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History is once again on Florida's side
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ATHENS Georgia head coach Mark Richt would love to ignore The Streak. In fact, that’s what he’s doing publicly.

Florida is 15-2 against the Bulldogs in the past 17 years heading into Saturday’s game in Jacksonville, Fla., but Richt hasn’t talked about that fact with his team, he said. "We talk about a lot of things," Richt said, "but we don’t talk about that." Well, that’s not entirely true, quarterback Matthew Stafford said.

"Coach Richt is trying to clue the team in on the history," Stafford said. It really is hard to ignore. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has gotten more attention this decade for worries about off-field behavior than anything that has happened on the field, where it’s more and more of the same.

"It seems like the ball always bounces their way," said Georgia linebacker Marcus Washington, the only player to publicly admit this week that Florida does have a psychological edge over the Bulldogs because of the streak.

Twenty scholarship Bulldogs remain from the team that beat the Gators 31-24 in 2004. That win, matched with the 37-17 victory in 1997, makes for all the success Georgia has had since 1989, when the Bulldogs’ run of 13 wins in 16 years ended. "I can’t speak for anybody else, but growing up a Georgia fan, I know the stretch," tight end Tripp Chandler said.

Unlike Washington, most Georgia players said this week history being on the Gators’ side means nothing this week.

"This is a different team," Chandler said. "Last year’s team is different from this year’s team, and it was different from the year before that. This year’s team is the "07 team. We can’t worry about the "06 or the "05 or any of those others."

Only eight players on the No. 9 Gators’ 120-man roster played in the 2004 game. "I think every year is a new year," Stafford said. "Last year was a good example that what happened in the past doesn’t have any bearing on what’s going to happen in the present or in the future. We were winning SEC Championships and then we go 9-4."

Richt clearly is tired of being asked about the trend, but he knows there’s only one way to put the topic to bed. "You’ve got to beat them," he said. Georgia is 1-5 against the Gators under Richt. Its last four losses all have come by a touchdown or less.

"You’ve got to win your share of the close ones," Richt said, "and we just haven’t done that."

There is some reason for hope this year. For the first time since 1991, the Bulldogs have had an off week before this game and for just the second time since 1993, the Gators have not.

"There’s not a coach in America that will say an open date is not a good thing," Richt said.

The only time in the past 14 years Florida didn’t have two weeks to prepare for Georgia was in 2004, the last Bulldogs victory.

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