(Updated 8:30 p.m.)
ATHENS – Georgia coach Mark Richt brushed off comments by two of his defensive players that figured to get a prominent place on the Alabama bulletin board.
Safety Bacarri Rambo told ESPN Radio, in an otherwise tame interview Saturday, that the Bulldogs “have better players” than Alabama “at each position, across the board, especially on defense.” And cornerback Sanders Commings told reporters Monday, “I think we’re the best defense in the country. … Everybody on this defense thinks we are.”
Richt was asked Tuesday about such brash statements.
“You know what? They’re all young and excited, and they say what they want to say sometimes,” Richt replied. “And I don’t think it’s going to matter much what everybody says before the game.
“I think it’s going to matter what happens when we kick it off. So I’m not too worried about that.”
The comments by Georgia’s defensive players have drawn attention because Alabama — the Bulldogs’ opponent in the SEC Championship game on Saturday — statistically ranks No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense (9.25 points allowed per game) and total defense (233.7 yards allowed per game).
Georgia ranks No. 16 nationally in scoring defense (17.7 points allowed per game) and No. 22 in total defense (337.8 yards allowed per game). But after a slow start this season, the Bulldogs’ defense has come on strong, holding its past five opponents to an average of 8.6 points.
Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera smiled when asked Tuesday about his teammates’ strong statements.
“I feel the same. … I back those guys up,” Herrera said. “I haven’t seen anyone play better than us the second half of the season.
“You can probably say we were lacking some confidence early in the year because we weren’t playing as well as we should have been. But now we have the swagger back, and we’re feeling like the best again.”
Commings said his and Rambo’s comments simply reflected their belief in themselves and their teammates.
“It’s good to play with confidence,” Commings said. “Confidence is just another word for swagger. We step on the field, and that swagger is turned all the way up. We feel like we can shut anybody down, shut anybody out. In order to play good, you have to be confident; you have to have swagger.”
Like Richt, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham seemed unconcerned about his players’ bravado.
“I think both teams have confidence. Our guys have confidence,” Grantham said. “It’s going to come down to who executes and plays on the field, and we all understand that. … It’s going to be a battle. (Alabama is) a talented team. We all understand that. And even the guys you’ve talked to understand that, too.”
Spurrier points to schedules
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier couldn’t resist noting that the two teams in the SEC Championship game enjoyed favorable regular-season schedules.
“Alabama had the easiest schedule in the West division side, and Georgia had the easiest on our side,” Spurrier told The State newspaper of Columbia, S.C., on Monday. “I find it very interesting, and I haven’t seen anybody really write about (it).
“Before the season started, you would say these guys have the favorable schedule(s). I guess that’s just the way life is sometimes.”
Georgia’s regular-season schedule did not include any of the top three Western Divisons teams (Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M), while Alabama’s did not include any of the top three East teams (Georgia, Florida and South Carolina).
Georgia defeated its two West opponents, Ole Miss and Auburn, while South Carolina lost to LSU and beat Arkansas.
This is the second consecutive season that Georgia won the SEC East despite losing to South Carolina. Spurrier proposed at the SEC meetings this past summer that cross-division games not count in the standings, but the idea went nowhere. Asked this week if he thought the proposal would ever gain traction, Spurrier told The State: “No, TV would never allow it.”
Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell (bruised left shoulder) and cornerback Damian Swann (neck strain) participated in Georgia’s practice on a limited, no-contact basis Tuesday. Both are expected to play Saturday.
“We’re very thin at the (receiver) position,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We’re a little banged up going into the game. … We’ve just got to get through this week of practice and stay healthy and be smart with them during the game.”
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