October 30, 2009

Dawgs plan to lay it on the line

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Linebacker Rennie Curran said Georgia's game-plan against defending national champion Florida is a simple one.

"We just want to have fun," said Curran. "Everybody knows they're favored, but we're going in with the mindset that we're going to give it everything we have, just have a good time and see what happens."

Las Vegas lists the Gators (7-0, 5-0) as a 15-point favorite over the Bulldogs (4-3, 3-2) in Saturday's contest that gets underway at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (CBS).

Based on the way the Bulldogs have played, the margin is not that much of a surprise.

Georgia's inconsistencies on offense and defense have been well documented, but after a bye week following a 34-10 win two weeks ago at Vanderbilt, Georgia coach Mark Richt has his fingers crossed.

"I feel good about the preparation that we've had to this point," Richt said. "We've had good practices and I think the bye week allowed us to get our legs back under us a little bit. Now, it's about going out and executing the best we know how."

Richt said his Bulldogs will need to play as perfect a game as it can.

Although the Gators haven't been quite the offensive juggernaut they were a season ago. In fact, although Florida leads the SEC in scoring offense with 39 points a game, in five SEC contests the Gators are averaging 25.8 points.

Compare that to Georgia which is averaging 31.8 points in five league contests, but don't let that number fool you. SEC teams are scoring 30.6 points against the Bulldogs while the Gators are allowing just 12.4.

"We know we're going to have to execute in every phase of the game. We know they are a great team all the way across the board and that's why they are No. 1 in the country," Richt said. "We know that there is really small room for error in this game, and we have to know our plan better than any plan we've had all this year to be successful and have no mental errors or turnovers. We know what we are up against, and we know that we are going to have to play a great game."

Of course, there is the not-so-small matter of defending quarterback Tim Tebow, who needs just one touchdown to break Herschel Walker's SEC record for career touchdowns which he currently shares with the Bulldogs legend at 49.

Walker set the record in just three years, a fact Tebow acknowledged when asked about the former running back earlier this week.

"It has been an honor to even be mentioned with Herschel. It is very humbling and I'm sure when I sit back and think about it I'll realize how cool it is. To be able to break the record against Georgia would be extra-special," Tebow said. "I met him at the 25th year anniversary of winning the Heisman Trophy. He's a great motivational speaker and was so much fun to talk to. He's a great guy, and it was very special to meet him and spend some time with him."

But Tebow admits in many ways it's been a difficult year despite the Gators' 7-0 start.

Florida ranks sixth in the SEC in red zone offense (21 for 24) although the Gators - besides ranking first in scoring offense - lead the league in rushing offense (284.6 yards), second in total offense (486.4 yards) and seventh in passing offense (201.8).

"We're getting wins, we're moving the ball, and we're moving at ease, pretty much up and down the field. Then we're just having struggles with things we really haven't had struggles with so it's kind of new and it is frustrating," Tebow said. "I'm not going to lie to you and say it's not frustrating because obviously I want to score every time we get in the red zone. The turnovers are frustrating. Just things that we're not used to doing, and so that is frustrating and we're working on it.

"I think it could possibly be a good thing because it could give us a little bit of an edge of 'Hey, you know we haven't arrived. We still have a lot of work to do.' That's something to really motivate us because that's not us, that's not the way we normally play and it's really frustrating."

Of course the Bulldogs have problems of their own.

Despite running for 173 yards against Vanderbilt, Georgia still ranks last in the SEC in rushing offense with 97.2 yards per game.

Considering Florida is giving up just 87.4 yards per game on the ground, that's not a good sign.

"We're not going to be able to throw it on every down, that's not healthy against anybody, but we have to keep hammering it and pop one," said Richt. "We need to run it well. No team has been able to be methodical and drive down the field on them. We're going to have to be able to trade blows. We'll have to keep banging away with the run even if we're not successful early."

Florida ranks second nationally in scoring defense. Richt did not announce who will start for the Bulldogs at tailback.

"I don't know honestly," said Richt. "Sometimes it depends on what play we have called and our field position. We'd love to be in the position to know who it is no matter what the call, but we're not there right now."

But Richt remains hopeful.

His Bulldogs put together their most complete game of the year against Vanderbilt, and although the Commodores aren't to be confused with the upper-echelon of the SEC, Richt said his squad did do a lot right and hopefully some of that will carry over into Saturday's game.

"We definitely got better. I thought we got better as a team in general. We ran the ball better than we've been running it offensively. We didn't have the big turnover issues," Richt said. "Defensively I thought we played very sound really all but one drive. I thought they played dominating football other than the first drive of the second half. I thought our special teams overall played very well that day. I think if you look and see what everyone has done against Vanderbilt this season, we performed pretty well against them when you look at what other people have done. Hopefully, we can keep that up Saturday."

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