Georgia gets yet another shot at Top 10 opponent; that it’s Florida is just a bonus

Georgia coach Mark Richt and the Bulldogs hope to be celebrating at the end of the Florida game like they were this time last year. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Georgia coach Mark Richt and the Bulldogs hope to be celebrating at the end of the Florida game like they were this time last year. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In September 2010, during his first year as Georgia’s athletic director, Greg McGarity had a meeting with all of the Bulldogs’ head coaches. He had several messages he wanted to convey, but one of the main ones was this: Don’t make Florida games bigger than any other.

McGarity has a unique perspective on the Georgia-Florida rivalry. A UGA graduate and one-time coach and athletic administrator for the Bulldogs, he also spent 18 years as the No. 2 man in the Gators’ athletic department. McGarity happened to arrive in Gainesville, Fla., not long after Steve Spurrier took over as football coach and swung the series in Florida’s direction.

During that time, McGarity noticed a trend among his former constituency. Defeating Florida — in any sport, but especially football — had become a fixation. He observed that it had become so important to the Bulldog Nation, and to the coaches and players as well, as to become a debilitating obsession.

“I wanted to debunk this notion that beating Florida was any more important than beating anybody else in the SEC,” McGarity said this past week. “It doesn’t count any more in the standings. I just felt like there was too much emphasis being put on beating one team.”

McGarity told his coaches that winning SEC championships — not defeating certain opponents — is the standard on which they would be judged.

To that end, the Bulldogs often tripped over Florida trying to do just that. They’d win only three of the 18 games with McGarity on the other sideline, and he observed Georgia teams often stretched taut with anxiety.

“It seemed like there would always be that one play where Georgia would drop a pass or throw an interception late in the game or something, and that would end up being the difference,” McGarity said. “It just seemed like they were too uptight. I think that was because they put so much pressure on themselves that didn’t need to be there.”

So McGarity’s primary advice as Georgia and Florida prepare to renew their rivalry for the 91st time Saturday: “just relax and trust your abilities.”

The SEC East is on the line again as the No. 10 Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1) and No. 2 Gators (7-0, 6-0) meet at EverBank Field. A Florida win punches its ticket to the Georgia Dome. A Georgia win gives the Bulldogs the head-to-head tiebreaker should they win out.

Georgia coach Mark Richt appears to have heeded the advice of his boss. The Bulldogs lost in overtime in 2010 and won 24-20 last year to help clinch an SEC Championship game berth. And as far as anyone can tell, there are no plans for any field-rushing touchdown celebrations or uniform changes as he has resorted to in the past.

“I think it’s one of those weeks as a coach where you don’t sit around wondering how you can motivate these guys,” Richt said. “They are motivated to play, so I don’t think that’s an issue. … Everything gets magnified in games like this. We have some experience with it. At South Carolina we didn’t handle it well. Hopefully we’ll handle it this time around.”

The Gators have revenge on their side, having blown a 17-3 lead last year to lose in coach Will Muschamp’s first season. But the UGA graduate echoed Richt’s sentiments that no special antics are warranted.

“You don’t need a bunch of pep talks this week to get them going,” said Muschamp, who went 7-6 on his first season at Florida. “What’s oftentimes lost in a game of this magnitude is the importance of making sure players don’t get too hyped too early.”

That might be the biggest concern for the Bulldogs. Senior safety Shawn Williams ignited Georgia’s fan base — and its locker room — when he ranted after Monday’s practice about the Bulldogs’ defense “playing too soft” and without passion. That’s the reason, Williams concluded, that after finishing fifth in the nation in total defense last season, Georgia is not among the top 50 in most statistical categories coming into Saturday’s game.

Williams’ comments touched off an impassioned response from his teammates. Tuesday’s practice was said to be one of the more spirited and physical of the season. At least two players came out of it with concussions.

“I feel like that woke a lot of guys up,” said All-American outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who is returning this week from an ankle injury. “I think guys understand where Shawn’s coming from, and we all definitely respect him. We feel like it was just a challenge for us to go out there and re-focus ourselves and get back on the right track and play the defense we’re known for playing. That’s smash-mouth football.”

Georgia certainly does not sound like a tight team heading into Saturday’s game. While everyone around has been peppering them with questions about their record against Top 10 teams (1-9 since 2008) and their record against Florida (4-18 since 1991), the Bulldogs have spoken confidently and excitedly about getting to measure themselves against the mighty Gators once again in Jacksonville.

“I think our guys will be ready,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “I don’t think it matters what a team is ranked or if a team is ranked or not ranked in this game. There’s going to be so many emotions. Guys will be playing harder than they’ve played all season long. It’s a fun game and I love being a part of it. I know I’ll be ready to go and I know my teammates will be ready to go.”

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creekwolf

October 27th, 2012
12:06 am

lowering expections?

Hank Hill

October 27th, 2012
12:42 am

Go Dawgs! Let’s do this.

Jimmy

October 27th, 2012
1:12 am

There’s a hurricane heading towards Jacksonville, and it’s name is Bulldawg Nation! Sic em Boys!

drbasic1

October 27th, 2012
1:17 am

GATA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pj

October 27th, 2012
2:04 am

If we don’t turn the ball over, devein / simplex as that

Lenny

October 27th, 2012
2:06 am

McGarity’s comments make sense.

It also explains why the bugs have so much trouble beating us: because it means everything to them and their fan base, 365 days a year. We need to chill out (and then whoop some Gator @$S).

dbc

October 27th, 2012
2:25 am

I have no illusions that Georgia will win — and quite frankly — I’m tired of twisting my guts up watching them play. I’ve seen a bunch of UGA football in my 52 years. From here on out I’m going to watch the game, enjoy friends, and let whatever happens, happens. If they win, great and I’ll celebrate. If they lose — well at least it was fun to be there. Can’t ask for much more than that. Right?’

Jason in Gainesville

October 27th, 2012
3:44 am

UGA has shown some magic at times this season as well as shown some pretty mediocre playing at tomes. The point is, they can play ball really well on offense and defense. It just comes down to which team shows up on Saturday…this game and every other game. UGA can win this game if their A-game comes to Jacksonville. UF is overrated and due for a loss…this will be a Dawgs Saturday.

Hammerhead

October 27th, 2012
4:54 am

If only it were that easy, Jason in G’villle. It’s like watching your brother fight in the parking lot without the abiliity to help him out… I dread it and can’t wait til it’s over, win or lose. Hopefully, we’ll have a coach that gives a damn and won’t walk off the field as if it doesn’t matter.

Hammerhead

October 27th, 2012
4:56 am

Comments intended for “dbc”…

RedandBlackDAWG

October 27th, 2012
6:29 am

Three keys to a UGA win today. The OL has got to protect and open a few holes, the defense has got to play better and limit or eliminate turnovers. Do those three things and it does become just another game for Georgia and they win.

Rangerdawg

October 27th, 2012
6:31 am

Hammerhead, that is exactly what you are going to see. When a coach knows his job is safe win or lose, he is not going to get upset. It has been 12 years now, why does anyone expect anything to change now. Don’t worry though, a 10-2 or 9-3 season will secure a 13th season, and more of the same. Next summer will consist of arrest of key “leaders”, suspended players, and the same excuses dusted off and reused. I support the kids playing, unfortunately they are products of their environment. How often do you read about Bama players getting arrested? Never, and that is why they are who they are. Hate him or love him but Saben is the reason for that, he is an authoritarian, not a “buddy” to the players. I spent 20 plus years in leadership and I learned that just because he is a “nice guy” does not mean he is very good at his job.

Beast from the East

October 27th, 2012
6:54 am

Bulldawgs taste like chicken!

Go Gators!

gomdawg

October 27th, 2012
7:18 am

Georgia 31 Gators 17 GO DAWGS , fLORIDA YOU GOING DOWN LUCKS RUN ON GEORGIA WINS TURN OVERS , GEORGIA DEFENSE COMES ALIVE. 2 MAJOR INT. WINS GAME

college is forever

October 27th, 2012
7:52 am

Enter your comments here

dewnsav

October 27th, 2012
7:57 am

gators taste like gators !! go dogs

Joey

October 27th, 2012
8:04 am

Hope we can run the ball some, the wind is some kinda blowing down here. No telling where a deep ball would wind up . . .

Go Dawgs!

chilidawg

October 27th, 2012
8:11 am

College Gameday isn’t there, right? If they are, we don’t have a chance.

Bitter evil twin

October 27th, 2012
8:36 am

Maybe our defence can handle this young gatter QB

——We are once again on a national stage————

—-noth-in to LOSE——-JUST PRIDE

Here we Go

October 27th, 2012
8:37 am

@dbc—-I feel the same way after 50 years of UGA football!!! It is what it is!

World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

October 27th, 2012
8:40 am

Shawn ‘hit real hard’ Williams straightened out the Dawg Defense.

Bitter evil twin

October 27th, 2012
8:50 am

GURLY HAS TO —RUN— over GATORS———-

—–But really the question is which defence can dominate

Bitter MC cracky

October 27th, 2012
8:52 am

Bonus’s/PAY RAISE’S are on the line

Bitter CRACK PIPE

October 27th, 2012
8:54 am

On a lighter note————-how much dope is being smoked

————by the LSUUUU Football team——geeezeeee

———–signed——STONED Badgger

Bitter CRACK PIPE

October 27th, 2012
8:57 am

My source have CONIRMED—-The NCAA has pee tested the entire

——–LSU FOOTBALL TEAM—–THANKS—HONEY (CRACK) BADGER

The Truth About Dawgs

October 27th, 2012
8:58 am

This could be a huge win for the Dawgs. That said, even if Georgia does win, it won’t change the perception that has been built up over the past 5 years. It would instead be one step toward changing perceptions.

So, will the Dawgs take a baby step today? We shall see.

UGA24-7

October 27th, 2012
9:13 am

In Georgia’s 120-year football history, the Bulldogs have won 10 games in a season only 19 times. Richt has seven of those seasons. But none of this matters to some people.

UGA24-7

October 27th, 2012
9:13 am

ARdawg

October 27th, 2012
9:18 am

Beast

Good luck to your boys and I hope all doesn’t turn out to suit you. It’s going to be a good game.

GO DAWGS!!!

The Truth About Dawgs

October 27th, 2012
9:20 am

@UGA24-7

“In Georgia’s 120-year football history, the Bulldogs have won 10 games in a season only 19 times. Richt has seven of those seasons. But none of this matters to some people.”

Those other coaches didn’t have 12 game regular seasons or 35 bowl games with an option for 14 games total.

10 out of 14 is not nearly as impressive as is 10 out of 10.

It’s an arithmetic thing… Georgia fans wouldn’t understand?

ARdawg

October 27th, 2012
9:21 am

UGA24-7

If you want to make comparisons at least make fair ones. Compare year losses, not meaningless cupcake victories

North ave. faithful

October 27th, 2012
9:36 am

The old fashioned hate is not as strong as it once was, guess that comes with age. Would like to see the dawgs bounce back after last week, what happened to the defense that made LSU look like a high school team for half of the seccg.

Joey

October 27th, 2012
9:49 am

“In Georgia’s 120-year football history, the Bulldogs have won 10 games in a season only 19 times. Richt has seven of those seasons. But none of this matters to some people.”
*******************************************
10-wins ain’t what it used to be. College football only played 10 game schedules until it added a game the 70’s, and added another in the early 2000’s.

Last year’s 10-4 season for Richt was the equivalent of Dooley winning 7 games in the 60’s, and winning 8 games in the 70’s and 80’s.

I guess that doesn’t matter to some people . . .

Dawgs 73

October 27th, 2012
9:57 am

I’m tired of hearing how our beloved Dawgs are going win but no concrete evidence to support this claim. As much as I want our Dawgs to win, I just can’t come up with any solid facts unless it involves “hope” & “maybe”.

If I’m being objective, I give a decided edge to UF on defense, special teams, and even at o-line. The coaching edge (for this year) goes to UF, as they have incrementally improved every game and have been dominat in second halves (which is a product of solid adjustments/coaching).

Joey

October 27th, 2012
9:59 am

The Richt-Fan-Boy-Club get orgasmic over the magical, 10-Win Seasons, even though 23 teams in the AP Top 25 Poll last season all won 10 games or more. 14 teams won MORE than 10 games.

It ain’t that big of a deal anymore, Fan-Boys.

Beast from the East

October 27th, 2012
10:04 am

ARdawg
October 27th, 2012
9:18 am

Beast

Good luck to your boys and I hope all doesn’t turn out to suit you. It’s going to be a good game.

GO DAWGS!!!

———————
ARDawg,
Thanks. Just hoping for a clean, hard-hitting, well played game by both sides.
May the best team win.

Joey

October 27th, 2012
10:12 am

You are correct Dawgs 73 – UF will have to plays its worst game of the season, and UGA will have to play its best game. The odds couldn’t be good for that to happen, but we gotta hope. I would have a lot more hope if our D was playing like last year, instead of like a Willie D.

Pease knows how to attack our DC’s defense – he did it with Boise’s undersized offense last season. MaybeGrantham will have some surprises for him the go ’round.

Go Dawgs!

Beast from the East

October 27th, 2012
10:20 am

Predictions?

I say UF 23 UGA 13

Of course, I’m slightly biased.

P-Cola Dog

October 27th, 2012
10:21 am

McGarity, Does Steve Spurrier place emphasis on the uga game? darn right he does. You are an idiot to suggest any other approach. How many bye weeks did fl have prior to uga while you were there? Come on man, do you think we are that stupid?

joe jenkins

October 27th, 2012
10:23 am

We barely beat them last season when they were awful….well i hope we just make it game…After this loss…i expect another loss to either ole miss or tech….maybe even auburn…i defitely think we lose our bowl game…we will struggle to win 10 games this year

Joey

October 27th, 2012
10:24 am

My wife hates UF – she would pull for Iran, if they played the Gators! She has an uncle who went to UF and he teases her mercilessly – but she forgets she did the same in the ’80s.

I pull for UF, right behind UGA and Tech, and have watched most of their games since Spurrier got to Gainesville. Usually with envy. Living on the GA-FL border, I have lots of Gators for friends. They are nothing like Bull Gator, SSIgator, etc – more like Beast from the East.

Every one of them pull for UGA in our other games.

Eaassyy

October 27th, 2012
10:30 am

How’s the weather down in J’ville? Will the hurricane affect play?

sgmjohndavis

October 27th, 2012
10:30 am

Our players and coaches know this is BIG! Adjustments have been made and our DAWGS know they can win this game. I predict this would be a great game to watch with no sound on. Just wait and see. GO DAWGS!

Joey

October 27th, 2012
10:30 am

Beast, probably a little worse, maybe 17 – 20 point loss for us.

All of that supposed emotion by our D will last about 2 series, when they will get tired of getting man-handled, as they have the past 3 games. If UT, SC, and (gulp) UK can run the ball down our
throats . . .

Of course, if y’all turn the ball over, or can’t pressure Murray, y’all will be in trouble.

Beast from the East

October 27th, 2012
10:34 am

Joey,
Gator fans are just like any other fan base in the SEC. Most are good people, but we certainly have our fair share of idiots. Our younger folks are somewhat spoiled because of our success over the past 20 years. Those of us that lived through the 70’s and 80’s know what it’s like to be the whipping boy. I pull for the Dawgs except against UF and SC (because of SOS).

Joey

October 27th, 2012
10:36 am

Eaassyy, I live about 45 miles north of Jax, maybe 15 miles further from the coast, and the wind is blowing, but not nearly as bad right now as it was earlier. No rain at all, and maybe 15-20 mph gusts. About 70 degrees. I think the storm turned further offshore than predicted.

No. 1 Braves Fan

October 27th, 2012
10:43 am

UGA 24 UF 10, McGarity is right. UGA fans put way too much emphasis and significance on wining the UF game. What really matters is they need to win the most SEC games. If the group of critical fans who constantly put them and Coach Richt down would let up a little and cheer more, they will do well. Gow Dawgs!

Sam

October 27th, 2012
10:48 am

Richt can’t match the top coaches in the big game. Florida all the way.

Honey Badger Has the Munchies

October 27th, 2012
10:48 am

Should be a great game! Go Dawgs and loosen up a bit. Too much pressure can backfire. Play intense of course but like the article states, this is a step closer to the SECCG. Look at it that way, just another team in the way of our goal.