MLB Postseason, NFL Week 5, and College Football storylines……
Los Angeles Dodgers 4 Atlanta Braves 3 (Dodgers win NLDS 3-1)
The great Gladys Knight, and her ‘Pips’ in 1973 had a hit single called ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’. That song was really heavy on my mind as Game 4 of the National League Division Series, between the Atlanta Braves and L.A. Dodgers went to the bottom of the 8th inning, Monday night. Win or lose, the Braves would be on their way home. With a win, the Dodgers would be joining the Braves on the trip back to Georgia, for a series deciding Game 5. Of course, travelling by plane would be much more preferred than travelling by train, especially from L.A. to Atlanta, but you get the picture.
Neither, Yasiel Puig or Juan Uribe wanted any part of a ‘Midnight Train (or plane) to Georgia’, as Uribe’s dramatic 2-run homer gave the Dodgers the lead and ultimately the game. The homerun also sent the Braves home with yet another disappointing exit from the playoffs. The Midnight ride back home to Georgia had to be excruciatingly long and quiet. Especially, when you factor in the manner in which they lost the game. The Dodgers sent their ace Clayton Kershaw to the mound on just 3 days rest. Carl Crawford, would help him out early with homers in the 1st and 3rd innings to give L.A. a 2-0 lead. Usually, that’s enough for Kershaw to win. Plus, factoring in the Braves starting Freddy Garcia, who has to be 60 years old and hadn’t pitched in a pressure packed game like this in a long time, the Dodgers looked like a sure bet to end the series in 4 games. Ok, Garcia is 38 years old but again, you get the picture. Despite all that, the Braves fought back and led 3-2 going to the 8th inning. That’s when the fatal error of the game occurred.
Braves manager, Fredi Gonzales went with David Carpenter out of the bullpen instead of going with his flame-throwing closer, Craig Kimbrel. The end result was Puig leading off with a double, and then Uribe hitting the 2-run homer. Kimbrel, is usually a 3-out pitcher, and that’s fine, but in a do or die situation like this he should have been a 6-out pitcher, and on the mound to start the 8th. That’s not to say Kimbrel wouldn’t have given up the same homerun, but the numbers say otherwise. So, there you have it. The Dodgers move on to the NLCS and the Braves were forced to take that Midnight ride to Georgia, only to clear out their lockers. Maybe, next year Braves fans.
New York Jets 30 Atlanta Falcons 28
Unfortunately, the Braves loss wasn’t the only disappointment on the Atlanta sports scene, Monday night. On the night the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called “The Worst Night in Atlanta Sports History” (Those are strong words) The Atlanta Falcons were even more disappointing than the Braves. At least the Braves were playing on the road against a team that many felt was as good, or better than they were. The Falcons lost to the New York Jets. The same New York Jets that have rookie quarterback, Geno Smith running the show. The Jets came to play ball and got the win. Congrats to them. However, I don’t know what the Falcons were doing. Their puzzling performance dropped them to 1-4 and in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. A team many thought could get to the Super Bowl is reeling and there is no relief in sight. We’ll keep tabs on the Falcons, who are hurting with the injury bug. Including Julio Jones, who may be out for the rest of the year, with a foot injury. Elsewhere in the NFL, there was lots of good action in Week 5.
The most notable game was the shootout at AT&T Field in Dallas, as the Broncos beat the Cowboys 51-48, but there were many other storylines. The Chiefs and Saints join the Broncos with 5-0 records. The Saints were very impressive defensively, and got enough offense to beat the Bears, and the Chiefs beat a gutsy Titans team in Nashville. The Saints are threatening to run away with the NFC South, while the Chiefs continue to prove the Broncos are not alone in the AFC West. Those two teams don’t meet until December 1st, and it’s looking more and more possible both teams could be unbeaten. That should be fun.
Stories like the Chiefs have been highlights so far in the season, but there have been lots of low lights also. None is worse than the start by the New York Giants. The Giants can’t score, they can’t stop anyone, and Eli Manning is trying to be the NFC East’s Matt Schaub. The Giants are off to one of their worst starts in franchise history, but remarkably are not completely out of the NFC East race. The Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins all have lots of holes, but someone has to win the division. The Cowboys look like the favorite.
College Football storylines……….
South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, is making a name for himself and his coach, Steve Spurrier in all the wrong ways. Clowney, the clear favorite to be the top draft pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has been accused of taking plays off, and not being fully committed to the team. It’s hard to argue when you look at his stats compared to last years, but it’s also very hard to figure out. Only time will tell, whether or not Clowney is hurting his draft stock, but the entire scenario is making Clowney and Spurrier look pretty bad. ‘The Old Ball Coach’ seems very apologetic for, and looks like he’s lost control of Clowney, and the Gamecocks defense has suffered mightily from his lack of effort. IF Clowney can get his head straight, the Gamecocks still have all of their goals within reach, in a SEC East that’s looking more winnable.
The SEC East looks more winnable because of the devastating injuries suffered by the Georgia Bulldogs. The Dawgs lost 2 more players (Keith Marshall, Justin Scott-Wesley) for the season, in Saturday’s come from behind win at Tennessee. That’s in addition to Malcolm Mitchell, whom Georgia lost for the season during the Clemson game. Add to that, wide receiver Michael Bennett being out for a while, and not mention Todd Gurley’s injury. In fact, Gurley is questionable against the surprising, but still unknown Missouri Tigers this weekend. We’ll finally find out about Mizzou this weekend, and what about Florida? The Gators all of a sudden look like they can score a few points to go along with their stout defense. The SEC East looks like it could become wide open if Georgia’s young freshmen are overwhelmed by the pressure.
Speaking of wide open, the race to the BCS Title Game looks pretty wide open also. There are as many as 5-6 SEC teams, 3-4 PAC-12 teams, 3 ACC teams and 2 Big 12 or Big Ten teams that have a legitimate shot at making their way to Pasadena for the BCS Title Game. Don’t forget about Louisville, either. Of course, all of this will work itself out, but this season seems to be a little more top-heavy than in past seasons. Conferences like the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 are especially top-heavy. Clemson, FSU, and Miami are clearly more than a step above the rest of the ACC. The same can be said for Ohio State in the Big Ten. The way this season is starting out, it seems far more likely that there could be more than 2 teams undefeated at the end of the season. Which would be chaotic to say the least. Again, there is a long way to go, but if things stay on course it would be unfortunate that the playoff won’t be implemented until next season.
When the playoff is implemented, former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice will be on the selection committee. The move has been very controversial, but after serious thought, I don’t know if there is a better person for the job. So what she isn’t an ex-football player. So what she may not know all of the intricacies of sport, like how to break down a play, design a play, or coach a team. So what she’s a woman. She’s not clueless about football. She grew up in Birmingham Alabama, you know. She was also an Alabama fan in her childhood. Football is in her blood. Also, the intangibles she can add to the committee are immense. She’s negotiated with leaders of countries all over the world for breakfast and dealt with the President of the United States for lunch and dinner. Moderating a meeting, or assisting the rest of the committee on whether or not team A is more deserving of a spot in the playoff, than team B will be a breeze for her.
Old school coaches and players like Pat Dye, and college football purists need to wake up and smell the 2000’s. Simple as that. I just wish the playoff were already in place. It could have been an epic playoff this season. Oh well, there’s always next season.