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SEC/ACC NOTEBOOKS: UGA does 'Sack Dance'; FSU's Manuel reflects on debut

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ATHENS -- Georgia's defense managed only five sacks in its first four games and then was held without a sack in a midseason loss at Tennessee. Since then, the production of the Bulldogs' pass rush is on the rise, and Georgia already has topped its 2008 sacks total.

Led by young defensive ends Cornelius Washington, Montez Robinson and Justin Houston, the Bulldogs have nine sacks in their last two games. Washington, a freshman, and Houston, a sophomore, each had one in last week's win over Auburn.

Houston has six sacks in seven games this season. Robinson, a freshman, had his first two career sacks against Tennessee Tech on Nov. 7. Houston and Robinson each have won SEC defensive lineman of the week honors.

Junior Demarcus Dobbs, who starts with Houston, has 31/2 sacks.

Georgia ranks fourth in the SEC with 25 sacks. It finished last season with 24 sacks.

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UK STAR OUT FOR UGA GAME?:

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky could be without its most potent offensive weapon when the Wildcats travel to Georgia on Saturday.

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said wide receiver/quarterback Randall Cobb is questionable at best for the showdown with the Bulldogs because of a bruised shoulder. Cobb did not finish practice on Wednesday and there's a chance even if Cobb does play he would be limited.

Cobb is Kentucky's second-leading rusher with 396 yards and seven touchdowns while running out of the wildcat formation. He also leads the team with 32 receptions for 384 yards and four scores.

Even if Cobb can go, it's unlikely he'd see much time behind center. Brooks said the sophomore's body has taken too much abuse the last few weeks while carrying a heavier workload following an injury to starting quarterback Mike Hartline.

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ON THE EDGE:

Steve Spurrier says winning or losing against rival Clemson in two weeks will be the difference between a good year and an average one for South Carolina.

After 11 straight games, the Gamecocks (6-5) have a bye week as they prepare for their annual regular-season finale against Clemson.

South Carolina will enter the Nov. 28 contest off three straight losses, including a 24-14 defeat to No. 1 Florida this past Saturday.

"If we're fortunate to win the last one, we'll have a very good year," Spurrier said. "If we don't we'll have a very average year. Simple as that."

The odds aren't necessarily in Spurrier's favor. The past two times South Carolina's had a week off before Clemson, it has lost.

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SABAN PLEASED WITH NO. 2, UNBEATEN TIDE:

Three penalties. Three turnovers forced, none committed. And a commanding 444-213 edge in total yards.

No. 2 Alabama's all-around performance in a 31-3 victory over Mississippi State last week was solid enough to prompt a question for coach Nick Saban: Was this the Crimson Tide's best game of the season?

Saban didn't give a yes or no answer but said he was "really pleased" with Alabama's play against a fired-up Bulldog team.

"Knowing you've got to go out there and sort of get into a street fight right off the bat with all the emotion (the Bulldogs) had in the game. To be able to persevere and just keep playing through it, I think that was the most important thing," Saban said.

Quarterback Greg McElroy could find something else to like. The Tide had no offensive penalties.

"Isn't it great?" he said, smiling. "Looking back on it, I think we did a pretty good job of executing. As far as the three-and-outs, we had a couple of those in the second half. Those are things we want to eliminate. But the lack of penalties is obviously huge. No turnovers, and we also had a lot of explosive plays, which is our three most important goals."

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GOING BOWLING?

Mississippi State wants to join the party.

The Bulldogs are just one of three Southeastern Conference teams who haven't clinched bowl eligibility. The postseason path appears difficult with games at Arkansas and against archrival Mississippi, but Mississippi State players feel they've been hardened by the challenge of playing six teams that either are or have been ranked.

"We're real confident," linebacker Jamar Chaney said. "We're not a team that's just going to give up."

Vanderbilt (2-9) had been eliminated from postseason contention, leaving Mississippi State (4-6) and Tennessee (5-5) with the chance to reach the minimum six wins needed for a bowl berth. The SEC has never had more than nine teams play in a bowl.

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BOO BIRDS:

Les Miles appreciated why fans in Tiger Stadium grew restless as heavily favored LSU struggled with Louisiana Tech last weekend. He agreed his team lacked intensity and was not sharp at times in its 24-16 victory over the Bulldogs, which led poll voters to drop LSU a spot in the rankings to No. 10.

Miles had more trouble with the way fans vented, namely by booing fill-in starting quarterback Jarrett Lee and instances of the pass-heavy play-calling, and he essentially asked them to stop it.

"I've never been to a contest where that affected anything positively," said Miles, who played at Michigan and has since worked as an assistant or head coach for 29 years in college and the NFL. "Point to any example where that is a significant factor in anything, then I'm for you. But having never done that in my entire life, I just can't imagine what would possess people to do that -- to root negatively. Look it up. I guess there is a spot in there where there is a negative piece to rooting or cheering. I don't know why there would be, personally."

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MOVING UP:

Tennessee senior defensive tackle Dan Williams is no doubt improving his NFL draft status.

The Memphis native has 35 tackles the last six games. He's also got seven quarterback hurries, 5.5 tackles for loss and a sack in that span. Teammates and opponents alike have dubbed him unblockable.

Williams has spoken briefly with coach Lane Kiffin, who spent a season and a half with the NFL Oakland Raiders, about the NFL.

"We never did get in depth into it. He just said, 'Dan, just keep doing what you're doing,"' Williams said.

Kiffin told him, "'You're doing good, and they're talking good about you.' For the most part, I think that's good to hear, but my goals for this team are still trying to get us to a bowl game and just make sure I do everything I can do we can win," Williams said. "If my play is helping us win, and it also helps me out in the long run, that's a plus. But we don't talk about it that much."

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OUT FOR BLOOD:

Kentucky hasn't beaten Tennessee on the football field in 25 years. And that's not the only losing streak the Wildcats have to the Volunteers.

Tennessee has dominated the school's annual blood drive competition. The effort, in its 22nd season, is designed to build up the blood supply in both states during the holidays.

Tennessee has won the past six blood drives, a number that coincides with Kentucky coach Rich Brooks' arrival on campus. Brooks did his part to end the skid, donating a pint of blood on Monday before meeting reporters.

"A lot of fans wanted my blood a long time ago," Brooks quipped.

Kentucky had the early lead in event, which runs through Nov. 20. The Wildcats and Vols close the regular season Nov. 28.