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Richt hopes Georgia defense plays 'mad' again

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Richt hopes Georgia defense plays 'mad' again

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) After underachieving through much of the season, Georgia's defense rose at the right time with a dominant performance in last week's win over Florida.

The important 17-9 win over the previously undefeated Gators came after safety Shawn Williams said the defense had been playing soft.

It was a dramatic turnaround after the Bulldogs allowed at least 20 points in six of their first seven games.

What defense will show up for No. 7 Georgia on Saturday against Mississippi? It may be difficult for the defense to play with the same intensity against the unranked Rebels when it hasn't been challenged by one of its own players.

Coach Mark Richt insists he doesn't have the answer - but he hopes it's more motivation for his defense.

``That's a good question,'' Richt said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. ``You ought to write a story about that, maybe make everybody mad. That would be nice.

``I'm serious, I don't know. I don't know what they are going to do this week. I hope they play like they did this past week. I hope we continue to get after it with that kind of emotion and heartbeat.''

Linebacker Jarvis Jones had a career-high 13 tackles with three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries as the defense forced six turnovers.

Bacarri Rambo and Damian Swann had interceptions as Georgia held Florida without a touchdown.

Georgia (7-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) can clinch its second straight trip to the SEC championship game by beating Ole Miss (5-3, 2-2) and Auburn.

Georgia players insist playing for a SEC championship is ample reason to avoid a letdown this week.

``Just keep up the intensity, play with the same chip we played with last week,'' Swann said. ``We're in control of our own destiny. We just have to win out.''

Asked if the defense can match the intensity it displayed against Florida, Swann said ``Of course.''

``I think that game gave us a lot of momentum, and we enjoyed that,'' he said. ``We just have to keep moving forward, keep playing.''

Jones, a 2011 first-team All-America, is rated as a possible No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. The junior was named the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week and SEC defensive player of the week.

Richt said Jones may rank with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o as the nation's best defensive players.

``I don't know if there is a better defensive football player in America than Jarvis,'' Richt said. ``I know the linebacker at Notre Dame is a great player as well. They might be equally great, and they are both so important to their team.''

Richt then talked himself into a bigger compliment when he reviewed Jones' season totals of 8 1/2 sacks, five forced fumbles and 14 tackles for losses despite missing two games with injuries.

``I think he's the best player in America,'' Richt said.

Best player? On offense or defense?

``I can't think of a better player than Jarvis in the whole United States of America,'' Richt said. ``He's the best.''

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said there should be no more suggestions that the Jones-led defense is soft.

``I did not see a Georgia team that shied away from any physicality,'' Freeze said. ``They're a very physical football team. Their interior defensive line has huge guys, and they surround them with all of those linebackers that can run. They're not too small themselves. Their secondary is very sound. They're solid tacklers and big, physical kids. When you look at it, you certainly see an SEC defense.''

Jones isn't the defense's only highly regarded player. Rambo also was a 2011 first-team All-America. Linebacker Alec Ogletree, Williams, massive defensive tackle John Jenkins (6-3, 358) and others are also highly regarded by NFL draft experts.

The long list of talented players makes the unit's uneven play this season difficult to explain. Georgia struggled to beat Tennessee 51-44 in its last home game on Sept. 29. It gave up 23 points to Buffalo and 20 points to Florida Atlantic.

The defense proved last week it could answer a challenge.

``When somebody tries our manhood or says anything to belittle, us we always respond,'' said defensive end Garrison Smith.

Now the unit must show it can play at a high level in back-to-back games.

``We have a great defense and a great team,'' Smith said. ``It's possible. It's in us. We've seen it. Game after game, sometimes, you know, we come out not like that. But always it's in us. We're going to do our best to bring it back every week and play like this every game from here out.''

---

AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Oxford, Miss., contributed to this report.

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Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

The NFL started taking into account a new factor when putting together its schedule this year. The concept is called rest disparity. It stems from a complaint made by the Giants last year. And, of course, when the Giants have a cold, the NFL sneezes and immediately does whatever it takes to cure the cold. 

Here is how Peter King laid it out this morning on the MMQB:

Last year, I heard the Giants were not pleased with their schedule because they felt they were too often playing teams more rested than they were. In consecutive October weeks, they played teams coming off byes, for instance. The NFL calculated a figure for every team based on the number of combined days of rest for their foes or for the team, calculating, for instance, in those two weeks, the Giants were a minus-14 (minus-seven for each of the foes, Seattle and Denver, coming off byes). In all, by my math, the Giants were a league-worst minus-22 in “rest disparity.”

So the schedule makers worked to minimize the rest disparity this year. According to King, the worst rest disparity in the league this year is minus-11. The Giants are minus-eight. 

The question that Redskins fans will have immediately here is if the Giants’ rest disparity was reduced at the expense of the team in burgundy and gold. The answer that will surprise many is no. 

The Redskins rest disparity in 2018 will be either minus-one or zero. The variance is due to the possibility that their Week 16 game in Tennessee will be flexed to a Saturday game (see details here). If the game stays on Sunday, they will be at minus-one in rest disparity. If it gets moved, they will have had exactly as much rest over the course of the season as did their opponents, in aggregate. 

If you're interested in the nitty-gritty, here is how it breaks down. In eight or nine of their games, they will have had the same amount of rest as their opponents. They play one game coming off of their bye, a Monday night game in New Orleans. The Saints play the previous Sunday, giving Washington a plus-seven in days of rest. That is canceled out when they play the Falcons in Week 9 after Atlanta’s bye. 

Due to their Thanksgiving game, they get three extra days off going into their Week 13 Monday night game in Philadelphia. Two weeks later the Jaguars will have those three extra days of rest when they host the Redskins, having played on Thursday in Week 14.

They lose a day relative to their opponents coming off of those Monday night games against the Saints and Eagles. The Redskins get an extra day prior to visiting the Giants in Week 8 as New York has a Monday night game in Week 7. 

So far, that comes to minus-one in rest disparity. That will remain in place if they play the Titans on Sunday, December 23. If the game is flexed to Saturday, they will gain a day of rest on the Eagles in Week 17, zeroing out the rest disparity for the season. 

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

There's a saying in sports that goes, "A series doesn't start until a team loses at home." For the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets, their series won't start until someone wins at home.

Four games into the series, the road team has won every game. Columbus took Game 1 and Game 2 from Capital One Arena and the Caps answered back by winning Game 3 and Game 4 in Ohio.

"We came [to Columbus] to try to get the first one," Barry Trotz said after Thursday's win. "Did that. We came here to get the second one. Did that. All we've done is just got on even terms."

Now the series is a best of three with two of those final three games in Washington, but how much of an advantage does that really give the Caps?

"We've got to make sure that we're ready to go," Trotz said. "I think we have been since we got here. We've just got to do it at home."

The various playoff struggles the Caps have suffered in the Alex Ovechkin era have been well-documented to this point. One particularly maddening issue is the team's struggles to win at home. Since 2008, the first year the Ovechkin-led Caps made the playoffs, the team is just 28-25 in home playoff games. Since 2015, Trotz's first season as head coach, the Caps are 12-10 in Washington.

Part of that is just the nature of hockey. Upsets are prevalent in the playoffs in the NHL and home-ice advantage does not mean as much as it does in other sports. But it should mean more than 28-25.

Besides having the crowd on your side, home ice also provides matchup advantages. The home team gets the second line change at home, meaning during a stoppage in play the home coach gets the opportunity to see who the opponent puts on the ice before making his own change. For the Caps, this means getting Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against Artemi Panarin.

Trotz has matched his top shutdown pair against Columbus' top line all series long. According to Natural Stat Trick, when Niskanen was on the ice in Game 4 he held Panarin's Corsi For percentage to 36.36. When Niskanen was not on the ice, Panarin's percentage shot up to 71.43. 

Theoretically, it should be much easier for Trotz to get those favorable matchups at home. Now all the Caps have to do is take advantage.

"Our home record hasn't been really great in the last little stretch at the end of the season here and obviously the first two games of the playoffs," Trotz said. "We owe it to our fans, we owe it to ourselves to take advantage of that."

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