TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama-Auburn game is stocked with a Heisman Trophy candidate, a national title contender and the unrelenting passion of feuding neighbors. In other words, it's a pretty typical Iron Bowl. No. 2 Alabama (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) is still standing in the championship scrum going into Saturday night's rivalry showdown, and can clinch the Western Division with a victory. Onetime contender and defending SEC champion Auburn (8-3, 4-3) has been reduced to the spoiler role after two straight stumbles in league games. The Tide is a 9-1/2-point favorite but a game that suddenly seems like a potential mismatch still has the same hold on the state. "You just know there's a special level of intensity that goes with playing in a game like this and both sides are going to have it and that's what makes it a great football game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. Led by Heisman candidate Amari Cooper and a smothering defense, Saban's team is No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings and like the rest of the state vividly remembers how last year's game ended. The Tigers won on a rare runback of a missed field goal on the final play. "Been around a lot of crazy stuff in Iron Bowls," Tide right tackle Austin Shepherd said. "Always great energy. I know the stadium is going to be rocking for sure. " The state champion has been the national champ, too, four of the last five seasons. The only exception was Auburn's runner-up finish to Florida State last season. The Tide is riding a six-game winning streak and might already be assured of a spot in the SEC championship before kickoff if No. 4 Mississippi State loses at No. 18 Mississippi. Auburn has dropped its last two SEC games to Texas A&M and Georgia. A team that was once third in the playoff rankings has revised its goal to shooting for back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since 1988-89. "We're trying to be as good as we can be, and finish this thing as strong as we can," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "Our guys are committed to that, and I know our coaches are, too." ___ Here are some things to watch in the 79th Iron Bowl: BAMA'S OFFENSE: If there's a big mismatch in this game, it might surprisingly be Auburn's defense against Alabama's offense. Under first-year coordinator Lane Kiffin, the Tide has been especially potent in passing with the Blake Sims-to-Cooper connection. Pass defense has been Auburn's biggest weakness. But the Tigers have struggled all around defensively in the past five SEC games, giving up an average of 472 yards and 35.8 points to league offenses during that stretch. YELDON VS. ARTIS-PAYNE: Cameron Artis-Payne came into the season with modest fanfare and is the SEC's leading rusher. Preseason All-SEC pick T.J. Yeldon has had a down season compared to his first two. Both are physical runners who, along with their backfield mates, can wear down opposing defenses. Yeldon has dealt with nagging injuries, but rested a sore ankle against Western Carolina. He gained 141 yards in last season's meeting. "He's smiling a lot so when T.J.'s smiling, I think a good game is going to come out of him," Sims said. TIDE'S TURF: The Tigers are 7-2 in Tuscaloosa, including the largest comeback in school history in 2010. But Bryant-Denny Stadium was a house of horrors two years ago when Alabama roared to 42 first-half points and won 49-0. The Tide has won 15 in a row at home and dominated opponents by an average of 33.5 points (268-67) this season. PERIMETER RUNS: While Artis-Payne is more of a between-the-tackles runner, Auburn often mixes it up with perimeter runs by receiver Ricardo Louis or speedy tailback Corey Grant, whose role has diminished as the season has progressed. Teams haven't had much success running into the heart of Alabama's defense, which has allowed only two rushing touchdowns. "Last year, they hurt us with plays on the perimeter like they hurt a lot of people," Saban said. KEEP IT CLEAN: Alabama has had turnover problems at times this season but the Tigers have really shot themselves in the foot. They've committed 10 turnovers and been penalized 199 yards in their three losses, coughing it up on the first two plays at Mississippi State.
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Jamey Chadwell has confidence his Charleston Southern players won't be awed by their first visit to No. 9 Georgia.
The coach said that Charleston Southern, a FCS school, has visited other FBS sites.
Even so, Chadwell acknowledges he is concerned about the speed and size of Georgia (8-2). The Buccaneers' second-year coach said he is especially impressed with Bulldogs freshman tailback Nick Chubb.
Georgia will rely on Chubb after losing junior star Todd Gurley to a season-ending knee injury in last week's win over Auburn. Chubb took over as the starter during Gurley's four-game suspension before the Auburn game.
Asked how Chubb compares with other backs the Buccaneers have faced, Caldwell said "He doesn't compare."
"We've got some good backs in our league, no doubt, and we've faced some good backs," Caldwell said. "He is for a freshman, he's phenomenal. His balance, the strength he runs with, and then you add his speed, he is by far the best player that I think we've seen overall in really the time I've been here the last two years. He's pretty special, especially to be that young."
Chubb has rushed for more than 100 yards in five straight games. He ranks second in the Southeastern Conference with 1,039 yards rushing. He was named SEC freshman of the week for the fourth time after running for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs' impressive 34-7 win over then-No. 9 Auburn.
Georgia (No. 10 CFP) would earn a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game if Tennessee beats Missouri on Saturday night.
Charleston Southern (8-3) will be playing its second SEC East opponent, following a 21-20 loss at Vanderbilt on Oct. 11.
Georgia coach Mark Richt used the Vanderbilt game as evidence his players should not overlook Charleston Southern.
"Obviously they're not afraid to go into an SEC setting and beat someone's tail," Richt said. "They had Vanderbilt on the ropes already this season and we know that they're an outstanding football team. I've said this before and I mean it, it's hard to beat teams that are used to winning. And this team has got the fever when it comes to winning."
Here are some things to know as the Bulldogs try to improve their 38-1 home record against teams outside the SEC since 2001:
RUNNING WITH REYES: Charleston Southern has its own strong running back in senior Christian Reyes, who was last week's Big South player of the week after running for 188 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-36 win over Liberty. Georgia gave up only 150 yards rushing to Auburn last week, but it allowed 418 yards rushing in a 38-20 loss to Florida on Nov. 1.
DON'T LOOK AHEAD: Richt had a quick negative answer when asked if he hoped to rest Chubb or other starters for next week's state rivalry game against Georgia Tech. "You can't. That's why people get beat," Richt said, adding that kind of talk would have players thinking they were getting ready for an easy game. Added Richt: "There's no reason to think that this game won't be a physical game. These guys are really good. The more I watch them, the more I see why they're winning."
WINNING WITH TAKEAWAYS: Georgia ranks second in the nation with a plus-16 turnover margin. It is the third-best margin in school history and its best in Richt's 14 seasons. The Bulldogs have scored 76 points off 22 turnovers. Georgia opponents have scored only six points off six Georgia turnovers.
MORE ON CHUBB: In his five games as a starter, Chubb has rushed for 815 yards with seven touchdowns. He has averaged 6.7 yards per carry in that span. He is the first Georgia freshman to run for 1,000 yards since Gurley had 1,385 in 2012.
MASON ON TARGET: Georgia senior Hutson Mason has completed 67.6 percent of his passes (150 of 222), a school-record pace. The Georgia record for accuracy in a season was set by Mike Bobo, now the offensive coordinator, when he completed 65.03 percent of his passes (199 of 306) in 1997. Other quarterbacks in the top five are Aaron Murray (twice), Eric Zeier and Hines Ward.
Macey Gregg scored a game-high 17 points and the Rossville Middle School Lady Bulldogs collected 17 steals as a team in a 34-16 win at Trion to open the 2014-2015 basketball season.
The Gordon Lee Middle School Trojans did not manage a single point in the fourth quarter of their season opener at Heritage on Tuesday night.
The LaFayette Middle School wrestling team picked up a pair of mat victories on Tuesday, taking down Rossville, 66-15, before handling Lakeview, 52-28.
The LaFayette Middle School Lady Ramblers were edged out at home Monday night, 25-24, in their 2014-2015 season opener.
The Chattanooga Valley Middle School Lady Eagles got 16 points from Kiera Foster and needed all of them as they slipped past Ringgold, 34-32, for a road win on Tuesday.
The Georgia Northwestern Bobcats pulled to within a single basket with seven minutes to play in Dayton, Tenn. on Tuesday night, but got no closer as the Bryan College JV pulled away to claim an 87-78 win that dropped the Bobcats to 0-4 on the season.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The NFL's potential $1 billion plan to compensate retired players for brain trauma could soon close the chapter on a troubled era of league concussion management.
However, critics lined up to speak Wednesday at a court hearing in Philadelphia believe the NFL is getting off lightly, especially given league revenues topping $10 billion a year.
"The NFL unquestionably can afford to pay more for the harm it has caused," lawyer Steven Molo wrote recently in an objection filed by seven former players.
The NFL expects about 6,000 former players, or 28 percent, to develop Alzheimer's disease or moderate dementia. Their awards could reach $3 million, but they likely would average $190,000, given reductions for advanced age and years in the league.
"What matters now is time, and many retired players do not have much left," former Philadelphia Eagle Kevin Turner said in a statement Tuesday urging the plan's passage.
Turner, at 45, is battling Lou Gehrig's disease and can't make the hearing.
The settlement would resolve thousands of lawsuits that accuse the NFL of hiding known concussion risks to rush players back on to the field.
Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody rejected the initial $765 million plan over concerns it wouldn't last 65 years as promised. The revised plan removes the cap, so the NFL would kick in more money if the fund runs out.
With inflation, and the proposed $112 million for lawyer fees, the NFL could pay out $1 billion or more.
"We expect people to get sick that aren't sick today, and this fund will be there for them," co-lead counsel Christopher Seeger said last month. "The guys I was concerned about were the guys sitting in wheelchairs, or hospitals, or who are homeless."
One chief concern, though, is that the plan leaves out future payments for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which some consider the signature disease of football. The estates of players who died and were diagnosed with CTE from 2006 to 2014 can seek up to $4 million.
The families of former NFL stars Junior Seau and Dave Duerson — both of whom had CTE and committed suicide —both fault the award scheme.
Others complain their awards would be slashed 20 to 80 percent based on their ages, years in the league or other medical conditions.
Still others point out that behavioral problems some researchers link to CTE, including mood swings and erratic behavior, are not covered.
The settlement, if approved, would mean the NFL may never have to disclose what it knew.
"It will take a whistleblower at some point to give us those details. ... But it's going to be a long time coming," said NFL widow Eleanor Perfetto of Annapolis, Maryland, who hopes to speak Wednesday.
Her husband, Ralph Wenzel, suffered from dementia for more than a decade before he died in 2012. Tests showed he had both CTE and Alzheimer's disease.
"An earlier diagnosis was prevented thanks to the NFL's actions — exactly the actions the plaintiffs are suing for," Perfetto wrote to the judge.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The NFL has suspended Adrian Peterson without pay for at least the rest of the season.
The league said Tuesday it informed the Minnesota Vikings running back he will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15 for violating the NFL personal conduct policy.
The NFL Players Association quickly announced its plan to appeal the punishment.
Peterson pleaded no contest Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault in Texas for injuries to his 4-year-old son he was disciplining. He had been on paid leave from the team since Sept. 17.
Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Aug. 28 an enhanced crackdown on players involved with domestic violence.
MIAMI — Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton has agreed to terms with the team on a $325 million, 13-year contract. Team owner Jeffrey Loria has confirmed the deal, the most lucrative for an American athlete.
After 11 years as head football coach at Ridgeland High School, Mark Mariakis says it’s time to step aside.
Federal drug enforcement agents showed up unannounced Sunday to check at least three visiting NFL teams' medical staffs as part of an investigation into former players' claims that teams mishandled prescription drugs.
There were no arrests, Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne said Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers' staff was checked at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, after they played the New York Giants. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' staff was checked at Baltimore-Washington International airport after playing the Redskins. The Seattle Seahawks, who played at Kansas City, confirmed via the team's Twitter account that they were spot-checked as well.
The operation was still ongoing, and other teams may be checked later Sunday, Payne said.
"DEA agents are currently interviewing NFL team doctors in several locations as part of an ongoing investigation into potential violations of the (Controlled Substances Act)," Payne said.
The spot checks were done by investigators from the federal DEA. They did not target specific teams, but were done to measure whether visiting NFL clubs were generally in compliance with federal law. Agents requested documentation from visiting teams' medical staffs for any controlled substances in their possession, and for proof that doctors could practice medicine in the home team's state.
"Our teams cooperated with the DEA today and we have no information to indicate that irregularities were found," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email.
The nationwide probe is being directed by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York — where the NFL is headquartered — but involves several U.S. attorney's offices.
The investigation was sparked by a lawsuit filed in May on behalf of former NFL players going back to 1968. The number of plaintiffs has grown to more than 1,200, including dozens who played as recently as 2012. Any violations of federal drug laws from 2009 forward could also become the subject of a criminal investigation because they would not be subject to the five-year statute of limitations.
"This is an unprecedented raid on a professional sports league," said Steve Silverman, one of the attorneys for the former players. "I trust the evidence reviewed and validated leading up to this action was substantial and compelling."
Federal prosecutors have conducted interviews in at least three cities over the past three weeks, spending two days in Los Angeles in late October meeting with a half-dozen former players — including at least two who were named plaintiffs in the painkillers lawsuit, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the meetings who spoke on the condition of anonymity because prosecutors told them not to comment on the meetings.
The lawsuit alleges the NFL and its teams, physicians and trainers acted without regard for players' health, withholding information about injuries while at the same time handing out prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet, and anti-inflammatories such as Toradol, to mask pain and minimize lost playing time. The players contend some teams filled out prescriptions in players' names without their knowledge or consent, then dispensed those drugs — according to one plaintiff's lawyer — "like candy at Halloween," along with combining them in "cocktails."
Several former players interviewed by The Associated Press described the line of teammates waiting to get injections on game day often spilling out from the training room. Others recounted flights home from games where trainers walked down the aisle and players held up a number of fingers to indicate how many pills they wanted.
The controlled substance act says only doctors and nurse practitioners can dispense prescription drugs, and only in states where they are licensed. The act also lays out stringent requirements for acquiring, labeling, storing and transporting drugs. Trainers who are not licensed would be in violation of the law simply by carrying a controlled substance.
The former players have reported a range of debilitating effects, from chronic muscle and bone ailments to permanent nerve and organ damage to addiction. They contend those health problems came from drug use, but many of the conditions haven't been definitively linked to painkillers.
The lawsuit is currently being heard in the northern district of California, where presiding judge William Alsup said he wants to hear the NFL Players Association's position on the case before deciding on the league's motion to dismiss. The NFL maintained that it's not responsible for the medical decisions of its 32 teams. League attorneys also argued the issue should be addressed by the union, which negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that covers player health.
The DEA investigation comes during a turbulent time for the NFL.
The league is still weathering criticism over its treatment of several players accused of domestic violence and just wrapped up an arbitration hearing involving Ravens running back Ray Rice, who is contesting the length of his suspension. The league has hired former FBI director Robert Mueller III to investigate its handling of the Rice case.
The NFL is also trying to finalize a $765 million class-action settlement reached in August 2013 over complaints by thousands of former players that the NFL concealed the risk of concussions.
The Ringgold football team ended its season with a 35-7 loss at Callaway on Friday in the first round of the GHSA class AAA state playoffs.
Ringgold Youth Soccer is holding tryouts for academy soccer for the spring 2015 soccer season for U10 girls, U10 boys and U12 boys. Travel will be local with most games being played 10-20 miles from the home location.
Gordon Lee Middle School moved to 5-0 on the wrestling season after doubling up North Whitfield, 48-24, in a non-league match on Tuesday.
The Rossville Middle School wrestling team split a pair of North Georgia Athletic Conference matches on Tuesday, winning a 57-24 decision over Dade County before falling to Heritage, 51-30.
The Saddle Ridge Mat Mustangs used four forfeits and five pins to claim a 54-28 home victory over Lakeview in a North Georgia Athletic Conference match on Tuesday afternoon.
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia's Mark Richt is doing his best to downplay the return of Todd Gurley.
Good luck with that.
Richt cut back on the number of players allowed to address the media, limiting it to four seniors who spoke Tuesday after the coach's weekly news conference.
Of course, the end of Gurley's four-game suspension is the big storyline as the 16th-ranked Bulldogs (7-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) host ninth-ranked Auburn (7-2, 4-2) on Saturday.
A month ago, the running back was a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy when the school got word he had accepted money for autographs. Gurley acknowledged taking more than $3,000, and the NCAA ordered him to sit out the next four games.
Richt says he doesn't want Gurley's return to be a distraction to the Bulldogs.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky and No. 17 Georgia are both looking to bounce back from difficult losses and keep their postseason hopes on track.
The visiting Bulldogs (6-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference, No. 20 CFP) aim for their fifth straight win over the Wildcats (5-4, 2-4) Saturday as they try to stay within reach of first-place Missouri in the Eastern Division.
Kentucky wants to end a three-game losing streak that has stalled the rebuilding Wildcats' quest for becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
That mutual urgency could set the stage for another tense meeting between the schools.
Georgia owns this series 53-12-2, but beating the Wildcats in Lexington has been tough with seven points or fewer deciding three of the past four games at Commonwealth Stadium.
Georgia coach Mark Richt is certainly wary of Kentucky.
"We just know we've got our hands full," he said. "It's the seventh time I've gone to this stadium and I can't think of one game that we had there that didn't have a lot of drama, didn't have a lot of questions who's going to win it until the very end."
The Bulldogs certainly need something in their favor after last week's stunning 38-20 loss to the Gators essentially took them out of the national championship playoff picture. Georgia's upside is being just a half-game behind Missouri (4-1) in the East and holding a tiebreaker over the Tigers with last month's shutout win in Columbia.
Kentucky and its 21 departing seniors meanwhile would love to dash Georgia's dream and enter the bowl picture by winning their home finale. The Wildcats' last win over the Bulldogs was 2009 in Athens, Georgia, (34-27) and they haven't beaten them at Commonwealth since 2006 (24-20).
After losses to LSU, top-ranked Mississippi State and Missouri, they definitely need one.
Said Kentucky defensive end and Georgia native Bud Dupree, "it would mean a lot to me and the fellow seniors to go out and win and give the program the boost that we've been working so hard for. It would just put us in the (position) to get a bowl."
Here are other things to look for when Kentucky hosts Georgia on Saturday:
STOPPING NICK CHUBB: Georgia freshman tailback Nick Chubb has been rolling in the absence of suspended Todd Gurley, who returns next week. He has rushed 89 times for 501 yards and four touchdowns in starting the past three games and has 725 yards and 6 TDs. His fast, hard-charging style poses a big challenge for Kentucky's run defense that ranks next to last in the SEC at 188.6 yards allowed per contest.
FASTER START: Sluggish beginnings explain Kentucky's recent skid that has forced the Wildcats to play catch-up. They can't do that against the SEC's top scoring offense (40.5 points per game), which means they're going to have to be awake and alert with the noon start and produce.
HUTSON MASON: Kentucky's priority is slowing Georgia's formidable ground game, but the secondary must also be ready for the Bulldogs' senior QB. Mason has completed nearly 68 percent of his passes for 1,341 yards and 11 TDs with just three interceptions.
TAKEAWAY EXPERTS: Both teams protect the ball, which will be necessary in a game matching opportunistic defenses. Georgia enters as the nation's second-ranked team in turnover margin at plus-13 and averaging 1.63 per game. Kentucky is among a bunch of schools at plus-8 and tied for 17th at .89 per contest.
OVER SO SOON? Saturday's game marks an unusually early home finale for Kentucky, which travels to Tennessee next week and has a bye before closing the season at Louisville on Thanksgiving weekend. Renovation of Commonwealth Stadium will ramp up immediately afterward with the $120 million project expected to be completed by next season, when the Wildcats have eight home games scheduled.
AP Sports Writer Paul Newberry in Athens contributed to this story.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Coach Mike Smith can't seem to pull the Atlanta Falcons from their two-year rut on the road.
The Falcons haven't done much right since losing last year's opener at New Orleans, dropping 10 of 11 road games as they prepare to visit Tampa Bay this weekend.
Smith hopes to reverse the trend by finishing games better. A fourth-quarter meltdown as the home team two weeks ago in London gave the Falcons a seven-game losing streak away from the Georgia Dome.
"These guys have worked extremely hard," Smith said Wednesday. "During the week, they are doing what we ask them to do, but it's not transferring to 60 minutes in a football game."
The last-second loss to the Detroit Lions at Wembley Stadium has been hard for the team to shake.
Atlanta, which has been outscored 75-28 in the fourth quarter of its seven-game skid, blew a 21-0 halftime lead to Detroit.
The debacle set off another round of speculation that Smith could get fired — even before the season ends — but quarterback Matt Ryan insists that Smith has not lost the players' attention.
"You can't worry about all the things being said outside this building," Ryan said. "When things are not going your way and you're not winning games, there is going to be criticism. We understand that."
Before Smith was hired in January 2008, Atlanta was known mostly for losing. The franchise had never achieved consecutive winning records since its debut in 1966, but Smith pulled off the feat four times, leading the Falcons to a pair of NFC South titles and four playoff appearances.
On the road, Smith's first five teams went 22-18, not including postseason losses at Arizona and the New York Giants, but it's been a struggle ever since.
"We haven't finished games on the road like we need to," Smith said. "I'd say that's probably the thing that stands out over the span you're talking about."
These kinds of problems are nothing new for running back Steven Jackson, who, as the NFL's leading active rusher, has never played on a team that finished the season above .500.
After getting drafted by St. Louis in the first round of 2004, Jackson played for Mike Martz, Scott Linehan, Steve Spagnuolo, Jeff Fisher and interim coaches Joe Vitt and Jim Haslett. Jackson's teams have gone combined 50-117-1, but he's hoping the Falcons play well enough for Smith keep his job.
"Unfortunately, I'm a veteran at the bad situations, so I've just got to encourage my teammates and the coaching staff that the 53 men in this locker room are going to get us out of this hole," Jackson said. "We've just got to continue to focus on that."
Atlanta's offense has been undermined by injuries on the line — four starters have been lost for the season — and Ryan can't get in consistent rhythm with his receivers. Jackson and his three backups — Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith and Devonta Freeman — have been inconsistent.
The defense is one of the NFL's worst, ranking last in total yards, last in sacks, fifth-worst in scoring and eighth-worst against the run.
A trip to Tampa Bay (1-7) could be just what the Falcons (2-6) need as they try to draw confidence from Week 3, when they beat the Buccaneers 56-14.
But Ryan believes the team needs to stay focused on the present, not looking back and looking ahead.
"You can't do it all in one week," Ryan said. "We've got to focus on this week, but I like the guys that we have, coaching staff and players included."