JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – So I was standing outside the EverBank Field with Tim Tucker because the stadium gates were closed – Jacksonville has this thing about letting media in too early, not sure why – and up walks Vince Dooley. After about a 30-second conversation, he turns to us and says, “I’ll see if I can get in.” And, of course, he did. Because he’s Vince Dooley. But at least he turned to us, smiled and waved.
So hello. I’m inside the gates now and figured I would open with something less dramatic than: GEORGIA HAS TO WIN!
Athletic director Greg McGarity, who has sat on both sides of this rivalry, has been trying to diminish the stress level associated with this annual meeting. He told our Chip Towers that he’s trying to “debunk this notion that beating Florida was any more important than beating anybody else in the SEC It doesn’t count any more in the standings.”
I understand McGarity’s objective. But the importance of the game this season can’t be overstated. The winner of today’s Georgia-Florida game likely will win the SEC East. It’s a chance for the Bulldogs to change their season and, for the some, the perception of the program.
There has been a lot of talk about how the weather might play a role in the game, so here’s the current conditions: It’s cloudy and overcast but it’s not supposed to rain. There are sporadic wind gusts however that could play havoc with passes, field goals and punts.
Here are a few more bullet points before I open the cyber-venting lines:
• Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who had four sacks in last year’s win over the Gators, returns to the lineup after missing the Kentucky game with an ankle sprain. That could be significant, but I wonder how healthy Jones really is. He has had ankle and groin ailments all season and those are injuries that generally don’t heal quickly.
• For what it’s worth, the last time the Dogs beat Florida in consecutive seasons was when they won three straight from 1987 to 1989 (coaches: Dooley-Dooley-Ray Goff). Georgia is 4-18 in the series since.
• It will be interesting to see if there’s any carryover from comments by safety Shawn Williams, who labeled the defense as “soft” and suggested lineup changes. My guess is if Georgia starts well, it won’t be an issue. But if the Dogs struggle, particularly against Florida’s running game, there’s a danger of players pulling apart.
Here’s a comment from Christian Robinson on the “soft” claims: “In certain areas we just haven’t done our job. Some people might see that as soft, but I see it as undisciplined. We’ve got to fix our problems. That might look soft but I don’t see us getting physically beaten.”
• Florida is 7-0 in part because it has committed only four turnovers (and is a plus-11 overall), So the Dogs can’t afford to make many (or any mistakes) because there’s a good chance the Gators will not reciprocate.
Georgia has more playmaking ability on offense, led by quarterback Aaron Murray. But I really believe this game will be won or lost by the Dogs’ defensive front. If they can stuff the Gators’ running game, it puts more pressure on Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, who is limited. The Gators rank third in the conference in rushing but 14th in passing.
That’s it for now. Here are a few stories from during the week you might have missed:
– Chip’s story on Jarvis Jones.
– Chip’s story with Greg McGarity.
– My column on how one game can change Georgia’s season and perceptions about the program.
OK. Commenting is now open. I’ll be here all game to chat.
Thoughts on the game?
By Jeff Schultz