I am not certain how “bold” some of these are, since I fully expect them to happen, they are not technically “bold.” That said, they are going to be true, so prepare for these events to take place in the coming new year.
5. Georgia will win the SEC East and play in the first-ever SEC title game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium: I know, this “East-Champs” prediction is an annual affair around Atlanta and North Georgia. This time though it will be spot-on accurate to make this call. History has shown a fascinating parallel between the Dawgs and Falcons through the years. As the pro team in town got it figured out between Years 1 and 2 under the new culture of Dan Quinn, so too will UGA. The return of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, the maturation of Jacob Eason and the young lineman on both sides of the ball all help the cause. Coaching changes can be major when an entirely new philosophy is installed. That often takes a full season to take hold. UGA will win the East in 2017 and begin its march to annual contender.
4. Josh Pastner will get his men: Not man… men. The new basketball coach at Tech will make his mark next season. Tech has everything it needs in place now to return toward the upper echelon of the ACC and the national spotlight in basketball. It has the league, the location, the facilities, the history and the right man running the show. Sometimes all it takes is one recruit to turn a program (search: “Floppy haired coach signs sharpshooter from the middle of Oklahoma”) around. Pastner won’t likely find a Mark Price floating around to be snatched, but he will get a pair of solid recruits that can instantly make Tech a winner. More, those players will be the base of continued recruiting success that will build upon itself. Tech will win 19-21 in Year 2 under Pastner and earn a postseason berth.
3. The Braves will eclipse the .500 mark: This seems less bold since we are talking 82-80, but still that would be a 13-14 game improvement over last season and make the first year of Sun Trust Park a fun summer to be a fan. The decision to retain Brian Snitker was popular across the board and the team will respond to that smart move. They have a corps of solid young players that are still developing (mainly pitchers), which makes the next decision to sign short-term deals with three veteran starters a positive growth move. The Braves have plenty of offense now and a new showcase that, despite the controversies surrounding the relocation, will be a fresh new feel to a franchise that will rekindle the long standing love affair the South has with this club.
2. The Hawks will make three more MAJOR moves: Tony Ressler did not buy this team and announce a massive re-working of Phillips Arena to accept a middle-of-the-road franchise that is stuck spinning in the lower regions of the playoff pool in the East. Dwight Howard was not signed so he could play out his days in his hometown and accept a nice parting gift and a “thanks for everything” when time comes for him to step off the court for the final time. This franchise will not be in wait mode on any front. The hard part is guessing exactly what the major moves will be in the coming spring and summer. I do expect a major trade before the deadline. I also expect another major free-agent signing in the offseason. Add to that a surprise move that will shake the Hawks and set them up to be able to think of making a major push in the not-too-distant future toward a berth in the NBA Finals.
1. The Falcons will win Super Bowl 51: If you do not listen to Hugh Douglas and I in the mornings on 929 The Game, then I can’t help you understand this. You need to listen. Not just tune in to the show, but listen. This is not a prediction, this is a known fact. One of our other hosts is certain this season will end with a playoff loss and hand-wringing about the players and coaches from Brunswick to Blue Ridge. That host is wrong and I will tell you who he is when I put him on our show to eat crow after the first Sunday in February.