 32 carries; that’s not going to cut it against Alabama. And do I need to remind Georgia fans of how that game turned out? Florida won 38-20 and gashed the pups’ defense for 418 yards with two slightly above average running backs. What is Derrick Henry and a healthy Kenyan Drake going to do?

G: When you think of SEC football you think of ground and pound offenses and hard-nosed defenses. This matchup displays power against power. Georgia has Nick Chubb who has managed to run for 100 yards in 12 straight games. He can beat you in physicality, speed, and even as a receiver. And don’t forget about the change of pace back in Sony Michel who may be Georgia’s most dangerous player on offense. Together they have combined for 822 rushing yards, 185 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in four games. The physicality of Georgia’s offensive line coupled with their two-headed monster in the backfield is something that cannot be stopped. A defense can only hope it can be maintained, especially when this isn’t one of Saban’s of old. And never forget about Keith Marshall.

 

Bama Run vs. UGA D

A: That “devastating” Bulldog defense people in Athens are trying to sell you on doesn’t even measure up to Bama. The Tide have played two ranked teams in current No. 19 Wisconsin and No. 3 Ole Miss. In those games the Badgers rushed for 40 yards on 21 carries while the Rebels gained 92 on 32 totes.

Georgia allowed 174 yards on 39 carries to South Carolina and even Vandy eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Henry rushed for 990 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. In his last healthy season in 2013, Drake gained 694 yards on 7.5 yards per carry. So far this season the duo has combined for 637 yards and nine scores. Last year UGA allowed 166.8 yards per game on the ground and heading into Saturday they have given up twice as much as Alabama has with 107.3. Good luck wrapping up the 6-foot-3, 242-pound Henry. By the way, last time these two teams met, in the 2012 SEC Championship, the Tide rolled for 350 yards rushing.

G: The days of Georgia having an underperforming defense are no longer thanks to the leadership of second-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Last year the team showed glimpses of greatness and this year has been all about sustaining that greatness. The Dawgs have given up only three rushing touchdowns all season and runners are averaging only 3.1 yards/attempt against a team that has had the opportunity to play a ton of second and third-string players in their blowout wins. On the opposing side, Alabama’s Derrick Henry is a great back. Henry is averaging 6.3 yards/carry and has eight rushing touchdowns. But, when Alabama faces a good defense like Georgia and they are in a third-and-long situation with a below-average quarterback, their running game cannot bail them out. I look for Georgia’s defense to set the tone early against the run and force Alabama to beat them through the air, which is something I don’t believe the Tide can do. I also expect a breakout game from middle linebacker Jake Ganus.

 

QB Comparison

A: With Alabama loading the box on defense, Greyson Lambert will be forced to beat the Tide. The bullets haven’t started flying against Lambert yet and he has never seen a defense quite like Alabama. He started 0-for-7 against Vanderbilt and was yanked for Brice Ramsey. The South Carolina game was an aberration, an outlier, a fluke. I have a sneaky suspicious the real Greyson Lambert who was a turnover machine at Virginia will rear his ugly head in this big game. Jake Coker has proven he can be competent against good competition, going 15-of-21 against Wisconsin for 213 yards and a touchdown. He threw for three touchdowns and ran in a score against Ole Miss, but was marred by two interceptions. The rumor on campus however was that Coker was running a 102 degree fever all day.

G: Both UGA and Alabama entered the season with quarterback questions. Since Week 2, the schools have gone in completely different directions. Alabama switched starting quarterbacks before their game against Ole Miss and it turned out to haunt them. Georgia questioned whether Greyson Lambert could lead them after two below-average performances. His 24-of-25, 330-yard performance against South Carolina erased that doubt. Not only would I give the edge to the quarterback that is hot right now in Lambert, but I also give the edge to the team that has their guy and not a circus with two cowboys.

 

History

A: They say history repeats itself. If that’s true, it’s not a good sign for Georgia. We all remember the SEC Championship and of course, how can we forget the “Blackout” gimmick UGA used in 2008? That one really worked well between the bushes. The Dawgs entered the half down 31-0 and limped to a 41-30 loss. Overall, Bama has taken the series 37-24-3. Since 1960, the Crimson Tide has gone 14-7 against UGA. Oh and by the way, Alabama has 15 National Championships to Georgia’s one.

G: Since 2008, the last time these two played in the regular season, their stories have been vastly different. Alabama has won three national titles and three SEC titles. Georgia has lost twice in the SEC title game and had a 6-7 season. The last time these two played in the 2012 SEC title game, Georgia came within four yards of winning and going to the National Championship. When they were blown out at home in 2008 in the blackout game it was much of the same misery felt by all Dawgs fans. But, that’s why I am confident in their task this weekend. Georgia is due for a big win. Georgia is due for a good performance against Alabama. A good team like Georgia who always recruits well and is always hovering in the top ten is due to finally breakthrough and play up to their potential against a big-time opponent.

 

Coaching Comparison

A: When it comes to the sidelines, I’ll take Nick Saban, his four national championships, Lane Kiffin and Kirby Smart over Mark Richt’s goose egg in the cabinet, Brian Schottenheimer and Jeremy Pruitt. Just look at Richt’s debacle against Georgia Tech. He inexplicably pooch kicked with 18 seconds left up three. Then he left fans aghast with his decision to call a timeout with 4 seconds left and the play clock at 3 seconds when Georgia Tech was lining up for the tying kick. Instead of a 58-yarder, Harrison Butker attempted a 53-yarder and the rest is history.

G: It’s hard to say a coach that has won four titles is not as good as one that has yet to win one or even play for one as a head coach, but I am going to say that anyway. In his 15th season, Richt has already compiled 140 wins, a .745 winning percentage and nine 10-win seasons. He won a national title as offensive coordinator at Florida State. But, most importantly he is the ultimate players coach. His good deeds, devotion to faith, and loyalty to his players has to pay off some day. I see him as a Bowden or an Osborne who just takes longer to win that first title. Richt has proven that he is great and nobody can take that away from him.

Home Field Advantage?

 A: In terms of hitting the road against UGA, there isn’t much to worry about. Since ’07, Bama has nine wins on the road against ranked teams. Included in that is wins at Death Valley (LSU) three times, Sanford Stadium (UGA), Ole Miss, Arkansas, Beaver Stadium (Penn State), The Swamp (Florida) and Kyle Field (Texas A&M).

G: The wounds of 2008 are still fresh in the minds and hearts of UGA. Nobody in recent memory has done what Alabama did to the Dawgs on their home field. Not only is redemption on the minds of the UGA faithful, but their 35-year title drought is too. UGA is 74-15 at home under Richt and I would bet on that even facing a team like Alabama.

Prediction

A: 31-21
G: 38-28

*UPDATE*

Alabama won 38-10.
UGA QB’s combined to go 11-of-31 for 106 yards and 3 INTs.
Jake Coker: 11-of-16, 190 yards and 1 TD.
Derrick Henry: 26 carries 148 yards 1 TD (Long of 30).
Nick Chubb: 20 carries 146 yards 1 TD (Long of 83).

Sandy’s Spiel’s Super Sleepers (Football)

Every year in every sport there is that one team that comes out of nowhere to surprise people. In the NBA it was our Atlanta Hawks. Last year in the MLB it was the Kansas City Royals. But who are some potential sleepers for this upcoming high school football season? It’s not as easy to predict with stats and info not being readily available for every school, but taking a stab in the dark can still be fun. I’ll try to run down some teams who I think have a chance to surprise people this year, picking a team from each classification. Also, I’ll try to avoid notoriously strong programs that just had a down year.

Class AAAAAA

North_Paulding_Logo_smallA team that took its lumps after moving up to 6A is North Paulding (4-7). The Wolfpack won a record 11 games in 2013 in their final season at the 5A level, but found out that playing with the “big boys” was a whole other animal. Scott Jones is a strong coach with experience coaching at the highest classification after a 10-year run at Kennesaw Mountain. The Wolfpack return an experienced group ready to take the next step. Senior quarterback Kyle Banks (MTSU) threw for 3,498 yards and 32 touchdowns in his first year starting last season. His two favorite targets also return with seniors D.J. Owens (67 receptions, 1,157 yards, 12 TD’s) and NC State-commit, tight end Dylan Autenrieth (468 yards), back to make big plays. Another reason I like North Paulding is the fact that linebacker Javier Williams returns after totaling 97 tackles. A big loss however is William Craig, who has transfered to Buford after notching over 100 tackles in 2014.

Class AAAAA

9856363Paulding County (5-5) took a momentous step forward last season and coach Scott Hamilton has the team believing a playoff berth is within their grasp.The Patriots recorded their first winning season since 2003 and have nearly everybody returning on offense. Senior Bailey Johnson and junior Marquis Tre’von Lewis split time at quarterback last year and combined for 2,069 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Lewis added 500 yards rushing and 10 scores as well. Caleb Sailor returns to the backfield after a broken collarbone ended his season after four games. He and Dondre Ledford will see the bulk of the carries. Ledford did most of his damage at receiver in 2014, catching 42 balls for 413 yards, but the top option will remain Antonio Gandy-Golden, who comes off a 54-catch, 891-yard season.

Class AAAA

Under head coach Sean Gray, Southeast Whitfield (6-5) captured its first winning season since 1986. Screen-Shot-2012-07-26-at-5.42.32-PM1That is 28 years! The Raiders return their top running back Tyler Brown along with dual-threat quarterback Will Swantic. Linebacker/running back Devin Fields brings back a two-way talent that could help spark the Raiders back into the playoffs. Pickens County should fall back to the pack with the graduation of Shannon Brooks (Minnesota) and Northwest Whitfield loses star quarterback Caleb Shiflett which gives reason to believe that Southeast Whitfield could find itself in the playoff picture again.


Class AAA

Coaching is critical in high school football and one of the best in the business to never win a state title brings his 20 years of head coaching experience to the Dawson County Tigers (2-8). DTigerSid Maxwell has compiled a 128-83 record and has only suffered five losing seasons as a head coach – three coming in his first three seasons at Sequoyah back in the mid-90’s. Maxwell runs a Wing-T offense and spent his first 15 years coaching at Sequoyah before moving to Lambert for five years to coach his son. He took off last season, but Dawson County should see success under the strong leader.

Class AA

Wesleyan 1247866013_wesleyan_wolves(6-5) was extremely young last year and started freshman Banks Ramsey at quarterback. The Wolves’ top two running backs return along with top receiver, junior Harrison Cook. Drew Aspinwall led the team in tackles as a junior at linebacker with 99 stops. Jordan Mack is a Virginia-commit and plays both offense and defense for the Wolves. Coach Franklin Pridgen’s group played teams tough last season. They lost to quarterfinal participants Pace Academy 23-17 in overtime, Lovett 30-24 and Heard County 28-21. These young pups look to become full-grown wolves this season with some bite.

Class A

Stratford Academy imgres(6-5) and its dominant rushing attack (293.6 yards per game) can steam roll opponents. Dual sport standout Quintez Cephus controls the offense from under center while senior O’Showen Williams is coming off a 1,060-yard, 21-touchdown season. The Eagles lost close games to strong programs Aquinas 28-27 and to Lincoln County 21-20.

Sandy’s Spiel’s NCAA Football Preseason Top 25

Preseason Top 25

  1. TCU (12-1)
  2. Ohio State (14-1)
  3. USC (9-4)
  4. Oregon (13-2)
  5. Baylor (11-2)
  6. Alabama (12-2)
  7. Florida State (13-1)
  8. LSU (8-5)
  9. Stanford (8-5)
  10. Michigan State (11-2)
  11. Auburn (8-5)
  12. Wisconsin (11-3)
  13. Georgia (10-3)
  14. Oklahoma (8-5)
  15. Ole Miss (9-4)
  16. UCLA (10-3)
  17. Clemson (10-3)
  18. Virginia Tech (7-6)
  19. Notre Dame (8-5)
  20. Utah (9-4)
  21. Oklahoma State (7-6)
  22. Georgia Tech (11-3)
  23. Miami (FL) (6-7)
  24. Boise State (12-2)
  25. Louisville (9-4)

NCAAFB: Take The SEC or Take The Field?

The 2015 college football season begins in a month and the USA Today Coaches Poll has come out with a Top-Five of: 1. Ohio State, 2. TCU, 3. Alabama, 4. Baylor, 5. Oregon. In total there are eight SEC schools in the Top 25, six Pac-12 schools and three apiece from the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC.

So who is the best conference? Do you pick a team from the SEC or do you take the field? Last season’s implementation of the College Football Playoff was a great success and left controversy on who should be the final team in. Ohio State stunned Alabama with its third-string quarterback and then thumped Oregon in the title game 42-20.

Late last season marked a shift of power from the once mighty SEC to the rest of the nation. The ‘Bucks stunned the Tide, but at least it was a close game, 42-35. Georgia Tech from the SEC’s “little brother” conference the ACC, stomped Mississippi State 49-34 in the Orange Bowl on New Years Eve. The Peach Bowl was even more embarrassing with TCU humiliating Ole Miss 42-3. Elsewhere, Florida squeeked past East Carolina 28-20, LSU fell to Notre Dame 31-28 and Wisconsin edged Auburn in overtime 34-31. The SEC did pick up wins in the lesser bowls, but the conference’s marquee programs struggling with teams from perceivably “weaker” conferences was eye opening.

So here we are, 2015, in a brave new world with an even playing field. Once again SEC teams load the polls, but who will be the top dog when it’s all said an done? Alabama is always a favorite and opens up at No. 3. Gone is Amari Cooper, gone is T.J. Yeldon, gone is Blake Sims, gone is Landon Collins, the list goes on and on. Last season Alabama had a one-dimensional passing game. Every single target was going to Cooper. Now that he is gone, will it open up more of the offense and also allow the Tide to run the ball more with Derrick Henry as the lead back? Time will tell. Alabama goes into the season with an inexperienced quarterback; a problem many SEC teams will have yet again this year.

Auburn enters at No. 7 in the polls but also has question marks under center. Jeremy Johnson threw just 37 passes last season but already is being compared to Cam Newton. Leading rusher Cameron Artis-Payne is gone after a 1,608 yard season and the top returning rusher is wide receiver Ricardo Louis who gained 226 yards on the ground. Jovon Robinson steps in as the lead back after being ruled ineligible coming out of Junior College last season. In 2013 at Georgia Military College, the current day junior ran for a NJCAA single-season record 2,387 yards. If Johnson can get a grip of the offense at quarterback and Robinson can stay on the field, Auburn has a chance to make a playoff push.

My first pretender out of the top five SEC schools is Georgia who ranks No. 9. Year-in and year-out the Bulldogs enter the season overrated and are nothing more than a second tier team in the SEC. No quarterback and a one-dimensional offense will sink the Dawgs again. Either Brice Ramsey or Greyson Lambert will start at quarterback. Ramsey threw 39 passes last season as coach Richt and staff refused to get the potential future of the team some much needed snaps in blow out games last year. Greyson Lambert joins the program after starting at Virginia in 2014. Picturing the former Wayne County star in the SEC is a scary thought. Lambert routinely made bad decisions with the Cavs and was a turnover machine. Multiple games he would split time with Matt Johns under center and failed to make a convincing statement that he was the true QB1. He threw 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and failed to make easy throws. If he starts for UGA, expect the Bulldogs’ running backs to have to carry the load 45-60 times a game. It doesn’t matter how good Nick Chubb is, if the quarterback can’t alleviate pressure on the run game and keep defenses honest, eight men in the box will be zoned in on No. 27 every play.

LSU at No. 13 is primed to emerge from the SEC if Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings can put together a consistent season at quarterback. Nine offensive starters return including sophomore Leonard Fournette, who ran for 1,034 yards and 10 scores his freshman campaign. All of coach Les Miles’ top receivers return and enough is back on defense to be another Top-10 unit.

The mercurial play of Bo Wallace will not be an issue for No. 15 Ole Miss, but they still will be inserting an inexperienced SEC quarterback with whoever gets the job. JUCO-transfer Chad Kelly should have the inside track on the job after throwing for 3,906 yards and 47 touchdowns last season. The defense will carry the Rebels this year as they search for their first double-digit win season in 12 years.

So with all that said, the SEC should be a lock to have a team win the National Championship, right? Sadly, I have to go against the grain in the south and pick against the beloved conference yet again.

Defending champ Ohio State returns all three quarterbacks with Braxton Miller making the switch to wide receiver. Coach Urban Meyer has been drooling about Miller’s athleticism and will surely find a way for the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year to make a massive impact outside. J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones both continue to battle for the starting job, giving Ohio State an embarrassment of riches and three guys (including Miller) that would instantly become the best quarterback in the SEC if they had transferred.  Ezekiel Elliot burst onto the scene after rushing for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore and will continue to terrorize defenses. If the Buckeyes can survive an early suspension of First-Team All-American defensive end Joey Bosa (13.5 sacks) and others during their rematch with Virginia Tech in the first game of the season, Ohio State could easily roll to another College Football Playoff.

My personal No. 1 ranked team, who slides in at No. 2 in the Coaches Poll is TCU. A whopping 10 offensive starters return to a Horned Frogs offense that averaged 46.5 points per game in 2014 — second-best in the entire nation only to Baylor who stunned the Frogs and kept them out of the Playoffs with a 61-58 victory. Trevone Boykin enters his senior season as a Heisman front-runner. He threw for 3,901 yards and 33 touchdowns while gaining 707 yards and eight scores on the ground. Josh Doctson is Boykin’s favorite target after snagging 1,018 yards worth of passes and 11 touchdowns. Senior back Aaron Green also returns to the backfield after gaining 922 yards and nine scores on a 7.1 yard per carry average. The defense takes a hit with the loss of Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet but the Horned Frogs still have free safety Derrick Kindred (80 tkls, 4 ints) and defensive end James McFarland (7 sacks) and are reloaded for another run. Last year’s Playoff picture and results could have been very different if TCU has somehow snuck in.

Nov. 27 will decide the Big 12 and will determine who makes the College Playoff with No. 4 Baylor visiting TCU. Seth Russell is the favorite to replace Bryce Petty at quarterback. Petty is a massive blow, but nine starters return on both offense and defense. Shock Linwood ran for 1,252 yards and 16 scores as a sophomore and will be asked to carry the load again while Corey Coleman and K.D. Cannon seek back-to-back 1,000-plus yards receiving. The defense will be anchored by the massive Shawn Oakman, who stands 6-foot-9, 280 pounds. Oakman will continue his meteoric rise up draft boards after collecting 11 sacks last season.

Two teams I am high on come out of the Pac-12 and will likely knock one of themselves out of contention on Nov. 21. USC ranks No. 10 and Oregon slots in at No. 5, although I place USC at No. 3 and Oregon at No. 4. The sanctions have lifted off of USC and the program finally looks ready to not disappoint. Seven starters return on both offense and defense led by Cody Kessler. The senior threw for 3,826 yards, 39 touchdowns and just five picks as a junior. He will have new running back behind him in Justin Davis and plenty of new faces at receiver after the loss of Nelson Agholor, but Kessler is good enough to make inexperienced players around him better. The defense will need to hold up its end of the bargain after allowing 25.2 points per game last season. Leonard Williams is gone from the defensive line, but Rasheem Green is a highly touted prospect and Iman Marshall is one of the best defensive backs in this year’s class.

Both the Trojans and the Oregon Ducks will need to survive Stanford who is ready to compete for the Pac-12 Title again. Oregon loses 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota but Vernon Adams has been a star for years with FCS Eastern Washington and has mind boggling totals of 8,477 yards passing and 90 touchdowns over his past two seasons. Head coach Mark Helfrich has refused to speak about the transfer recently though, as apparently he has yet to officially enroll. If that is the case, it will be a huge blow for the Ducks and Jeff Lockie will be pegged as the starter. Oregon’s top five receivers return as well as running back Royce Freeman, so weapons will be aplenty for whoever takes over.

With a rundown of all the top teams in the nation in my opinion, I feel like the balance of power and the playing field has become level and no longer shifts in the favor of the SEC. I like TCU going into the season and the quarterback concerns with every single SEC school will come back to haunt them once they play the best-of-the-best from other power conferences. It’s tough to accept in the south, but there has been a changing of the guard and the race for the National Championship is wide open with the roads most likely running through the Big 12 and the Big Ten, no longer the SEC.

Photo By: UPI/Gary C. Caskey

Rocky Mountain Highs And Lows: Trading With The Colorado Rockies

The MLB Trade Deadline is just three days away and the seismic changes that the deadline brings to the outlooks of franchises’ futures has already begun. This morning I woke up to the stunning news that five-time All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was traded alongside the ageless LaTroy Hawkins by the Colorado Rockies to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for four-time All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes and three minor league prospects (Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman and Jesus Tinoco).

Both Tulo and Reyes are making over $20 million a year, but it’s the 30-year-old Tulowitzki who is signed thru 2020 while Reyes, at 32, is signed thru 2017.

While teams are wheeling-and-dealing to make their respective ball clubs better, there’s always one team to be weary of trading with, the Colorado Rockies. The thin air of Coors Field has ballooned average major league batters’ stats to those of perennial All-Stars; it is buyer beware when taking a chance on a Colorado Rockie, especially one that has played their entire career in the Mountains.

Tulowitzki, though starting to age, has been known as the best hitting shortstop in the league and a fielder with a cannon of an arm from the hole. But if you delve deeper into his stats you can see that some of his production has been aided. To date, he is a career .299 hitter that averages roughly 20-30 homers a year and anywhere from 80-100 RBIs when healthy.

Over his ten-year career, he has played over 145 games just twice and hasn’t played over 140 games since the 2011 season. In 2012 he appeared in 47, 126 in ’13, 91 a year ago and now 87 games out of the last-place Rockies’ 97 games.

Back to the Coors Field effect. He has hit a star-studded .321 at home with a .394 OBP, making him worth his current $20 million per year contract easily, but if you look at his road numbers he has hit a mere mortal .276 with a .349 OBP, very good for a shortstop but not nearly what he does in the friendly confines of home.

Luckily for Tulo, who slashes .300/12/53/.348/.471 this year, he’s going to Toronto which has turned into a power plant in terms of producing homerun hitters. His splits this season have to be comforting for Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos as he is hitting .301 at home and .299 on the road, but I still wouldn’t bank on Tulowitzki being an annual .300+ hitter in his new home.

Colorado is looking down the barrel of their fifth consecutive losing season meaning they will be willing to ship off players for pieces down the line. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is another coveted bat. The two-time All-Star is a career .292 hitter and former batting champ, but his splits have been even more pronounced than Tulowitzki’s.

Over his career Gonzalez has hit a blistering .326 at home but a measly .258 on the road. His average this season has slipped to .278, but he still has 20 homers and you guessed it, his splits are more of the same, batting .301 at Coors Field and .256 elsewhere.

Home Sweet Home

Teams have to be careful when trading for or signing former Rockies. That .290/30/100 guy you think you might be getting might actually be a .245/20/70 guy away from Coors.

Lets look at some recent Rockies batters that have moved on to not-so greener pastures. Injuries and age have hurt, but Michael Cuddyer is coming off a .331 batting champion season in 2013 and an injury shortened 49-game campaign last season in which he hit .332. This year with the Mets? He is hitting only .250 and is currently sitting on the DL.

How about a reverse look? 34-year-old Justin Morneau, a former MVP, looked like he was on the backend of his career. From 2011-2013 he strung together averages of .227, .267 and .259 after batting a combined .289 the six seasons previous. He signs a deal with Colorado to start the 2014 season and bang. He wins the NL batting title with a .319 average and has hit .290 in limited action this season.

Back to the bad. From 2006-09, Brad Hawpe hit over 20 homers each season. In 2010 he cooled down and was subsequently traded to Tampa Bay at age 31 after 88 games with Colorado. He would finish the season with nine homers in 103 total games. Hawpe hit four homers the rest of his career and was out of the league after a short stint with the Angels in 2013. His final numbers would total out to a .280 career average with Colorado (.288 average at Coors) and a .193 average in 94 games with other teams.

Over a four-year stint spanning 2005-08, Garrett Atkins mashed 88 homeruns, drove in 419 runs and batted .301. At age 30 in 2010, he signed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles and started in 39 games. After 44 appearances he was released that same season after hitting just one homerun and driving in nine runs with a .214 average. Atkins never again played in the Majors.

Call it a gift, call it a curse. Whatever you call it, Coors Field produces hitters but the longevity of those hitters and credibility of those bats can be called into question.

But there is faith for Blue Jay fans and for fans of teams who want to acquire current Rockie hitters. For every Garrett Atkins, there is a Matt Holliday, who passed the test of being just a Coors Field product with flying colors. Holliday spent five seasons (04-08) with Colorado and saw his splits improve; wiping out the idea that he was just a home-show pony.

Year                Home              Road

2004                .338                 .240

2005                .357                 .256

2006                .373                 .280

2007                .341                 .338

2008                .332                 .308

Tulowitzki has shown the same type of progress in his seasons with over 120 appearances:

Year                Home              Road

2007                .326                 .256

2009                .326                 .267

2010                .339                 .291

2011                .310                 .292

2013                .342                 .281

Carlos Gonzalez’s four seasons with over 110 games played, have been a bit more troublesome and even confusing:

Year                Home              Road

2010                .380                 .289

2011                .331                 .252

2012                .368                 .234

2013                .273                 .332

Colorado GM Jeff Bridich is making it more and more likely that Gonzalez is available in a trade. If you’re a team looking to add an impact bat, do you roll the dice on the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of baseball? Or do you play it safe and look for more of a “sure-thing”. Decisions, decisions.

Photo By: UPI/Gary C. Caskey

Who’s The King Of The South?: A State Of Georgia NCAA Football Preview

The state of Georgia remains in flux regarding who really is the team to beat. In total there are four FBS schools in the peach state: Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and Georgia State.  Both UGA and Tech are established programs with rich histories and a national title to their name. Georgia Southern just completed its first year as an FBS program after dominating the FCS and winning six national championships. After three seasons in the FCS, Georgia State joined the big boys in 2013 and has struggled mightily compiling a 1-23 record. The Panthers didn’t have much success in the FCS either, finishing just 10-23.

Georgia Tech won the state championship last year with wins over hated rival Georgia and a nail-biter over upstart Georgia Southern, but will the guard shift back over in favor of Georgia, or will Georgia Tech once again remain atop of the state? Or maybe Georgia Southern, who is now bowl eligible, will steal the show.

Georgia State Panthers

Georgia State (1-11) will likely suffer through another rough season. In 2014 they snagged an exciting 38-37 season opening win against Abilene Christian, an FCS school, but lost 11 straight to end the season and still search for their first win ever against an FBS school. The Panthers rely on gun-slinger Nick Arbuckle who threw for 3,283 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. Arbuckle is back for his senior season and already holds multiple school passing records. Wide receivers Donovan Harden and Robert Davis will remain top targets outside. Harden caught 60 balls for 885 yards and seven scores last year and is a pre-season All-Conference First Team selection. The running game suffered after freshman Krysten Hammon was dismissed from the team early in the season and led to a rushing attack that averaged just 3.0 yards per carry. Joel Ruiz was recently ranked as a top five tight end prospect for the 2016 NFL Draft and will be a bright spot on the team.

Georgia Southern Eagles

Georgia Southern (9-3) rolled in their first season in the Sun Belt, winning nine games but were unable to make it to a bowl since it was their first season. The Eagles finished a perfect 8-0 in conference and have established themselves as the team to beat in their new home. Southern easily could have finished 11-1, but late game letdowns led them to a 24-23 season opening loss at North Carolina State and a 42-38 loss at Georgia Tech in a thriller. Quarterback Kevin Ellison returns to run the triple option under center and orchestrates the nation’s No. 1 rushing attack which averaged 381.1 yards per game – 39 more than Georgia Tech. Ellison and running back Matt Breida both rushed for over 1,000 yards and breakoff big plays regularly. The defense will be the deciding factor while playing out of conference teams. The Eagles will be able to outscore all their Sun Belt opponents but once they play the likes of West Virginia and Georgia, their defense will need to hold the powerful athletes of the Big 12 and SEC. Eight defensive starters return including four players who racked up three sacks apiece in 2014.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech stunned and stung opponents en route to an 11-3 season and a blowout Orange Bowl victory over Mississippi State on New Year’s Eve, 49-34. Quarterback Justin Thomas was masterful running the triple option but he will now be without backs Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days. Also departed are wide receivers DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller. The Jackets will need to find a way to replace their stable of veteran backs and also find big play wide receivers. Juniors Marcus Allen and Dennis Andrews should get a bulk of the carries while senior Broderick Snoddy returns with the most experience after a gruesome leg injury a year ago. Sophomore Ricky Jeune may be the next in a long line of big receivers to make an impact out wide. At 6-foot-3, 214 pounds he has size similar to those who have starred at the position before him. Defensively, eight crucial starters return. Leading tackler PJ Davis is back at linebacker after a 119 tackle campaign his sophomore season. KeShun Freeman brings back his 4.5 sacks that led the team a year ago at defensive end and should see even more success after his Freshman All-American season.

Georgia Bulldogs

UGA (10-3) won 10 games last season but lost in overtime to Georgia Tech, 30-24. Nick Chubb returns and will carry the ball as much as possible. Chubb exploded onto the scene with a 1,547 yard season in the absence of Todd Gurley. Georgia will remain one dimensional on offense unless a quarterback steps up. If one doesn’t the Dawgs will fail to win the SEC East yet again. Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert, Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta have all battled for the job. Hutson Mason was a game manager last year and the Dawgs likely won’t have strong quarterback play again. Lambert was prone to head scratching mistakes at UVA and now will face SEC defenses that cause major concerns. Ramsey is the favorite to start and has the most upside but his mettle has yet to be tested. UGA will be without last year’s top two tacklers but have a talented linebacking corps and the nation’s top ranked player in Trent Thompson coming in to anchor the defensive line. Lorenzo Carter, UAB transfer Jake Ganus and Leonard Floyd highlight the linebacker position. Junior Tim Kimbrough is expected to see a lot of time and the talented true freshman Roquan Smith will likely get a shot as well.

What Does The Future Hold?

It will be interesting to see what happens this season. The Dawgs always come in as the prohibitive favorite, but they will be tested in back-to-back games to end the season, hosting Georgia Southern and then visiting Atlanta for a rematch. Much like they did with Tech, don’t be surprised if the Eagles push the Dawgs to the brink with their offensive onslaught. Georgia allowed 399 rushing yards to the Jackets in last year’s defeat and will need to find a way to stop the bleeding this year when they face the two best running teams in the nation. If UGA is able to survive it would surely benefit them as they face the Jackets’ triple option the following week.

It will be a three team race for the battle of state supremacy. There will always be bad blood when Georgia Tech plays Georgia. The Eagles want to start a rivalry with both big schools and not be viewed as a little brother or a non-factor in the state and last season’s game with Tech was a good starting point. If Southern can continue its ascension into elite status in the Sun Belt, they very well could blossom into a BCS buster much like Boise State and Northern Illinois in the past. If that happens, the shift of power in Georgia could greatly change if the Eagles are competitive with both the Jackets and Dawgs. Expect the last weeks of November to be can’t miss action in the state of Georgia and an interesting turning point for the future of football in the south.

2015 NBA Draft Reactions and Grades

1. Karl-Anthony Towns – T’Wolves

  • The ability to get the job done on both ends of the floor along with a strong character makeup was enough to give Towns the nod over Okafor. Towns displayed a nearly unguardable hook shot, fluid mobility and the ability to protect the paint in college. If he is able to develop a consistent jump shot, then Towns may become a top five center in the league. He should be able to contribute defensively right away and still crack the double digit point barrier his first season. The Minnesota front-court is now crowded with the addition of Towns alongside Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng. It would behoove Minnesota to move Pekovic and clear up more cap space. He currently is making a team-high $12.1 million with four years remaining on his contract.

2. D’Angelo Russell – Lakers

  • The Lakers got the best talent available, but a guard, especially a rookie, playing alongside Kobe Bryant is a poisonous relationship. Bryant dominates the ball and commands attention, not letting the point guard run the offense. For Russell’s development and the future of the Lakers, it would benefit them if Kobe retired sooner rather than later. Russell’s ability and knack for the game allowed him to average over 19/5/5 in his only season at Ohio State. Russell could have a similar impact to Russell Westbrook but less explosive. Russell has the potential to duplicate his college numbers in the pros once Kobe Bryant retires and take the helm as the face of the franchise.

3. Jahlil Okafor – Sixers

  • Okafor’s defensive liability kept him from being the number one overall pick. The Sixers don’t look like they have any sense of direction, drafting three consecutive centers in the lottery. Joel Embiid already looks like a lost cause, and with NINE power forwards/centers on the roster, someone has to be moved. Jalen Rose’s comparison of Okafor to Brook Lopez was unfounded. First, the ESPN crew said that he was a “double-double machine” but struggled to protect the rim. So of course, Rose compares him to a weak rebounding big man, who blocks a lot of shots. Makes sense right? The closest comp for Okafor is Al Jefferson. An ultra-skilled big man inside who can score in a plethora of ways and has a nice jumper, but struggles defensively. Jefferson, now a 10-year veteran, was the 15th pick in the 2004 draft. Would you draft a player of his caliber third overall? Jefferson’s career numbers are: 17 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. That is a nice career however you want to slice it, but everything will be predicated on Okafor’s ability to defend.

4. Kristaps Porzingis – Knicks

  • An out-of-touch team president who is too stubborn to see when he is wrong, Phil Jackson marches to the beat of his own drummer and ignores history with the pick of Porzingis. Over the past 15 years, (before this draft) 23 International players have been selected in the lottery, only two have become all-stars. Jackson needed to sell the fan base that they were serious about turning things around, but instead decided to make a joke of the process and draft a guy who will be closer to team Andrea Bargnani than he will be to Dirk Nowitzki. With a draft pick this high, you can’t afford to take a gamble on a guy who may never amount to nothing. Picks like these can cripple an already downtrodden franchise. At same point, you have to realize history repeats itself. This was not the right time to take him.

5. Mario Hezonja – Magic

  • See above. If there is such thing as a “safer” pick, then I would give the nod to Hezonja over Porzingis. Even if he doesn’t work out, he could have the ability to mold into a role player as a three-point specialist. Between Marco Belinelli to Drazen Petrovic is somewhere Hezonja hopefully develop into.

6. Willie Cauley-Stein – Kings

  • Here is another red-flag, reach of a pick. Cauley-Stein has very limited offensive skills. Why would you pick a one dimensional player in the top 10? WCS projects to be the next Tyson Chandler but more athletic and not as good a rebounder. This was a very bad pick. His ceiling may be 10 points and 10 rebounds. He will not be a game changer like DeAndre Jordan. WCS has a lot of work to do on his game offensively to even be considered a threat.

7. Emmanuel Mudiay – Nuggets

  • Off the court there may be some question marks, but on the court Mudiay is a strong bodied point guard that should be NBA ready. The top point guard in the nation had issues heading to SMU and decided to play overseas in China. Ty Lawson is already expecting a trade and if so, the Nuggets will gladly hand over the keys to Mudiay. He may become a tough score first point guard, but still have the ability to notch six assists a night once he reaches his peak. Arguably was a top 4 talent.

8. Stanley Johnson – Pistons

  • Another physically strong player that should see minutes very early on. Not sure if he will ever become an all-star but could be a strong player with Caron Butler type upside.

9. Frank Kaminsky – Hornets

  • We know Michael Jordan has a thing for white guys out of college, but it hasn’t gone great thus far (Adam Morrison, Cody Zeller). He and the front office also have an affection for Big Ten big men, drafting three straight with the aforementioned Zeller, Noah Vonleh (since traded) and now Frank the Tank. Kaminsky is very skilled but people question his athletic ability. An interesting comparison would be Channing Frye but with more ball skills and a low post game. A big man who is adept at shooting the three, a decent rebounder and a competent shot blocker. Kaminsky, in the right role, could average 15 points and 7 rebounds with the ability to stretch the floor. I liken him more to Frye than Anderson due to his ability to block shots.

10. Justise Winslow – Heat

  • Many considered Winslow a top five talent, but he slipped a bit in the draft. He is signed with Roc Nation Sports and has already displayed a knack for making bad decisions off the court after recently blowing off a national radio appearance five minutes before he was supposed to go on. Winslow has the potential to be the next great SF and do a little bit of everything. A more diverse Corey Maggette, but he could also settle into a role player. His development should be carefully watched in South Beach. In five years, Winslow might be one of the best valued picks in the draft.

The Best and Worst of the Rest


16. Terry Rozier – Celtics

  • One of the picks I hated the most was Rozier heading to Boston. Rozier was a shot jacker in college for Louisville with a knack for making bad decisions. He had nearly similar stats to those of Russ Smith who he played with and was drafted 47th in 2014:

Smith: 18.2 pt, 3.3 reb, 4.6 ast, 2.0 steals, 46.8% FG, 38.7% 3pt
Rozier: 17.1 pt, 5.6 reb, 3.0 ast, 2.0 steals, 41.1% FG, 30.6% 3pt

This smells like another Tyrus Thomas/Aaron Gordon comparison. It just doesn’t make sense. Rozier’s best case scenario would be becoming a shot-first point guard off the bench. Bad pick.

21. Justin Anderson – Mavericks

  • Exceptional pick for the Mavericks. If Anderson stayed healthy the entire season, UVA very well could have made a run to the Final Four and Anderson could have easily slid his way into the top 15, much like Sam Dekker was attempting to do after a great NCAA Tournament run. Anderson improved his three-point shots by leaps and bounds and actually led the ACC in 3pt percentage before getting injured. He is the best athlete in the draft and has an incredible makeup off the floor. He is already an above average NBA defender and will be stronger than most of the players he will be guarding. His ball handling still needs to improve after hurting his wrist but if Anderson gets the right amount of playing time and his jumper remains true, he may become the sleeper of the draft. He could fill in the role Shawn Marion left as a do-everything type of guy. At his ceiling, Anderson could average 18/6/3 along with a block per game.

23. Rondae Hollis-Jeferson – (Nets via Blazers)

  • RHJ has no discernible offensive skills what so ever and hangs his hat on defense. 3&D guys are the craze in the NBA, there aren’t many “D” only guys remaining. RHJ will have a tough time filling up stat sheets and will be relied upon as a stopper only. A Bruce Bowen type pest but stronger would be his ideal fit, but RHJ doesn’t have a three-point shot to help him stick around in the league.

28. R.J. Hunter – Celtics

  • Hunter struggled with his shot, but the former Georgia State Panther is a free-shooting 6-foot-7 guard who can become a boom or bust selection. Joining the Celtics will be a nice fit with Isaiah Thomas’ ability to drive and dish to the corners. Hunter’s long-range prowess likens him to Klay Thompson/Jamal Crawford, minus Crawford’s handles. Hunter is long but his defensive ability is still up in the air. He could become a nice role player or could become the next Kevin Martin.

32. Montrezl Harrell – Rockets

  • A year ago, Harrell was assumed to be a potential lottery pick, but now he slides to the second round. Harrell is a high intensity, hard-nosed player that has toed the line of being labeled dirty. His upside is Kenneth Faried, but his downside is Joey Dorsey. I lean more towards Dorsey.

43. Joseph Young – Pacers

  • Young was a dynamo for the Oregon Ducks scoring 20.7 points per game en route to capturing Pac-12 Player of the Year honors. Young should be a scoring guard off the bench. Rodney Stuckey, Isaiah Thomas and Mo Williams all come to mind. Great value for a pick this low.

Draft Grades


Atlanta Hawks: D+
It was a rough night for the Hawks. Atlanta refused to fill the need of drafting a big man and instead shipped away the 15th pick for Tim Hardaway Jr, who comes from the most dysfunctional locker room in the NBA. Hardaway Jr was rated as one of the worst defensive guards in the league and brings off the court questions. What type of player wears their own NBA jersey to a baseball game in hopes of being recognized? The Euro picks in the late second round were a waste. Big men Cliff Alexander and Robert Upshaw went undrafted and hold more upside. Upshaw led the NCAA in blocked shots before getting dismissed by Washington. He has off court issues, but the 7-foot center would provide a big body to protect the paint if he is able to stay out of trouble. The most troubling part of the night was what Assistant GM Wes Wilcox said after the draft about the team’s goals: Acquire additional assets – Add shooting – Improve at shooting guard. This shows a complete disconnection from the front office to what is going on on the court. The Hawks got bludgeoned by the Cavs on the boards but that still wasn’t enough for the Hawks to go big man. It looks like they are putting all their eggs in one basket with last year’s second round pick Walter Tavares. Atlanta has a lot of work to do this off-season. Will they resign Millsap and Carroll? Will they add a competent big man to protect the paint? We will see.

Boston Celtics: B
Brooklyn Nets: B-
Charlotte Hornets: B+
Chicago Bulls: B+

Cleveland Cavaliers: B+
Loved the selection of Tyus Jones, but he was traded to Minnesota and the Cavs added Cedi Osman and Rakeem Christmas to go along with Sir’Dominic Pointer. Old age and a lack of healthy bodies crushed Cleveland in the Finals. Christmas had a breakout year with Syracuse and could provide good minutes off the bench. Pointer is a lively body who can help out defensively. Lets just see if David Blatt has learned to trust the bench and the young guys.

Dallas Mavericks: A
Denver Nuggets: A
Detroit Pistons: B-
Golden State Warriors: C+
Houston Rockets: C+
Indiana Pacers: A-
Los Angeles Clippers: A
Los Angeles Lakers: A

Memphis Grizzlies: F
The worst three-point shooting team in the NBA for nearly five years now passed on maybe the best shooter in the draft in R.J. Hunter to select another big man, Jarell Martin, to backup Zach Randolph. Again, why do teams not fill needs? The “Grit-N-Grind” hasn’t worked do the an absolute lack of outside shooting. Hunter is long and can improve his defense. His three-point shot would open things up inside. Instead the Grizz decided to stay stubborn in their ways and refuse to finally address a need. The trade for Andrew Harrison helps out, but he will struggle to find playing time and won’t have the impact Hunter may have. Decisions like these are what separates the pretenders from the contenders. You have a weakness? Fix it!

Miami Heat: A
Milwaukee Bucks: B-
Minnesota Timberwolves: A+
New York Knicks: D+
Oklahoma City Thunder: B+
Orlando Magic: C+

Philadelphia 76ers: D
Like a train wreck you can’t stand to look away from, the “Trust the Process” propaganda was too much to stomach. Four more big men, make it six total in the past three years. There is no rhyme nor reason to what the Sixers are doing. Every other team is going small, so the Sixers are trying to be the first team to run an all center line up out there? I understand drafting the “Best Available” but it has gotten out of hand with NINE bigs on the roster now. Joel Embiid is about to catch the label as a bust if he misses another season. He does not seem focused or serious at all about getting better both on the court and health wise. There is no cohesion with its parts on this Philly team. Okafor will be able to score but will leak points defensively and hope Noel can clean up behind him. The selection of J.P. Tokoto was terrible. A D-League player at best, Tokoto was a non-factor during his career at UNC and has limited to no upside.

Phoenix Suns: B+
Portland Trailblazers: B+
Sacramento Kings: D-
San Antonio Spurs: B
Toronto Raptors: A
Utah Jazz: A-
Washington Wizards: B