JACKSONVILLE — Time to play.
Was thinking last night — while Tim Tucker and I strategically avoided “The Landing” area — about the enormous pressure on certain individuals in today’s Georgia-Florida game. It’s odd only in that both teams are unranked going into this contest for the first time since 1979. So much for national ramifications.
But think about the pressure on . . .
♦ Mark Richt: Georgia has won three straight but you can’t just wipe out a 1-4 start. If the Dogs lose, they are absolutely, positively dead in the SEC East (I think) because they would lose tiebreakers with both Florida and South Carolina. They also would need to win two of their final three games (Idaho State, at Auburn, Georgia Tech) just to become bowl eligible.
♦ Urban Meyer: Think he’s not feeling some heat? Here’s a guy who appeared to have a serious health issue, suddenly retired, then even more suddenly unretired. He explained his chest pains as “esophageal spasms” and some immediately wondered about truthfulness. We can’t know if Meyer’s heath has affected the way he’s gone about his job this season but we know this: The Gators have lost three straight and they rank 89th in the nation in total offense. Florida can still win the East but if they lose they’ll be 2-4 in the East and all but cooked. For those Dogs’ fans looking for a possible omen, here you go: The last time Florida lost four straight was in 1988. The fourth loss in that streak came to Georgia 16-3.
♦ John Brantley: It can’t be easy replacing Tim Tebow, but the Gators’ quarterback was expected to be better than this. In his defense, the offensive line and running game have been awful. But nobody could have expected these numbers through seven games: six touchdown passes, five interceptions, 10 sacks. Brantley had four touchdowns and zero interceptions against Miami (Ohio) and South Florida so you can do the math on the five SEC games.
♦ Aaron Murray: He has been great this season. But he never has played in this stadium or a game of this magnitude. Richt planned to talk to the freshman during the week about trying to maintain his composure. Also, Florida’s defense is still pretty good.
♦ Chris Rainey: Not too much pressure on him, huh? Mr. Time To Die Guy shouldn’t even be in this game (my opinion) but Meyer believes he has paid a big en0ugh price for texting a death threat to his estranged girl friend. He won’t have his phone during the game so he’ll actually have to speak his threats.
One last thing on Rainey: If you have no problem with him coming back because you believe he deserves another chance, that’s fine. But the worst — and most prevalent — excuse I’ve heard is that athletes used to do these dumb things all the time and we never knew about it. The point? I have no doubt that star athletes got away with things before that they can’t now. But that doesn’t make what happened before right. Fact is, that was wrong. Coaches never should be allowed to go pick up his star player from the sheriff’s office and say, “I’ll take care of it. He’ll run steps.” Pretty sure the science teacher isn’t doing the same thing for his students. (”Oh, he’ll just do extra experiments.”)
♦ Caleb King: He’s coming back from a two-game suspension after being arrested for failing to appear in court for a speeding ticket. The fact Washaun Ealey has a sprained knee may necessitate King taking on a major role. By the way: Funny line this week by Richt. He noted the Dogs are undefeated this year when they have a running back suspended (3-0 during King and Ealey suspensions). When asked Tuesday if any player has been suspended yet this week, Richt cracked: “It’s early.”
Fortunately, everybody made it through the night without handcuffs. One less thing to worry about. I’ll be back later with a few shots from the stadium and any updates, but I figured I would post a blog early.
Meanwhile, Freddie Mercury and David Bowie provide an appropriate tune …
Our photographer, Brant Sanderlin, took a little video of the scene in The Landing last night and stumbled on this unsanctioned fight between Georgia and Florida fans:
Catching up on Georgia-Florida week