Baseball -- the Braves and the pennant races
I was trying to stay up-to-date with the Atlanta Braves, but grew disgusted with them. In my last update, the Braves were on their way to Florida to begin a four-game set with the Marlins. They were tied with the Marlins for second place in the NL East and in good shape in the NL wildcard race. They took the first two games of that series and life was good. Then they lost the third game on a late home run and got blown out in the fourth game. The slide continued with the Cincinnati Reds sweeping the Braves in a three-game series at home. That made five losses in a row and things looked pretty dismal. But the Braves are trying to salvage something. They went back on the road and took two out of three from the Astros and three straight from the Cardinals.
But the days are dwindling down to a precious few. There are just 19 games left and the Braves are pretty much where they were at the beginning of the month as far as the division standings -- they're in third place, 7 1/2 games behind the Phillies. They've lost ground in the wildcard race though -- they're now in fourth place, 6 1/2 games behind the Rockies. The good news is that the remaining games are all against NL East opponents. The bad news is that they've got to win most of them and the Phillies or the Rockies are going to have to have a terrible swoon. The Braves open up a three-game series against the Mets Tuesday evening.
Overall, the baseball season has been a drag if you like close races. The Los Angeles Dodgers are holding onto a three game lead over the Rockies in the NL West, and that's about the closest thing we have to a pennant race. The Phillies lead the Marlins by 6 1/2 in the NL East. The Cardinals, even after the sweep by the Braves, lead the Cubs by 9 1/2 in the NL Central. In the American League, the Yankees lead Boston by seven in the East, the Tigers lead the Twins by 5 1/2 in the Central and the Angels lead the Rangers by six in the West. The wildcard races are a little closer -- Boston leads Texas by four in the AL, and the Rockies lead the Giants by 4 1/2 in the NL.
College Football -- the SEC
We're now two weeks into the college football season. For the most part, SEC teams played the Sisters of the Poor in Week One. The only exceptions were the Georgia - Oklahoma State and the Alabama - Virginia Tech games. The Georgia game turned on a personal foul penalty. The Bulldogs marched down the field and scored a touchdown on the opening play of the game, but only scored three more points the rest of the way, losing 24-10. Virginia Tech led Alabama 17-16 until the fourth quarter when the Tide finally wore them down and got out with the 34-24 win.
Week Two was a little better. There were still some Sisters of the Poor games -- Florida destroyed Troy and Alabama crushed Florida International -- but there were some conference games and Tennessee lost a non-conference game against UCLA. The Vols were driving for the win, but were stopped on fourth-and-goal from the two with just over a minute left. The Vols caught Bruins QB Kevin Prince in the end zone for a safety and got the ball back, but Jonathan Crompton took a sack and threw three incomplete passes to give the ball back to UCLA to run out the clock. UCLA 19, Tennessee 15.
Georgia almost began the season 0-2, but survived against South Carolina when Rennie Curran stuck up a hand and knocked down the final pass of the night, a fourth-down pass from the 7-yard line with just 22 seconds left in the game. The Gamecocks had to go for the touchdown; they were behind by four after having an extra point blocked earlier in the fourth quarter. It was a wild one. The Gamecocks had ten more first downs than the Bulldogs and over 100 more total yards. Georgia 41, South Carolina 37.
In the other conference games it was Auburn over Mississippi State 49-24 and LSU over Vanderbilt 23-9.
The Pros -- the Falcons and Titans
Pro football kicked off this weekend. Actually, the Tennessee Titans began the season Thursday night, traveling to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. The difference was field goals. The Titans' Rod Bironas missed two from inside the 40, but the Steelers' Jeff Reed hit a 32-yarder to make it a 10-10 game with less than three minutes left. The Titans lost the overtime coin toss and never saw the ball again. The Steelers drove down the field and Reed hit the game-winner from 33 yards out. Steelers 13, Titans 10. It was a costly win for the Steelers; safety Troy Polamalu left with a knee injury and could be out 3-6 weeks.
The Falcons defense is a big question mark this season, but on Sunday afternoon they forced four turnovers to beat the Miami Dolphins 19-7. Matt Ryan went 22-for-36 for 229 yards and two touchdowns, one to new TE Tony Gonzalez.