Georgia/Florida Preview

ATHENS - It's a testament to Florida's grip on the Bulldog Nation that even last season, Georgia's best in 20 years, the Gators were the dark cloud in the Dogs' silver lining.

The Bulldogs won 13 games, the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl last year.

"The fans still wanted to know when we were going to beat Florida, I know that," Coach Mark Richt said. "I haven't been checking things off, but if anybody has, they haven't checked that one off."

From 1964 until 1989, Florida never beat the Bulldogs twice in a row. Since then, Georgia has left Jacksonville, Fla., a loser 12 times in 13 tries, winning only in 1997 and losing 20-13 last year despite entering the game as the favorite.

"It's always about what has happened last and what has happened has been a bad experience, a terrible experience," said athletic director Vince Dooley, the Bulldogs' coach from 1964-'88. "It's been terrible for Georgia, and we want to try to change that."

Their chance comes today at 3:30 p.m. when No. 4 Georgia (7-1, 4-1 SEC) and No. 23 Florida (5-3, 3-2) meet in Alltel Stadium. All that's on the line today, the SEC East lead and BCS positioning, seems secondary for Bulldog fans to breaking the hold the Gators have on Georgia's throat.

"It might be a (mental) block, I don't know," Georgia tight end Ben Watson said. "All I know is the last couple of years, we've had just as good a team as them and they've beat us."

Richt answered "What will it take to end the spell?" questions all week.

"All you can do is win," he said. "Nothing is going to change unless we do something about it."

Richt said he has seen no sign of fright or quit in the two teams he has taken to Jacksonville, but Dooley said a streak of this magnitude can affect the players on the losing end if a game begins to turn against them.

"You have to believe you can find a way to win," he said. "That probably could take place in both directions."

Georgia's coaches aren't giving any history lessons this week. Richt said he thinks his players are well aware of the recent trend, and they are.

"You'd think that we surely could have won more than one game in 13 years," offensive lineman Josh Brock said.

The Bulldogs' staff is trying to focus on the present, which has plenty of importance as well. If Georgia wins today, it will need to win just one more league game to clinch the SEC East crown and it will remain within striking distance of the national championship.

"We've got to do a good job as coaches to get them to realize, as cliched as it sounds, that it is just another game," said quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo, who quarterbacked the 1997 Georgia team. "I'm worried because we're young and we're banged up. I'm not worried because we've won once in 13 years."

The Bulldogs are 2.5-point favorites today despite coming off two lackluster performances. Florida, by comparison, is coming off two upset road wins.

"It's easy for us to consider ourselves the underdog," Gator center Mike Degory said. "They've got the higher rating. We're still trying to come back from a 3-3 season, so they're definitely the favorites." Richt tried this week to put the game in perspective but seemed to sense he was fighting a losing battle.

"It's a big deal no doubt about it, but is it life or death? I don't think so," he said. "I can guarantee you that we're going to play as hard as we can. We're going to coach as hard as we can. If we win, we'll be excited. If we don't, life will go on."

But, for the seniors who could finish 0-4 against the Gators, it will not be the same, defensive lineman Ken Veal said.

"I would love to say I was part of the team that started beating Florida," he said. "For me not to beat Florida would tug at my heart the rest of my life."

No. 4 Georgia (7-1, 4-1 SEC) vs. No. 23 Florida (5-3, 3-2 SEC)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.
Stadium: Alltel Stadium (80,000), Jacksonville, Fla.
Tickets: Sold out
Kickoff weather: High of 80, low of 62; partly cloudy; zero percent chance of rain 
Series: Georgia leads 45-32-2 according to its records, Georgia leads series 44-34-2 in Florida's records (Georgia counts a 52-0 win over Florida in 1904, while the Gators contend they didn't field a team until (1906)
Odds: Georgia favored by 2.5
Injuries: Georgia -- Probable: WR Fred Gibson (knee), OL Josh Brock (shoulder), OL Bartley Miller (shoulder), FB Jeremy Thomas (concussion), TE Robert Brannon (Achilles); Doubtful -- WR Sean Bailey (hamstring); Out -- CB Decory Bryant (neck), FB Jamario Smith (back). Florida -- Probable: RB Ran Carthon (hamstring), OL Mo Mitchell (hand).

Up next: Georgia vs. Auburn, Nov. 15; Florida vs. Vanderbilt, Nov. 8

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