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Blog: Richt and Saban on SEC championship matchup

Georgia’s Mark Richt and Alabama’s Nick Saban were available to reporters this evening on a teleconference heading into their team’s SEC championship game next week.

Here are some highlights from each coach.

Richt:

–On similarities on the team from running back tandems, 3-4 defense and injuries to receivers: “As far as how we approach it, there are some similarities. We run pro-style attacks offensively, run the 3-4 defense, quarterbacks that have been highly efficient, have been around a little bit, play some big games over their careers. …There are a lot of similarities. The one thing they’ve done is they’ve been national champions and we’ve not. They’ve been SEC champions and we’ve not during the time frame of these kids careers.”

–On how Georgia is playing this year heading into title game: “I think we’ve been playing pretty solid football on both sides of the ball. Our special teams have been solid. Certainly not spectacular, but they’ve been solid. I think that’s what you gotta do. You gotta play a good, solid game. You have to be able to run the ball good enough to make your play-action pass worth it. You’ve got to be able to reduce some yardage on first and second downs so you’re not sitting there in third-and-long all day long. Defensively, you’ve got to be able to get after people and you’ve got to be able to get in the red zone area and force some field goals instead of touchdowns. I think we’re doing a lot of the things you need to do to be able to compete in a game like this. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens Saturday, but we’ve been doing some of the things you need to do to play well.”

–On status for nose guard Mike Thornton for the game after sustaining ankle injury: “I know he got it sprained pretty good. I know that. Whether or not he’ll make it to the game, I’m not certain. My guess is if we were playing to the game tomorrow he wouldn’t be able to do it, but we’ll see how he recovers.”

No other significant new injuries came out of the game.

“That’s the only thing I heard that could possibly become a problem,” Richt said.

–On whether Georgia is untested after playing only two ranked teams—South Carolina and Florida: “Well, I don’t know. We’ve already played the No. 2 team in the country once this year and had a good day againstFlorida. We can only play who’s on our schedule. We’ll be well-prepared, but they will too. That’s why you kick it off and play. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”

–On what it would mean for his career to get to and/or win the BCS national title game: “All you can do is again get your staff and your team as prepared as possible to go play a game. If you think about what the game means, this, that and the other, it doesn’t really help you win the game. The only thing that helps you win the game is preparation and getting your mind ready to go to battle.  That’s what I’ve got to do, physically, mentally be ready to handle your business when the ball gets kicked off.  That’s my only focus.  I don’t really worry about all that other stuff.

He added: “Just going back to the last question about my career, it’s not about me, it’s about Georgia, it’s about this program, this team, these young men, this coaching staff.  I don’t worry too much about all the personal stuff. But it is great to be in this position at this point.  You fight like mad every year to get your team in a position like this.  It certainly is a good thing.

–On having staffs know each other well (Todd Grantham and Nick Saban, Mike Bobo and Kirby Smart): “I’m sure it adds to it. We’re all very competitive guys. We all want to win. We all have competitive juices that flow. Everybody is going to do the very best they can and sometimes when you know the guys across the way a little bit better than normal it can add to it. The bottom line is we’re both working like mad to get our teams prepared to go to battle and the best team will win.”

Saban:

–On loser possibly being left out of a BCS bowl, but Florida getting in without getting to title game: “For either one of these teams it’s not really a great scenario.  You play your way into the championship game, which means you’re the best team in your division; they’re the best team in their division.  They played their way into the game by a total body of work for the whole season. It doesn’t seem quite right.  But it is what it is.  I don’t really know what me commenting about it is going to do to change it.  But I don’t feel good about it for our football team or their football team, either one. But it is what it is.”

–On Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who worked on Saban’s staff at Michigan State from 1996-98: “That seems like a long time ago. But had a lot of good experience in the NFL.  I’ve always been really close to Todd professionally and personally. I think he’s done a phenomenal job there. …If you’re going to rank assistants, he’s one of the two or three best I’ve ever had on our staff.  Did a phenomenal job for us. I certainly have a lot of respect for what he’s done atGeorgia.”

–On playing Georgia for the first time since 2008: “I think anytime you play somebody on a yearly basis, you develop a history for what they like to do. We did play them back at LSU several times. We have played them here a few times. They have a very, very good team. They haven’t changed systemically in terms of what they do too dramatically.  I think what they do, they do extremely well. They really win the game on execution, being able to make positive plays, getting in the right play. The quarterback does a really good job for them. They’re really well coached.  I think Mark is one of the best coaches in our league.  Their entire staff does a fantastic job of helping their players make a lot of plays, put them in a lot of good plays. The fact they go no‑huddle most of the time, they do a lot of check‑with‑me’s, that keeps them out of bad plays as well.

–On Georgia nose guard John Jenkins: “He’s hard to block. Any time you play an odd defense, a 3‑4 defense, can’t block the nose guard, makes it hard to run a lot of plays. He reminds me a lot of (Terrence) Cody when we had him here. He’s a hard guy to block. Their entire defensive team plays extremely well, they play well together. They have a good scheme, lots of experience.  It obviously starts with him playing and clogging up the middle. That always is a good starting point.”

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