Poll time: Is this the year Dogs finally thump Gators?

Orson Charles and the Bulldogs walked off field last year after an overtime loss to Gators.

Orson Charles and Dogs came close last year but lost in overtime. (Brant Sanderlin)

Here we go again. Does I-95 morph into Georgia’s “Trail of Tears” again?

Heading to Athens this morning for Mark Richt’s weekly news conference. I think you can make a case that this is the most important Georgia-Florida game during Richt’s administration, given the ramifications for both this season (the SEC East is still up for grabs) and the big picture (no elaboration necessary).

Taking an early temperature: Who wins Saturday?

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The Gators have lost three straight, but they had lost three straight last season when they defeated the Bulldogs in overtime 34-31. The Dogs have won five straight, but the fact the wins have comes over Coastal Carolina, Mississippi,Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt justifiably tempers the celebration (the four SEC opponents have a combined conference record of 1-15.)

I’m not ready to make a prediction yet. You’ll have to wait a couple of days. But here are a few reasons why either team can win, just in case you need something to ponder before voting in the who’s-going-to-win poll.

Why Georgia will win:

1) Better quarterback: Aaron Murray has not had a great season but he should be given the edge over John Brantley, who is expected to return from an injury after missing two and a half games and figures to be rusty.

2) Better defense: It  might be difficult to tell because of the level of opponents, but the Dogs’ defense has improved this season (third in the SEC, sixth in the nation at 272.9 yards per game), and to a lesser degree in scoring (20.4 ranks sixth in the SEC, 27th in the nation).

3) Law of averages: Florida has won 18 of the last 21 meetings. Richt has lost three straight and eight of 10. But the Dogs came close last year. It has to turn at some point … doesn’t it?

Why Florida will win:

1) Weis vs. defense: The Florida offense has been a mess the last few weeks. But Charlie Weis is one of the best offensive coaches in the game and now he gets back his starting quarterback. Even if Brantley’s timing is off, Weis will put him in the right situations to succeed.

 2) This could be a three-point game. So it seems appropriate to point out that the Florida kicker (Caleb Sturgis) is 15 for 16 and the Georgia kicker (Blair Walsh) is 12 for 20.

3) The Gators are not nearly as bad as they’ve been made out to be. They were waxed in consecutive games by Alabama and LSU, but those two are leveling everybody. In the last game, a 17-6 loss to Auburn, Florida was still missing Brantley. Can we really say they’re worse than Georgia? To date, the schools have had only one common opponent: Tennessee. The Dogs won 20-12; the Gators won 33-23. That’s a push. Florida has beaten Kentucky and lost to Auburn, which Georgia hasn’t played yet. Georgia has lost to South Carolina and beaten Vanderbilt, which Florida hasn’t played yet.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

430 comments Add your comment

trupert

October 25th, 2011
8:15 am

UGA will win. Go dawgs!!!

Mouth Breather

October 25th, 2011
8:15 am

Work ‘em, Silly Gators!!!

brandon

October 25th, 2011
8:17 am

Florida has played much tougher competition. That could lead to them being more prepared for this game. I think that Georgia should win, but this game always seems to trip up the Dawgs.

lanier

October 25th, 2011
8:18 am

this year is hard to guess on for a change but its still Fla’s to loose in Jax. its a damn home game i dont care what anybody says

Leroy1970

October 25th, 2011
8:19 am

Paul in NH

October 25th, 2011
8:19 am

UGA may win but it won’t be because of the Law of Averages. There are huge casinos in Vegas that were built because gamblers believed in the Law of Averages.

trupert

October 25th, 2011
8:20 am

Richt better be sure and keep Muschamp and Grantham seperated after the game or it could get ugly. Fire that junkyard defense up Grantham. Go dawgs!!!

Alphare

October 25th, 2011
8:22 am

Defense “third in the SEC, sixth in the nation at 272.9 yards per game”?

What if dawgs play a few more good teams like Vandy? instead of teams with a combined conference record of 1-15. Would they still be ranked 3rd in SEC defense?

Mid Town Joe

October 25th, 2011
8:22 am

This is Florida’s bowl game. QB is back. Florida will win in a close game.

JAWJeRDAWG

October 25th, 2011
8:22 am

Hopefully optimistic that Georgia has addressed it’s special teams issues, will be focused and effective on offense, stellar on defense, play four complete quarters with no turnovers.

Do these, and Georgia wins this game!

Go Dawgs! Beat the Gators!

trupert

October 25th, 2011
8:23 am

Does Florida qualify? We’ll know by Saturday evening.

Joey

October 25th, 2011
8:24 am

I believe!

Not really. I’ll believe it when UGA has a lead and the last second ticks off the clock.

Go Dawgs!

Alphare

October 25th, 2011
8:27 am

After the first 2 games, UGA’s defense was ranked in the 70’s. Now they are 6th. Close As good as Boise’s BCS ranking.

Kelly

October 25th, 2011
8:28 am

Go dawgs! This is our game this year!

Scott Hayes

October 25th, 2011
8:28 am

Hoping this is a game where the Dawgs show they belong at the top (of the SEC East at least)

Say It Aint So

October 25th, 2011
8:29 am

Its a must win for CMR.

KeepDreaming

October 25th, 2011
8:29 am

Jeff, Dawg fans have been wondering that exact thing for years now….

meh

October 25th, 2011
8:29 am

I think the “law of averages” argument is the tipper. Georgia wins.

DawginLex

October 25th, 2011
8:29 am

I think this will be a fairly low scoring tight game.

Brantley being back will help but Grantham is going to pressure him.

We can’t score a bunch on them unless they gift wrap it.

Richt’s biggest game ever.

Joey

October 25th, 2011
8:31 am

” its still Fla’s to loose in Jax. its a damn home game i dont care what anybody says”
*********************************
lanier, if that’s so, Dooley won a bunch of “away games” in Jax, huh?

Half the stadium if orange and blue, the other half is red and black. It’s like a home game for both teams.

Mike

October 25th, 2011
8:33 am

Here is the bottom line truth, in big games, we give the ball away (see both losses … and florida last year).

It’s simple. If we give florida the ball, we lose. If we don’t turn the ball over we win. Period.

Say It Aint So

October 25th, 2011
8:33 am

Just win baby!

trupert

October 25th, 2011
8:34 am

We’ll know alot more about who has the better defense after this game. Both defenses will try and make the offense one dimensional by stopping the run. Rainey and Demps vs Crowell and co, should be intersting.

Cardinal Sin

October 25th, 2011
8:34 am

LMAO The Gators will win in a blowout!!!!!

Joey

October 25th, 2011
8:35 am

Don’t stress about our schedule, Alphare. Tech wil get to find out if our D is for real or not in about a month.

Til then maybe both of us will have no more losses.

Eaassyy

October 25th, 2011
8:36 am

14-10 Florida

IC loses the rock twice and special teams continues to suck. Murray doesnt lose the game but also doesnt win it.

payback!

October 25th, 2011
8:36 am

this is finally the dogs year! florida is terrible and has no offense–Ga should be able to beat them at last. The dogs should win the SEC easily and play alabama for the SEc title, where an upset is possible. Ga 36 Fla 9!! Party time in Jacksonville!!!!

Truth

October 25th, 2011
8:37 am

I detest UGA only because of its fanbase and thus wish that they lose every game, however….

I am certain they are going to crush UF. UF cant beat anyone as long as they have no viable QB….most teams can’t. Imagine UGA without Aaron Murray? Yeah, there you go.Same story for the gaytors.

Golden Corral

October 25th, 2011
8:38 am

CHARLIE WEISS HAS BEEN BARRED

1eyedJack

October 25th, 2011
8:38 am

I think I will smoke a carton of cigarettes during this one.

Dave

October 25th, 2011
8:38 am

I’m a rabid Dawg fan, but until UGA beats Florida, I treat every season as starting 0-1 simply because Florida is on the schedule. I would LOVE to eat crow on Saturday night, but if I was a betting man…….

SimpleDawg

October 25th, 2011
8:39 am

The Dawgs have ‘em this year…..

…..I think.

Dawg In Heat

October 25th, 2011
8:39 am

UGA has not played a complete game all year. This would be a good week to put it all together.

We need Murray to Play mistake free ball and hit open receivers. We need the defense to put massive pressure on Brantly who will probably not be too mobile. We need the special teams ( in the words of THE WHO) to “DON”T GET FOOLED AGAIN ”
If we do those things we will win a close one.

Joey

October 25th, 2011
8:40 am

Our fan base is probably in the millions, Truth.

Do you really detest all of us?

Joey

October 25th, 2011
8:43 am

Did anybody else think Marlon Brown looked like a NFL – caliber WR vs Vandy?

It’s because of him that I’m not all that concerned if Mitchell is still hobbled.

balismith

October 25th, 2011
8:44 am

think it is time to Occupy JEFF SCHULTZ SPORTS COLUMN yea …power to the people….”’

layinlow

October 25th, 2011
8:45 am

If UGA is well prepared and mentally ready then they should win the game because they actually have the better talent this year. I believe Richt’s job is on the line in this game and if that doesn’t motivate him and the team then nothing will. If this team comes out flat in this game and they end up losing then Richt should be fired at seasons end.

balismith

October 25th, 2011
8:46 am

DEMANDS…..1FREE TACOS

Dawgs > fl

October 25th, 2011
8:49 am

This may be the worst florida team in 20 years. Georgia should beat them good. I don’t even think florida can score against the georgia defense. They are terrible on offense. Georgia should win by 20-30 points.

dawgfan

October 25th, 2011
8:51 am

Is it just me or does Orson Charles look like an absolute freak of nature in that picture? Mike Bobo is the worst offensive coordinator in the SEC. He does not know how to use that guy.

I digress. This will be a close low scoring game that will come down to the wire like last year. These teams are pretty evenly matched. I’d like to think we have the edge because they have QB issues but I’ll believe it when I see it. I may not even watch this game. I’m tired of watching us lose to them.

Thanks.

Cats hav fleas 2

October 25th, 2011
8:52 am

Sick of the Weiss is a great offensive mind talk! What makes him great? He was part of a great Patriots staff, that continues to roll long after he’s gone? The fact that ND sucked under him, on both sides ofmthe ball? The fact that UF’s offense is not very good under him?
Weiss is OVERRATED!

DawgInaTruck

October 25th, 2011
8:52 am

Mike is dead on. It is the turnovers stupid!

This team is good and getting better-we are going to be scary good for a few years if we can hold this bunch together-but we are not good enough yet to make a bunch of mistakes and beat a quality opponent. And, yes, Florida is a quality opponent. Don’t think for a minute there is not a ton of talent in Gainesville and, like us, they’ve had an extra week to rest and prepare.

This will be one of the best games of the weekend but it will be one that is much more fun to watch when you don’t have a vested interest in the outcome. Think about Wisconsin and Michigan State last weekend-awesome game but the kind that gives you a heart atack when your team is involved.

balismith

October 25th, 2011
8:52 am

DEMANDS FREE TACOS every time you write negative articles concerning my beloved georgia bulldogs…..free taco mac tacoes everytime i beat jeff schultz in the weekly football pickum….free tacoes everytime you write a lame article ..which you know is at least once or twice a week……again power to the people…OCCUPY JEFF SCHULTZ……KNOW YOU HAVE A SWEETHEART DEAL with taco mac..come on jeff share the wealth

bamaguy

October 25th, 2011
8:55 am

This will be the best game of the week to watch. I am not sure Georgia is as good as their record indicates and I am not sure Florida is as bad as theirs. I do see UGA winning a close one due to that “directional” thing; Georgia seems to be “Rising Up.”

And after that close Ole Miss/ Ark game and TN being tied with Bama 6-6 at the half, anything can happen in the SEC on any given Saturday.

Dave

October 25th, 2011
8:55 am

This won’t be the first time that UGA has shown up in Jacksonville with the better team or record. Something just seems to happen. Florida’s offense suddenly wakes up and looks like world beaters. Problem is, some on here keep saying the same thing before each game “If Richt loses this game, he should be immediately fired!” I’m sure you idiots will say the same thing if we DO get to the dome and play Bama or LSU. We have an above average team, but no more. We could lose to either FL, Auburn or Tech, but we could also beat them. Every game from here on out will be a nail biter.

Joe

October 25th, 2011
8:58 am

18/21…soon to be….19/22

VegasVinnie

October 25th, 2011
8:58 am

Vegas odds are on Florida.

But since this poll is a Georgia state paper, I’d bet fans here, and in no other state, say Georgia will win.

Dave

October 25th, 2011
8:59 am

I agree with the other poster. I might just skip watching the game because I just get heartbroken each and every year. I’d rather have a good day on Saturday and then find out afterwards.

Oh HECK….I know I’ll watch it anyway…..

Dog Island Gator

October 25th, 2011
8:59 am

The key for the Gators will be penalties and special teams. If they can do well in those two cat. they will win.

hipdawg

October 25th, 2011
9:00 am

Ga. comes out flat and intimidated (like usual). But I think we will keep it close to the end and win by a 55 yard fg.They better win if they want CMR to hang around.