JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –Greetings from the closed-in press box at EverBank Field. And I’m glad it’s closed it here.
It’s not raining and it’s certainly very pleasant outside. About 71 degrees last time I checked. But the wind we’ve all been writing about since I’ve been here is certainly present and accounted for. They’re blowing pretty constantly at about 19 miles an hour and gusting up to about 24 or 25. That said, here inside the stadium, which these days is completely bowled in, it doesn’t appear too bad. The skinny flags atop the uprights of the goal posts aren’t being blown crazy. Of course the ones across the to[ of the stadium are being blown straight. They’re blowing southeasterly, toward the end zone that has “Florida” painted in it.
Not trying to be Glenn Burns. I’m just sharing all this to let you know the winds are probably play a big part in this game. What I see now doesn’t make me think it’ll be a big factor in the passing game. But it’s definitely going to be a factor in the kicking game. Florida already has a big advantage in that area, with punter Kyle Christy and place-kicker Caleb Sturgis. But as I joked to another colleague while ago, maybe the wind will blow the point-after attempts of Georgia’s Marshall Morgan through the uprights rather than into them.
Following are some things to look for in today’s game:
THREE STORY LINES
1. What will be the “Shawn Williams Effect”? Georgia senior safety Shawn Williams infamously called out the Bulldogs’ defense and a couple of specific defenders this week when he said they were “playing too soft” and not playing as hard as they were last season, when Georgia finished fifth in nation in total defense. Whether Williams’ statements are a symptom or a cure will be determined how the Bulldogs do against the Gators’ one-dimensional offense, which runs 70 percent of the time.
2. What about the “Hurricane Sandy Effect”? The good news is Hurricane Sandy is tracking well off the Florida coast and deep into the Atlantic Ocean after wreaking havoc in the Caribbean Sea. The bad news is the storm widened, and winds and rain are expected to be felt in Jacksonville. According to weather.com, there is a 30 percent chance of rain, and winds are expected to be in excess of 20 mph. Coach Mark Richt, whose team is known to throw the ball down the field quite a bit, believes the wind will be more of an issue than any precipitation.
3. Can the Dogs hang in on special teams? The Gators are good in all areas of play, but are particularly dominant in special-teams play. Florida’s Kyle Christy leads the nation in punting (47.9 yards) and Caleb Sturgis is 12-of-14 on field goals. Florida’s Andre Debose is one of the SEC’s better return men. Georgia, which has struggled in all phases of special-teams play, must fight for at least a push in this area to hope to win.
A WIN FOR GEORGIA . . .
Would give it two consecutive victories over Florida for the first time since 1989
A WIN FOR FLORIDA . . .
Would be its 19th in the past 23 seasons over Georgia and clinch the SEC East title
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Georgia’s offensive line vs. Florida’s defensive front. Florida’s defense features a formidable front led by tackle Sharrif Floyd, end Dominique Easley and nose guard Omar Hunter, and they’re bent on stuffing the run. But they’re not great pass rushers, and the Bulldogs should be able to protect better than they did against South Carolina. They’ll need to.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
“Happy bday to the guy that keeps me upright and jersey clean @KenGates72”
— QB Aaron Murray (aka @aaronmurray11) to OT Kenarious Gates
“@SacManJones_29 it’s our time bra you got the juice.”
— SS Shawn Williams (aka @36SLY36) to teammate Jarvis Jones