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What in the Wide World of Sports is going on around here? I take a week off from composing this column and the world of college football goes stark raving mad.
Don't know about you, but I loved every minute of it.
Since last we talked, of course, Coach Chan Gailey and the Jackets proved (finally!) that they can deal with the week-after letdown from a big victory and beat a team they are supposed to beat. Congratulations to all the coaches and players, especially Michael Johnson and Avery Roberson for that last-minute gut check that kept Maryland out of the end zone and kept Tech firmly in first place in their division.
It looked like this would be yet another instance where Tech underperforms and lets a winnable game get away, but the offense was able to exploit Maryland mistakes in the fourth quarter and the defense bowed up when it absolutely had to and shut the door on the Terps. I'll bet Ralph Friedgen's jowls are still quivering.
Georgia Tech now seems to have, dare I say it, the consistency that has been lacking for the past few seasons. It's a good thing.
Almost as good a thing, from a Tech fan's perspective, was watching Georgia chase Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge in vain while giving up 27 points in the fourth quarter of a blowout 51-33 loss to the Vols.
"I can't say that I ever felt the pressure," Ainge said after the game. "Football is easy when you have that much time." What happened to those defensive ends from Georgia, Quentin Moses and Charles Johnson, who are supposed to be death on opposing quarterbacks? I guess Tennessee's offensive line didn't get the memo.
One of the funniest pre-game moments occurred when a true believer from Georgia was babbling on Atlanta talk radio that "a lot of folks are gonna lose a lot of money this weekend" because they were betting on Tennessee and giving up two points. His reasoning for this was that Georgia had more future NFL picks on defense than Tennessee had on offense, so obviously there was no way Georgia could lose. Funny, but I seem to remember that Jim Donnan also had a lot of future NFL picks playing on defense when he coached at Georgia, but it didn't stop him from losing three times in a row to Tech. Anyway, the guy was correct that a lot of people lost a lot of money that weekend - namely, all those fans who took the two points and bet on Georgia.
After Georgia got the crap slapped out of it by the Vols, Gov. Sonny Perdue took it upon himself to complain about the Atlanta Journal-Constitution running a headline in Sunday's edition that stated the self-evident fact that Tennessee had won. I guess the newspaper should have devoted its resources to something more constructive, like writing about $100,000 tax breaks and . . . never mind.
Perdue looked like a big Per-doofus the next weekend when Georgia took the field for homecoming and choked in the final seconds to lose even more embarrassingly to a Vanderbilt team that is way down the ranks of the SEC. This time the AJC, displaying a sense of humor that politicians often lack, invited fans to write their own headlines at the newspaper's website. Here are some of the better ones:
Dogs lose by less this week!
Dawgs Play Like Perdue Chickens
Sonny days are here again: Dogs lose
Vandy Wields Hob-Nailed Boot
Sneaky shipmen sink Sonny's savage slobberers
Can you say Music City Bowl?
Who embarrassed UGA worse than Vandy? Sonny did!
Dogs Lead with Seven Seconds to Play!
Tennessee files for state lines to be redrawn, as they now own Georgia
You know things are going bad for your team when even the AJC's Mark Bradley, whose nose is a deep, lustrous shade of brown from all the years he's kept it firmly lodged in Mark Richt's rear end, writes a column that dares to suggest Tech just may be the best team in the state this year. I'm sure Perdue complained about that one as well.
A big shout-out to all of you from Chihuahua Nation: which in-state institute of higher education is rated in the AP's Top 25 and the Top 20 of the BCS? Hint: it isn't a school located within the confines of Clarke County.
Vanderbilt had barely finished kicking that last-minute field goal to beat Georgia when Miami and Florida International decided to re-enact the Battle of Fallujah on the floor of the Orange Bowl. I haven't seen a Miami team behaving so immaturely since, oh, about four weeks ago when they played Louisville and stomped on the Cardinals' logo at midfield (Louisville then stomped on the Hurricanes, which should have taught some of them a lesson).
After the Hurricanes had finished kicking and smashing their helmets against the noggins of the FIU players, the ACC suspended at least 13 of them from the upcoming game at Duke (who says Ted Roof can't catch a break?).
"These suspensions send a clear and definitive message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. Uh, John, I hate to break the news to you, but the conference has been tolerating this type of behavior by Miami players ever since they transferred in from the Big East.
The brawl against Florida International occurred after these other recent events within the program: a similar fight with LSU in the tunnel at the Chick-fil-A Bowl last December; the shooting of a Miami player shortly before training camp started (another Miami player returned fire in that incident); another player being charged in connection with a fight with a woman in August; and the logo-stomping in Louisville.
Let's see, we've got players brawling with the other team, beating up women, discharging firearms, and generally acting like thugs. Where do these guys think they're playing? The University of Georgia?
"I do have a grip on this program," Coach Larry Coker said after the FIU game. "Don't ever doubt that. Don't ever doubt that." Larry, whatever you're smoking, I want some of it.
Of course, the taint of the Miami program is so deep that even former players can't escape it. Lamar Thomas, who played for the Hurricanes in the early 1990s, was the color commentator for the TV broadcast of the Miami-FIU game.
As the fight broke out on the field, Thomas yelled, "You come into our house, you should get your behind kicked! You don't come into the OB [Orange Bowl] playing that stuff. You're across the ocean over there. You're across the city. You can't come over to our place talking noise like that. You get your butt beat. I was about to go down the elevator and get in that thing . . . I say why don't they just meet outside in the tunnel after the ballgame and get it on some more? You don't come into the OB, baby! We've had a down couple of years, but you don't come in here talking trash. Not in our house!"
Such a classy guy. Such a classy program.
Let's take some questions -
Q. Who is this fellow Dr. Football? The only clue I have to his identity is that, in some past column, he revealed he's been watching the Jackets for many, many seasons. I got the impression he goes back to Coach Dodd's era. Maybe he's that Burdell fellow. Dr. Football, whoever you are, this Bud's for you!
A: That reminds me of the vice presidential debate in 1988 when Texas Sen. Lloyd "Longhorn" Bentsen turned to Indiana Sen. Dan "Hoosier Daddy" Quayle and said, "Senator, I knew George P. Burdell. George P. Burdell was a friend of mine. And you're no George P. Burdell." Or maybe it was Jack Kennedy. I forget a lot of things these days.
Q. Dr. Football, I agree with you about the rapture. And, knowing that Chan Gailey is a committed Christian, Tech fans are going to have to scramble to find a new head coach after the rapture. Don't count on Patrick Nix to be here either. But maybe we can find a place to watch the games from heaven. I hope we see you there.
A: There's probably no hope for an old sinner like me, but thanks for the kind words. If Tech should need to look for a football coach after the impending rapture, I'm sure they'll have no problem finding many "left behind" candidates over in Athens, if you know what I mean (and I think you do).
Q: Who was the last team to score 51 points against Georgia before Tennessee did it?
A: That's a great question and I'm damned if I know the answer. I remember that Florida under Steve Spurrier scored 52 points in 1995 when they drubbed Georgia in Athens, but has any other team scored more than 50 on the Trembling Chihuahuas since then? Hmmm . . . I'm wracking my brain here and I just can't remember. Was it another school from the mighty SEC that did it? Surely it couldn't have been a team from a weak conference like the ACC, could it? For some reason, the year 1999 rings a bell. Maybe some of my readers can help me with this.
This week's picks -
Georgia Tech at Clemson (-7.5). Amazingly, the initial point spread for this game was nine. Whether it's nine or 7.5, I'd take those points and put my money (if I had any left from my last divorce) on the Jackets. I could be way off course here, but I've been impressed by the things the coaches and the team are doing right this year. Chan Gailey needed to have a fresh approach to the offense, so he turned over the play-calling responsibilities to Patrick Nix. The Jackets needed to play tough in Blacksburg to show that last year's loss to Virginia Tech was an aberration, and they did. Tech needed to prove it could beat the teams it is supposed to beat, and it did that with Maryland. I'm convinced. Until the Jackets give me reason to think otherwise, I'm riding this one all the way and picking them to beat the spread and Clemson, straight up.
Texas (-6.5) at Nebraska. Now that Florida, Auburn, and Tennessee all have losses, Texas has reason to hope it can make a return appearance in the BCS championship game. There's no better way to do that than by covering that six-and-a-half against the Huskers.
Mississippi at Arkansas (-19). Did you think Arkansas would be the team to beat in the SEC-West at this point of the season? Neither did I. The Razorbacks are going to lose a couple more games before this is all over, but not this one. Ole Miss looks like a decent pick to beat that spread.
Mississippi State at Georgia (-18). Let's see now, Georgia still doesn't have a settled starter at quarterback, one of its best running backs is out for the year with an ACL, the offensive line sucks, the defensive line is overrated, the special teams have made several big mistakes, and the defensive backfield leaks like a sieve against any half-decent passing attack. Outside of that, of course, everything is going great. I can say without fear of contradiction that the Bulldogs will win and cover the spread in this game.
Boston College at Florida State (-4). I've got a feeling Boston College wins this one straight up and adds to the growing pressure on Bobby Bowden to, dad-gum-it, retire.
Rutgers at Pittsburgh (-6.5). My cousin Guido called me the other day and hinted that it might be a good idea for me to pick the team from his home state of New Jersey. "Nice little football column you got here," Guido said. "It'd be a shame if something happened to it." With advice like that, how could I do anything but go with the Scarlet Knights?
North Carolina State at Maryland (-3). And we think Tech is inconsistent? N. C. State loses to Akron, gets blasted by Southern Miss, then beats Boston College and FSU - before losing to Wake Forest. Come on, Chuck, do you want to keep that job or don't you? Maryland covers.
Miami (-17.5) at Duke - The questions here are how many more Miami players will get arrested by Dade County authorities and whether the Hurricanes will even be able to field 11 players against the Dukies. As an indication of how far the mighty have fallen, look at that spread - only 17.5 points. Miami gets the victory and then wins the fight in the parking lot after the game.
Dr Football returns!
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