3:30 PM ET, October 31, 2009
3:30 PM ET, October 31, 2009
Neither Florida nor Georgia has forgotten the controversies from their last two meetings that have further flamed the rivalry.
The top-ranked Gators, though, have more important things to focus on as they prepare to take on the Bulldogs in Jacksonville, Fla. on Saturday.
In what has been a one-sided rivalry in recent years with Florida (7-0, 5-0 SEC) winning 16 of the last 19 matchups, the last two meetings have been memorable for reasons other than the result of the games.
In 2007, urged on by coach Mark Richt, the entire Georgia team stormed the field to celebrate its opening touchdown en route to a rare Bulldogs victory. Last year, in what many viewed as retaliation, Florida coach Urban Meyer called two timeouts in the final 44 seconds of the Gators' 49-10 pounding of the Bulldogs.
Meyer denied calling the timeouts was about revenge, but Georgia players have a different take. A photo of Meyer with his hands raised in a T hangs all over the team's training facility, providing a bitter reminder of what happened.
"Of course, that's going to be a very big motivating factor for us," Georgia safety Bryan Evans said. "Every time we see his hands in the timeout position, it reminds us of what happened last year."
While Georgia players are using last season's tense finish as extra motivation for the latest installment of the rivalry, Florida needs little incentive as it chases a second straight national championship.
The Gators, who also hold the top spot in the BCS poll, are coming off a 29-19 win at Mississippi State last Saturday. Mississippi State tied the game in the third quarter, but Florida ran off 16 straight points, capped by an interception returned for a touchdown. Replays show it may have been fumbled before crossing the goal line, but an officials review upheld the score.
The Gators weren't interested this week in debating that call, however, as they have bigger concerns given the recent inconsistency of Tim Tebow, who was 12 for 22 for 127 yards Saturday and failed to throw a touchdown for the second time this season. He threw a season-high two interceptions, giving him four for the season.
After throwing six touchdowns and one interception in the first four games, Tebow has passed for two scores and three picks in the last three contests.
"I don't think it's getting to me," Tebow said. "Do I put pressure on me? Yeah. I put a lot more pressure than y'all could possibly put on me, so I don't think that's getting to me. I think just wanting to excel, wanting everything to be right."
Not all of Tebow's problems are solely in his control, however. He's been sacked 15 times this season, equaling his total from 14 games last season.
"Tim's not trying to be a hero," Meyer said. "But we might be asking him to do too much."
Tebow has six rushing touchdowns this season and 49 for his career, one shy of breaking former Georgia standout Herschel Walker's SEC record.
While Tebow breaking Walker's record may be inevitable, Georgia (4-3, 3-2) will try its best to prevent him from doing it this weekend.
The Bulldogs are hoping that an upset of the Gators could push them back into the SEC East race. They rebounded from back-to-back losses against LSU and Tennessee with a 34-10 victory at Vanderbilt on Oct. 17 and are coming off a bye.
Georgia had one of its best games of the season the last time out. Joe Cox threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns while the team rushed for a season-high 173 yards. The Bulldogs are last in the SEC in rushing yards per game at 108.0.
"(The running game) didn't do a lot at first but if you keep driving the ball, it opens up play-action and then you'll start getting big runs and that's how you put teams away," said Cox, who is third in the conference with 1,581 passing yards this season. "It wasn't our best day running the ball, but it was effective when we needed it to be."
The much-maligned defense also came up big. Ranked 100th nationally in scoring defense entering the game, Georgia came up with three sacks and had an interception that set up a touchdown.
This is the fourth time the Bulldogs are playing the nation's No. 1 team. Two of the previous three were against Florida -- in 1985 and 1996.
"The hatred is already there with the fans, the coaches, everyone," Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran said of the rivalry. "There's no other way to put it: We just don't like each other."
Will recent controversies continue to fan the flame of this rivalry? Or will Mark Richt and Urban Meyer call it even after the past two seasons' games? It's been a one-sided affair of late, with Florida winning 16 of the past 19 matchups. This is the fourth time the Bulldogs are playing the nation's No. 1 team.
In a battle of struggling offenses, Florida will have just enough to hold off Georgia.
|Avg Points Allowed||29.4||11.0|