Richt warns Georgia players to ignore Alabama big-game hype
ATLANTA (AP) Mark Richt's first words to his Georgia players about Alabama came with a warning:
Beware the hype.
In the first meeting between the teams since the 2012 Southeastern Conference championship game, No. 8 Georgia will play No. 13 Alabama on Saturday.
Georgia hasn't returned to the SEC championship game since the 32-28 loss in 2012. The Bulldogs, who haven't won a SEC title since 2005, can prove Saturday they are a championship contender - but that's just the sort of big-picture talk that Richt wants to avoid.
Following a 48-6 victory over Southern on Saturday, Richt told his players to keep their focus on the one game and the work they must accomplish this week in practice and in classes.
''All the other stuff is not healthy to get in the middle of,'' Richt said. ''You focus on your job. You focus on getting better.''
The 2012 loss ended with Georgia at Alabama's 5. Senior John Theus, who was a freshman starter at right tackle, said he still thinks about the game ''and how close we were, how crazy that game was.''
Theus said this year's game is not about avenging that loss.
''This game is just another game we have to win to get to where we want to go,'' he said. ''... I don't think the guys need more motivation for it.''
Richt said Sunday he may refer to film of the 2012 game, but only for strategy. Asked if it could be a motivational tool, Richt said ''No, we won't look at it for that reason.''
The visit from Alabama opens a crucial three-game stretch for Georgia (4-0, 2-0 that also includes SEC games against Tennessee and Missouri, the two-time defending SEC East champion.
Alabama is the biggest game of the stretch, and perhaps of the season.
Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert flourished in his first big SEC game, completing 24 of 25 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-20 win over South Carolina on Sept. 19. He completed 96 percent of his passes in the game to set a NCAA record.
He was accurate again against Southern, completing 9 of 10 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
Minutes after hearing Richt's postgame speech on Saturday, Lambert said he won't listen when ''people are going to want to say this and that'' about the Alabama game.
Alabama beat Louisiana-Monroe 34-0 on Saturday. Georgia opened its season by beating Louisiana-Monroe 51-14.
''Alabama's defense is a lot bigger. Georgia's defense is a lot faster,'' said Louisiana-Monroe wide receiver Ajalen Holley, who said he thought his team's running backs ''could be on the edge a little better against Alabama. When it comes to Georgia, we couldn't, because they're a faster outside defense.''
Holley said Alabama's defensive line ''can fill gaps better than Georgia.''
Alabama wide receiver ArDarius Stewart said he hopes the Crimson Tide is the underdog at Georgia.
''It's always fun,'' Stewart said. ''You want to go out and show what you can do. (When) you're the underdog, you go out in practice, work harder, and you're going to see it on the field.''
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, contributed to this report.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org