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The Monday After: Georgia offense showing out signals Dawgs may be even more dangerous in 2022 season

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The Monday After: Georgia offense showing out signals Dawgs may be even more dangerous in 2022 season

One of the most difficult aspects of Week 1 is not overreacting to everything you see. It’s just … it’s tough not to do that when you’ve waited so long to see teams in action, and then they’re right there in front of you … in action. Your brain is desperate to reach a conclusion about players, coaches and teams in general. These guys are great, these guys suck and those uniforms are nice. 

But even with that in mind, and with a concerted effort on my part not to overreact to anything I saw this weekend one way or the other, I could not escape one particular thought while watching Georgia dismantle Oregon 49-3 with surgical precision: What if Georgia is better this season?

It wasn’t the overall ability on display; that was evident last season when the Bulldogs won a national title. There were very few teams in the country capable of matching them in the talent department, and even after losing so many key parts to the NFL (as well as the transfer portal), I knew Georgia had plenty behind it. It didn’t take long for the Dawgs to flex in your face, as five-star freshman Malaki Starks showed you how he earned all five of those stars and probably deserves a sixth with an early interception.

No, what stood out more than anything was the Georgia offense. Last year’s Bulldogs offense didn’t receive much credit. It had a former walk-on at quarterback in Stetson Bennett, and this is the era of the Five-Star Prototype QB. If you don’t have one, most dismiss your offense entirely. So nobody noticed that the Georgia offense finished third nationally in offensive success rate (Alabama was 18th), seventh in points per possession or eighth in EPA (expected points added) per play last season. Those who did dismissed it as a byproduct of being paired with an otherworldly defense that took the pressure off and handed Georgia excellent field position all year. There was certainly truth to it.

Georgia’s average starting field position last season was its 31-yard line, which ranked 24th nationally. That’s certainly an advantage, but it was tied with Clemson, another team with an otherworldly defense that gave its offense every advantage. Yet, the Clemson offense didn’t quite compare to Georgia’s, did it?

On Saturday, Georgia didn’t have that benefit. Its average drive began at the Georgia 21.7-yard line, but that didn’t stop the Bulldogs from scoring seven touchdowns on nine possessions. Those seven touchdown drives averaged 76.6 yards. This was not an offense taking advantage of a short field. Their success rate of 63.1% ranks third nationally but first among teams that played FBS opponents (Miami and Baylor rank first and second). And Georgia’s FBS opponent was ranked No. 11 to start the year.

The other unexpected aspect of it was that Georgia’s passing attack was what thrived. Bennett was throwing the ball all over the field, and the Bulldogs had a 29.7% explosive play rate (6th nationally so far). Now, it’s not as if Bennett was chucking the ball downfield or anything; the average air yards on his passes was only 5.06 yards. It was a lot of short passes with big gains afterward.  But we’re not evaluating Bennett as an NFL prospect, we’re evaluating him as a conductor of the offense, and he and Georgia made beautiful music together.

I came into the season thinking Georgia would reach the College Football Playoff again, but it didn’t have the horses to beat both Alabama and Ohio State. If the offense I saw face Oregon is the same one that shows up all season, it’s time to reevaluate.

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Is Georgia better this season? It just might be.

Worst Scheduling Decisions of the Week

This one goes out to the ACC, which had not one, not two, but three of its schools playing road games against Group of Five opponents this weekend. Virginia Tech was on the road to face Old Dominion, while NC State made a trip to East Carolina and North Carolina went to the mountains to play Appalachian State. The intrepid trio managed to escape with a 2-1 record, but it very easily could’ve been 0-3.

East Carolina missed a field goal and an extra point in a 21-20 loss to NC State. Appalachian State failed to convert on two different 2-point conversions in a 63-61 (sixty-three to sixty-one) loss to North Carolina. And none of these games should’ve been played.

I get it. It’s an admirable thing to do for these ACC schools. Playing in-state rivals from smaller leagues in their stadium is a genuinely nice thing to do and a great show of solidarity. The problem is there’s a thin line between admirable and stupid, and the ACC is not in a position to do the admirable thing.

The league is locked into a bad television deal for roughly the next billion years. The most feasible way to increase revenue in that time will be money from the new College Football Playoff contract — money that will likely be broken down by how many teams you get into the playoff. The ACC’s reputation isn’t the best right now, and scheduling games it could lose like this won’t help.

Sure, you can mock the SEC for playing FCS teams late in the season. You can roll your eyes at all those home games against MAC teams the Big Ten plays in September. But guess what? They win those games, go to bowls and improve their conference’s reputation.

Be a little more selfish, ACC. You’re a Power Five conference. Act like one.

Facial Hair of the Week

Looking good, Brad Robbins. Looking good. Robbins might have a lot more time to work on his facial hair this season, because after watching Michigan put up 51 points against Colorado State, he might not be asked to punt often.

Fourth-and-Goal Punt of the Week

Congratulations to Rutgers, a college football program that cannot stop making history. Not only was Rutgers the first school to play a college football game, but on Saturday, it became the first college football team to punt on fourth-and-goal from the opponent’s 43-yard line.

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After facing a first-and-goal from the Boston College 10 in the first quarter, an offensive pass interference call backed the Knights up to the BC 23. A holding call on the next play pushed them back to the 33. That was followed by an incomplete pass, a false start and a holding call.

What’s crazier? While I don’t know for sure that Rutgers is the first team in history to punt on fourth-and-goal from the 43 (I’m not sure where I could even look it up), I am confident Rutgers is the first team in history to punt on fourth-and-goal from the 43-yard line in a game and win the game. That’s what the Knights did, beating Boston College 22-21. Maybe we should add not scheduling home games against Power Five opponents to the ACC’s new scheduling rules too?

The Back Team of the Week

It happens every year. A team that’s been down the last few seasons has a big win to start the new campaign, and we officially declare they are back. Well, in this case, it’s Florida State’s players declaring they’re back after a 24-23 win over LSU in the Caesars Superdome. I don’t believe it, but I’m happy to play along strictly for the vibes.

Listen, it’s a huge win for Florida State and one Mike Norvell and Co. needed. But nothing I saw between the Seminoles and Tigers Sunday night leads me to believe that either one of these teams will be anything special in 2022. That’s not to say they won’t flirt with being ranked all season long, and honestly, that should be enough for both. But Florida State isn’t BACK. It’s simply on the right track.

Superstar of the Week

Remember last season when Florida fans were begging for Dan Mullen to put Anthony Richardson in over Emory Jones? It wasn’t that Richardson was lighting it up when he did get the opportunity; it was more that Gators fans had seen enough of Jones and thought there was a higher ceiling in Richardson.

Well, the ceiling was on display against Utah. I saw people comparing Richardson to Vince Young and Cam Newton following his standout performance (168 yards passing, 106 rushing, 3 total TD), and while we’re putting the cart way in front of the horse there, I can at least see the vision.

Of course, I also wonder what unintended side effects Florida’s 29-26 win over No. 7 Utah could have. It was Billy Napier’s first game in charge and Richardson’s first as the starter. It ended with a win over a top-10 team. I fear, however, that it could raise expectations in Gainesville prematurely.

Stat of the Week

I sometimes wonder if Iowa football exists solely to let fans who hate their team’s offensive coordinator remember that it could be worse.

Low Key Game of the Week

Each week in The Monday After, I will highlight a great game that won’t get much national attention because it wasn’t a matchup featuring highly-ranked teams. This week, we tip our cap to Houston’s thrilling 37-35 win over UTSA in triple-overtime.

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I went into Week 1 with this game circled on the schedule because it intrigued me. Houston this year has high expectations because it is one of the most experienced teams in the G5, and people see the Cougars as a real contender for a New Year’s Six bid and an AAC title. I also wanted to see what UTSA looked like coming off an exciting season but without star running back Sincere McCormick and offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr.

I did not think the game would be as incredible as it was, but my primary takeaway is that both teams are legitimately good and could wind up winning their respective conferences this season.

College Football Playoff Projection of the Week

Just a reminder, this is not what I think will happen at the end of the season, but rather my guess as to what I think the selection committee would do if releasing rankings this week.

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. Ohio State
  4. Oklahoma

Until the next Monday After!

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Panthers outlast Hurricanes in 4th OT in 6th-longest game in NHL history

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Panthers outlast Hurricanes in 4th OT in 6th-longest game in NHL history

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers seemed determined to keep playing. And playing. And playing.

The teams opened their Eastern Conference final playoff series with Florida’s 3-2 victory in four overtimes early Friday, with the game ranking as the sixth-longest game in NHL history.

Matthew Tkachuk’s goal came at the 19:47 mark of the fourth OT to end this one, which marked the 15th four-overtime game in NHL history and the longest game in franchise history for each team.

The longest game in NHL history came on March 24, 1936, when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Montreal Maroons 1-0 in the sixth overtime on Mud Bruneteau’s goal at 116 minutes, 30 seconds of extra play.

Florida’s previous record for longest game was 104:31 in Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup final against Colorado. Carolina’s previous record was 114:47 for Game 3 of the 2002 Stanley Cup final.

The only good news for the teams is they had an extended break before this series began. Carolina closed out New Jersey exactly a week earlier, while Florida eliminated Toronto a day later.

But this game ended roughly six hours after Thursday night’s puck drop, and the teams have a Game 2 in less than 48 hours.

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AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Barcelona says probe found no evidence of corruption by club

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Barcelona says probe found no evidence of corruption by club

MADRID (AP) — The investigation ordered by Barcelona into its controversial payments for refereeing reports found no evidence of corruption by the club, president Joan Laporta said Monday.

Laporta reiterated that the club’s payments over several years to the company owned by the vice president of Spain’s refereeing committee were only for technical reports and not to influence referees. He said he believed there were no ethics breach and that Barcelona was the victim of a campaign to hurt its reputation.

“This is one of the most ferocious attacks in our history,” Laporta said. “I ask FC Barcelona supporters to be as united as ever in defense of our crest, our essence, and our ownership model. No campaign to discredit us will prevent us from continuing to be an organization of reference in the world of sports that is beloved and admired by millions of Catalans and by many more millions of people around the world.”

It was the first time Laporta spoke at a news conference to give explanations after it became public that the club paid 7.3 million euros ($8 million) from 2001-18 to the company of then committee vice president José María Enríquez Negreira. Prosecutors have accused Barcelona of alleged corruption in sports, fraudulent management, and falsification of mercantile documentation.

Barcelona opened the probe to look into the actions of all the different presidential administrations that made payments over the years, including Laporta’s first at the club. The investigation was conducted by an external company.

The club said the probe found that “no conducts of a criminal nature associated to sporting corruption have been identified, nor are there any grounds to investigate any form of criminal activity associated to bribery.” It added there was “official documentation on the invoices and payments” for the services of “scouting and advice regarding referees, which are common practices in the professional sports sector.”

“Consulting on technical-refereeing issues does not constitute any type of illegal act,” Laporta said. “Consulting, as is done by the big clubs, that was carried out transparently, with the corresponding invoices, at least in my first mandate as president.”

The probe found 629 technical refereeing reports and 43 CDs that the club received over 18 years for what Laporta called “market price.” More reports were likely lost over time, he said.

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“I reiterate with all my resolve, I am convinced that FC Barcelona has not committed any crime of sports-related corruption. I hope that sooner rather than later, it is fully exonerated,” he said. “Accusations must be proven. We live by the rule of law, which guarantees among its basic principles the presumption of innocence.”

He said that if there were any irregularities committed by Negreira, Barcelona would be a victim of them. He also said Negreira was not in a position to directly influence referees, and that it was Negreira’s son who actually produced the refereeing reports.

“I dare anyone to show an instance in which Barcelona was favored in a match because of these payments,” Laporta said. “We will allow the justice system to do its work and I’m sure that Barcelona will be cleared. I am fully convinced that FC Barcelona has never performed any act with the intention of altering the competition to gain an advantage.”

The Spanish league, Real Madrid and other clubs have been among those taking part in the legal proceedings against Barcelona. Laporta criticized league president Javier Tebas for making accusations against Barcelona, and also took a shot at rival Madrid.

“Everyone knows that Real Madrid is a club that is historically favored by refereeing mistakes,” he said.

Laporta said Barcelona has always been a club that takes pride in its values, and it would never want to win anything with outside help.

“Throughout its 123-year history, FC Barcelona has always been a model of fair play, both on and off the field,” he said. “If we have won for so many decades, it has undoubtedly been a result of effort, talent and knowledge.”

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Silicon Valley councilman indicted in 49ers report leak

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Silicon Valley councilman indicted in 49ers report leak

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Silicon Valley city councilman has been charged with perjury after he allegedly lied about leaking a grand jury report to the San Francisco 49ers last year that detailed a purportedly unethical relationship between the team and the city council, prosecutors said Friday.

Santa Clara City Councilmember Anthony Becker is accused of providing the secret report titled “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Santa Clara City Council” to the team’s former top spokesperson and a local media outlet in 2022, days ahead of its official release.

Becker then allegedly lied to the grand jury about the leak, prosecutors said, prompting the criminal charges.

The 49ers play in Levi’s Stadium in the city of Santa Clara, about 35 miles (56.33 kilometers) south of San Francisco. Santa Clara County is broadly considered home to Silicon Valley.

The city of Santa Clara owns the stadium and leases it to the team; fighting between the two groups has led to ethics complaints, legal disputes and years of bad blood.

Al Guido, the team’s president, and Larry MacNeil, the former CFO who worked extensively on the team’s stadium project, were named in the indictment as witnesses who spoke to the criminal grand jury for Becker’s indictment.

“The 49ers have cooperated fully with the District Attorney’s Office in their investigation, and will continue to do so,” team spokesperson Brian Brokaw said in a statement Friday. “However, because this is an ongoing legal matter, the organization is not able to make any further comment at this time.”

Prosecutors say the team has bankrolled Becker’s political career by spending $3.2 million through independent expenditure committees for his 2020 city council race, which he won, as well as his unsuccessful 2022 mayoral bid.

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The “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” report alleged that Becker and four other councilmembers regularly voted “in a manner that is favorable to the 49ers” and would routinely meet with the team’s lobbyists but not disclose what was discussed.

Becker faces a felony charge of perjury under oath, as well as a misdemeanor charge of willful failure to perform duty. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

Becker did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday, and it was not clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

“Councilmember Becker violated the public’s trust,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “That an elected official would commit perjury and lie under oath before the grand jury strikes at the very heart of our justice system and requires accountability.”

Representatives for the Santa Clara City Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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