Bill Shanks’ predictions for the new year

sports@macon.comDecember 29, 2012 

The years certainly do fly by fast, don’t they? It’s hard to believe we’re at the end of 2012. Let’s make a few predictions for what will happen in sports in the coming year.

First, we’ll talk about something that will happen on the final day of 2012 -- Monday in El Paso, Texas, as Georgia Tech plays Southern Cal in the Sun Bowl. The Yellow Jackets will lose to finish 6-8, which will prove they didn’t belong there in the first place. Plus, Tech fans will again wonder why head coach Paul Johnson can’t win a bowl game. They might not expect it this year anyway, considering the record, but a loss to the Trojans won’t make it easy to take, no matter what.

Then, Tuesday, the Georgia Bulldogs will play Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Georgia also needs a postseason win after two straight bowl losses. The Bulldogs lost in Tampa last year to Michigan State, and who can forget the awful loss to Central Florida two years ago?

Georgia will win this game against the Cornhuskers. Even if the Bulldogs do have a few potential NFL players thinking about the future, there’s just too much talent to lose this one.

We’re getting close to the BCS championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish will make this a close one, and don’t be floored if they pull it off. But you have to go with the SEC until a team proves you shouldn’t, right? Expect the Crimson Tide to win a very good football game and give the conference its seventh straight national title.

After all the bowl games are over, the attention will be back on the NFL around these parts. The Falcons will have some time to prepare for their first opponent in two weeks. The fans are holding their breath that this team can avoid another playoff fiasco, as we’ve seen for two years in a row. This is a different team, as the players have been saying all week, and there’s little doubt here they can go deeper into the playoffs.

Can the Falcons win it all? My heart tells me yes, but my head tells me to be careful about drinking that Kool-Aid. It won’t shock me, and if they play well in the divisional playoff game at home, the Falcons might prove too tough to be stopped. But here’s saying Atlanta will make the Super Bowl and, unfortunately, lose to the Denver Broncos.

How cruel would that be? Maybe no one in the secondary will go out for a little fun the night before the big game, like what happened in 1999 with Eugene Robinson, and we’ll have a different outcome so the Falcons can prove me wrong.

For basketball, the Mercer men’s team will win the A-Sun championship on its home court in early March. Bob Hoffman has a very good team, and after coming close a few times, the Bears will lift the trophy at Hawkins Arena and head to the NCAA tournament.

The Atlanta Hawks will have better success in the playoffs, but they’ll still stall in round two. The real drama for the Hawks will be this offseason. They’ll re-sign Josh Smith and then sign Chris Paul as a free agent. And after winning 50 or more games this season, Larry Drew will unfortunately be kept by general manager Danny Ferry as Atlanta’s head coach.

The Braves will have another good team and make it close to the 94 wins they had a season ago. They’ll make it past the do-or-die play-in game this time around and will win the first-round playoff series, but Atlanta will lose in the NLCS. The absentee ownership of Liberty Media will once again prohibit the Braves from being the true contender they need to be to win a World Series.

When football season rolls around in September, the Bulldogs will have a tougher regular season and go 9-3. They’ll miss out this time around on the SEC East and will settle for the Outback Bowl next January. Georgia Tech will be a bit better, with a new quarterback and new defensive coordinator, but not much. Expect a 7-5 record, maybe 8-4 if everything falls in place.

We live in one of the best states in the country for sports, and there’s no reason to believe 2013 will not give us our share of tremendous games and storylines. Once again, it should be a blast. Happy New Year!

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on Twitter@yahoo.com.

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