Georgia had a lot of goals this season. Going undefeated wasn’t one of them.
One of them was to win the SEC’s Eastern Division and get the berth in league championship game that goes with it. That will be on the line a week from Saturday when the 10th-ranked Bulldogs (6-1, 3-1 SEC) face No. 7 Florida (7-1, 4-1) in Jacksonville.
It’s almost the exact same scenario that the teams encountered last year when they met at TIAA Bank Stadium. The Gators were 6-1 (4-1 SEC) and ranked ninth and Georgia 6-1 (4-1) and ranked No. 7 heading into the contest, which the Bulldogs won 36-17. Interestingly, though Florida is the higher-ranked team, UGA was posted Tuesday as a 7.5-point favorite.
For the Bulldogs, it’s not about the Georgia-Florida rivalry. It’s about getting back to Atlanta.
If it happens, it would be the first time in school history UGA made three consecutive appearances in the SEC Championship game.
“There’s a statistic coach (Kirby) Smart showed the other day, I think there’s only been one team that’s been one undefeated team that’s won the East in the last 15 years,” sophomore offensive lineman Cade Mays said. “We play in a very competitive conference, so going undefeated wasn’t really a goal. Obviously, winning the SEC championship, winning the East, winning a national championship, is still out in front of us and those are our goals.”
Missouri will have a say in all this as well. The Tigers (5-2, 2-1) actually led the East before their stunning 21-14 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday. Missouri plays at Kentucky this Saturday, then is off before playing Georgia and Florida in back-to-back weeks. It plays Tennessee and Arkansas the final two weeks.
The Bulldogs returned to Woodruff Practice Fields on Tuesday to resume the pursuit of their SEC goals. Like the Gators, Georgia has an open date on Saturday. Smart insisted that the first day back at work after Saturday’s rain-soaked 21-0 win over Kentucky would include very little concentrated preparation for Florida. Instead, it would be utilized to tighten up loose areas exposed in the last three weeks.
Chiefly, that has been creating more explosive plays on offense, taking care of the football and special teams.
Georgia actually did OK on all three fronts against the Wildcats. As defined by UGA, the Bulldogs’ had seven explosive plays against Kentucky, with six runs of 12 or more yards – including three over 20 – and a 22-yard pass to Georgia Pickens.
Georgia did not commit a turnover, while forcing the Wildcats into one fumble. The plus-1 ration brought the Bulldogs back to even for the season.
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And punter Jake Camarda averaged 52.8 yards per punt, flipping field position twice. However, the sophomore from Norcross added two more touchbacks, giving him five on the season.
The primary concern for Georgia at this point is getting healthy. Left guard Solomon Kindley (ankle) did not start for a third consecutive week and was unable to finish last Saturday’s game against Kentucky. Kindley was able to practice Tuesday, while leading receiver Lawrence Cager, who sat out against the Wildcats with a separated shoulder, still was unable to practice Tuesday.
The most important player missing from action so far is right cornerback Tyson Campbell. He has practiced the past two weeks while recovering from turf toe but has not played since the third game. Meanwhile, opposing quarterbacks continue to exploit that side of the secondary.
“I’m really focused right now on getting our guys healthy,” Smart said Saturday.