Suspension possible for Bama player for hit on Georgia QB Aaron Murray

ATHENS — Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity confirmed Monday the Bulldogs have asked the SEC to review the legality of a hit on Aaron Murray that required him to be helped off the field shortly before halftime in the SEC Championship game. But they need not have bothered; the league office is already looking into it.

Alabama defensive lineman Quinton Dial hit Murray with a above-the-shoulder, helmet-to-helmet strike after Murray threw an interception at the 1:15 mark of the second quarter. Crimson Tide defensive back Ha-Sean Clinton-Dix was in the midst of a 35-yard return when the 304-pound Dial left his feet and made contact with the side of Murray’s helmet toward the end of the play. Murray was out of the play and not in position to make the tackle.

McGarity said he was “stunned” when he saw the replay of the Dial’s hit — he missed it during live-game-action — and immediately moved to make sure the play was going to be reviewed.

“I actually didn’t see the hit until I …

Continue reading Suspension possible for Bama player for hit on Georgia QB Aaron Murray »

Richt: ‘We spent ourselves in a worthy cause…. You’ve got to kind of get over the heartbreak’

Georgia coach Mark Richt said his program is moving on from the “heartbreak” of Saturday’s SEC Championship game loss and “getting back to work.”

Mark Richt: "It was heartbreaking, no doubt." (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Mark Richt: "It was heartbreaking, no doubt." (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

“You know what? We spent ourselves in a worthy cause,” Richt said Sunday night. “We of course wanted to play for the national championship. We knew we were just a couple of yards away, maybe a couple of seconds away or a tipped ball away or however you want to say it. We were at least in position to win it.

“It was heartbreaking, no doubt. We were all highly, highly hurt by it. … We just came up short. It was one of those games where either team could have won. So you’ve got to kind of get over the heartbreak of that. And I’ve always had the ability to understand what the reality is and move on.

“We’re already out recruiting. We’re getting back to work.”

Despite the dashed dream of playing for the national championship, Richt …

Continue reading Richt: ‘We spent ourselves in a worthy cause…. You’ve got to kind of get over the heartbreak’ »

Georgia vs. Nebraska in Capital One Bowl (UPDATED w/ comments)

(Updated 10 p.m.)

A day after coming up five yards short of a trip to Miami for the national championship game, Georgia’s football team learned Sunday that it will play a bowl game in a different Florida city.

The Bulldogs (11-2) will play Nebraska (10-3) in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on Jan. 1 in a matchup of the losers of the SEC and Big Ten championship games.

While Georgia lost the SEC title to Alabama 32-28 on the final play of a stirring game, Nebraska endured an embarrassing 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.

The Capital One, which holds first choice of SEC teams after the BCS games, had been rumored to be considering Texas A&M and its Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Johnny Manziel. But after Georgia’s strong performance against Alabama, the bowl opted to take the Bulldogs, who dropped from No. 3 to No. 7 in the final BCS standings released Sunday night.

Notre Dame and Alabama remained Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, and will meet in the …

Continue reading Georgia vs. Nebraska in Capital One Bowl (UPDATED w/ comments) »

Notebook: Nick Saban believes Georgia deserves to be in BCS Bowl

From all indications, Georgia will end up in the AT&T Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, after losing to Alabama 32-28 in the SEC Championship game on Saturday. But Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said the Bulldogs should be heading to a BCS bowl.

Georgia's Mark Richt and Alabama coach Nick Saban embrace after Saturday's dramatic finish in the SEC Championship game. (AP photo)

Georgia's Mark Richt and Alabama coach Nick Saban embrace after Saturday's dramatic finish in the SEC Championship game. (AP photo)From all indications, Georgia will end up in the AT&T Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, after losing to Alabama 32-28 in the SEC Championship game on Saturday. But Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said the Bulldogs should be heading to a BCS bowl.

“I’m going to tell you what, I think it’s a crying shame if Georgia doesn’t go to a BCS bowl,” said Saban, who will take Alabama to its third national championship game in four years. “They should get to go to a BCS bowl game. They played a tremendous game out there today … and could have won at the end just as soon as us. It came down to the last play. …

Continue reading Notebook: Nick Saban believes Georgia deserves to be in BCS Bowl »

What they said after SEC Championship game

“Thought it was a great football game. Unfortunately, we ended up on the wrong end of the scoreboard. I think Alabama is a great football team, obviously. I think we’re pretty good, too.”

– Georgia coach Mark Richt

“To be (so close) to making probably one of the greatest comebacks in Georgia history, it stinks (to fall short).”

– Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray

“That’s something you dream of as a little kid, to win the game like that. And it’s just (awful) the way it ended, that’s for sure.”

– Murray

“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make a smart play. Instinctively, I grabbed the ball when I probably should have let it go.”

– Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley on his catch that ended the game, five yards short of the end zone

“We kind of had that I-would-not-be-denied attitude out there today. I’m not saying we played our best football game of the year in terms of execution, but the way we were able to run the ball, especially in the second half, …

Continue reading What they said after SEC Championship game »

Georgia’s final drive ends agonizingly short

The drive of his dreams turned into a nightmare.

Aaron Murray, Georgia’s quarterback, got the ball back one last time with 1:08 to play in the SEC Championship game, 85 yards to go for a game-winning, stuff-of-legend touchdown. Improbably, he got the Bulldogs 80 yards of the way. But there it ended, Georgia 5 yards short of a berth in the national championship game when the clock turned to all zeroes and Alabama began celebrating a 32-28 victory.

“To be (so close) to making probably one of the greatest comebacks in Georgia history, it stinks (to fall short),” Murray said.

“That’s something you dream of as a little kid, to win the game like that. And it’s just (awful) the way it ended, that’s for sure,” he added.

On the game’s last play, according to Murray and Georgia coach Mark Richt, Murray was attempting to throw to wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell in the back of the right end zone. The ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage and landed in the hands of …

Continue reading Georgia’s final drive ends agonizingly short »

Bama delivers BCS knockout of Georgia, 32-28, in SEC Championship

With a BCS championship bid on the line, a heavyweight boxing match broke out at the Georgia Dome on Saturday, and it was defending national champion Alabama that delivered the knock-out blow in a 32-28 slugfest.

But give the Georgia Bulldogs credit. They got up off the mat and nearly won it.

With no timeouts and 85 yards to go with 1:08 to play, Georgia’s Aaron Murray got his team down to the Alabama 8. But rather than spike the ball with about nine seconds left, the Bulldogs elected to run another play. Murray’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and caught by flanker Chris Conley at the 5. He fell to the ground inbounds, and the last four seconds ticked off the clock.

“I told the players I was disappointed, but not disappointed in them,” a forlorn Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “It was a knock-down, drag-out fight, and everybody was swinging. We just ran out of time.”

For the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide (12-1), the victory means a third trip to the BCS …

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GAME DAY: Georgia-Alabama preview

An SEC Championship game program on sale in the lobby outside Friday's Coaches Luncheon (AJC photo by Kent D. Johnson)

SEC Championship game program on sale in lobby outside Coaches Luncheon (AJC photo by Kent D. Johnson)

RETURN TO THE DOME

Georgia is in the SEC Championship game for the second consecutive season. The Bulldogs hope any similarity between Saturday’s game and last year’s ends at halftime.

“We had a great first half last year, but didn’t finish like we wanted to,” Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson said. “That’s been dwelling on our minds since then.”

In last year’s game, Georgia led top-ranked LSU 10-0 in the first quarter and held the Tigers to no first downs and 11 yards in the first half. But LSU dominated the Dogs in the second half and won 42-10.

Many Georgia players have said this season’s team was driven by the goal of returning to the Georgia Dome and, once there, making a better showing. They’re there, set to face Alabama at 4 p.m. Saturday with a berth in the BCS championship game at stake.

“I feel like now we know what it takes to win,” …

Continue reading GAME DAY: Georgia-Alabama preview »

SEC Championship game matchup: Special teams

Each day this week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution takes a quick look at a matchup in the SEC Championship game. Today: special teams.

Georgia special teams

Key stat: Freshman kicker Marshall Morgan has made eight of 12 field goals and 54 of 58 extra points. Georgia has attempted fewer field goals than any other SEC team and fewer than in any other season under coach Mark Richt.

Season high point: Richard Samuel’s stop of a Missouri fake-punt play was pivotal in that early-season win.

Season low point: Georgia gave up a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown in the loss to South Carolina.

Name to know: Punting figures to be at a premium in what projects as a defensive struggle Saturday. Freshman Collin Barber averages 41.2 yards per punt.

Alabama special teams

Key stat: Senior Jeremy Shelley is the only major college kicker in the country who hasn’t missed a field goal or an extra point this season. He is 10-for-10 on field goals and 60-for-60 on extra points. His longest …

Continue reading SEC Championship game matchup: Special teams »

Q&A with SEC commissioner Mike Slive: ‘Very supportive’ of Atlanta as playoff site

The SEC is “looking forward” to playing its football championship game in Atlanta even beyond the end of the current contract in 2017. And the league is “very supportive” of the city’s bid to host semifinal and final games in college football’s new national playoff as well.

Those were among the points made by SEC commissioner Mike Slive in a wide-ranging interview this week with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Slive also discussed the SEC’s streak of six consecutive football national championships, which he called an exception to the adage that records are made to be broken, and the continuing trend of colleges switching conferences.

Q: Amid all the changes in college football, the SEC Championship game has remained in the same place for 19 years. What has made Atlanta home for it?

SEC commissioner Mike Slive (AP photo)

SEC commissioner Mike Slive (AP photo)

A: First and foremost, the Georgia Dome has been terrific for us. The facility has been good and the …

Continue reading Q&A with SEC commissioner Mike Slive: ‘Very supportive’ of Atlanta as playoff site »

Michael Bennett, UGA’s injured starters happy to be on SEC ride

ATHENS — Georgia split end Michael Bennett served as somewhat of spokesman for the Bulldogs’ walked wounded this week.

The sophomore from Alpharetta is one of four starters who has been sidelined for the regular season with injuries. That means they’re missing out on what folks are calling Georgia’s biggest game in 30 years – Saturday’s SEC Championship game matchup with Alabama.

“Me, Marlon (Brown), Abry (Jones) and Chase (Vasser), we’re all just sitting in that training room just kind of sulking,” Bennett joked after practice. “We wish we could to be out there but, at the same time, we’re just glad our team is doing great without us. It just shows the depth we have at receiver. But, yeah, it’s really frustrating, too.”

The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (11-1) lost Bennett to a season-ending knee injury in practice the week they were to play No. 6 South Carolina in the sixth game of the season. He was the team’s leading receiver at the time, with 24 catches for 345 …

Continue reading Michael Bennett, UGA’s injured starters happy to be on SEC ride »

House divided: SEC Championship ‘complicated’ for Atlanta family with sons playing for Bama, UGA

With their sons Dallas (L) and Dillon (R) playing football at Georgia and Alabama, respectively, it has been hard for Lisa and Robert Lee to have their whole family together. (Lee family photo)

With their sons Dallas (L) and Dillon (R) playing football at Georgia and Alabama, respectively, it has been hard for Lisa and Robert Lee to have their whole family together. (Lee family photo)

For Lisa and Robert Lee, there are two really good things about Georgia and Alabama playing in the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on Saturday — and that goes beyond their two sons who will be playing in it.

First, they will have to drive only about 38 miles to get there. That’s spit in a bucket compared with the 500-mile, round-trip jaunts they’ve made on average every weekend for the past 13 weeks.

Second, while everybody else is sweating Sunday’s bowl selections, the Lees already have made their reservations for Miami. No matter who wins Saturday’s game — the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide or the No. 3 Bulldogs — the Lees know they will attend the BCS championship game Jan. 7.

“We just don’t know who we’re going with yet,” Lisa Lee said with a …

Continue reading House divided: SEC Championship ‘complicated’ for Atlanta family with sons playing for Bama, UGA »

Matchup: Alabama’s passing offense vs. Georgia’s passing defense

Each day this week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution takes a quick look at a matchup in the SEC Championship game. Today: Alabama’s passing offense vs. Georgia’s passing defense.

Alabama passing offense

Key stats: Quarterback AJ McCarron has completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 2,507 yards and a school-record 25 touchdowns and, most impressively, has thrown only two interceptions in 265 passes.

Season high point: Trailing LSU 17-14, Alabama took over on its own 28-yard line with 1:34 to play. McCarron led the Crimson Tide to a game-winning touchdown in 49 seconds, completing passes of 18, 15, 11 and 28 yards.

Season low point: McCarron threw his only two interceptions of the season against Texas A&M, the Tide’s lone loss.

Name to know: Freshman Amari Cooper is Alabama’s leading receiver, with 45 catches for 767 yards and eight touchdowns.

Georgia passing defense

Key stat: The Bulldogs rank second in the SEC in pass defense, giving up 174.4 passing yards per …

Continue reading Matchup: Alabama’s passing offense vs. Georgia’s passing defense »

Quarterbacks Murray, McCarron in SEC title game spotlight

ATHENS -- Aaron Murray isn’t talking to the media this week, but plenty of people are talking about him.

One of the top conversation pieces in advance of Saturday’s SEC Championship game is the matchup of Georgia’s Murray vs. Alabama’s AJ McCarron — quarterbacks who rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the nation, respectively, in passing efficiency.

Dogs hope Aaron Murray's play speaks for itself Saturday.

Dogs hope Aaron Murray's play speaks for itself Saturday.

“The quarterback position, with two great defenses, will determine who wins this game,” ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer, a former Florida quarterback, said on air.

No one doubts second-year starter McCarron’s ability to win a mega-game. He was the offensive Most Valuable Player of last season’s BCS title-game victory over LSU, and in this season’s rematch with the Tigers he calmly led the Crimson Tide on a 72-yard touchdown drive to win the game at the end.

Murray does not have that type of big-game resume, leaving open to discussion the question of whether he can step up …

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Notebook: SEC Championship is Jarvis Jones’ kind of game

ATHENS — Georgia’s Jarvis Jones received his first All-America award of the season on Wednesday and second in as many years from the American Football Coaches Association. And that, coach Mark Richt said, is because of how he has played in games like the Bulldogs will play on Saturday.

The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs will face No. 2 Alabama in the SEC Championship game on Saturday. The 4 p.m. CBS broadcast is expected to be one of the most heavily-viewed college football games on television this fall.

That  tends to be when Jones plays his best.

“That’s what has helped him the most; he has played really big in big games,” Richt said Jones’ penchant for attracting national awards. “ He played big in the Missouri game as far as a monster stat day and the Florida game was really almost a whole season in one game as far as statistics go. Plus, he already had a reputation of being a really good football player.”

In the nationally-televised, 41-20 win over Missouri on Sept. …

Continue reading Notebook: SEC Championship is Jarvis Jones’ kind of game »

Chick-fil-A Bowl chairman says SEC loser returning to Atlanta ‘very unlikely’

As reported in the AJC earlier this week, the bowl scenarios for the SEC Championship game loser are very unclear at this point.

The winner will, of course, be in the Discover BCS Championship Game and Florida (11-1) appears slated for Nokia Sugar Bowl. That leaves the Capital One, Cotton, Outback and Chick-fil-A bowls to fight it ouot for the SEC loser. Selections will be announced on Sunday.

The SEC has an agreement with the Chick-fil-A to not let the title game loser fall past it in the selection process. Chick-fil-A Bowl chairman Leeman Bennett, in his weekly selection blog posted on Wednesday, listed as its five SEC favorites LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.

But, he also wrote this caveat at the end: “The final thing to consider would be our role to protect the runner-up in the SEC Championship Game that could see either Georgia or Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Bowl this year. Again, not very likely, but something to consider.”

The key is …

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National awards starting to roll in (again) for Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones

Jarvis Jones (29) hasn't had a chance to showcase his pass-rushing skills lately as the Bulldogs faced run-oriented option teams the last couple of weeks. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

Jarvis Jones (29) hasn't had a chance to showcase his pass-rushing skills lately as the Bulldogs faced run-oriented option teams the last couple of weeks. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

ATHENS – The calendar is about to roll over to December. That means it’s time for national awards to start rolling in for Jarvis Jones.

The first of the year reached the Bulldogs’ junior outside linebacker on Wednesday. The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) made Jones a first-team All-American for the second consecutive year. Jones was a consensus All-American this past season.

A 6-3, 241-pound outside linebacker from Columbus, Jones has accumulated 71 tackles, including 19.5 tackles for loss of 107 yards and 10.5 sacks, one interception, six forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in only 10 games this season. He is the current NCAA active leader in sacks per game (1.0) with 24 in two seasons and is tied for the lead in tackles for loss (1.6) with 39 through this season and …

Continue reading National awards starting to roll in (again) for Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones »

Best buddies Mike Bobo and Kirby Smart will match wits in SEC title game

Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is one of five finalists for the Frank Broyles assistant coach of the year award. (UGA photo)

Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is one of five finalists for the Frank Broyles assistant coach of the year award. (UGA photo)

ATHENS – We know from talking to Mike Bobo on Tuesday that he and close friend Kirby Smart first met as youngsters when they were ball boys for their fathers, who coached at rival high schools Thomasville and Bainbridge in the 1980s.

Bobo, Georgia’s offensive coordinator, spoke extensively about his relationship with Smart, Alabama’s defensive coordinator, as the best friends prepare to match wits in Saturday’s SEC Championship game.

We don’t know much about Smart’s side of the relationship because, well, Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn’t allow him speak to the media. Saban’s ascribes to the Bill Belichick coaching model where he insists on doing all the talking for the team to the exclusion of assistant coaches and all but a handful of players.

“I’m jealous,” joked Bobo, who has twice-a-week media responsibilities …

Continue reading Best buddies Mike Bobo and Kirby Smart will match wits in SEC title game »

Matchup: Georgia’s passing offense vs. Alabama’s passing defense

Each day this week, the AJC takes a quick look at a matchup in the SEC Championship game. Today: Georgia’s passing offense vs. Alabama’s passing defense.

Georgia’s passing offense

Key stats: Aaron Murray has thrown for 3,201 yards and 30 touchdowns (seven interceptions), becoming the first quarterback in SEC history with three consecutive 3,000-yard passing seasons.

Season high point: In his past four games, Murray has thrown 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions.

Season low point: Murray, like his offensive line and the rest of the team, struggled badly in the loss to South Carolina, completing 11 of 31 passes for 109 yards.

Names to know: Georgia’s leading receivers are Tavarres King (34 catches for 704 yards and eight touchdowns) and Malcolm Mitchell (36 catches for 532 yards and four TDs despite playing mostly defense early in the season).

Alabama’s passing defense

Key stats: Alabama leads the SEC in passing defense, allowing 156.7 yards per game. The Crimson …

Continue reading Matchup: Georgia’s passing offense vs. Alabama’s passing defense »

No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia enter SEC Championship as mirror images

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham credits Nick Saban for many of the defensive philsophies and tactics he employs today. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham credits Nick Saban for many of the defensive philsophies and tactics he employs today. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

ATHENS — Mark Richt opened his weekly news conference Tuesday waxing eloquent about the tremendous achievements of the team the Georgia Bulldogs will face Saturday in the SEC Championship game.

He pointed out that Alabama has won 59 games the last five years, the most in SEC history, and 48 the last four, one short of the NCAA record. A win over the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs on Saturday would tie that record and another one — which would have to come in the BCS national championship — would break the national mark. That national title, by the way, would be the Crimson Tide’s third in the past four years.

“We’re just at a time where they’re dominating college football, really,” Richt told a larger-than-usual crowd of media at the Bulldogs’ football complex on Tuesday. “So we have a lot of respect for them …

Continue reading No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia enter SEC Championship as mirror images »

Notebook: Richt on players’ boasts; Spurrier on UGA, Bama schedules

(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 …

Continue reading Notebook: Richt on players’ boasts; Spurrier on UGA, Bama schedules »

Richt, Bulldogs talk of facing mighty Alabama, the huge stakes and why this year will be different

ATHENS — Georgia coach Mark Richt and several players met with a large media contingent that came to Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall on Tuesday to find out the No. 3 Bulldogs’ thoughts as they get ready to play No. 2 Alabama in the SEC Championship game on Saturday. The winner will advance to play Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship on Jan. 7 in Miami.

The main topics of discussion were the remarkable similarities between the two teams, why the Bulldogs believe they’ll play better in this year’s game than they did last year and what they think it will take to beat an Alabama team that everybody seems to believe will win easily.

Here are some of Tuesday’s comments . . .

GEORGIA COACH MARK RICHT

Opening statement . . .

“We have Alabama this week, one of the best teams in the country, obviously. The last five years they’ve won 59 games. That’s the most in the history of the SEC, and the last four years they’ve won 48 games. That’s just one off of the NCAA …

Continue reading Richt, Bulldogs talk of facing mighty Alabama, the huge stakes and why this year will be different »

Matchup: Alabama’s rushing offense vs. Georgia’s rushing defense

Each day this week, the AJC will take a quick look at a matchup in the SEC Championship game. Today: Alabama’s rushing offense vs. Georgia’s rushing defense.

Alabama’s rushing offense

Key stat: Behind an exceptional and experienced offensive line, led by senior center Barrett Jones, Alabama has averaged 214.2 rushing yards per game, second most in the SEC. Texas A&M is first (235.1) and Georgia third (190.1).

Season high point: Against Missouri, Alabama ran for 362 yards and six touchdowns.

Season low point: Surprisingly, Alabama had its fewest rushing yards (103) against Western Kentucky, which stacked its defense to stop the run but saw quarterback AJ McCarron throw four touchdown passes.

Names to know: Like Georgia, Alabama has a terrific tailback tandem — junior Eddie Lacy, who averages 83.4 rushing yards per game, and freshman T.J. Yeldon, who averages 70.6. Combined, they have run for 1,848 yards, only 10 fewer than Georgia’s Todd Gurley-Keith Marshall …

Continue reading Matchup: Alabama’s rushing offense vs. Georgia’s rushing defense »

Notebook: Sanders Commings agrees that Georgia has ‘the best defense in country’

ATHENS — Clearly no memos or warnings were sent from Georgia’s coaches to its players in the wake of Bacarri Rambo’s comments this past weekend.

Rambo caught a lot of flak — from Alabama fans mostly — for espousing this past weekend his belief that the Bulldogs’ defense is even more talented than the Crimson Tide’s. But one of Rambo’s teammates came out and said pretty much the same thing on Monday after Georgia’s practice.

“I think we’re the best defense in the country,” senior cornerback Sanders Commings said. “I thought we were last year and we have 10 out of 11 or 12 players back who are part of the starting rotation. So there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be the top defense. Everybody on this defense thinks we are.”

Never mind that the Crimson Tide can back such a claim statistically. They enter Saturday’s SEC Championship game against Georgia ranked No. 1 in the national in total defense (233.67 yards per game) and No. 1 in points allowed (9.25 ppg).

Georgia …

Continue reading Notebook: Sanders Commings agrees that Georgia has ‘the best defense in country’ »

Best freshman tailback? Georgia’s Todd Gurley or Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon

A plethora of long runs, such as this one against Tennessee, is what has separated Todd Gurley from a lot of other freshman backs in the SEC this season. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

A plethora of long runs, such as this one against Tennessee, is what has separated Todd Gurley from a lot of other freshman backs in the SEC this season. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

ATHENS – Seeing how he’s now considered a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny “Football” Manziel would seem a shoo-in for SEC Freshman of the Year. But the argument over who might be the best freshman running back in the league remains a good one that might not be settled until after Saturday’s SEC Championship game.

Both Alabama and Georgia received all they could have hoped for from their first-year backs. The Bulldogs have been led all season by Todd Gurley, a 6-foot-1, 218-pound true freshman from Tarboro, N.C. Gurley became the first UGA true freshman since Herschel Walker in 1980 to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season when he broke the barrier two weeks ago. He enters the SEC title game with 1,138 yards and 15 touchdowns, …

Continue reading Best freshman tailback? Georgia’s Todd Gurley or Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon »

Bowl options not great for SEC Championship game loser

Everybody knows where the winner of the SEC Championship game will play next — the Discover BCS National Championship game Jan. 7 in Miami, of course. But the bowl destination is less clear for the loser of Saturday’s SEC title game between Georgia and Alabama.

Because there are so many highly-ranked SEC teams, and because bowl dealings have been ongoing for quite some time, there is a very good chance the loser of the league championship game gets leap-frogged in the selection process.  In addition to No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia, four other SEC teams are in the top 10 of this week’s BCS standings — Florida (4), LSU (7), Texas A&M (9) and South Carolina (10).

Most projections have 11-1 Florida — whose only loss was to Georgia — moving ahead of the Alabama-Georgia loser in the final BCS standings and going to the Nokia Sugar Bowl, a BCS game. Conversely, some projections have a losing Alabama team going to the AT&T Cotton Bowl or a losing Georgia team going to the …

Continue reading Bowl options not great for SEC Championship game loser »

Georgia’s Aaron Murray ‘relieved of interview duties’ this week (UPDATED)

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, here directing traffic during last Saturday's game against Georgia Tech, was not available for interviews after that game, nor will he be before this week's SEC Championship game. (AP photo)

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, here directing traffic during last Saturday's game against Georgia Tech, was not available for interviews after that game, nor will he be before this week's SEC Championship game. (AP photo)

*Updates with quotes from Christian Robinson . . .*

ATHENS – Aaron Murray has gone silent.

Georgia’s record-setting quarterback has decided not to talk to the media this week as the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs’ prepare for Saturday’s monumental matchup against No. 2 Alabama in the SEC Championship game. According to Claude Felton, UGA’s director of sports communications, Murray “has requested that he be relieved of interview duties this week and Coach Richt has approved. . . . Apologies.”

Murray will apparently be available after this Saturday’s game.

Murray also bolted from the locker room after this past Saturday’s game. Traditionally Murray answers questions from the same stool in the southeast corner of Georgia’s locker room at Sanford Stadium after …

Continue reading Georgia’s Aaron Murray ‘relieved of interview duties’ this week (UPDATED) »

Matchup: Georgia rushing offense vs. Alabama rushing defense

Each day this week, the AJC will take a quick look at a matchup in the SEC Championship game. Today: Georgia’s rushing offense vs. Alabama’s rushing defense.

Georgia rushing offense

Key stats: Todd Gurley has run for 1,138 yards, more than any true freshman in UGA history except Herschel Walker. Keith Marshall — Gurley’s running mate and roomate — has run for 720 yards, eighth most by a UGA freshman.

Season high point: Of many impressive performances, Gurley’s 118 yards on 27 fumble-free carries against Florida’s stellar defense was tops.

Season low point: Gurley and Marshall had 39 and 37 yards, respectively, against South Carolina in Georgia’s lone loss. The offensive line struggled, but offensive coordinator Mike Bobo later lamented abandoning the run too soon.

Name to know: “Gurshall”

Alabama rushing defense

Key stats: Alabama is the toughest team in the SEC to run against, yielding 77 rushing yards per game. The Crimson Tide has allowed only seven …

Continue reading Matchup: Georgia rushing offense vs. Alabama rushing defense »

BCS standings set stage for SEC showdown

Often convoluted and controversial, the Bowl Championship Series standings suddenly are simple and straight-forward.

As ABC sportscaster Brent Musburger said late Saturday: “You don’t need a computer for this one. Notre Dame will play Alabama or Georgia for the national championship.”

Notre Dame remained No. 1, Alabama No. 2 and Georgia No. 3 in the next-to-last BCS standings of the season, released Sunday night. And no plausible scenario exists that would allow any team outside that trio to reach the top two when the final BCS standings are compiled and the national title matchup officially set next weekend.

Notre Dame (12-0) completed its regular season with a victory over USC Saturday and won’t play again until the BCS title game in Miami on Jan. 7. Georgia and Alabama (both 11-1) will meet Saturday in the Georgia Dome in the SEC Championship game, with a berth opposite Notre Dame in the national-title game at stake.

The Georgia and Alabama coaching staffs were deep …

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UGA-Bama winner gets Notre Dame in Miami

One-half of the BCS Championship game is set. No. 1 Notre Dame punched its ticket for Miami with a 22-13 win over Southern Cal Saturday night in Los Angeles.

The other half of the big game will be settled between No. 3 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama in the SEC Championship this Saturday in the Georgia Dome (4 p.m., CBS). The Bulldogs (11-1) beat Georgia Tech 42-10 in Athens on Saturday afternoon and the Crimson Tide (11-1) shut out Auburn 49-10 in Tuscaloosa Saturday evening. The day’s results left little mystery with regard to the sometimes complicated “BCS formula.”

“You don’t need a computer for this one,” ABC sportscaster Brent Musberger said after the Fighting Irish clinched their spot. “Notre Dame will play Alabama or Georgia for the national championship.”

The Irish (12-0) won like they have much of the season, with a stingy defense making stops in the red zone — they made a goal-line stand in the final minutes — and the offense putting together a steady and balanced attack. …

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