Bobby Pope

Looking ahead to 2017

Making predictions of what is going to happen in the world of sports is always a fun experience but somewhat of an exercise in futility.

I looked back on my 2016 list and discovered I was more wrong than right. I was correct on picking Alabama to win the national championship in football in January and on Georgia beating Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl and then taking care of North Carolina in September in Kirby Smart’s first game as head coach in the Chick-fil-A-Kickoff Classic. I was also on the money on Alabama winning the SEC football title and Clemson taking the ACC crown, on UConn capturing the NCAA women’s basketball title, on Georgia Tech making the NIT men’s field, on Nyquist winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness; on Novak Djokovic winning the French Open and Wimbledon tennis titles and Serena Williams winning at Wimbledon.

Among the things I was wrong on was picking Seattle to beat New England in the Super Bowl, Georgia’s football team to go 10-2 and Georgia Tech to go 7-5, Mercer’s football team to go 8-3, the Atlanta Falcons to finish 8-8 this season, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson to win the Heisman Trophy and North Carolina to beat Michigan State in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Also, I failed to pick any winner in golf’s Grand Slam tournaments.

In 2017 in football, I see Alabama winning another national championship in Tampa, Florida in two weeks. Georgia will beat TCU in the Liberty Bowl, and next fall, I see the Bulldogs, with Sony Michel and Nick Chubb returning, finishing with a 10-2 record, while Georgia Tech will go 7-5

It’s Alabama and Georgia in the SEC title game and Florida State and Miami in the ACC championship. Mercer’s football team will go 5-6 (losing to Alabama and Auburn). The Dallas Cowboys will beat New England in the Super Bowl, and Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers will win the Heisman Trophy.

In basketball, Duke wins the NCAA men’s championship, beating Kentucky in the finals while on the women’s side it’s — who else? — Connecticut over Notre Dame. Mercer’s men finish six games above .500 but lose in the Southern Conference Tournament semifinals while the Mercer women take the conference title and lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. In the NBA, for the third straight year Cleveland squares off against Golden State and the Warriors win it all in six games. The Hawks will make the playoffs but will be eliminated in the second round.

In baseball, the Chicago Cubs win the World Series for the second straight year, beating the Boston Red Sox in six games; The Braves win 84 games in Brian Snitker’s first season as full-time manager, but they fail to make the playoffs again, and Craig Gibson’s Mercer Bears win another Southern Conference title.

In golf, Hideki Matsuyama wears the green jacket in Augusta, Jordan Spieth captures the U.S. Open, Dustin Johnson is the British Open winner, and Phil Mickelson wins the PGA Championship.

Turning to horse racing, Classic Empire becomes the second Triple Crown winner in the past three years, taking the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

And finally in tennis, Djokovic wins at Australian and French opens, Andy Murray claims Wimbledon again, and Milos Raonic takes the U.S. Open. On the women’s side, Angelique Kerber takes the Australian and French opens, Serena Williams is the champion at Wimbledon again, and American Madison Keys is the U.S. Open winner.

Like I say each year, don’t bet of any of my predictions. And finally Happy New Year!

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