Georgia Faces All-or-Nothing Game

JACKSONVILLE – Getting to Atlanta for the SEC championship game is the goal for every team in the league.

Florida has accomplished it more often than anyone else.

Maybe that's why the third-ranked Gators are taking such a ho-hum approach to Saturday's all-important game against No. 12 Georgia in Jacksonville. A more likely scenario, though, is that it's early, and players and coaches are saving all the hype and hoopla for the weekend.

"Nothing's changed for us," coach Will Muschamp said Monday. "We're not working any longer, harder. Practice, it's all the same. We don't approach things differently based on the situation because next week's important, too."

Not quite like this one, though.

The Gators (7-0, 6-0 SEC) can clinch a spot in the conference title game with a victory against rival Georgia (6-1, 4-1). The Bulldogs, meanwhile, need to beat Florida and probably win remaining games against Mississippi and Auburn to get to Atlanta.

"It's good for us," Gators linebacker Jon Bostic said. "That's one of our goals from the beginning of the year. We certainly want to get to Atlanta, but we've got to take it one game at a time. It's another SEC game we want to win."

Florida has represented the Eastern Division 10 times since the inception of the title game in 1992. The Gators also have more wins (7) than anyone else.

But few outsiders expected Muschamp's team to contend for the division in his second season. Not after last year's 7-6 record that included the coach calling his players soft. Not with a sophomore quarterback. Not with a new offensive coordinator.

The Gators, though, have surprised just about everyone.

They came from behind to win at Texas A&M and Tennessee. They were more physical than LSU and South Carolina, routing the Gamecocks 44-11 last weekend. They have been most impressive with halftime adjustments, second-half stamina and special teams play.

Now, all that stands in the way of another trip to Atlanta is Georgia.

"It's another big game," quarterback Jeff Driskel said. "It's an SEC East game, and it's the Florida-Georgia game. You couldn't really ask for more. You come to Florida to play in games like this. We're excited to start preparing and we're ready for another big week. ... We know what's at stake, but we're going to prepare like we have been all year and just be ready when it comes Saturday."

Cheering for Florida was easy for Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs when the Gators were playing South Carolina, but Saturday's task will be tougher.

Florida's victory over the Gamecocks made it possible for Georgia to control its fate in the SEC East after the Bulldogs struggled to beat Kentucky 29-24 last Saturday. Murray lifted Georgia with his career-best 427 yards passing and four touchdowns.

If Georgia wins the rest of its conference games, it would play in its second straight SEC championship game.

"We know what this game means for us and for Florida," coach Mark Richt said. "I would say our guys are excited about the opportunity to play this game and have it mean as much as it means right now."

Richt said he doesn't expect defensive end Abry Jones, who hurt his left ankle in the first quarter of Saturday night's game, to play against Florida.

Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones practiced Tuesday after missing the Kentucky game because of a sprained right ankle.

"He's definitely been making progress," Richt said. "I think there's a very good chance he'll play, but again if he's not healthy enough to go then we're not going to do it."

Georgia's defense has struggled even with Abry Jones and Jarvis Jones healthy and starting. The low point of the season came when the Bulldogs were overwhelmed in a 35-7 loss at South Carolina on Oct. 6.

"I feel like we've got a second opportunity to shock the world," receiver Marlon Brown said. "This time, we can't slip up."

If the Bulldogs don't start playing better on defense, they could be headed for another South Carolina-like debacle against the Gators. The unit was expected to be the strength of the team, but Georgia has given up at least 20 points in every game but one and more than 300 yards in all seven contests.

Senior safety Shawn Williams went off after practice Monday night, telling reporters the defense was "playing too soft" and "just not playing with the same attitude we were last year."

"I'm trying to see if I have to take somebody's helmet off and slap them and say, 'What's going on?'" Williams continued. "We're not playing with any emotion right now. Period."

Richt would have preferred those frustrations be aired behind closed doors, but safety Sanders Commings said he was glad that Williams spoke before the Bulldogs faced their biggest game of the season.

"We're 6-1 but we're not satisfied," Commings said. "He wants us to be that top defense - shutting people out, smashing people in the mouth. That's what all of us want as a defense. But we haven't really done it this year."

Georgia beat Florida 24-20 last year, only the Bulldogs' third win in the last 14 meetings.

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