'You've got to beat Florida'

'You've got to beat Florida'

July 30th, 2009 by David Paschall in Sports - College

University of Georgia Photo<br> Georgia fifth-year quarterback Joe Cox hopes to impress offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, left, and head coach Mark Richt, right, this season.

University of Georgia Photo<br> Georgia fifth-year quarterback Joe Cox...

The Georgia Bulldogs have won 30 games the past three seasons, capping each season with a bowl victory, including one in the Sugar Bowl.

It's a resume envied by almost every college football program in the country. Among the rare exceptions is Florida, of course, which has won 35 games and two BCS national championships in the same span.

"They win the big games, and you can't take anything from them," Bulldogs senior defensive tackle Jeff Owens said. "They're a great football team, and to be successful in this league, you have to beat Florida. If you want to play for the SEC championship or the national championship, you've got to beat Florida."

Georgia was picked second in the Eastern Division behind the Gators at last week's SEC media days, but it was a distant second as Florida received every first-place vote. The Bulldogs are 2-6 against the Gators under Mark Richt, and the thrill Georgia gained from the 42-30 triumph in 2007 was quickly dashed last November when Florida applied a 49-10 thumping.

Last year's score was 49-3 until backup quarterback Joe Cox connected with backup tight end Aron White for a 19-yard touchdown with 3:09 remaining.

"Normally, whoever wins that game goes on to have a great season," Cox said. "We were fortunate enough to beat them one time and go on to an 11-2 season with a Sugar Bowl victory. I don't think what they've been doing is overshadowing us.

"We're definitely on their heels and want to catch up with them just like everybody else in our conference does."

The Bulldogs were no match for Florida last year with quarterback Matthew Stafford and tailback Knowshon Moreno, so now it's the intelligent but untested Cox's turn with a tailback to be determined. Caleb King was hoping to lock down that position this spring with Richard Samuel sidelined, but it didn't happen.

Sophomore receiver A.J. Green is the offense's most lethal threat, but the biggest strength of the unit is a line with eight players who have made multiple career starts. The return of Clint Boling, Cordy Glenn, Justin Anderson and Ben Jones from a year ago and the return of Trinton Sturdivant from two years ago could give Georgia its most solid front since the 2002 SEC title team.

"I like the fact we're not going to be starting three freshman linemen like we have the last two seasons on offense," Richt said. "We have a lot of guys returning who have played a lot of ball for us."

The Bulldogs should be stout in the defensive interior with Jeff Owens, Geno Atkins and Kade Weston, but their defensive ends struggled last season and were injured this spring. Sophomore Justin Houston stayed healthy and emerged as one possible answer, but then he got suspended for the first two games.


Camp start: Tuesday

Camp objectives: 1. Improve at the tailback spot, where Caleb King, Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas and even freshman Washaun Ealey expect to vie. 2. Develop depth at wide receiver behind A.J. Green and Michael Moore. 3. Increase productivity at defensive end, which was sorely lacking throughout last season.

Season opener: Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Sept. 5 (3:30 p.m. EDT on ABC)

Fun fact: The Bulldogs are seeking their seventh 10-win season in nine years under Mark Richt. Georgia had seven 10-win seasons in 25 years under Vince Dooley.

Junior weakside linebacker Rennie Curran is undersized but overachieves, and junior free safety Reshad Jones is the leader of the secondary after deciding not to turn pro.

Georgia's schedule is one of the most brutal in school history, starting with a Sept. 5 trip to high-octane Oklahoma State. The Bulldogs play Arizona State and Georgia Tech outside the league as well, with the only true breather occurring Nov. 7 against Tennessee Tech.

That's one week after Halloween, when the Bulldogs hope to avoid a second straight horrifying experience against the Gators in Jacksonville.

"They're returning 90 percent of their team, so it's going to be tough," Richt said. "It's going to be tough on everybody."

Said Owens: "We're going to go down there, play hard-nosed football and give it all we've got."