The Bulldogs (5-2, 4-1 SEC) have lost 18 of their last 21 to the Gators in the annual matchup in Jacksonville. But these aren't the same old Bulldogs. Georgia has won five straight since an 0-2 start and has a chance to knock Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) out of the SEC East race,
"We are paying more attention to this game this year because of the way the SEC East race is shaping up," Georgia cornerback Sanders Commings said. "We're tied for first in the East, and we feel like we really have a chance to win the East as long as we do our part. This game is more about that than just the fact that we are playing Florida."
Of course, Georgia must do its part by continuing to play strong on both sides of the ball while avoiding mistakes on special teams. In its 33-28 win over Vanderbilt before the bye week, Georgia allowed a punt return for a touchdown, missed two field goals and nearly had a blocked punt returned for a TD in the closing seconds.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said he's concerned about Florida's speed on both sides of the ball.
"They've played three ranked teams, and two of them (Alabama and LSU) are dominating everybody that they play," Richt said. "I think there is a perception that Georgia is on a roll and Florida is struggling, but if you flip those schedules, I'm not sure it wouldn't be a whole lot different story for us and for them."
Richt downplayed the significance of the game in the SEC East race.
"We know we are in much better shape if we win the game, but there's no guarantees either way, win or lose," Richt said.
Brantley expected to return this week
It appears that Florida will get a much-needed shot in the arm heading into its matchup with rival Georgia.
The Gators are expecting starting quarterback John Brantley to return from a high ankle sprain in time to play for the annual meeting between the two schools in Jacksonville.
"We feel like John will be ready to go for the game," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "Getting him back is going to be a huge psychological shot for our football team. I really believe that."
Brantley had passed for 952 yards and 5 TDs before going down with a high ankle sprain in the first half earlier this month against Alabama. He's missed Florida's last games against LSU and Auburn. The Gators have scored just 17 points in his absence.
Muschamp said Brantley did some throwing during UF's bye week but not take part in any practices.
"He did some throwing motion stuff and worked on a couple of drops here and there just to see how the ankle took," Muschamp said. "We are very pleased with his progress. He has worked extremely hard to get back for this week."
Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) is looking to snap a three-game losing streak and get back in the SEC East race. The Gators have won 18 of their last 21 against Georgia (5-2, 4-1 SEC).
"It's a race for the East," Florida defensive end Sharrif Floyd said. "Nobody's got control of it yet."
GEORGIA NOTES, QUOTES
--Coach Mark Richt said Georgia will prepare for all three Florida quarterbacks -- John Brantley, Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett. Brantley has missed Florida's last two games and remains questionable with a high-ankle sprain. "We're trying to study what each guy does when he's in the game," Richt said. "There is not a huge difference among the three guys. They might be doing a little bit less without Brantley. Driskel seems to be the guy who is more apt to run, although I don't think they are building a quarterback run game with Driskel. If anybody else is back there we'll consider that a wildcat look, and we have to look at the tendencies of what they do when somebody else besides a traditional quarterback is back there."
--Georgia sophomore QB Aaron Murray said he feels more confident heading into his second game in the Florida-Georgia rivalry. As a freshman starter, Murray threw three interceptions, but nearly led Georgia back in the second half in a 34-31 overtime loss to Florida. "I definitely had some jitters," Murray said. "I didn't start off the way I wanted to offensively, but we pushed through and had an unbelievable second half. I've definitely matured, and I understand what the environment is going to be like; I think I'll be able to handle it better this year."
--Richt said cleaning up mistakes on special teams was emphasized during Georgia's bye last week. Richt said coaches evaluated both schemes and personnel on special teams. "We didn't try to go too crazy about it, but we know we have to get better," Richt said. "I think a lot of it has to do with challenging those units to do exactly what the coaches tell them to do. That's been at least 50 percent of the issue."
FLORIDA NOTES, QUOTES
--Since 2002, Florida and Georgia are two of the three winningest programs in the SEC. Georgia is second at 74.4 percent (93-32) while Florida is third at 73.6 percent (92-33). LSU is first at 79.4 percent (100-26).
--Muschamp said that the number two QB behind Brantley has yet to be determined. Freshman QBs Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett will compete for the job this week.
--Muschamp said that the Gators mainly worked on fundamentals during the bye week. "The players had a great attitude," Muschamp said. "I think we've got a good head start on where we need to go."
SERIES HISTORY: Georgia leads 47-40-2 (last meeting, 2010, Florida 34-31 OT)
SCOUTING THE GEORGIA OFFENSE: Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo's no-huddle looks have allowed the Bulldogs to stay balanced. Sophomore QB Aaron Murray has been able to spread to ball to his skill-position players, keeping everyone involved. Murray has completed passes to 16 different receivers this season. Georgia has been strong on third down this season, converting 40 percent (42-106) of its opportunities.
SCOUTING THE FLORIDA DEFENSE: Florida's defense is coming off a solid effort against Auburn, limiting the Tigers to just 278 yards. But for the third straight game, Florida failed to force a turnover. Teams are taking less chances against UF because of the team's offensive struggles, but LB Jelani Jenkins dropped another potential interception against Auburn. The Gators have been strong on third down, limiting opponents to just 27 percent (25-91) on third-down conversions.
SCOUTING THE GEORGIA DEFENSE: Georgia's defense is coming together in Todd Grantham's third year as coordinator. The Bulldogs have been able to get to the quarterback, recording 15 sacks through their first seven games. Georgia also has been strong against the run, holding opponents to just 3.2 yards per carry. Georgia has forced 15 turnovers this season, with four coming on fumble recoveries and 11 coming on interceptions. S Bacarri Rambo has a team-high five interceptions.
SCOUTING THE FLORIDA OFFENSE: Florida has struggled to find an offensive identity with quarterback John Brantley out of the lineup. The Gators have scored just 27 points in their last three games and 17 points since Brantley went down late in the first half of the Alabama game with a high ankle sprain. Florida has been woeful on third down, converting just 29 of 85 (34 percent) this season.
GEORGIA QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have been paying a lot of attention to details this week. We are focusing on the little things because this game is a little more physical. We don't like them and they don't like us." -- Georgia CB Sanders Commings, on the matchup between Georgia and Florida.
FLORIDA QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know there will be a lot of wasted ink on the fact that I played at Georgia." -- Florida coach Will Muschamp, on facing his alma mater Georgia for the first time as a head coach. Muschamp played at Georgia as a walk-on safety between 1991-94.
GEORGIA STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Georgia vs. Florida, Oct. 29 -- Georgia (5-2, 4-1 SEC) will be looking to extend its winning streak to six games. The Bulldogs have lost 18 of their last 21 against the rival Gators (4-3, 2-3 SEC). The atmosphere of half-Gator, half-Bulldog fans makes the neutral-site matchup in Jacksonville extra special.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Georgia should have a physical advantage up front, but will need to take good angles defensively against speedy Florida RBs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps to prevent big plays. Look for the Bulldogs to pressure whomever Florida plays at quarterback on Saturday. If John Brantley starts for the Gators, he will still be rusty and limited in mobility due to a high-ankle sprain. On offense, Georgia must avoid mistakes and maintain its balance with freshman RB Isaiah Crowell running the ball and sophomore QB Aaron Murray throwing the ball. Both have the talent to make big plays. On special teams, Georgia must improve its kick coverage to contain speedy Florida returner Andre Debose. The Bulldogs have already given up two punt returns for TDs this season.
GEORGIA PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Aaron Murray -- Murray is motivated to avenge last year's performance against Florida, when he threw three interceptions in a 34-31 overtime loss to the Gators. Murray has thrown an SEC-high 16 touchdown passes this season compared to seven interceptions.
RB Isaiah Crowell -- Crowell is fourth in the SEC in rushing with 608 yards and has emerged as the feature back in Georgia's offense. He's battled some nagging injuries but should be refreshed after the bye week.
TE Orson Charles -- With leading receiver Malcolm Mitchell questionable with a hamstring injury, someone else will need to pick up the slack. Charles is a fast and agile tight end capable of making big plays downfield.
LB Jarvis Jones -- Jones is second on Georgia in tackles with 39, including 10 for loss. Jones also has a team-high four sacks.
PK Blair Walsh -- Walsh has had an up-and-down senior season, converting just 12-of-20 field-goal tries. He's made just 4-of-10 from 40 yards or more. But Walsh could atone for his struggles with a clutch kick if the game is tight against Florida. ROSTER REPORT
--DT Kwame Geathers and S Shawn Williams have been suspended by the SEC for the first half of the Florida-Georgia game for flagrant personal fouls against Vanderbilt. Richt said that DT John Jenkins will start for Geathers but is undecided on who will play for Williams.
--ILB Alec Ogletree is practicing and is expected to return for the Florida game. Ogletree sat out the last six games after suffering a broken foot in the season opener against Boise State.
--WR Malcolm Mitchell is questionable with a hamstring injury. Mitchell tried to practice on Monday. "He didn't do well (Monday)," Richt said. "He practiced for about five minutes."
--S Bacarri Rambo (turf toe) is expected to play against Florida.
--OLB Cornelius Washington (two-game suspension for DUI) is expected to return for Florida.
--Richt said the Bulldogs may consider redshirting WR Rantavious Wooten, who has been slow to recover from post-concussion symptoms sustained last month in a car accident. "When you hear 'not much of a change,' 'not much of a change' long enough, you realize that this thing was a little more serious than we thought," Richt said. "It's still week to week in my mind though. There's still a lot of football to be played, a lot of very meaningful games to be played, so I'm not counting him out right now."
FLORIDA STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
KEYS TO THE GAME: Florida's defense will need to play at a high level against a balanced Georgia attack. The Bulldogs can throw the ball with quarterback Aaron Murray (236.1 yards-per-game, 16 TDs) or run it with talented freshman RB Isaiah Crowell (608 yards 4 TDs). On offense, the return of quarterback John Brantley is probable but Brantley will be rusty and may not be at 100 percent returning from a high ankle sprain. It will be important for Florida to establish the run to take pressure off Brantley or one of the two freshman quarterbacks (Jeff Driskel or Jacoby Brissett) that could play in his place. Special teams also could play a big role in the game. Georgia has had issues this season covering kicks and fake punts. Look for Florida to possibly have a trick up its sleeve to catch Georgia off guard.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB Chris Rainey -- With Brantley hobbled, Florida may need to turn to its most consistent offensive player to move the chains for the Gators. Rainey still leads Florida in rushing (500 yards) and receiving (275 yards) this season.
LB Jon Bostic -- Bostic has taken to first-year coach Will Muschamp's multiple defenses well this season, leading the Gators in tackles (51) and sacks (3).
DT Dominique Easley -- Easley has a team-high 6.5 tackles for loss and will be needed to provide a push inside to stop talented freshman Georgia RB Isaiah Crowell.
SS Matt Elam -- Elam is second on the Gators in tackles (43) and has a team-high two interceptions.
PK Caleb Sturgis -- Strugis has connected on all 19 of his PAT tries and is 15-or-16 on field goals this season. In a tight game that could come down to the wire, Sturgis could be called upon for a clutch kick late. Florida beat Georgia 34-31 in overtime last season on a game-winning field goal from former punter Chas Henry.
FLORIDA ROSTER REPORT --
DE Ronald Powell (neck) practices last week and is expected to be ready for the Georgia game. --
CB Jeremy Brown (knee) has been ruled out for the Georgia game.