November 2, 2013
Overall Record: 49-40-2
Last 10 Meetings: 4-6
Richt vs. Florida: 4-8
Will Muschamp entered the summer speaking circuit after a very good, but confusing 2012. Florida improved over 2011. The team won 11 games. The Gators embarrassed #9 South Carolina 44-11, upset #4 LSU and whipped #10 Florida State on the road.
But two games have the attention of the Gator nation – the performance in the Sugar Bowl and the loss to Georgia.
The Sugar Bowl was a nasty loss where the Gators looked listless and flat. Florida had one of the top defenses in the SEC last season, but were worn out in the Superdome as Louisville got out to a 33-10 lead before shutting it down. That loss seemed to exhibit the worst of Florida all in one game.
Suddenly fans remembered quite well the poor performances at home against Missouri (14-7) and Louisiana-Lafayette (27-20) where the Gators were lucky to get out with wins.
But the loss to Georgia, a 17-9 loss that all but clinched the SEC East for the Bulldogs, has been asked about the most. The Gators turned the ball over six times, and Georgia won two games in a row against the Gators for the first time since Ray Goff was head coach.
That sort of thing doesn't sit well with Florida fans.
"Well, it's not going to be a long winning streak, I can assure you," Muschamp said in Jacksonville in the spring.
That remains to be seen.
Florida used to go to Jacksonville and figure out ways to win – almost always with help from the Bulldogs. The opposite is the case these days.
Florida, like everyone else in the SEC, has a challenging schedule. But the Gators are going for gold in the scheduling department this year. Florida plays cupcakes Toledo and Georgia Southern. But that's the end of easy in Gainesville. The eight-game SEC slate includes trips to Baton Rouge, Columbia, SC, Columbia, MO as well as Jacksonville. Tennessee and Arkansas travel to Florida.
But the Gators went the extra step in scheduling when they added Miami to the 2013 schedule over and above the traditional year-end fight with the Noles. The game with the Canes is an unnecessary burden for the Gators.
Muschamp will need his team to fight hard to get to ten wins, but it is an attainable goal.
Florida player to watch:
Purifoy was one of the top performers on a Florida defense that ranked fifth in the nation a year ago in total yards (3,737) and opponents' points-per-game (14.5) allowed.
Purifoy's versatility is unmatched, and it's largely why he's already a projected first round NFL draft pick for the 2014 class. In addition to playing cornerback, Purifoy has the speed and explosion that made him a special teams ace returning kicks last year.
Additionally, Florida coach Will Muschamp moved Purifoy to wideout this spring to relieve some of the depth issues the Gators have. It was a move that was quite comparable to Richt's with Malcolm Mitchell last year when the Bulldogs knew they'd have a depleted secondary due to early season suspensions. Purifoy has many similarities to Mitchell, and interestingly enough, was covering the Georgia wideout when he scored the game-winning touchdown against Florida last year.
Purifoy, who played receiver in high school, said he was initially skeptical about lining up on offense this year, but became more excited about it after the conclusion of spring practice. Muschamp, a former Georgia defensive back and current safeties coach at Florida, said that giving up one of his best defenders is not going to be easy.
Purifoy, the rising junior, ranked fourth amongst the Gators in tackles (51), had five pass break-ups, three forced fumbles and two blocked kicks last season, and will likely be a gameplanning headache for Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray should he make a corner appearance against the Bulldogs.
Florida lost eight starters from its stout defense last season, and Purifoy could be another name added to that list. Georgia assuredly has the leg-up on the wideout-corner match-up this year, but getting past Purifoy will be no picnic. As many can recall, the 17-9 win over the Gators was a sloppy one. To earn the victory for the third year in a row, Murray and company will need more discipline and precision.
What the Dawgs must do:
This series has shifted – that much is clear. Georgia hasn't played its best game of the season against the Gators, but still won the last two games between the two. Georgia is learning (or has learned) how to win this critical game. The history of this series shows that one team usually dominates the other for a decade or two at a time. Now would be a great time for Georgia to have its way with it most hated rival.
Inside the numbers:
A win against the Gators this year would give Georgia three straight for the first time since 1987-1989 and give the Bulldogs as many wins over Florida since 2010 as it had from 1990-2009. The turnaround comes courtesy of Todd Grantham. The Gators have totaled 19 points against Georgia the last two years.
This is a difficult one to figure out because even though the Gators and Dawgs are huge rivals on the field they never seem to fight one another off the field for recruits. That's a rare thing in the SEC. But that's the world both live in. Florida has struggled to sign high-level players from Georgia over the last decade, but you get the feeling that's the case because the Gators don't really bother pursuing players in the Peach State too hard. Georgia does just fine in Florida – particularly with high-level players. Florida has signed one five-star player (Omar Hunter) from Georgia since 2002 and have had three players from the state drafted since 2005 – Channing Crowder, Maurice Hurt and Jermaine Cunningham.
Last year's prediction: Play with confidence. Winning one game against the Gators has been done several times now, but winning two in a row is still a mystery for the Dawgs when it comes to Florida. Georgia will be more experienced, and many would argue more talented than the Gators. There is no explanation for not performing in Jacksonville this fall outside of injuries.
Georgia was the better team, but struggled because of the Gators' impressive defense. But Florida could only hold the Bulldogs for so long.
12-Year History vs. Florida
2001 – #6 Florida turned the ball over four times and committed 12 penalties, but still topped #16 Georgia 24-10. Down 17-10, Georgia had the chance to tie the ballgame on the first drive of the second half, but on fourth and two from at the Florida six-yard line Verron Haynes dropped a pass.
2002 – Georgia entered the 2002 game with momentum and the program's first realistic chance to win the national title since 1982. But #20 Florida stunned #5 Georgia 20-13 in one of the most painful losses of the Mark Richt Era. Still, Georgia went on to win the 2002 SEC Championship and the 2003 Sugar Bowl, but the Florida loss still stings some to this day.
2003 – Georgia limped home after another painful close loss to Florida – this time on Matt Leach's 33-yard field goal in #23 Florida's 16-13 win over #4 Georgia. The Dawgs outran Florida 202-89, but Georgia's defense could not stop another long Florida drive in the fourth quarter. After Georgia rallied to tie the game at 13, Chris Leak drove the Gators 66 yards to set up Leach's game winner.
2004 – Georgia defeated Florida for the second time in 15 years as the #10 Bulldogs beat Florida 31-24. Georgia's win came six days after Florida fired its coach Ron Zook.
2005 – D.J. Shockley watched from the sideline as his #4-ranked Dawgs fell to #16 Florida 14-10. Down 14-3, it seemed the Bulldogs might make a furious comeback after running back Thomas Brown threw a touchdown pass to Tereshinski on a trick play in the third quarter. But Georgia failed to score yet again.
2006 – Florida forced five turnovers, and Georgia lost its third game in the month of October as the Gators held on for a 21-14 win. Florida used the win to propel themselves to their first SEC East championship since 2000. They went on to win the SEC title as well as their first BCS championship since 1996.
2007 – Georgia stormed the field and went on to slam Florida 42-30 in the Bulldogs' first win over the Gators since 2004. 70 Bulldogs rushed the field after Knowshon Moreno's one-yard touchdown on the #20 Dawgs' first touchdown of the game. Moreno slashed the Gators on the ground with 188 yards and three touchdowns. Tim Tebow struggled to hold back tears in his post-game press conference.
2008 – Perhaps the most anticipated game between the Gators and Dawgs in decades went to Florida in a big way. Tim Tebow scored five touchdowns and Urban Meyer called two of his second-half timeouts in the final minute of the game to rub #5 Florida's 49-10 win over #8 Georgia.
2009 – There was a trick, but no treat for Georgia as the Bulldogs fell to undefeated and top-ranked Florida 41-17. The game, coupled with the 2008 blowout, was the worst back-to-back beating in the rivalry in more than a decade.
2010 – Both Florida and Georgia entered the 2010 game unranked for the first time since 1979, but Georgia felt the pain of a loss in the first overtime in this series' history. Chas Henry hit a 37-yard field goal to give the Gators the win.
2011 – Two fourth down touchdowns powered Georgia past Florida 24-20, giving the Bulldogs their first win over Florida since 2007. The Bulldogs used backup running back Richard Samuel as a battering ram – eventually scoring on a four-yard touchdown to give Georgia a 24-20 win.
2012 – Days after safety Shawn Williams called out his teammates for being "soft", #12 Georgia took out undefeated #3 Florida 17-9 – giving Georgia back-to-back wins over the Gators for the first time since 1989. Aaron Murray shook off a horrible first half performance to find Malcolm Mitchell for a 45-yard touchdown run to give the Dawgs an eight-point lead. Jarvis Jones forced a decisive fumble from Jordan Reed on the Bulldog five-yard line with only 2:05 left in the game.
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at Kentucky
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at Auburn
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at Florida
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at Vanderbilt
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at LSU
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at Missouri
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at Tennessee
2013 Media Days: Legge's Look at S. Carolina