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Forgotten Georgia in thick of championship race

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Forgotten Georgia in thick of championship race

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) When Oregon and Kansas State both went down, Aaron Murray whooped it up as much as any Georgia fan.

He knew what that meant for the Bulldogs - a shot at the national championship.

``I've never screamed so much at the television and prayed so much in my life,'' Georgia's star quarterback said Tuesday. ``It was definitely an exciting night. We were screaming, high-fiving, hugging, group hugs. It was a lot of fun.''

Funny thing, though. Outside of this state, hardly anyone is talking about the Southeastern Conference's other title contender.

Instead, everyone is gushing about the possibility of two storied programs - Notre Dame and Alabama - playing for No. 1.

Georgia, it seems, is just an afterthought.

``We don't mind being the underdogs,'' Murray said. ``We know what we have to do, and that's win games. If we do that, we'll be good to go.''

Indeed, while it may appear the third-ranked Bulldogs are trying to sneak in the back door, they have exactly the same path to the championship as the top-ranked Fighting Irish and second-ranked Crimson Tide.

Win out. Win it all.

For Georgia, it starts with Saturday's regular-season finale against state rival Georgia Tech (6-5). The Bulldogs have won 10 of 11 in the series and are a two-touchdown favorite to extend that domination against the high-scoring Yellow Jackets. Still, coach Mark Richt is working hard to ensure his team doesn't get caught looking ahead to the SEC championship game against Alabama the following week.

He's gone to some rather extreme measures to keep the one-game-at-a-time mentality. Richt refuses to even say whether he was watching last Saturday night when Kansas State got blown out by Baylor and Oregon lost in overtime to Stanford, allowing Georgia to jump to No. 3 in the BCS standings.

If anyone tries to bring up Alabama or the BCS, Richt won't even respond.

``I had to hang up on my mom,'' he said, only half-joking.

Richt insists there's been no discussion with his staff about what might happen beyond the Georgia Tech game, and he said there's no need to remind his players it's business as usual.

``We meet every day to talk about how we're going to handle the week: who we're playing next, what kind of challenges they bring, what we're going to do on a daily basis to get ready for them,'' Richt said. ``That's all we do.''

After Saturday, the picture could be even clearer.

Notre Dame (11-0) is favored by a touchdown against disappointing Southern Cal, which will be further hampered by the absence of star quarterback Matt Barkley. He won't play because of a sprained right shoulder, forcing the Trojans to give freshman Max Wittek his first career start. Alabama (10-1) opened as a 33-point pick over hapless Auburn, which is winless in the SEC and wrapping up its worst season in decades.

If all three favorites win, Notre Dame is assured of a spot in the Jan. 7 BCS championship game in Miami. The SEC title game between Alabama and Georgia (10-1) would essentially serve as a national semifinal.

Of course, nothing is assured in this sport.

Just ask Oregon and Kansas State.

``Not to get negative,'' said Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson, pondering the idea of losing to the Yellow Jackets with so much on the line, ``but it could be horrible. It could be everything we didn't want this season to be about. People would pile on everything negative they could think about us.

``We have an opponent coming here that probably hates us more than any other opponent. And it's probably mutual.''

It's stunning that Georgia (10-1) had clawed its way into this position considering what happened on Oct. 6.

The Bulldogs rolled into South Carolina for a crucial game between two unbeaten teams - and got blown out. They were behind 21-0 at the end of the first quarter and lost 35-7, scoring a meaningless touchdown in the closing minutes just to avoid a shutout.

According to STATS LLC, no team that has finished No. 1 in The Associated Press poll or claimed the Bowl Championship Series title with such a lopsided loss on its record. The worst defeat by a champion came in 1983, when Miami dropped its opener to Florida 28-3 but rebounded to win its last 11 games, including an upset of then-No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

Georgia dropped to No. 14 in the AP poll after the debacle in Columbia, which most thought was too far back to have any shot at No. 1. But the Bulldogs bounced back with five straight wins, most notably a 17-9 triumph over Florida, and kept climbing as one unbeaten team after another fell in defeat.

``After South Carolina, especially, we had to take a step back and realize that we can control our future,'' tight end Arthur Lynch said. ``We haven't looked ahead.''

Now, even though the Bulldogs are one of just three teams that controls its own destiny, they're not breaking from the philosophy that has served them well.

So this week, it's all about Georgia Tech.

``No matter what the records are, or what's happening, nothing changes the fact that if we lose to them, it's a living hell for the next 365 days,'' Lynch said. ``It's what fuels me and gets me motivated. If you're not motivated for this game, you probably shouldn't come to Georgia. You always have to beat Tech.''

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Follow Paul Newberry at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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With another low shot total for Otto Porter, Coach Brooks says Porter needs to do more to help himself

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With another low shot total for Otto Porter, Coach Brooks says Porter needs to do more to help himself

After a night in which Otto Porter Jr. only took nine total shots, just two of them in the second half, many questions from Wizards reporters in the postgame locker room centered on how the team can get him more involved. This came on the heels of a seven-shot, zero-three outing for Porter against the Heat on Thursday and a preseason in which getting him more attempts was a persistent storyline.

It sounds like some are tired of talking about it. Point guard John Wall, who is part of the equation as the team's main distributor and highest usage player, put it in relatively strong terms.

"This will be the last time I talk about Otto Porter getting threes," Wall said. 

Wall went on to explain how it's a combination of defenses taking away the three-point line for Porter and the flow of the game creating better shots for others. It's a common explanation Wall has given on the matter in recent weeks, and it's understandable.

Head coach Scott Brooks has admitted his own role in Porter not getting enough shots, how more plays could be called for the small forward. But after the loss to Toronto, one in which Porter played just south of 25 minutes, he was a bit more blunt in his assessment.

Brooks believes Porter can be doing a lot more to help himself.

"Gotta get yourself open," Brooks said. 

When asked about Porter playing fewer minutes than usual, Brooks went on about the need for guys to play hard. That warranted a follow-up, as it seemed Brooks was questioning Porter's hustle.

Brooks explained what he meant by that in detail.

"You've got to move. You've got to set yourself up. You've got to run the floor. We got a fast point guard. I don’t know if you guys know that but he’s fast and if our wings aren’t running, what good is it when you’re going to have a one-man break? What makes teams play with pace is guys running." 

"I love Otto. You guys know that. But he has to play faster. He has to. Physically, he’s not going to jump over anybody and dunk over everybody, but he has to get himself into position. He’s a big-time player for us. He’s a glue guy. He makes winning basketball plays. He gets in plays but he has to do that consistently for us. He can’t do it for a half. He has to do it for the entire game. The guy can do it. I’ve seen it. He didn’t do it tonight but he’s going to bounce back. He didn’t do it the first two games but he’s going to bounce back and do it. And we need it.”

Porter, 25, was the Wizards' most efficient player last season, but averaged only 11.5 shots per game. With one of the best three-point shots in the NBA, the numbers suggest he should have a larger role.

The Wizards insist they are trying to get him more involved. In their eyes, it's time for Porter to do his part.

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Bradley Beal honored to pass Gilbert Arenas on all-time three-pointer list

Bradley Beal honored to pass Gilbert Arenas on all-time three-pointer list

Saturday night produced a link between some of the best players in recent Wizards/Bullets franchise history.

With a fourth-quarter three, Bradley Beal surpassed Gilbert Arenas on the franchise list for career triples

Beal, an All-Star last season, has already established himself as one of the best to play for Washington in decades. Afterwards, he paid homage to the man whose record he broke.

"I was always a fan of Gil. He was Agent Zero," Beal told NBC Sports Washington. 

"I loved everything about him; his confidence, his swagger on the floor. Granted, everyone talks about his off-the-court stuff, but what he did on the court is just untouchable. It's untouchable. He's a legend, for sure. Part of me wishes I could have played with him and just learned from him in a lot of ways. That's an accomplishment for me. I'm happy I was able to surpass it because he is a legend, in my opinion anyway."

Arenas' tenure with the Wizards was epic for its highs and lows. At his peak, he was arguably the most dangerous scorer in the NBA. But his downfall both on the court and off has left him as a notorious figure in the game's recent history.

John Wall, who has assisted on many of Beal's three-pointers, played with Arenas back in the 2010-11 season as a rookie. He is happy for his current teammate, who now has a distinct place in the team's history books.

"He's probably the best shooter I've ever played with in my eyes, so it's great to see him accomplish that," Wall said. "He's going to keep setting the bar higher and higher."

Beal passed Arenas in just the second game of his seventh NBA season. He's only 25 years old, so odds are he will keep adding to his franchise record for many years to come.

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