Ever[Bank] Ready

ATHENS - Freshmen tailbacks J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas have experienced just about everything imaginable this year, but they haven't been to Jacksonville.

With the Georgia-Florida rivalry game approaching in a matter of days, the anticipation is starting to build. However, it's just another game on the schedule. At least that's what some say.

"The Florida game always sticks out and I've heard it's a crazy game," Douglas said. "Georgia-Florida is like pretty much the huge game; one of the biggest in the country no matter what."

It's always the game to watch. It's a battle for respect for both players and fans. This season both Georgia and Florida are evenly matched with injuries and records. On top of that, this game regained its familiar SEC East implications following Missouri's loss to South Carolina last weekend. There's no question both teams will step onto EverBank Field ready to play.

"It's a big game, a big rivalry game, and I know we're fired up about it and I'm sure they are too," Douglas said.

Douglas is an Augusta native who grew up a Bulldog fan. He says he knows the tradition and importance of this game with the Gators. After all these years of being a Georgia fan this will be Douglas' first game on the field. It will be the first game he's attended as well.

"It's exciting," Douglas said. "I mean I've never been to the game. I've watched, but I've never been there and I'm excited to see what the atmosphere is like. I've heard a lot about it."

Senior Connor Norman has played in plenty of games featuring this rivalry, and while he's experienced the excitement, he advises younger players like Douglas and Green not to get too overwhelmed.

"It's like any other game, honestly," Norman said. "Once the ball's kicked off it's football. You don't want guys to get too caught up in the fact you're going down to Jacksonville and playing in an NFL stadium. That shouldn't be the focus."

That's a tough mindset for freshmen players to avoid, though. Norman knows that. He's been in that position before; not as a freshman, but as a first-year player in the SEC.

"It's definitely a really cool game. I feel like a lot of people in college don't get to experience a game like this," Norman said. "That's as close to an SEC Championship that you can get with the crowd split right down the middle and all that. The first year I played in it, it was an electric atmosphere and it hasn't changed."

While Douglas didn't spend his childhood around the rivalry, Green played his high school football right down the road from Jacksonville in Kingsland, Ga. Green wasn't a Georgia fan early in his life like Douglas, but he watched the Georgia-Florida game split his community in two.

"It's bragging rights there because you're right on the border from Jacksonville," Green said. "You're either a Florida Gator fan or you're a Bulldog fan. There's no other fans around that area, so it's pretty much just bragging rights."

A former Texas fan, Green is fighting for some bragging rights of his own now as a Bulldog. All his focus will be on playing the game for Bulldog fans back in Athens.

"If we go out there and do what we've got to do, then they're going to have their bragging rights," Green said. "If we don't, then it's going to be the other way around; [we] can't come home."

Though Green grew up close to Jacksonville, he's never attended this game either. Regardless of his allegiances as a young football fan Green said he always watched matchups between Georgia and Florida from the comfort of his home. Before becoming a Dawg, Green preferred watching the game on television.

Watching this game all these years gives Green an idea of what type of intensity Florida is going to bring.

"Florida is a great team. They have a great coach and coaching staff. They have some great players," Green said. "Florida is always going to be ready to play Georgia. It's just that rivalry and the border war pretty much. They just want to show what they can do."

Green had an added incentive to watch Florida play as a young football fan, too. His uncle, Jacquez Green, played for Steve Spurrier's Gators in the late 90's. Even with a family member on the team, Green says he still never considered himself a Florida fan.

As to be expected, Green's family is excited for the trip to Jacksonville. Green says they may even have a better time than him.

"I get to go back to my hometown and play in front of my family and friends. It's about to be exciting," Green said. "I think they're going to have a fun time. As I know, they're probably going to have more fun."

There would be nothing more fun for Green, Douglas and their fellow Dawgs than to defeat the Gators on Saturday. Earning a win over Florida and getting a shot at the SEC East are all that matter for them at this point.

"We've just got to treat it like any other game and go out there and have fun, execute and prepare like you always prepare during the week," quarterback Aaron Murray said.

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