A group of us were sitting around Sunday talking about the upcoming game in Jacksonville and the chatter was getting increasingly optimistic as a couple of folks noted that Florida has looked anything but unbeatable over the past three games.
Then the fan who seemed the highest on Georgia’s chances to upset the Gators turned to me and said, “You don’t look too optimistic.”
What can I say? As much as I’d love to be, I’m not.
Sure, if both Georgia’s offense and defense play mistake-free football on Saturday, the Dogs can win. I’ll be ecstatic if they do.
But I haven’t seen much on the field over the past month to make me believe that’s actually going to happen.
I know Florida’s been struggling in the red zone recently and Tim Tebow has looked less than superhuman. But which do you think is more likely: that the Georgia defense somehow manages to shut down the Gators’ running game while also holding the receivers in check, or that Urban Meyer’s offense finds the antidote to its problems in Willie Martinez?
And even as its offense has struggled and despite the injury to leader Brandon Spikes, the Gator’s defense has continued to look formidable. What are the chances Georgia’s offensive line, having been reshuffled for the fifth time this season, finally puts it all together against Florida, gives Joe Cox time to throw and also blocks effectively enough for the Dogs to establish a running threat?
What optimism I can muster about the Dogs’ chances is based mainly on the fact that Georgia had the benefit of a bye week this year while Florida had a tough game the week before the Jacksonville showdown. The Dogs will be rested. The Georgia coaches have had plenty of time to study the Gators and come up with a plan to negate their strengths and exploit their weaknesses.
Listening to Mark Richt and Cox and Jeff Owens talk at the Touchdown Club of Athens meeting last week, I started to believe it could happen. Then I thought back on every big game Georgia has played over the past season and a half, and I began wondering if this coaching staff is really capable of taking full advantage of the bye week.
I haven’t given up hope, but I guess you could say my faith in Richt’s staff is more than a bit shaky. It’s that old heart vs. head thing I wrote about last week, and the closer the game in Jacksonville gets, the more my head rules over my heart in terms of what I expect.
Please forgive me for returning from vacation sounding all doom and gloom. I’d much rather believe that everything will fall into place and Richt will get one of the biggest wins of his career.
I’m just having trouble seeing that as a realistic scenario. So if anyone can make a convincing case for feeling good about the Dogs’ chances Saturday, I’d love to hear it.