Wait & See on Gurley

ATHENS - No. 9 Georgia got along just fine without Todd Gurley in its last two games.

Coach Mark Richt didn’t sound too concerned Sunday about whether he expects the Bulldogs to have their star running back for one of their biggest rivalries, the annual Cocktail Party game against Florida.

Richt shrugged off the inevitable questions about Gurley’s status as Georgia returns from an off week, firmly in control of the Southeastern Conference East race after freshman Nick Chubb did a stellar job filling in for dominant wins over Missouri and Arkansas.

“We’re just waiting for a response,” Richt said on his weekly conference call with reporters. “We just don’t know what to expect. We’re just going to keep practicing hard and preparing for the game.”

Gurley was indefinitely suspended while the school investigated whether he received improper benefits for signing autographs. Last week, Gurley acknowledged making mistakes and the Bulldogs applied to the NCAA for his reinstatement, indicating that missing two games should be considered sufficient punishment.

The NCAA has not indicated when it will rule.

“We really don’t know,” Richt said. “It’s just wait and see.”

Gurley was one of the favorites for the Heisman Trophy before his suspension. He has rushed for 773 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 8.2 yards per carry; ranks third on the team with 11 receptions; returned a kickoff for a 100-yard TD; and even completed Georgia’s longest pass of the season, a 50-yarder.

But, with Gurley missing a pair of SEC road games, the Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) turned in perhaps their most complete performances of the season. They routed Missouri 34-0 and defeated Arkansas 45-32 after leading 38-6 at halftime.

Chubb was the star of both wins, combining for 68 carries, 345 yards and three touchdowns.

Georgia would surely like to have Gurley in the backfield against struggling Florida (3-3, 2-3) on Saturday, and for a road trip the following week to face improved Kentucky (5-3, 2-3). If the Bulldogs win those two games, they could clinch a spot in the SEC championship game before they even host No. 4 Auburn.

Until they hear from the NCAA, the Bulldogs will stick to the same routine they’ve used since Gurley was suspended. He’ll get plenty of conditioning but limited snaps at practice, while Chubb works with the first team.

“Todd has been practicing all along,” Richt said. “So he’ll continue to practice.”

The coach will be among those paying close attention when the first college football playoff poll is released Tuesday. Georgia is certainly in the mix after an early loss at South Carolina, knowing that it would likely earn a spot in the four-team playoff by winning out in the regular season and pulling a shocker in the SEC title game against whoever emerges from the mighty Western Division.

“Everybody who is interested in college football is looking forward to seeing what the committee comes up with. I am one of them,” Richt said. “There are so many one-loss teams. There’s a lot to choose from. It will be interesting to see what their take is, what criteria they think is most important, how they weigh it. I don’t know if they’ll verbalize that, but we might be able to put two and two together after seeing what they come up with.”

Richt offered no insight into whether ailing running backs Sony Michel and Keith Marshall will be able to play against Florida. Michel has missed three games with a shoulder injury, while Marshall skipped the last four games because of a sprained knee and ankle.

The coach said Michel is “getting closer and closer to being ready to play” but still must undergo an X-ray or CT scan to ensure the shoulder has properly healed. As for Marshall, “he got some reps last week and hopefully he’s even better this week.”

Georgia has won three straight games over Florida, helping put the heat on embattled Gators coach Will Muschamp.

That won’t change the way Richt views this rivalry.

“They’re always dangerous to me,” he said. “We have a lot of respect for them.”

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