It will mark the fourth time in school history that the Bulldogs face the nation’s No. 1 ranked team and the third consecutive time it will be the Gators. In the 1977 Sugar Bowl, top-ranked Pittsburgh beat No. 5 Georgia 27-3. In 1985, No. 17 Georgia stunned No. 1 Florida 24-3 in Jacksonville. Then in 1996, No. 1 Florida beat unranked Georgia 47-7 in Jacksonville.
Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC) had an open date this past Saturday while Florida (7-0, 5-0 SEC) registered a hard-fought 29-19 road win over Mississippi State. It was their first win in Starkville since 1985. Florida has the nation’s longest winning streak at 17 games.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said he watched Florida’s latest win and knows it will be a challenge Saturday.
“We’re always going to get their best shot, and we have to expect that,” said Richt. “We have to be at our best. We know every time we play, it’s going to be a battle. I wasn’t surprised what Mississippi Sate did because like all teams in our league, they’re capable. Everybody in our league is pretty darn good.”
Florida leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring offense at 35 points a game but has had struggles in the red zone, ranking eighth in the league. In the first half against MSU, Florida had four trips inside the Bulldogs’ 20-yard line, and MSU outscored the Gators 7-6. Florida managed two field goals, missed one field goal and surrendered a touchdown on a 100-yard interception return. However, the Gator scoring defense, which ranks second nationally at 10.1 points a game, held the MSU offense to a pair of field goals and 237 yards. MSU did not convert a third down until the middle of the fourth quarter and the Gators recorded three interceptions. Richt said he understands sometimes your offense is going to play well and sometimes it’s your defense, and he’s never had to worry about any finger pointing from the Bulldogs.
“Since I’ve been at Georgia, I’ve been blessed with players that understand it’s a team game, and one side might play better one game or even by quarter or maybe it’s special teams that carries us,” said Richt. “We always talk about it, about being together and that’s the only shot we have is to be unified. I’m sure Coach Meyer feels that way too.”
Richt added that Florida’s defense is very talented and difficult to deal with because “they have a guy at just about every spot that is better than the average bear.” Also, he said senior quarterback Tim Tebow is one of the “finest players in the history of college football.”
Richt said he is looking for solid play from the Bulldogs on Saturday.
“We haven’t played that consistent in any of our games this year, and the game we came the closest on offense, defense and special teams was Vanderbilt,” said Richt. “In all our other games, we had one unit do well and another not so well. That’s been the story for us.”
Georgia went in to the open date following a 34-10 road win over Vanderbilt on Oct. 17. The Bulldogs are 11-3 under Mark Richt following an open date including 1-0 when it comes before the Florida game. This year will mark only the sixth time in the history of the UGA-UF series that the Bulldogs come in with a well-rested squad. Overall, Georgia is 3-2 against the Gators coming off a bye week. Florida has had open date before facing the Bulldogs 18 times including 13 of the past 16 years. Florida is 14-4 in these games.
Saturday’s kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET., and CBS will televise the contest.