Georgia and Florida State had several common opponents in 2002. But one, Florida, is a hated rival for both schools. And for both teams, the result of Florida game was very different and had a different effect on the end result of both team's seasons.
Georgia had to battle back after losing to Florida. Florida State, on the other hand used its win over Florida to gain momentum going into the Sugar Bowl.
Said Florida State Head Coach Bobby Bowden of his team's win over their archrival: "The Florida game was very big to us because going through what we went through that week. You didn't know what in the world to expect."
The week prior to the Florida State-Florida game, the Seminoles' starting quarterback, Adrian McPherson "was dismissed from the team amid reports that police planned to question him in the theft and forgery of a blank check," according to theterritory.org's Jim Henry.
Bowden said that the dismissal of the Noles' starting quarterback did not phase his team's preparation for the Gators. "All I knew was our kids were practicing good. I knew they seemed focused. I knew they seemed not distracted. And that game meant a whole lot to us, no doubt it," said Bowden.
The Florida game seemed to turn a somewhat disappointing season for Florida State into one with a little bit more luster. The Seminoles dominated Florida, beating them 31-14 in Tallahassee.
However, earlier in the season, Georgia had a different outcome with their rivals to the South. The Gators prevented Georgia from converting one 3rd down all night and ended the Dawgs' perfect season with a 20-13 win in Jacksonville. For a time, it appeared that Georgia would be forced to rethink its goals.
"A lot of times when you lose a game of that magnitude, you have to have a team meeting," said Richt of the Florida loss. "We were down about losing that game," said Richt. "But fortunately there weren't any of our goals that we had to reset."
The former Nole assistant said that often after a devastating loss, like the Florida one, "you have to decide what your goals are." Richt added, "but we didn't have to do that."
Georgia did not have to rearrange their goals because even with the loss to Florida, the Dawgs controlled their own destiny in the SEC championship race, in part due to Florida's losses to Ole Miss and LSU.
"Even the possibility of a national title was still there," added Richt of Georgia's only loss of the season.
Dean Legge can be reached here: firstname.lastname@example.org