Florida’s easier-than-expected win over South Carolina and Georgia’s tougher-than-expected win over Kentucky combined to raise the stakes for Saturday’s annual showdown in Jacksonville.
“We know what this game means for us and for Florida,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday night. “Our guys are excited about the opportunity to play this game and have it mean as much as it means right now. … I don’t think we’re going to have to sit here and try to figure out a way to motivate anybody.”
A win by Florida (7-0, 6-0 SEC) would clinch a berth in the SEC Championship game for the Gators, while a win by Georgia (6-1, 4-1) would put the Bulldogs in position to reach the league title game with victories next month over Ole Miss and Auburn.
On paper, a number of factors seem to favor Florida, including:
“At the end of the day, it all depends on how we play,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “We know we have to play an unbelievable game offensively, defensively and on special teams if we want to have a chance to win that game. We just have to be ready to go.”
Florida is the SEC East’s only unbeaten team and would clinch the division title outright with a win. A Georgia victory would give the Bulldogs the tiebreaker in the East if they and Florida finish with one league loss apiece.
Richt had mixed news Sunday on two key defensive players with ankle injuries. He expressed optimism that linebacker Jarvis Jones, who sat out the Kentucky game, will be able to play, but indicated that end Abry Jones, who left the game early in the first quarter, probably won’t be available.
“My hope is [Jarvis Jones] will be able to practice as early as Monday. That’s what I hope, but whether or not that happens, I’m not sure,” Richt said. “He’s definitely been making progress. I think there’s a very good chance he’ll play, but if he’s not healthy enough to go, then we’re not going to do it. I think there’s a good chance he will [play].”
Richt said Abry Jones suffered a different injury to the same ankle that he sprained earlier this season. “Right now he’s out, and we’re going to learn a little bit more tomorrow when he sees some doctors,” Richt said. “But at this minute, I’d say there’s a good chance he’ll be out.”
Georgia hasn’t won back-to-back games against Florida since 1988-89. The Bulldogs won 24-20 last year and lost 34-31 in overtime in 2010.
Punter Collin Barber, helped off the field after being run into by a Kentucky player, “will be fine,” Richt said. … Ray Drew is “going to get more opportunities” at defensive end with Abry Jones injured, Richt said. … Because of South Carolina’s back-to-back losses to LSU and Florida, the damage done to the Bulldogs by their Oct. 6 loss to the Gamecocks was quickly erased, at least in the SEC East standings. “We knew [after the loss to South Carolina] that there was a lot of football to be played and if we get back to work and start trying to take care of our own business, there would be a good chance we would be back in the race,” Richt said. “As it turned out, it happened relatively quick. The reality was that when we were playing South Carolina we were in control of our destiny. And then the very next game we played was Kentucky, and by the time we kicked off we were actually in the same spot we were going into the South Carolina game.”