JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—Greetings from EverBank Field, where the reeling seasons of Georgia and Florida intersect this afternoon.
At least they aren’t as downtrodden as the NFL team that calls this place home. The Jacksonville Jaguars are 0-8. The winner of this game still has hope in the SEC East.
The morning rain has cleared. It’s supposed to be in the lower 70s by kickoff.
Who says this game doesn’t matter much?
Georgia freshman offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow, who played early against Vanderbilt, tweeted this out yesterday afternoon: “10 years ago I sat in front of my tv dreaming what it would be like to be at the Georgia/Florida game tomorrow I’ll be in it #beatUF”
Still, the showcase game nationally isn’t here but about 160 miles away in Tallahassee where unbeaten top-10 teams Florida State and Miami meet tonight.
“This game is probably a lot more important to us and Florida than it is to the rest of the country right now,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Both being out of the top 25 and for all intents and purposes out of the national championship hunt. We’re both darkhorses in the Eastern Divison race right now, but like I’ve been saying all along we’re still in the race. I’d like to stay that way.”
Georgia fans—and players for that matter—can’t wait to see No. 3 back in action after missing three games with an ankle injury.
Richt said players were talking about Todd Gurley’s return in practice on Wednesday.
“A couple of guys had a conversation saying it was kind of nice to have the big guys back,” Richt said. “If you know Todd, he’s just a fun guy to be around. He’ll be in the huddle and he’ll be cutting up a little bit and keeping things loose.”
Said tight end Arthur Lynch: “He really changes the way we can attack a defense.”
–Georgia brought wide receiver Chris Conley but he’s not expected to play due to an ankle injury sustained on the last play against Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs brought Todd Gurley to Tennessee and Vanderbilt as well when he was out with an ankle injury.
–Defensive lineman Toby Johnson isn’t on the travel roster due to a sprained ankle. Also missing is walk-on receiver Kenneth Towns, who offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said was out injured at practice this week. The players expected back are all here–Gurley, receiver Michael Bennett and safeties Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons.
–Georgia players have filed onto the field here. Defensive lineman Mike Thornton was the first I saw out there.
“I tell all the young guys just enjoy it,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “When you walk in that stadium and it starts to get filled up with fans—it’s half and half—just take it all in and enjoy it. Not many people get to experience that. It really is a great venue to play in, one of the best in college football. Soak it all up.”
–Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo sounds like he expects this game to be sort of like the last two in the series.
“It’s going to be a physical, hard-fought football game,” Bobo said. “Nobody’s going to really give anybody an inch. You’re going to have to earn everything that you get. It’s going to be a game of patience. They’re going to make plays. They’re one of, if not the most dominant defense in the league. I know they are statistically. So we’ve got to be patient. When we’ve got opportunities, we’ve got to take advantage of them.”
–I don’t think they were exchanging gameplans, but Bobo and Florida head coach Will Muschamp were just chatting on the field for several minutes. The former Georgia teammates remain friends.
–I didn’t notice Gurley going full speed much during pregame warmups. Guessing he’s saving that for the real deal.
Check back for updates leading to kickoff.
–Please follow me at Twitter.com/marcweiszer