By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Can No. 22 Georgia flip series script on Florida?
Placeholder Image

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Every year, thousands of Florida and Georgia fans make the trip to Jacksonville. They camp, tailgate, party for hours, sometimes days.

Every year, about half of them leave feeling glum. For the last two-plus decades, it's mostly been the Bulldogs.

"It's been so one-sided, so hopefully we can go out there and prove ourselves and do well this year," Georgia guard Chris Burnette said.

The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs have dropped 18 of the last 21 in the series, a lopsided stretch that baffles players, frustrates fans and sparks constant debate about one of the Southeastern Conference's most revered rivalries.

Will Georgia ever turn things around? Will Florida continue its dominance?

This year, there are even more questions surrounding Saturday's game in Jacksonville.

Will quarterback John Brantley's return end Florida's offensive ineptitude? Will quarterback Aaron Murray avoid the kind of mistake that plagued Georgia (5-2, 4-1 SEC) in recent years? Will the Gators (4-3, 2-3) stop the run or force a turnover? Will the Bulldogs avoid meltdowns on special teams?

And what about the coaches? Florida's Will Muschamp, facing his alma mater for the first time as a head coach, is trying to avoid the program's first four-game losing streak since 1988. Georgia's Mark Richt needs a victory to quell talk about his job security.

"It's a big game," Murray said. "It's one that you circle on your calendar every year. When we're working out in the offseason, we've got the first game, Florida and Georgia Tech circled. There are other games on the calendar, but those the games that get us motivated and pumped up when we're conditioning. It's a great rivalry."

It's a meaningful one, too.

The Bulldogs, who have won five in a row, are trying to keep pace with South Carolina in the Eastern Division. The Gators still have an outside shot, but a loss would eliminate them from the race.

"Our focus is the Eastern Division," Richt said. "That's all we really have been thinking about, talking about and aspiring to win. We know this game could set us back, but it wouldn't bury us. With the way things are happening in our league, it doesn't count us out. We know if we win it, it doesn't count us in.

"It's important and it's huge and we know we are in much better shape if we win the game, but there's no guarantees either way win or lose."

Georgia hasn't beaten Florida since 2007, a game remembered mostly because the Bulldogs — nearly all of them — celebrated their first touchdown by dancing in the end zone.

The move drew flags and propelled Georgia to victory. It infuriated the Gators. The following year, then coach Urban Meyer called two timeouts in the final minute to prolong Georgia's agony in a blowout.

Four years later, the Gators are still talking about.

"All I can remember of this team is when they were dancing on us," running back Chris Rainey said. "That was embarrassing. That stays in my head, once people do something like that to me."

A fellow fifth-year senior, defensive tackle Jaye Howard, said the clip was sure to be played this week in the locker room and weight room.

"I couldn't believe it," Howard said. "I'd never seen anything like it. I'd never witnessed that in a football game before. You don't do anything like that. Total disrespect."

The celebration is pretty much all Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who was at Notre Dame at the time, knows about the storied rivalry.

"I just remember watching that game a few years ago when the 9,000 guys were partying in the end zone," he said. "That caught me off-guard."

It did the same to Florida and helped provide the Bulldogs with a recently rare victory in the series.

"Nobody is proud of having that hang over your head as far as the record, as far as previous games," Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "But at the same time we can't control any of that. We can only control the future and this Saturday. It is a pride thing. We want to win and continue to build a tradition at the University of Georgia. Ultimately, when you get down to Saturday, its' just about focusing on things that matter in the game."

Regional events