published Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

5 at 10: Mark Richt, Texas A&M and the NASCAR record books

From the "Les knows best Studios," here we go...

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    Georgia head coach Mark Richt looks on from the sidelines during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009. LSU won 20-13. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Circling the wagons at UGA

Our TFP UGA ace David Paschall had a very interesting story from Athens in Wednesday's sports section about Bulldogs coach Mark Richt's increasingly warming chair. Read it here.

There were two eye-popping stats/trends from Paschall's report: First, he wrote "Upsetting South Carolina this week would mean more than defeating Boise State since it's a Southeastern Conference contest, but a loss would leave Richt with his first 0-2 start as well as a 15-15 record in his last 30 games." Later, he pointed out that "South Carolina finished ahead of Georgia in the SEC East standings last season for the first time under coach Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks are seeking their third win over the Bulldogs in five years, which would be a first in a series Georgia has dominated by a 46-15-2 margin."


We'll have more later this week on the magnitude of this game, but it's hard to call this one anything short of a must-win. Plus, the players know the stakes, and it's always interesting — and very telling — to see the kind of an effort a team gives in a game that the coach really has to have.

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    Philadelphia Phillies Placido Polanco slides under Atlanta Braves shortstop Alex Gonzalez whose throw to first was late allowing Chase Utley a base hit during the seventh inning of a baseball game with the Atlanta Braves, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Philadelphia. The Phillies won 6-3. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

And then there was one

The Braves fell to Philadelphia 6-3 on a rain-soaked Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies, who stretched their NL East lead to 9-1/2 games, are the class of baseball right now. And last night, the Braves could manage but two runs against rookie Vance Worley, who likely won't even get a postseason start.

Yes, Dan Uggla did hit his 33rd homer, but the offense was limited for the second straight night. (Sidenote: Uggla now has a 10-game hitting streak and his hit in 50 of his 54 games since July 5, when we decided to restart his season. He was the NL player of the month in August and has raised his average from an anemic .173 on July 4 to .237 this morning.)

But back to the team and today's growing importance of today's series finale against Roy Oswalt. No Braves player wants to head to a destined postseason date with the Phillies hearing about a late season sweep — especially when Roy Halladay never took the mound. Ouch.

Yes, the Phillies lead the season series by just two games (8-6), but a win today is needed.

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    Texas A&M's Mike Kazmierski (92) celebrates with members of the corps after defeating second-ranked Nebraska in College Station, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 10, 1998. Texas A&M won 28-21. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Talks becoming action

Texas A&M is expected to announce today that the Aggies will join the SEC for the 2012 football season, Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported this morning.

We know what you're thinking: "Duh, this has been talked about for months." And yes, it has. But if the Aggies make the announce today, the other cleats will drop quickly. And there has to be another addition to the SEC, because just A&M gives the league 13 teams, and a 13-team football schedule would be tougher to understand than Lou Holtz at a whispering convention.

So who's next? Is it Missouri? Could it be West Virginia? Could it be a mad-dash land grab West that could include Oklahoma and others? Could it be the SEC is going to expand to 20 and break free? Could it be that the SEC will add the Aggies and contract the Commodores? Could it be the SEC adds the Aggies and petitions to join the NFL?

Right now there are a lot of options in play.

Here are our views:

Best move: Add Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas.

Simplest move: Add West Virginia, that way there's an addition to the West and the East.

Most speculated move: Add Missouri, but then which team heads to the East? Is it Auburn, and if so which legendary rivalry comes to an end, the Iron Bowl or the Third Saturday in October?

It likely will be an interesting few days.

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    Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg works in the second inning a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Monday, June 28, 2010 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

This and that

— The Jacksonville Jaguars released David Garrard on Tuesday and announced Luke McCown will be the starter Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. CBS better have Dick Vitale and Gus Johnson lined up to broadcast that one because it's going to take some energy to find an exciting angle. Gross.

— Stephen Strasburg made his return to the majors last night, and dude was as sharp as ever. He effortlessly went five scoreless innings, allowing two hits, no walks and throwing 40 strikes in 56 pitches before the Nationals' bullpen imploded.

— In retrospect, we should not have been surprised by how physically impressive the LSU Tigers were Saturday night against Oregon. C'mon, last month they overpowered a bunch of Marines, so the Oregon Fighting Hi-lighters were hardly intimidating.

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    Jeff Gordon celebrates his win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Today's question

Jeff Gordon won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Atlanta on Tuesday in front of hundreds of fans after rain forced some serious rescheduling.

Gordon now ranks third all-time with 85 wins, trailing only Richard Petty, who has an eye-popping 200 Cup wins (a total that does not get enough attention when the discussion turns to unbreakble sports records, by the way), and David Pearson, who has 105 Cup wins.

Where does Gordon rank on the following two lists:

1) Who are the best NASCAR drivers of all-time?

2) Where does Gordon rank among the most successful sports stars of the last 20 years (from 1991-2011)?


about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
eljefe said...

Really!?! NASCAR Questions and Golf Contests!?! Why not ask about the finer points of dip versus chew and all the other things fancy Florida boys know nothing about?

Here's my comment: Richt and all other soon to be ousted SEC coaches (Yes, sweetheart, even Saban will have his day) are a lot like soon to be ex-girlfriends. It just gets ugly. They seemed really great when you were courtin'. Your friends and random strangers were impressed with your "catch" but soon no matter what they did it annoyed you. Heck, you might even break up with them for a 6-pack of adult beverages. Sidenote: If you were to be fool enough to broker such a deal establish the quality of said beverages up front. Just sayin'.

Richt laughed during the post game conference. So what? If he had cried or sighed or looked like deer in the headlights or just sat there and took his whoopin like a man (Is he 40?) he would still be on the hottest seat that far from the equator.

He will likely be 0-2 after this Saturday. So what? What else are the Dawgs going to do? They say breaking up is hard to do. Well, not when you have guaranteed millions to walk away. I wish just once we could motivate with the carrot than the stick.

I would approach Richt and present the "NFL free agent" concept. "Marky-mark" I'd say. (He's ok with me calling him that) you are coaching right now for your next contract. It will not be with UGA but you have the opportunity to walk away (as opposed to being chased with fire and pitchforks) and work with another program. My guess is everyone wins in that scenario because the drama dies and everyone can focus on the task at hand. Or at least get crushed with their heads held high.

Of course, what do I know? I'm just a fancy Florida boy that knows nothing about NASCAR or golf contests.

September 7, 2011 at 12:33 p.m.
chesterP said...

The best move for the SEC right now would be to NOT allow Texas A & M into the conference. The SEC stands for a conference that is sacred and hallowed. The SEC is the cool kids table in the lunch room. It has the right number of seats and no room for newcomers. Most importantly, the SEC stands for SOUTHEASTERN. Webster defines this as anything East of the Mississippi. And yes, I am aware that Arkansas is west of the Miss. That is why I think the best move for the Sec is to send Arkansas backing, then send Vanderbilt to the Sunblet Conference. This will keep the East and West even.

But what do I know, I'm jsut a good 'ol Tennessee fan that loves golf, cringes at the mention of MMA and NASCAR and prefers beer over jack!

@ 5/10 - Really enjoy the column.

September 7, 2011 at 1:05 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Jefe —

There's no way ANYONE would ever break up with someone for a 6-pack of bad beer. would NEVER happen.

Anyway, you skip a few days and then come back swinging. And you are so right that all coaches have their day. In fact, there's a great saying that when coaches are hired they have like 100-percent of the fan base behind them, then they lose 10-percent of them each season. WEll, this is Richt's 11th season so he's operation at like negative-2 percent right now.

And if anyone wants to debate the finer points between dip and chew, well, you've come to the right place. (Even though we gave up the Copenhagen a while back.)

chesterP —

Welcome to the show, feel free to drop by anytime.

At first, we were completely behind the "Leave the best alone" plan in regard to SEC expansion, and we're on the same page about messing with the tradition of the SEC.

That said, while the SEC is the best right now, if all the other leagues started expanding/consolidating to the point that the SEC had 12 teams and all the other big conferences had 16-plus, that could jeopardize the SEC's dominance.

Since expansion is here — and Texas A&M is joining — here's hoping that the SEC adds Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas, changes the name to "SEC-ond to None." That or add Texas A&M, and then at the formal news conference have Texas waiting in the wings and add the Longhorns too and tell Texas A&M to go get their shine box.

— 5-at-10

September 7, 2011 at 1:31 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

The Braves better not look to close in the rear view. And that vaunted starting pitching is finding out it cannot match up to the Phillies' staff. Or the Phillies lineup.

Hanson on the shelf. Jurrjens struggling and on the shelf. Lowe is ... well, he's Derek Lowe. That means you're counting on Tim Hudson and a bunch of guys barely old enough to shave in September. Tee-riffic. Along with a sporadic offense in which Prado, McCann and a handful of others are in funks (some of have been in long funks. Some are scuffling so bad they may as well be Parliament Funkadelic.). They are putting the off in offense.

As for Jeff Gordon... this being a family Interwebtube activity, I shall refrain from sharing my thoughts on him. But let's just say I liked what 3 had to say.

September 7, 2011 at 2:36 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

You bring up a fair point, and it's somewhat stunning for some longtime Braves followers to accept.

Think back to the 1990s, when the bullpen cost the Braves at least one more World Series title and as many as three more, and Atlanta needed 8-plus innings from its starters.

With this year's Braves bullpen — and Craig Kimbrel is so, So, SO money — Johnny Braves Fan is begging for the starting pitchers to keep in close for five and let the bullpen work from there.

And we have a sneaky idea that your description of Jeff Gordon would end with the phrase... "not that there's anything wrong with that." — 5-at-10

September 7, 2011 at 2:48 p.m.
wcole777 said...

I'm with the above statement that allowing West Virginia would be the move to make. There's no way the SEC would maintain credibility if they were to allow the Iron Bowl to go by the wayside. That would be absolutely RIDICULOUS and might actually force fans of both Auburn and Alabama to unite under a common cause. And if I know anything about the passion of said fans, the responsible parties for destroying this yearly tradition, which means more to some folks than their own family, best be better hidden than Bin Laden.

September 7, 2011 at 4:19 p.m.
wcole777 said...

By the way, as Mr. 5@10 may say, holy buckets Auburn! I believe that game deserves a loud and very lucky War Eagle! I hope that kind of luck continues because Auburn's not going to win out this season with foot to hand passes during the last kick off...

September 7, 2011 at 4:30 p.m.
jgreeson said...

wc777 —

West Virginia or possibly even Virginia Tech would be allow for the easiest transition. And yes, the league office would have some 'splainin' to do if the Iron Bowl was put in timeout.

And yes, Auburn was lucky against Utah State, but a lucky 1-0 is much nicer than an unlucky 0-1, right Houston Nutt?

September 7, 2011 at 4:41 p.m.
wcole777 said...

0-1 is really tough on Nutt and company. That's a "holy buckets" in the other direction. Very hard to watch that one fall apart.

September 7, 2011 at 5:45 p.m.
kburgess1013 said...

I have to shamefully admit that I fell asleep during the Georgia game. However, I saw all the notes I needed to know from the stream of irate text messages my mother sent me during the game. The majority of which were not in favor of Mark Richt's coaching abilities. I am in favor of ending the Mark Richt era at UGA if it means that they can finally give Auburn a run for their money again, or any Division 1-A team for that matter. Sigh. At least I have the Georgia State Panthers to pull for in Division 2-A.

September 7, 2011 at 8 p.m.
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