My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Post-Game Notes: No Decisions Yet on Cox's Future

After it was over, Georgia quarterback Joe Cox took the blame. After throwing three costly interceptions, there was little doubt he deserved to shoulder a fair portion of the burden. But in the wake of a demoralizing 41-17 loss to Florida, head coach Mark Richt isn’t ready to make any decisions about the future of Georgia’s quarterback position.

“It’s not good to make decisions within minutes after an emotional ballgame,” Richt said. “It’s always good to settle your spirit, settle your mind and look at the entire picture before you make any kind of decision. But we’ll do that.”

That doesn’t exactly mean Cox’s job is safe. The fifth-year senior completed just 11-of-20 passes for 165 yards and tossed three interceptions, one of which set up a crucial Florida touchdown to start the second half.

The numbers were bad overall for Cox, but they were dreadful in the second half. Cox had completed six of his first eight throws, but finished a woeful 5-of-12 down the stretch before being lifted for backup Logan Gray in the fourth quarter.

Still, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was quick to dish out blame to more than just his starting quarterback, but didn’t rule out a potential change at the position.

“We’ve got to address the problem of what we’re doing offensively,” Bobo said. “That’s not just Joe Cox, that’s everybody, coaches included, and see what our next step is and what’s the best move. You can’t turn the ball over like we’re doing. There’s no possible way of winning football games with our turnover margin like it is, and when you do it against a great football team, the result is usually something like tonight.”

The turnover margin now stands at 21 giveaways and six takeaways for the season, with Cox responsible for 13 of those turnovers, 12 via interceptions. He has completed at least one pass to the other team in all eight games so far this season.

Despite the problems, Richt said Cox has retained the confidence of his teammates throughout.

“Joe is a very respected man in our locker room and our program, and you could tell how badly he hurt about this one,” Richt said. “I can’t tell you how many guys – offense, defense, freshmen, juniors, sophomores – came up to him and wanted to let them know how they felt about him.”

Regardless of the respect Cox may have in the locker room, however, Richt said the decisions on personnel – including at quarterback – will eventually come down to performance.

On that front, Cox has struggled, but he may still be the best answer. Gray has thrown just seven passes this season, completing only one, and he had his pass against Florida intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

“I think we’re going to look at the big picture at all positions and just see what we think we need to do,” Richt said about the quarterbacks. “But if we believe Joe gives us the best chance to finish out this season with the most success then that’s what we’re going to do.”


Georgia opened the game with its fifth different lineup in eight games on the offensive line, but this is one Richt said has a potential to stick.

Clint Boling moved from right tackle to left tackle, with Cordy Glenn moving from tackle to left guard and Chris Davis and Josh Davis handling the right side of the line. The move seemed to pay dividends in the running game, with Georgia rushing for 121 yards in the game – among its best performances of the year on the ground against one of the tougher defensive units in the country.

“It was pretty effective,” Richt said of the lineup. “Florida’s defense is one of the better defenses in America, and we did run the ball well. We protected well early on when we still had our run-pass mix where we could keep them off balance a little bit.”

Georgia did allow three sacks of its quarterbacks, a season high against a line that had allowed just six sacks all season. But the boost to the running game was crucial, led by a productive day from freshman Washaun Ealey, who finished with 70 yards on 17 carries.

“Moving them around (on the line), that helped a lot. I knew they were going to block real hard,” Ealey said. “The line has been doing a good job, and I just tried to keep hitting the holes hard and making plays.”

Richt said line coach Stacy Searels would have the final say after watching film, but he expected a similar lineup going forward.

“I liked the combination,” Richt said. “I’m not sure how Coach Searels will feel about it when it’s all said and done, but there’s a good chance it’ll stay that way.”


Georgia has had black helmets and pants on the shelf for over a year.

Richt felt Saturday against the Gators was the best opportunity to show them off, saying, “We felt like this might have been the best chance to pull them out, with the victory over Vanderbilt and had a chance to play in this big ballgame.”

Similar to the blackouts of years past, where the Bulldogs’ wore black jerseys with the regular red helmet and silver pants, the players had no clue leading up to the game. They found out less than 15 minutes before kickoff.

“I loved the uniforms,” White said. “I feel like the coaches helped us out emotionally with the pants and the helmet.”

The team ran onto the field to start the game wearing black uniform pants and black helmets for the first time in school history, and it was a boost that had the players pumped.

“It had us fired up,” Cox said. “I know we had planned to do it at some point last season, but we didn’t have a chance to. It got everybody fired up. That was as emotional a running out onto the field as we could ever have. That part was good.”

The move came as a surprise to even the players, who didn’t learn of the new uniforms until after their pregame warm-ups.

Richt said the team had the uniforms last season but shelved them after wearing black uniforms in a blowout loss to Alabama. Instead, they donned the new look for this week’s game, Richt said, in hopes of adding an extra spark against a top-notch opponent.

By the end of the game, however, the fashion statement was the only statement Georgia had made. Florida’s dominance had left the Bulldogs with little concern for their threads.

“We weren’t worried on the pants and helmets throughout the game,” receiver Michael Moore said. “We were more focused on the bigger task at hand which was Florida. We just fell a little short today and didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.”


For the first time since becoming head coach, Richt has a .500 record eight games into the season. His team is unranked and in danger of potentially missing a bowl game for the first time since 1996.

But while the problems continue to mount, Richt said the program remains strong.

“We’re 4-4 this season,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an indictment on the program. I think it’s an indictment on how we’ve done this year. The more you win the better you feel about the overall direction, but if there was chaos, if things were getting really messy in your locker room or your staff room or something like that, I’d have a very large concern right now. I’m very concerned about the fact that we’re 4-4, but I’m not concerned about the stability of the program or the direction of the program.”


Left tackle Clint Boling left the game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury, and Richt said the team was unsure whether Boling could miss action.

“I don’t think it’s severe. Right now we don’t think it’s severe,” Richt said. “He may be back this week. It may be a little bit. But we don’t think it’s any type of surgery or anything that would end his season.”

Receiver A.J. Green was helped off the field following a hard hit on Cox’s third interception of the game. Green went up to try to haul in the pass but was sandwiched between defenders and spent several minutes on the ground following the play.

“He definitely got the wind knocked out of him,” Richt said. “That was most of the problem at that moment. I don’t know if there will be a rib injury beyond that. We’ll have to wait and see on that.”

Linebacker Nick Williams also left Saturday’s game with a back injury and did not return.


Georgia’s penalties and turnovers killed any chance of offensive success in a 41-17 loss Saturday.

The Bulldogs threw four interceptions, three by starter Joe Cox. There were also a number of drive-altering penalties early in the game.

Georgia’s miscues were especially frustrating considering most offensive categories. The Bulldogs converted 16 first downs, averaged five yards a play and kept up with the Gators in time of possession.

But the penalties and turnovers made the positive stats irrelevant.

“We were moving the ball well,” said Georgia tight end Aron White. “I feel like they weren’t stopping us, we were stopping ourselves.”

The penalties ambushed Georgia’s first drive of the game and were of the lack of focus variety. Flags were thrown for a false start and unsportsmanlike conduct. The drive stalled, and Florida went up 14-0 soon after.

“Getting a couple of penalties early on turned a couple of drives around and really hurt us,” White said.

The turnovers undermined the second half. Quarterback Joe Cox threw a pick on the first play of the half, giving the Gators a short field and eventually a three touchdown lead. And he threw two more as the half unfolded, one on a third-and-two play action pass and another grabbed after bouncing out of A.J. Green’s hands.

Florida scored 17 points from Georgia’s turnovers, quickly turning a once close game into blow out.

“That’s kind of the storyline of our season so far is shooting ourselves in the foot, pretty much,” said wide receiver Michael Moore. “Turnovers and mental errors like that have hurt.”

Georgia has 21 turnovers on the season, entering Saturday 92nd in the country in the category.

“We have never won the turnover ratio this season,” coach Mark Richt said. “That’s not good. That’s pretty bad and frustrating at this point.”


On Georgia’s first kickoff return of the second half, sophomore cornerback Brandon Boykin set the school record for kick return yards in a season.

Unfortunately the record means nothing, Boykin says, because of the loss.

“No. Not at all,” he said. “I could care less about the record. I’d take 0 return yards for a win.”

Boykin finished with 114 yards on six returns against the Gators Saturday, He still has four regular season games to build upon the record, currently set at 714 yards on 28 returns, with a pair of 100-yard touchdowns.


-- Blair Walsh connected on his fourth 50-plus-yard field goal of the season in four attempts in the first half.

-- Aron White has just four touchdowns in his career at Georgia, and two are against Florida.

-- Nick Williams got the first start of his career at linebacker.

-- Temperature at game time was 84 degrees, which is the hottest it has been at kickoff for a Bulldogs’ game this year. The previous high was the season opener at Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla. The temperature was 81 degrees.

*Fletcher Page contributed to these notes.

Live Blog: Georgia vs. Florida

First off, I make no promises that this blog will go much beyond kickoff. My previous experiences at Alltel Stadium have all included extended periods without wireless service. So, keep your fingers crossed.

A few pregame thoughts:

-- The traffic into the stadium is brutal, but at least the ride was entertaining. Among the highlights: a girl wearing a halter top and tutu and nothing else; a guy on stilts and a girl carrying a lemur in a dog carrier down the street. We stopped to ask where she got a lemur and she was noticeably dodging the question. I assume it has some loose affiliation to a Columbian drug cartel.

-- I was just down on the field for a while. I gotta say, it's hot. It's a good bit hotter than it has been in Athens in weeks. This will easily be the warmest conditions the Dawgs have played in since the opener against Oklahoma State. Remember when Mark Richt caught flack for complaining about the difference in weather between Athens and Jacksonville back in May? Funny, but he might have had a point. Anyway, if you figure hot conditions favor the team with more depth, that's one more strike against the Dawgs.

-- The Florida Times-Union has plenty of preview stuff, including predictions from 32 different writers. Only two picked Georgia, but all but five predicted a relatively close game.

-- Saw a guy in the parking lot wearing a Jaguars t-shirt that had "Draft Tebow" written on the front. Funny, I didn't realize the Jags needed a fullback.

-- Tracy Wolfson is much, much more attractive in person.

-- I was out on the field when Georgia came out for warm-ups. Brandon Boykin sprinted across the field yelling, "I don't give a (you-know-what) if they're ranked No. 1." Guess you have to like the confidence.

-- On the other hand, you watch Florida warm up and the first thing you notice is the confidence and swagger they carry themselves with. It's palpable.

-- Apparently Junior Seau is here for some reason.

-- Some notable players not on Georgia's dressed out squad: Dontavius Jackson, Akeem Hebron, Ricardo Crawford and Kiante Tripp. Figured Jackson might get a look after a strong finish to the Vandy game and Richt said earlier this week that Tripp was, in fact, healthy and cleared to play.

-- Some interesting notes on Georgia's starters: Clint Boling will indeed start at left tackle. Cordy Glenn moves to left guard, Chris Davis at right guard and Josh Davis at right tackle. Washaun Ealey gets the start at tailback and Nick Williams will start at Sam linebacker (alongside Darryl Gamble and Rennie Curran).


-- Fun story: The pregame meal in the stadium is always awful. Makes Georgia's half-cooked halftime hotdogs seem appetizing by comparison. Anyway, I go through the line and get to the end, where there's a tray of cookies and brownies, about a quarter full. The tongs are absolutely covered in some sort of unidentifiable gook. Maybe caramel, maybe worse. Anyway, I start to pick them up but notice the gook, put them back down and simply pick up a chocolate chip cookie sitting off to the side, putting it on my plate. The lady behind the counter then yells at me for not using the tongs. I was chastised by a Jacksonville Municipal Stadium food service employee for touching my own cookie. Today is off to a great start.

-- My trip to the field earlier did get me up close to both Urban and Timmy. Tebow actually jogged by me at one point, and it was at that point I knew I was going to write a good game story. It was like this burst of inspiration. He's magical.

-- Sarcasm is fun.

-- The Florida band forms an outline of the state of Florida in one formation, but completely leaves off the Keys. They really need to hire a couple of fat guys to at least play the roles of Islamorada and Key West.


-- Well, the uni's are interesting to say the least. The red facemasks are probably a fashion don't.

-- The uni's aren't doing much for the defense so far either.

-- Not a good play by Akeem Dent making his triumphant return. A 15-yard late hit penatly sets the Gators up at the 27 of Georgia.

-- Riley Cooper beats Reshad Jones in the end zone. Boy that was UG-LY by the UGA defense. Tebow put it on the money. That was an 80-yard drive in six plays without really breaking a sweat. And Tebow is celebrating on the sideline. Yikes. Florida 7, Georgia 0 (6-80-2:39).

-- Perhaps in a bit of irony or just good timing, they just made the stadium announcement not to throw things on the field.

-- That is just the second time this season Florida scored a TD on the opening drive. The other time was against Charleston Southern. Insert your own joke about the UGA defense here.

-- Florida media is way too happy to talk about how great Florida is. I mean, there's a number of them that are downright giddy. It's like they're 12-year-old girls who just got to meet a boy band.

-- Georgia will start its first drive at the 19. A three-and-out here would be a disaster.

-- Two straight runs by Ealey set up a third-and-2 at the 27. It's another run, but a flag comes in and a skirmish breaks out at the line of scrimmage. False start on Orson Charles. A guy in the press box just referred to him as "Omar Charles." Sounds like a character from "The Wire."

-- Cox hits Washaun Ealey for a big gain. If I'm not mistaken that's the first catch of Ealey's career. That's a first down at the UGA 42.

-- Ealey is looking good running the ball, and Samuel gets UGA to a third-and-half a yard. Flag comes in though. Not surprisingly, it's on Georgia. A deadball personal foul for unncessary roughness on Josh Davis. From the looks of the replay, all that happened was Spikes pushed Davis and knocked his helmet off and Davis got flagged. Are we sure Penn Wagers isn't out there?

-- And Bobo goes the safe route and hands off to Samuel. Punt team is on and Florida gets the ball back again. Thanks, refs. Your check is in the mail.


-- Another great punt from Drew Butler, this time for 53 yards. Florida takes over at its own 8.

-- The good news from that drive is Georgia actually looked like it might be able to run the ball a little bit. The bad news is, flags, flags, flags. Perhaps the refs are going get even with UGA again -- not for a celebration this time, but for showing up for the game wearing the same colors as them. I mean, how embarrassing!

-- Willie's soft zone is not going to work. Another first down for Florida. Tebow seems like he knows right where the holes in the zone will be before the ball is even snapped.

-- Florida now has six first downs and a score and has yet to face a third down.

-- Tebow had Brandon James wide open -- I mean no one within 20 yards of him -- for an easy touchdown and James bobbled away the ball at the UGA 30. Who was that more embarrassing for -- James or Willie? I'd argue the latter.

-- First third down of the game for the Gators -- third-and-5 at the UGA 49.. and Tebow runs for the first down as Georgia misses three tackles.

-- There's just no comparison between the speed Florida has on offense and the speed Georgia has on D.

-- Touchdown to Riley Cooper, who beats Brandon Boykin. Boykin never turned around to make a play on the ball and Cooper went up behind him and came down with the grab in the back corner of the end zone. There was definitely some pushing and shoving going on between Cooper and Boykin. Give Cooper some credit though -- it was a nice one-handed grab. Man, this might get ugly. Florida 14, Georgia 0 (11-92-5:01)

-- That was Florida's longest TD drive of the season. Feels like we've heard that a lot of times this season. Also, that was the first time Cooper has had two TDs in one game in SEC play in his career. Some folks are going to need to send a portion of their first NFL paychecks to Willie Martinez.

-- You'll never believe this... another flag on Georgia! Another false start on Omar Charles.

-- Cox keeps and picks up 10 to bring up a third-and-5 at the 25. Channelling his inner Tebow, I guess. He hits Tavarres King for a gain of six on the next play.

-- UGA has 55 yards of offense so far and 40 yards of penalties.

-- Great line from commenter Prince Lightfoot: "Black helmets? That what they spent the bye week scheming? What is this, Project Richtway?" Willie, I'm sorry to say, you're ooout. (And don't ask how I know the catch phrases from that show...)

-- Woooooooot!

-- Georgia driving all the way down to the Florida 27. So let's see, the Dawgs are having no problems driving on the Gators' D, and Tim Tebow looks like he's a better passer than Johnathan Crompton. Yup, just what we all expected.


-- Third-and-nine for UGA at the Florida 26... and... it's a flag! Delay of game on Georgia this time. At least they're mixing it up.

-- Cox looks for Tavarres King who was quadruple covered. It fell incomplete, which has to at least be a moderate victory since it probably should have been picked off. Blair Walsh comes on and drills a 50-yarder. That's his fourth make of 50 or more in four tries this year, and he's 12-of-13 overal. Florida 14, Georgia 3 (11 plays-49 yards).

-- Nick Williams and Prince Miller bring down Demps in the open field -- a minor miracle it would seem. Nevertheless, it's a three-and-out, which was absolutely necessary on that drive. If UGA can score here, maybe it's a game.

-- Note to Blog Goliard: I'm fairly certain networks are barred from using any music that was popular in the past five years. Also, at least one Bachman Turner Overdrive song must be used in each telecast.

-- Hey a flag on Florida. I think the refs must have gotten confused. Nevertheless, it's a 15-yard move in the right direction for the Dawgs. First-and-10 at the UGA49.

-- Cox hits Green, who holds up about 43 Florida defenders fighting for extra yards. It's a gain of 20.

-- What's this? Another flag on Florida? Offsides? Alright, what's going on here? Did Urban Meyer's check bounce?

-- Cox to Aron White for the touchdown on a beautiful throw down the middle of the field. Oddly reminiscent of Georgia's lone touchdown a year ago. See...Cox's arm isn't THAT bad. Florida 14, Georgia 10 (3-65-1:36)

-- Georgia is rehashing its end-zone celebration, but this time it's on the sideline. And no flags. I'm sure someone is flipping through the rule book at the SEC offices right now though...


-- And we have another flag... this time a personal foul on Mike Gilliard following the kickoff which gives Florida the ball at the 36.

-- Second down, and another flag. If you've been playing the penalty drinking game, please give your keys to a sober person now and feel free to crack open another bottle of bourbon. This one's an illegal shift on Florida.

-- Third-and-16 for Florida... and you'll never guess what happens. Hernandez takes a dump off pass after Georgia blitzed and rumbled through four tackles to pick up 17 yards. First down.

-- Flag! Drink! Against Florida again... false start this time.

-- The middle of the field has been pretty wide open and Florida's downfield blocking has been spectacular. Tebow picks up 11 on a second-and-15. Third-and-four at the UGA 46.

-- Tebow picks up the first down on a run after Rennie just missed bringing him down in the backfield. Curran darted into the backfield but shifted into ludicrous speed and shot right past Tebow... "It's Spaceball I, sir. It's gone to plaid."

-- Prince Miller makes a nice open-field tackle on Rainey. Another flag comes in. You may want to make sure your fridge is stocked for this game. It's a hold on Florida that is declined by the Dawgs. That brings up a third-and-11.

-- Nice tackle by Boykin on Nelson at the 38 to bring up a fourth down. Florida sends out Sturgis for a 56-yard try... and it's good. Wow. He's been taking his Flintstones vitamins. That's gotta be a heartbreaker for the Dawgs. Of course, it would have been a non-issue if anyone had tackled Hernandez. That kick might have been good from 65. Florida 17, Georgia 10 (10-25-5:53)

-- That was the second-longest field goal in Florida history. The longest was by Chris Perkins in 1984 -- a 60-yarder against Tulane.


-- Another nice return by Boykin who is closing in on the school record for kick return yards.

-- Cox tries to throw one away but Orson Charles plays a great cornerback and knocks down a sure interception.

-- Caleb King gets his first carry and it's a big one, which of course is followed by a flag. Holding on Cordy Glenn backs the Dawgs up to the 31... a net penalty of 6 yards.

-- The Internet is killing me in this place. Just awful.

-- Cox is sacked on third down for a loss of 11. That was a bad drive, but it was all started with that flag. Georgia might actually be winning this game if it weren't for some really bad penalties.

-- Butler booms one but outkicks his coverage by a mile. It was a 61-yard kick followed by a 20-yard return that has the Gators set up at the 31 with 2:23 to play.

-- Georgia's D absolutely has to stop the Gators on this drive. A stop before the half lets the Dawgs go in with some confidence, iron out some wrinkles then get the ball to start the third quarter in a game that is closer than most people probably expected. Moreover, it gives the Dawgs the sense that they weathered Florida's biggest punches already. But a Florida score and the air gets let out of the building.

-- And as I finish typing that, Tebow hits Riley Cooper for a 20-yard gain to the Georgia 45.

-- Tebow throws long to Cooper and a flag flies in. It was Boykin complaining to the ref on that one, but he's the one who draws the flag. First-and-10 for Florida at the UGA 30.

-- Dawgs have been ridiculously close to getting to Tebow in the backfield a bunch of times but have yet to make it happen. Seems like that's been the story of so many games for the Dawgs this year.

-- The middle of the field is ALWAYS open. I'm honestly surprised Florida doesn't just throw to Hernandez over the middle on every play.

-- Tebow goes down the middle on third-and-three, breaks tackles (if you can call them that) and goes straight into the end zone for the score. That, you may realize, breaks Herschel Walker's SEC rushing record, the 50th of Tebow's career. He asks for the ball afterward. Florida 24, Georgia 10 (4-65-0:51).

-- Just to recap: I wrote that this was a crucial drive for Georgia's D. Fifty-one seconds later Tim Tebow is running into the end zone without a UGA defender anywhere near him, breaking Herschel's record and putting the Gators up by 14. Unbelievable.

-- Georgia has 1:26 to go 78 yards. Or get 9 penalties.

-- Cox is drilled by Cunningham, fumbling the football in the process. It's recovered by Josh Davis, but that was an ugly hit and a loss of nine. Florida calls timeout hoping to get the ball back and score again. Meanwhile they're showing the most obnoxious looking jacka$ I've ever seen dressed in a fuzzy Gator costume doing a lame Mark Madsen-esque dance on the big screen. He is the reason people hate Florida.

-- Ealey carries and picks up a couple yards, but it's still third-and-17 at the 16. Another run on third and Florida calls a timeout with 21 seconds left, giving Willie's D just enough time to do something dumb.

-- James on the return up to the Florida 47. Someone finally makes a crack about the Florida media cheering in the press box. The Gators have 10 seconds to play with, but chooses to do nothing with it. Tebow takes a knee and we go to the half with Georgia trailing by two touchdowns.


-- The Florida dance team put together a nice little Halloween routine. I was kinda impressed.

-- The press box at the Fla-Ga game: The only place on Earth where grown men will line up 30 deep to get food you wouldn't eat from a vending machine.

-- Just saw Vince Dooley doing arm circles in the press box. Seriously. I think he may be considering playing in the second half. I think after age 70 you get all your eligibility back.

-- Some halftime stats:

Brandon Boykin has 74 KOR yards. He's 46 away from Scott Woerner's school record of 720.

Tebow has 63 yards rushing and picked up his sixth career rushing TD against UGA.

Green has two catches for 32 yards. Cooper leads the Gators with 4 catches for 78 yards and 2 TDs.

12 penalties for 113 yards between the two teams in the first half, not including the one Georgia declined. Eight of those flags and 84 of the yards were on the Dawgs

Georgia had 136 total yards and 84 penalty yards.


-- A.J. Jones makes a great play to tip, then intercept a Joe Cox pass. Bad play by Cox, but a great play by Jones. That should pretty much end the realistic hopes for Georgia. But why bother being realistic. This is a cocktail party.

-- Well, I made the valid argument that Herschel had five bowl-game TDs that should have counted toward the record. Tebow may break that mark this game, too. He runs it in for his second score of the game, a 5-yard run. Florida 31, Georgia 10 (3-19-1:20).

-- Troy is the only other team to allow Tebow to have four or more combined TDs in one game this season. Against them, he threw four and ran for one. He has two passing TDs and two rushing TDs today.

-- Silver lining of sorts, the run game has been much improved. Ealey runs for 13 on first down. He has 41 yards on 10 carries so far today.

-- And he breaks another one... this one goes for 15.

-- A.J. Jones deflects another pass. I hope Joe knows that he's supposed to throw to the other A.J.

-- Cox throws three feet over Green's head, but A.J. goes and gets it anyway for an 18-yard gain. Georgia is driving with a first-down at the 30-yard line of the Gators.

-- Keeper by Cox. I must say, Mike Bobo has done a decent job of mixing things up today. I would have liked to have seen how that last drive of the half might have played out if Cox hadn't taken the long sack on first down. The playcalling other than that has been strong though.

-- Cox overthrows Charles, too. Would have been a nice gain and maybe a touchdown, but it was thrown high and Orson couldn't come down with it.

-- Third-and-5 at the 15-yard line for Georgia. Feels like a good time for a penalty.

-- Bobo does his best Sean Hannity impression and goes uber-conservative. He hands off to Ealey who gains two to the 13. They'll go for it on fourth down.

-- Georgia calls a timeout to discuss which lineman will jump offsides.

-- Message to FL Dawg: Loved the comment, but I'm concerned based on your spelling and grammar that you took my joke about the penalty drinking game a little too seriously.

-- Cox completes a low liner to Orson for the first down. Georgia sets up with a first-and-goal at the 7. See, I taunt, and they do well. I say it's crucial they make a stop, and Florida scores three plays later. I'm like a human reverse jinx.

-- Two straight runs go nowhere. You may remember the note from my odds & ends post yesterday that UGA has a rushing average of 1.1 ypc in the red zone this year. Wonder if Bobo knows that.

-- Cox to Michael Moore who was wide open in the end zone. That was a good play call, and Cox made a nice pass. See, it's not so hard. Florida 31, Georgia 17 (14-79-7:13). That'd be the type of drive you'd love if Georgia was up 21 and not down 21. They need some quick strikes.

-- I know I said earlier this week than last year's call was absurd and they should never do it again, but maybe an on-side kick isn't the worst idea in the world here. What do they have to lose?


-- Well, Walsh kicked deep. At least it wasn't directional.

-- Georgia fan just gives the finger on the Jumbotron to a bunch of Florida fans around him. At least someone brought a solid defense to the game today.

-- Georgia finally gets to Tebow and causes a fumble -- thanks to Justin Houston -- but Florida recovers. Still, it's fourth down and Georgia is about to get the ball back. This was the type of defensive stand that they needed. Now the question is, can the offense make it a game?

-- Well, I can completely see why Florida has not allowed a punt-return yard this year. This Chas Henry character is good. If the Dawgs are going to put more points on the board, they'll need to go a long ways. First down at the UGA 6.

-- Is it bad that I'm still miffed about being yelled at about the tongs?

-- Big throw to TK for a gain of 22. Cox has made some very nice throws and some very ugly ones today.

-- Nick Williams is out for the game with a lower back sprain.

-- Third-and-2 at the Florida 39 and Cox completes his second big pass of the day to A.J. --- Jones that is. That was just ugly. I can't fathom what Cox was thinking. He just floated it up to the sideline and Jones didn't even have to make a play on it.

-- You know, Georgia is down 14 right now, but they are only losing because they've beaten themselves. Take away the two interceptions, both on throws Cox shouldn't have made, and the bad penalties and this is, at worst, a 3-point game. Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising -- after all, this is what Georgia has been all year. But man, it's about as big a missed opportunity as the Dawgs have had in recent years.

-- Chris Rainey was shaken up on a second-down run. He's helped off the field but still looks faster than most of Georgia's linebackers.

-- And Tebow runs for a first down. I feel like I've seen that play somewhere before. Ah, but what do I know. I haven't spent two weeks watching film of Florida, so how would I know what to expect?


-- Probably won't be writing too much more. The Internet is driving me nuts and I'm hoping to use the elevator to get to the field rather than being forced to trudge through the stands again.

-- Logan Gray in to receive the punt. He lets it go. Florida downs it at the 2. Fun times.

-- If you bet on this game, there's still plenty of drama, eh? What was the final spread -- 15?

-- Actually, question for the readers: Let's say UGA scores on this drive to pull to within seven, but never really threatens to win the game and Florida hangs on for a 34-24 win. On a scale of 1-10, how angry are you? I would have thought before the game that a close loss would have been tolerable, even if not acceptable. But the way Georgia is losing this game... I gotta think the final score doesn't really matter now unless the Dawgs pull off the miracle.

-- Cox nearly completes his third INT of the game. Haden broke it up and probably should have picked it off. That's at least the third near-INT of the game for Cox, who has really made some bad decisions.

-- OK, nevermind. That's INT No. 3. And injury to insult... A.J. Green is hurt on the play. Cox hung the ball up over the middle and A.J. got hit hard going after it.

-- Green does jog off the field and is moving around without a problem on the sideline. Looks like he may have just had the wind knocked out of him. Scary.

-- Question: How many homer Florida media members does it take to change Tebow's jock strap? Answer: Three -- one to change it, one to giggle like a schoolgirl, and one to sell the jock on eBay.

-- If it's any consolation to Dawgs fans, I'm fully expecting the Yankees and Giants to make sure I'm this miserable tomorrow, too.

-- Tebow is going to pad his Heisman resume now. And as a side note, Florida has all of its timeouts left. Those will come in handy in the final minute.

-- Justin Houston was down for Georgia after that play, but he jogs off the field, too, looking OK.

-- Tebow on yet another keeper, but he loses five yards on his way to a dubious Heisman campaign. I can't wait to hear about his inspirational words before the game. But hey... black helmets!

-- I suspect there will be a few skirmishes at The Landing tonight. But at least there will be a lot of girls dressed as nurses to help out after the fights.

-- OK, well it's third-and-20. Either Tebow runs in for a TD breaking 94 tackles or a field-goal will be upcoming. Either way, I'm going to call it a day with the live blog, get my act together for postgame, and I'll have notes up in a couple of hours. Keep your chins up, Dawg fans. At least you have Tebow's NFL career to look forward to.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Another Embarrassment from ESPN

It's probably a bad idea to bash potential employers in this economic climate for newspapers, but I can't help but be aghast at how irresponsible ESPN is on a routine basis. The latest is this headline from their "rumors" department: "Charlie Strong... as Coach of UGA."

When you click on the link, you're treated to yet another great headline: "Would Georgia Go After Strong?"

Boy, two headlines suggesting Mark Richt is on his way out and the Dawgs have clearly focused on landing Florida's excellent defensive coordinator.

Except here's what the actual "rumor" is:

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Or in this case, raid them of their best assistant coach. Gene Frenette of has an interesting take on what could finally weaken the Florida Gators more than just Tim Tebow graduating. It would be the exit of D-Coordinator Charlie Strong.

The Gators have beefed up to become the best defense in the country under Strong, who is now a hot commodity in the head coach carousel. And, if all that fan grumbling of Mark Richt is true, one of the obvious suitors for Strong's services could be the Georgia Bulldogs.

Frenette writes, "If Georgia and everybody else in the Southeastern Conference is looking for a way to cut into Florida's league dominance of the past four seasons, maybe they should begin lobbying football programs with potential head coach openings to promote the most overlooked coordinator in the country." A Strong defense is just what could put an end to the Gator dominance of the Bulldogs and the rest of the SEC.

Not a word about Richt's job security other than there's "fan grumbling" and the only basis for any supposition about Strong comes from a hypothetical column in the Jacksonville paper that never so much as mentions Richt or Georgia beyond the quoted graph above which talks about lobbying OTHER schools to hire Strong.

All Gene Frenette writes in his column is that the best way to hurt Florida might be to make Strong a head coach elsewhere. After all, Strong certainly deserves a job. But at no point anywhere has anyone suggested anything about Strong coming to Georgia.

Look, I realize that in the age of the Internet, a "rumor" is as good as a story. But this isn't even a rumor. This is just ESPN downright making sh*t up.

I'm not a Georgia fan, so I'm not going to take the time to get angry about how ridiculous this is for the Bulldogs. I'll let you guys handle that. But as a journalist, this makes me sick to my stomach. ESPN is not some fly-by-night blog. They have editors, and whichever one wrote these headlines ought to be fired. They are an embarrassment to my profession.

Odds & Ends: Florida Week

Wrapping up the week by tying up some loose ends from the week...

Reader Stephen W. sent me this email that is definitely worth passing along: "I'm not sure if you saw this stat, but I'm watching the VT/UNC game. UGA ranks LAST in red zone rushing ypc at 1.1. VT is next at 1.4. Just thought that was a telling stat for us."

Anyone think we might be seeing a lot of Blair Walsh on Saturday?

(And by the way, what are the odds of a UGA-VT Chick-fil-A Bowl featuring 63 field goals?)

-- And here's an email I got from a Georgia Tech fan: "HOW ABOUT THEM DAWGS? Just cute little puppies now. If them Dawgs win 2 more games then they may get to go to the Toilet Bowl! # 1 # 1 # 1 # 1 # 1 # 1 # 1 # 1 In the ACC # 1" signed, A YELLOW JACKETS' FAN FOR 62 YEARS!

This perplexes me. Why do I get these kind of emails? Am I supposed to just say, "Well, Tech is better this year. Guess I better go become the beat writer for them." Come on, I thought you Tech folks were supposed to be smart.

Comment from Billy D: "So sick of the celebration comments/questions. Not from you DH, you had to ask it but there is no comparison. Richt was trying to fire his troops up when they REALLY needed it, and it worked.

Meyer was just being the Dbag everyone knows he is. There was no reason other than child-like/playground revenge to call those timeouts.

The guy referred to himself in the third person for pete's sake when talking about the incident. I want to beat UF as much for me and UGA as I just want to see Urban dejected and upset. He is worse than Spurrier."

Hard to argue with that logic, but this is really what rivalries are. I mean, it's more fun with this stuff, right? Lane Kiffin is a joke, but he's a fun joke to have around, right? Hating people seems so much more appropriate when you have a good reason. Of course, I also despised Steve Bedrosian for most of the 1980s and early '90s just because I didn't like his beard, so who am I to talk?

-- I have a story in today's Telegraph on Georgia's running game and the approach they're taking to this week's matchup vs. Florida.

-- And a happy 183rd birthday to the Macon Telegraph, which printed its first issue on Nov. 1, 1826. Now, anyone want to guess the date it will print its last edition? (Man, I've really become way too cynical.)

-- From JADAMS regarding the Vince Vance arrest: "Vance was initially pulled over because he was stationary at a green light, not because he ran a red light. When the police officer inquired, he said there was a runner crossing the road, and he was holding traffic for him. The policeman knew this was a lie, as Vance hadn't blocked for a runner all year long."

-- Regarding my blog post on the success opposing tight ends have had against Georgia, I totally missed something, as one anonymous commenter pointed out: "Don't forget Brandon Barden from Vanderbilt. He is a tight end and was the leading receiver for Vandy against us."

I had left Barden off my list because he wasn't Vandy's starting TE in the game, but that was dumb of me. Barden had five catches for 49 yards and a TD against UGA. That's a season high in catches, just four yards off his season high in receiving and it was his only score of the season. Add to that the numbers that Monahan had, and Georgia actually turned in one of its worst performances of the season against TEs in their last game out -- a game in which Vandy's QB really couldn't complete a pass to anyone else. Not good.

-- Some more pretty interesting stats from Dave McMahon, including a far more fair comparison between Timmy Tebow and Herschel Walker.

-- USA Today's TV critic bashes "Community" saying that Joel McHale is ruining the show. I don't see why smugness can't be funny. (With the exception of Greg Doyle columns.)

-- If you're planning to be in Jacksonville tomorrow, this might be something you're interested in:

This Saturday October 31, Nissan will be hosting the Sports Illustrated Heisman Trophy Tour at the Georgia vs Florida game in Jacksonville.

We'll be setting up a huge tent with lots of activities for fans – all FREE - including:

-- Opportunity to meet winningest quarterback in NCAA Division I history from UGA, David Greene and former Heisman winner and 1996 National Championship UF quarterback Danny Wuerffel
-- Check out the original "four-door sports car" - the 290-horsepower 2010 Maxima!
-- Photo on the cover of a personal Sports Illustrated with the Heisman Trophy
-- Compete in one-on-one Heisman trivia challenges
-- Vote on favorite Heisman moment at Sports Illustrated Heisman Bracket Challenge
-- Check out features of every Heisman winner, facts and figures about the Heisman award and vintage photos and odd facts up around the tent.
-- Get a free copy of Sports Illustrated collector’s edition custom publication which celebrates 75 years of the Heisman Memorial Trophy.

The tent opens at 10pm and we'll be hosting activities at the Championship Dreams Festival outside of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium’s South End Zone, up until the 3:30pm game.

-- From ChicagoDawg regarding my analysis of Georgia's running game earlier this week:

"Good stuff David and certainly some interesting data. However, in doing statistical analysis and/or regressions (linear or multiple) one should always remember that a set of data may have a high degree of correlation without necessarily answering causation. This is especially so in football statistical analysis as the data sets are usually quite small (relatively speaking) and there are so many variables to consider. For example, a given team may run more in the 4th quarter, have more points in the 4th quarter, etc., because they amass these statistics in games in which they hold a large lead and thus are inclined to run the ball more and are playing mis-matched opponent. So, the bad team(s) might be the causal effect of greater 4th quarter ground and scoring success, not the commitment to running the ball in the 4th quarter."

I think what ChicagoDawg is missing here is that my statistical analysis relies upon readers not asking follow-up questions.

Seriously though, those are good points. As with any numbers, they're sort of a guide to help keep things in context, but the best analysis is always a hybrid of what the numbers tell us and what we've actually seen. In this case, I think both tend to add up to Georgia not being very good at running the football.

-- The documentary about "Big Lebowski" fans came out on DVD this week.

-- I got a couple of emails about this, so I figured I should address it: Apparently the length and quantity of posts on the blog's main page makes it tough to load the site on a Blackberry or iPhone. I've gone in and adjusted the formatting so only the past two days of posts appear on the main page. You can still look at the rail on the righthand side to find links to older posts. Since we usually post at least 3-4 stories a day, be sure you go and sift through some of the stuff you might have missed.

What I would actually prefer to do is to post only a few graphs from each blog post, then have you click on the post itself to read the whole article. Two problems with this though: 1.) I don't know how to set this up in Blogger, so if anyone can chime in with some advice, I'd love to hear it, and 2.) I'd be concerned that the "tease" to the whole post might not always be enough to entice you to actually read the whole thing. So... what do you guys think? Would you prefer a set up like that or leave the blog the way it is?

OK, that's it. I'm off to Jacksonville. See you in traffic on the way to the stadium tomorrow! Safe travels.

Picking the Winners: Week 9

The furlough costs us a week of embarrassing picks, so this week, we need to pick up the slack by being doubly bad...

Dan: What a horrible Thursday night. Unfortunately I am correct on my prediction that UNC would cover against Virginia Tech, but I was not happy that it came in a game that VT fumbled away. I, for one, am sick and tired of Virginia Tech’s offense. They spent the entire first half in UNC’s territory and scored 0 points. They did the same thing against Georgia Tech two weeks ago. Pathetic. I remember a few years ago we actually had a good offense. Not anymore. And that nasty defense that we were used to seeing got run over all night last night. So the offense does not even have the defense to bail them out anymore. Just sickening. I am ready for college football to end now so I can stop thinking about how Bryan Stinespring (offensive coordinator) has ruined my fall. I miss the Sean Glennon days. How bad is that? I miss the days where we actually had a QB who could pass. Add in a Phillies loss last night and it was not a good night. Well on to my picks...

Dave: Simple math tells you that picking games should almost always result in a longterm ratio of about 50-50. You could pick teams at random, and over the course of a season, it would be hard to win or lose more than 60 percent of your picks. And yet, Dan and I -- two people who watch a lot of college football -- are picking winners at a combined rate of just 41 percent. Last week Dan picked just two winners, which is a trend I was on for three weeks straight earlier this year. I've had just one winning week. It's inexplicable. Which leads me to my philosophy for this week: I'm going back to using quotes to help decide my picks, and I've chosen them from the most inexplicable character on TV -- Tracy Morgan's character on "30 Rock." After all, I like to live every week like it's Shark Week.

Cincinnati (-14.5) at Syracuse

Dan: I think one the biggest surprises this football season is that Greg Paulus is still the starting QB at Syracuse. How bad must Syracuse’s backup be that he can not even unseat Paulus? Yikes. Moving on, we all know my philosophy on home dogs. If they are getting more than 10 points, take 'em. Well I am adding a slight wrinkle to this rule: Take the points unless Greg Paulus is your QB. That is what I plan on doing -- going against Greg… Cincinnati 42, Syracuse 14.

Dave: "So I said, 'Rick, this chick's got a Adam's apple.' And Rick said to me, I'll never forget this, he said, 'Freaky-deekies need love too... Freaky-deekies need. love. too.'"

I have absolutely no reason to predict this other than that I'm a homer, but hey, freaky-deekies need love too… Syracuse 21, Cincinnati 20.

Miami (-7) at Wake Forest

Dan: Every year there is that team that you can never quite figure out. You bet on them, they get killed. You bet against them, they roll. Well that team this year is Wake. I just cannot figure them out. Two weeks ago, I took them against the Fightin Dabo’s and they lost 38-3. Four weeks ago, I had them getting thumped by NC State, so of course, they win. Job well done, Dan. So it really doesn’t matter who I pick this week because I am going to be wrong… Miami 28, Wake Forest 13.

Dave: "I can't read! I sign my name with an X! I once tried to make mashed potatoes with laundry detergent! I think I voted for Nader! NADER!"

My idiotic picks have seen me take Wake way too many times this season. I'm done betting on the Nader of college football… Miami 33, Wake Forest 10.

Georgia Tech (-13.5) at Vanderbilt

Dan: Another double-digit dog. But another team that just cannot score any points. I do not see how Vandy is going to stop Georgia Tech from putting up 31. And I do not see how Vandy themselves get more than 13. Speaking of Georgia Tech, I guess they are the best team in the ACC. Must be nice to actually have an offense that can score some points even if that means you do not have to throw the ball… Georgia Tech 31, Vanderbilt 13.

Dave: "Doctor Spaceman, when they check my DNA, will they tell me what diseases I might get, or help me to remember my ATM pin code?"

Why is it that some teams -- like LSU last year and Miami and Clemson this year -- seem to know the key to stopping Tech's triple option, but so many other supposedly solid teams look utterly lost? Someone needs to remind them of the pin code on how to tackle. Here's the thing though: Mississippi State isn't very good, but they do have SEC athletes. They kept things close with Tech and forced Josh Nesbitt to throw the ball more than he'd usually like. Vandy also has (albeit lower grade) SEC athletes, and guys like Chris Marve and Myron Lewis are actually NFL-caliber players. Add to that the fact that Vandy kids are smarter than everyone else (including the nerds from GT) and I think there's every reason to believe that the Commies crack the code on slowing Paul Johnson's offense. Throw in a dash of the explosive Warren Norman (my new favorite player with two first names) on the ground and on special teams, and I think Vandy can even post a few points on the scoreboard. I'm not sure I smell upset, but this one at least stays interesting into the fourth quarter… Georgia Tech 33, Vanderbilt 24.

Mississippi (-3.5) at Auburn

Dan: My how times have changed in Auburn. Just three weeks ago people were praising Gene Chizik as a great hire and he had returned Auburn to past great times. And now, three losses in a row and people are calling for his head. Poor Gene. This is why you should never bring to your school a coach from Iowa State. It seems to me that all of the SEC has finally gotten some film on Auburn and now knows how to stop their offense. Winning when no one knows what to expect of you is one thing. Winning when they have film on you is another. And Auburn has yet to show they can do that. I think this weekend Auburn doesn’t win but they keep it within the number… Ole Miss 24, Auburn 21.

Dave: "My genius is come alive... like toys when your back is turned."

I just want to point out a little something I wrote about Gene Chizik, way back when his Auburn team was 5-0.
"I really think Gene Chizik is like Sarah Palin. Auburn announces they're hiring him as head coach and everybody is like, 'Whoa, what the heck qualifies this guy to get a job like this?' People start sifting through his background and wondering what the thought process could possibly be for bringing in Chizik rather than a bigger name. Then a little time goes by, Chizik lays low in the national media but gets his base of Auburn fans riled up, then bursts onto the scene with a bunch of early wins and all of a sudden people are like, "Holy cow… this guy's got a lot of energy. Maybe Auburn knew what they were doing after all." Now the question remains… Does Chizik continue to impress, or does he come across a game that goes about as well as Palin's interview with Katie Couric? I think a Couric moment is coming soon."
Genius! Now all that's left is for some sleazy pretty-boy ex-son-in-law of Chizik's to come forward with absurdly wild accusations in order to get a guest appearance on the "Today" show and a spread in Playgirl. So we've got that to look forward to.

On the other side of this game, there's Ole Miss. Where does Jevan Snead's collapse rank among the most inexplicable aspects of this college football season? I'd put it somewhere between Johnathan Crompton's mustache and the fact that the NCAA still allows wins over ACC Atlantic teams to count in the standings.

Regardless, one team has to win this one, and I'm gonna go with Mississippi because, well, I'm an idiot and it's bound to lose anyway… Ole Miss 28, Auburn 13.

Texas (-9) at Oklahoma State

Dan: Deion Sanders is at it again. So first he gets Michael Crabtree to hold out most of the NFL season for little to no money. And now he meets up with Dez Bryant in a hotel restaurant and gets the guy suspended for the year. Good job, Deion! Here is some advice to future first-round prospects. Avoid this guy. He has no idea what he is doing other than he enjoys getting players suspended or costing them money. As for this game I’d love to have Oklahoma State in this spot if they had Bryant. I still think I like them even without Bryant. They will not get the outright but they’ll keep it close… Texas 31, Oklahoma State 24.

Dave: "Heavy is the head that eats the crayons."

Well, with their win against Oklahoma, the Longhorns are officially on the clock for a trip to the national title game. It's a completely clear path, aside from this week's matchup in Stillwater. And how lucky are the Horns? They get Okie State without Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter. And should Texas win out and Okie State drop one more game this season, that will likely put the Horns in the title game without having beaten a single team with fewer than three losses all season. Seriously, why does everyone always think the Big 12 is so good? Every year, it's two decent teams, one semi-respectable but ultimately fraudulent team, three other also-rans plus the entire Big 12 North. Worthless… Texas 34, Oklahoma State 20.

Mississippi State (+3.5) at Kentucky

Dan: I don’t understand this line. When your three losses are to Florida, Alabama and at South Carolina by 2, why are you only giving 3½ to Mississippi State?… Kentucky 21, Mississippi State 17.

Dave: “That’s not me, that’s the Tracy Jordan Japanese sex doll. You can tell us apart because it's not suffering from a vitamin deficiency.”

Mississippi State stinks but has close losses to good teams like LSU and Florida that make you think there's a hint of life to them. Kentucky stinks but has close losses to teams like Alabama and South Carolina which makes you think there's a hint of life to them. Both teams have QB problems, occasionally impressive defenses and hoops programs predicted to win their respective divisions, thus ending any real fan interest in football season. I think Mississippi State is the Japanese sex doll in this analogy though, due mostly to Rich Brooks' vitamin deficiency… Mississippi State 24, Kentucky 23.

South Carolina (+4.5) at Tennessee

Dan: As I stated a few blogs ago, since my buddy from Atlanta and I did not make our usual bet this year that Virginia Tech would finish 10 spots ahead of South Carolina, that automatically meant that South Carolina would finish within 10 spots (or higher) and my buddy would be angry for not making the bet. Well what do we have here? VT stinks and South Carolina is surging. Sure, they are surging in an ugly manner, barely beating terrible teams such as Kentucky and Vandy, but as a VT fan over the years, I have come to respect this stinkfest called defense and horrible offense. This weekend I think that South Carolina continues the stinkfest in Knoxville grounding out a close win… South Carolina 3, Tennessee 2.

Dave: "I grew up with that guy, he was the baddest gangster in my class. We called him Mean Steve. But his real name was Stephen Killer."

Ah, remember when Steve Spurrier used to be "Mean Steve," dominating the SEC and angering fans throughout the league? It was a golden age, really. Now Lane Kiffin has taken things to the next level. He doesn't even need to actually beat the opposition to make them mad. He's the Steve Spurrier of moral victories. Nevertheless, I tip my cap to Kiffy this week for getting a mention in a Lil Wayne song. I mean, what more could you really want out of life? Spurrier never did that. Of course, you try rhyming things with "Wuerffel"… Tennessee 17, South Carolina 14.

Southern Cal (-3) at Oregon

Dan: Probably the best game of the weekend. It is a shame it is on at 8 p.m. and in direct competition against the Phillies' Game 3. Talk about a change in fate. After Week 1 Oregon was 0-1 and people were calling for Chip Kelly’s head. Their running back knocked some guy out on national TV, was suspended for a year, and it was a horrible situation all around. Now they are 6-1, and if they can knock off USC at home they should be able to punch their ticket to the Rose Bowl. What an incredible turn around. I still am not impressed by USC. And I think this weekend they get exposed. A freshmen QB going into Autzen Stadium is never easy… Oregon 31, USC 21.

Dave: “I almost didn’t make it here this afternoon, but then a very special friend showed me the way. So I’d like to take a moment to thank Victor Cardova from the Sunoco station on Lennox Avenue.”

After an opening-week loss at Boise State, no one would have predicted Oregon would have made it this far into the season with a shot at the Rose Bowl still within its grasp. On the other hand, Southern Cal has already won tough road games at Ohio State, at Notre Dame and at Cal. But while the Trojans have pulled out a few close ones, I've been far more impressed with what Oregon has done during the past month of the season. Add to that a strong home-field advantage, and I gotta go with the Ducks… Oregon 24, USC 20.

Indiana (+17.5) at Iowa

Dan: This is usually where I would go on my rant about how bad the Big 10 is because the team that is currently in first place and ranked 4th in the country should have lost to a I-AA team the first game of the year. How pathetic is that? But then I take a look at how bad the ACC is, how bad the Big 12 is, how bad the SEC is this year and how bad the Big East is and I am beginning to realize that everyone stinks this year. Iowa is no different than anyone else. As for this game I do not see Iowa running it up on an Indiana team that actually has an OK offense… Iowa 28, Indiana 17.

Dave: "The holidays without drinkin' is rough. Turns out football is boring, my wife's sister ain't as cute as I though she was and I can not play the guitar."

This is how I feel about the Big Ten. After sixteen cocktails, sure, it seems like a decent conference. But no sober person mistakes this for real football. Add to that Iowa's loss of its starting left guard and tailback and you get even more excitement! Seriously, didn't we agree to stop picking Big Ten games?… Iowa 24, Indiana 5.

Kansas State (+25) at Oklahoma

Dan: So follow this little trail: Kansas State lost to Texas Tech 66-14. The next week, they beat Texas A&M 62-14. So one would think that Texas A&M should lose to Texas Tech 128–26. Nope. A&M wins 52-30. Man, college football is crazy. It just does not make any sense. Anyway how about Bill Snyder? He comes back from the dead and now has Kansas State positioned nicely as the leader in the Big 12 North. Sure they’ll lose this Sunday but they then have Kansas and Missouri at home. Win those and Kansas State probably wins the North. That is insane. Could you imagine those TV ratings? Hahaha. No one will care. Kansas State vs.Texas for the Big 12 Title . . . get excited! As for this game I think Kansas State keeps it within the number as Oklahoma’s QB with the mustache is only average… Oklahoma 38, Kansas State 14.

Dave: "I hate to see you like this, Ken Doll. It’s like an owl without a graduation cap. Heartbreaking!"

Ah, Oklahoma. I hate to see you like this. With three losses on your resume already, how will Bob Stoops possibly collapse during a BCS game again this year? It's heartbreaking. And giving 25 points in this game? I think a few bettors are remembering the old Sooners… Oklahoma 31, Kansas State 14.

Two weeks ago: Dan 2-7-1, Dave 4-5-1
Thursday game: Dan 1-0, Dave 0-1
Overall: Dan 30-40-1, Dave 28-42-1

Behind Enemy Lines: Florida Gators

It's the biggest game of the season for Georgia, but this year seems to have a bit different feel to it. Normally, this is the battle for control of the SEC East. While a win would keep Georgia's faint title hopes alive, this year is more about salvaging a season and erasing some bad memories more than it is about getting to Atlanta.

Vegas has Georgia as a 16-point underdog, so a win will be an uphill challenge. But the Gators have some troubles of their own, too. To find out more about what's going on with Florida, we checked in with Jeremy Fowler, the Gators beat writer for the Orlando Sentinel. Here's what he had to say...

David Hale: So Florida's passing game looks dismal, and Tim Tebow wouldn't talk to the press after last week's game. What gives?

Jeremy Fowler:
Tebow said he had other obligations after the game, including visiting with former Gators OC Dan Mullen and attending a team meeting. The speculation, of course, is that he was just frustrated. Who really knows. It is curious he dodged the media since he's never done that before.

The struggling passing game is a combination of lack of depth at wide receiver, Tebow's suddenly poor decision-making and Florida's insistence to run with Tebow in the red zone. Ten of the 17 red-zone snaps last week either resulted in a Tebow rush or a Tebow sack. Absolutely no predictability. Tebow just doesn't seem to have a chemistry with any receiver save TE Aaron Hernandez and WR Riley Cooper. If he can just get it going with maybe two other receivers -- primarily Deonte Thompson and David Nelson -- that will take pressure off everybody.

DH: Obviously the struggles in Florida's passing attack began before the concussion occurred, but what's Tebow's status right now? Is he still rounding into form following the injury, is he being exposed a bit or is it simply a matter of fixing the problems will take more than one man -- even if that one man is Tebow?

Doctors wouldn't have let Tebow back onto the field unless he was 100 percent healed from the concussion, but it's possible he's just hesitant. Maybe the hit against Kentucky mentally affected him more than we all thought. He's either taking off in the pocket too quickly or he's staying in there too long. Tebow's a rhythm quarterback, so he just needs to find it. His running game always helped him because he could just barrel over people, but defenses are sitting on his run and he's getting nowhere.

DH: Florida's pass defense ranks second in the nation, allowing just 135 yards per game. Of course, the Gators have yet to face someone of the caliber of A.J. Green. What's the game plan for stopping Georgia's star wide receiver?

Florida will likely push one of their safeties to Green's side for most of the game, but Florida likes to play receivers one-on-one with either CB Joe Haden or Janoris Jenkins. Coaches feel those guys are good enough to do that every week, and they both shut down LSU's receivers. Jenkins handled Green pretty well last year. But that was last year. Florida safeties will be huge in containing Green because he can go over the top of either corner. They will need help.

DH: Brandon Spikes has missed the past couple of games and has really been dogged by numerous injuries so far this season. He's always a burr in Georgia's side, so what's his status for this week's game?

Spikes is listed as probable. Coach Urban Meyer seems to think he'll play. The only tricky part is the groin injury. Those can linger. So he might be a game-time decision. But I think they didn't play him last week to save him for Georgia. Expect him out there.

DH: In Bulldogs Country, a lot has been made of Georgia's bye week coming into this game. The last time the Dawgs had an extra week to prepare, they looked pretty dominant in 2007. Florida had the bye-week advantage for years and looked just as dominant. So from the Gators' side of things, how big of a deal is the week off? Does Urban Meyer & Co. really think it's a significant advantage for Georgia? Are they expecting a few new looks that the Dawgs haven't shown so far?

Absolutely it's a Georgia advantage, because the track records of Meyer and Richt performing after bye weeks are pretty stellar. These are smart guys, so they game plan well with the extra week. Georgia's got to show Florida something new since the Gators' front seven should be able to stop Georgia's running game at face value. That bye week was perfect timing for Georgia, too, because they had all week to think about how much they hate Florida.

DH: Two-part question: Motivation isn't usually a problem in this game to begin with, but how much have the 2007 celebration and last year's timeouts been a topic of conversation again this season? Secondly, might all the questions about Tebow and Florida's vulnerability this week be all the motivation the Gators need? What are the odds Urban Meyer is secretly loving (and maybe even fueling) all the criticism? (Sorry, I guess that was a three-part question.)

First part: Florida is still fuming over the end-zone stuff. Georgia will never live that down, at least to the players who were on the field that day. They have no problems talking about it two years later.

Secondly: Yes, I think there's something to that. There's not a more motivated guy than Tebow, so you know he's frustrated beyond comprehension that he's not getting it done. Every time he's been questioned in his career, he's responded. And the Gators, especially the defense, keeps track of every little thing said about them on message boards and in the media. It's like the instant coffee of motivation for them -- just pop in the microwave for a minute and stir.

Big thanks to Jeremy for his help. You can check out his Florida coverage for the Sentinel HERE or read his excellent Gators blog HERE.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Notes: Dawgs Keeping Big Game in Perspective

This week’s matchup is circled on Georgia’s calendar every season. Florida is a huge rival, and the game typically determines which team will head to Atlanta to represent the SEC East in the conference’s championship game.

This year, however, things are different for the Bulldogs. For only the second time since 1996, Georgia will be unranked when it faces Florida, and while the Bulldogs’ Eastern Division title hopes remain on life support, this game is about more than simply keeping their preseason goals alive.

“Even if both teams were ranked or unranked, it’s always a big game,” quarterback Joe Cox said. “Now with us being an unranked team playing the No. 1 team, it could change our season. We want to use this game as a great opportunity to turn our season around. That’s what we’re going for.”

Of course, even Cox knows that’s a lot of pressure to put on his team, which enters the game with three losses for the first time in 13 seasons. So while he admits there’s a lot ride on the outcome in terms of team morale, he said the Bulldogs are doing their best to keep the game in perspective.

“We don’t want to beat Florida in order to save the season or turn things around, we just want to beat Florida to beat Florida, for us,” Cox said. “We’re not talking about all the things that could come with it because there’s no need to talk about it and be thinking about stuff like that. We want to come out and execute our game plan and win the game.”

A win would be sweet, however, after Georgia has suffered through its most tumultuous season since head coach Mark Richt arrived in 2001. And knocking Florida from its perch atop the rankings – that’d be pretty nice, too.

But while the rivalry aspect of the game serves to energize the fans, Georgia’s No. 1 goal is to keep things simple. It’s not about what happened earlier this year or what has happened in seasons past, Cox said. It’s simply about getting a win this week – even if that win might be a little bigger than the others.

“I didn’t play 18 years ago, and I don’t know who did,” Cox said. “It’s all about this year, and that’s how you need to approach every game. You can talk about who won in 1957, but it doesn’t have anything to do with when you play on Saturday. That’s more something for fans to go back and forth about and bragging rights.”


The first time A.J. Green saw Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap, he assumed there were a few years between them. As it turned out, the bulked-up Dunlap was just a year older than the lanky Bulldogs receiver.

“I’ve been playing against that guy since the sixth grade,” Green said. “I remember seeing how big he was and saying, ‘Man, this guy is huge. He’s not my age.’”

Dunlap and Green grew up near each other in South Carolina and were rivals throughout their careers, playing against each other in grade school and high school on both the football field and the basketball court. During one game in high school, Dunlap’s coach even split him out at cornerback to try to defend the speedy Green – a move that didn’t exactly pay off.

“It was a game at home, a rivalry, a sold-out game,” Green said. “He came over and tried to jam me one time. If he had gotten his hands on me, he probably would have knocked me down, but he didn’t get his hands on me.”

Instead, Green raced by Dunlap, and the two have been going back-and-forth ever since.
But while their on-field rivalry is intense, Green said the two are good friends away from the game and talk on a regular basis about their roles with their teams and their roles in the community.

“We were the face of South Carolina, and a lot of people, a lot of kids look up to us,” Green said.

When Green was being recruited out of high school, Dunlap was one of his primary advisors, offering words of encouragement and advice on earning playing time as a freshman. Oddly, Green said, Dunlap never tried to sell his friend on Florida or chastised him when he chose the Gators’ archrival.

“He’s a great guy,” Green said. “He’s grown as a person. In high school, he had an attitude pretty much. But now, he’s a good guy, and we talk all the time. Before I came up here, he talked to me about how it was to come and play, how hard it was to come in in the summer and get everything down pat to try to play right away.”

Green said his hope is that the two might finally be teammates in the NFL one day after being rivals for so long as amateurs. This week, however, Dunlap is anything but a friend.
The burly defensive end has already recorded five sacks this season, and while he may be a friend of Green’s, quarterback Joe Cox said he’s not particularly excited to get to know Dunlap on Saturday.

“He’s a big guy who is strong and he moves very well,” Cox said. “Their whole defense is, you can look at all their guys, but he definitely does stand out.”


Caleb King is hungry.

Sure, he’s hungry for a win this week against rival Florida. And he’s been starved for a chance at redemption after blowing a blocking assignment last season that sent him to the bench for the next few weeks. And after a two-touchdown performance in his last game, he’s dying for a chance to build on his success.

But mostly, he’s just hungry – for some real food.

After breaking his jaw in Georgia’s loss to LSU on Oct. 3, King has been barred from eating solid foods, meaning all his meals have come in the forms of shakes, soups and other less-than-hearty delicacies.

“Everybody can eat a meal, but I have to eat a drink,” King said. “It’s hard. I just have to be in the weight room more than everybody else so I can keep my strength and keep my weight up.”

King’s diet has been monitored by Georgia’s training staff, but for the most part, he’s been on his own to find ways to keep his body strong despite the lack of solid foods.

“I blend stuff, I drink a lot of Muscle Milk – morning, afternoon, at night for dinner,” he said. “If I think I just need something, I drink it. So it’s just pretty much the same routine every day.”

That’s a routine he’ll be thrilled to end, but he’s not sure when that might happen.
His jaw is healing, but he’s far less concerned about the injury and more about when he can dive into a steak.

“I’ve been thinking about it, but (trainer) Ron (Courson) tells me he’ll tell me when it’s time, and he hasn’t even given me a hint,” King said. “He hasn’t even looked my way yet, so I don’t know.”

The upside, King said, is that he’s had plenty of film study and strength training to keep him occupied, but as good as some success on the field Saturday might taste, it probably won’t be quite as good as his first real meal.

“I already told Ron, the first meal, they’re going to have to pay for it,” King said. “I’ll go in and chow down.”


Prince Miller finally brought a spark to Georgia’s punt-return game two weeks ago with two returns totaling 95 yards, but keeping that trend going won’t be an easy task this week.

Through seven games, Florida has yet to allow even a single punt-return yard to its opponents behind punter Chas Henry, making the Gators a worthy adversary for Georgia punter Drew Butler, who leads the nation in punting average. With those statistics, Mark Richt said field position will be tough to come by.

“Chas Henry is fantastic,” Richt said. “He hasn’t punted a lot, but he can boom it with distance and great height. He can easily get a five second hang time, and when you get that hang time, you’re not going to return it.”

Of course, punting is just one aspect of the special teams, and Richt said it will be incumbent upon the Bulldogs to win more than just one of those battles.

Last year, a botched on-side kick led to a Florida touchdown, while kicker Blair Walsh missed three field-goal tries for the Bulldogs in a loss. This season, however, Walsh is among the best kickers in the country, and Georgia’s special teams have provided a number of highlights that have Richt convinced Georgia could be in for a successful day Saturday.

“It’s a situation where you’re going against one of the better special teams teams in the league and in the country,” Richt said. “It’ll be a challenge, but we’ve had a lot more good than bad in my opinion on our special teams, and I think we’re moving in a very good direction.”


Georgia’s fans may assume linebacker Rennie Curran is the Bulldogs’ version of Superman after he has led the team in tackles in all seven games so far this season, but even Superman needs a break.

So while linebackers coach John Jancek said he would love to have Curran on the field at all times, that just hasn’t been an option, and the All-SEC junior has sat out a handful of key series during the past few games.

“The guy can’t play every single snap,” Jancek said. “He’s on all the special teams, and you have to factor those plays in. And you’ve got to be able to substitute, roll guys in and keep guys fresh.”

That trend will continue throughout the season, Jancek said, with the idea being that keeping Curran fresh for most of the plays is better than having him winded on all of them.

“Rennie, as great of a player as he is, he’s not going to be as effective as he should be or could be if he’s taking every snap,” Jancek said.


The season hasn’t exactly been an easy ride for Georgia’s offense, which has had its share of ups and downs. But despite a handful of tough opponents along the way, quarterback Joe Cox admits this week’s game will likely be the Bulldogs’ toughest.

Florida ranks first nationally in total defense, second in pass defense, 12th in run defense and second in scoring defense, allowing just more than 10 points per game. In addition, the Gators return several key players from injury, including All-SEC linebacker Brandon Spikes, meaning Georgia has its work cut out for it.

“You look at them statistically, they definitely are the best we’ve faced,” Cox said. “They have great athletes, they’re ranked pretty much one or two in everything in the country, so they’re definitely the best. I’m glad we had two weeks to prepare for them.”

Six Keys to the Cocktail Party

If you read my chat earlier today, you already know a few of my keys to this week's game. But I'm a firm believe that repetition is the key to learning. Repetition, I say. Just repeating things over and over and over. OK… that joke went nowhere.

Anyway, here are my six keys for Georgia to pull the upset Saturday and knock off No. 1 Florida:

1.) Run the ball. Notice I'm not saying to run the ball well. Chances are, that's not going to happen. Florida doesn't let anyone run on them with great success, but that's not really the point this week. Georgia needs to avoid handing anything to the Gators and limiting mistakes starts with moving the football on the ground. The Dawgs don't need to post continual 7- and 8-yard gains, but a good stretch of 3- and 4-yard carries that keeps the team out of third-and-long, keeps the play calling diversified and keeps the ball out of Tim Tebow & Co.'s hands will be crucial. And with Brandon Spikes and a couple of D linemen coming off injuries, who knows -- maybe the Dawgs eventually break a long run, too.

2.) Catch the football. No one will remember this because the final score looked so bad, but Georgia's offense actually went into the Tennessee game with a good game plan. Knowing the running game was struggling, Mike Bobo called for one short pass after another, and Joe Cox actually completed his first seven of them. Then Rantavious Wooten dropped an easy grab and the wheels came off. Mike Moore, Orson Charles, Aron White, Branden Smith and, yes, even A.J. Green have chipped in with drops in the last two weeks, too. The Dawgs can't afford to waste opportunities, and while Florida will be doing its best to keep Green from beating them deep, Georgia has a shot to dink-and-dunk its way to a few extended drives if the receivers can hang on to the football.

3.) Recognize the play-action. This is Florida's bread-and-butter offensively, and it's Georgia's biggest nemesis. That's a bad combo. But the Bulldogs have had an extra week to prepare, and if Willie Martinez and his fellow defensive coaches were smart, they were drilling the play-action into the brains of every Georgia player for the past two weeks. Of course, the Gators do a nice job of running the football, too -- so it wouldn't be too surprising to see Georgia fall back into its "bet the farm on the run on every play" mentality that has cost the Dawgs so often this year.

4.) Get out to an early lead. No one's expecting a blowout, but if Georgia can rattle the Gators a little early and force the game to unfold on the Bulldogs' terms, that's a huge advantage. Last year, the final score showed a blowout, but it was 14-3 at the half, Georgia had missed two field goals, and the Dawgs were poised to score again before Matthew Stafford threw a killer interception that went all the way back to the 1 on the other side of the field. The early scuffles eventually overwhelmed Georgia, and the game got out of hand. It has to be different this year. Georgia needs to capitalize early and put the pressure on Florida.

5.) Create two turnovers. I'm not going to even mention that the Bulldogs need to hang onto the ball themselves. That goes without saying -- and it's probably a tall order. But more than just ball protection on offense, the Georgia defenders need to create some plays. Tebow is vulnerable, and at some point, his recent struggles have to be creeping into his head. He's making poor decisions and he doesn't have the weapons downfield, meaning he's apt to try to force a few passes. That's where Brandon Boykin, Reshad Jones, Baccari Rambo and company need to step in with a couple of big plays. Looking back over the past few Cocktail Party games, the breaks have always seemed to go Florida's way. This year, Georgia needs to create a few breaks for themselves.

6.) Win on special teams. Florida hasn't allowed a punt-return yard all season, so expecting a big day from Prince Miller may be a lot to ask. But he did have his best game of the season two weeks ago at Vandy, so momentum is on his side. Brandon Boykin continues to amaze in the kick-return game, too, scoring his second 100-yard kick return for a TD of the season against Tennessee. Boykin and Miller don't necessarily have to find the end zone, but with Florida's defense being so tough, the return men need to give the offense a helping hand to set up a few easy scores. And finding the end zone wouldn't be too bad either. (*Bonus note: No on-side kicks this year, Mr. Richt.)

Now, we missed our picks column last week due to the furlough, and this week, Dan's alma mater plays tonight, so I'm throwing in a bonus prediction for you, too...

North Carolina (+16.5) at Virginia Tech

Dan: It is a shame we took last week off do to your mandatory furlough because I went 10-0 on what would have been my picks . . . just kidding. Anyway moving on to this week we have a mid-week special as my Hokies embark on the first of two consecutive Thursday night games. Up this week is North Carolina, which blew a 24-6 second-half lead last Thursday to Florida State to lose that game. UNC now sits at 0-3 in conference. Job well done, Butch Davis. You are really turning around that program. I could have won a few championships at Miami with Ed Reed, Jeremy Shockey, Clinton Portis and Co. Now when faced with only moderate talent, your true colors are shining through.

UNC’s offense is brutal. They can’t run the ball, they can’t pass the ball and their receivers are just not good. I guess that is to be expected when you lose two receivers to the NFL draft. That being said, I feel that 16½ is a bit too much to give to them. Even on a Thursday night in Blacksburg. Problem with Frank Beamer and company is that they play things too conservative on offense most of the time. See last week's Georgia Tech debacle where VT spent the entire first half on Georgia Tech’s side of the field but failed to capitalize. That came back to bite them as they lost the game.

I do not see UNC giving VT a problem this week but I also do not see VT covering. Tech wins by two TDs… Virginia Tech 27, North Carolina 13

Dave: What are the odds the Tar Heels are actually the fourth-best football program in the state of North Carolina right now? Here's my current list:

1.) Wake Forest
2.) N.C. State
3.) Carolina Panthers
4.) North Carolina/Duke (tie)

Man, I almost feel bad for the folks in NC who have to watch that awful football each week. At least tonight, they can skip the football game and tune in to the World Series and new episodes of "The Office," "Community," and "30 Rock." That's what I'll be doing, too, so be sure to tell me tomorrow whether my prediction was right… Virginia Tech 36, North Carolina 10.

Chat Wrap: Week 8

Thanks, as always, for all the great questions folks. Plenty of thoughtful inquiries and a good number of simply humorous pot shots at the Gators. Good times.

If you missed any of the chat, you can relive the excitement by simply CLICKING HERE and pressing 'play.'

Those Who Don't Study History...

I have a story in today's Telegraph on the importance of the linebackers for Georgia this week.

In doing the reporting for the story, I didn't exactly get the warm fuzzies from the Bulldogs' comments about stopping the Gators. The keys to the game, they say, are many of the same things that they have struggled with the most this year -- stopping play-action, gap discipline, tackling.

And here's reason No. 1 for concern, and try not to throw up in your mouth after reading it:

Looking at Florida's offense -- a strong run game and a short passing attack that focuses on its tight end -- and wondered if the Gators might not end up looking a lot like South Carolina did earlier this season. As it turned out, Darryl Gamble had another analogy, and it's not one that offers tons of encouragement.

“Florida, they’ll try to give you a lot of misdirectional stuff," he said. "It’s more of playing like a Georgia Tech team. You’ve got to play your thing, what you’ve got to do. If you’ve got to stay in this gap, stay in this gap. It’s just more misdirectional stuff, so if your eyes are good, you should be good.”

Yikes. Um, that Georgia Tech game last year didn't go so well. And playing with your eyes? I felt like I had heard that before, so I went back to some comments made by Rennie Curran a few weeks ago and found what I was looking for.

“That’s another thing that comes from watching film. It’s eye progression and being disciplined. There are certain keys that give away that play-action, and those keys, you only know them if you study film, watch tendencies and know down and distance. Play-action is all about discipline in where your eyes go and knowing what you’re seeing.”

That's what Curran said after the Tennessee game when he complained that perhaps his teammates weren't spending enough time in the film room. Using their eyes has hardly been a strength this year.

The good news is, they've had an extra week to get in the film room for this game, so perhaps it will be a better overall effort that Georgia has seen previously. But Curran isn't arguing with Gamble's analysis. Regardless of Florida's struggles, this is a tough team to play -- not just physically, but mentally.

“They’re going to try to beat you deep, do different things to get you out of position, especially with having Tebow," Curran said. "They’re going to go to that spread and then Tebow’s going to try to run it. It just puts you on your heels a little bit more as far as not making mistakes and executing, making plays.”

Having said that, the road to success might not be as arduous as it used to be against Florida, and the key to stopping the Gators' offense, Curran said, isn't what most commentators will tell you. The key for Georgia's D? Make Tebow beat you.

“You want to put pressure on the quarterback to where he feels like he needs to make that extra play, make those extra yards," Curran said. "That’s pretty much what I’ve seen teams that have gotten Tebow to do – when he feels like he has to put the team on his back, he’s more prone to make a mistake.”

That's what Curran has learned from the past few weeks of watching the Gators. But how about defensive coordinator Willie Martinez? Here's a bit of what he had to say about this week's matchup…

On whether there is anything he can take, scheme-wise, from the success that Arkansas and Mississippi State had against Florida...

“Not really. They just played really well, really hard – the same things you say each and every week. The thing those guys did was they executed really well, they played really hard, they had those turnovers. Any time you’re turning the ball over, your opponent is going to have a good chance of winning. Arkansas played really hard, really well. Their defensive line played really well in the game. That’s what I saw. So you’re going into the ballgame, it’s the same thing. You want to try to control the line of scrimmage because that’s where it starts. They run the football. They set up the play-action pass really well. They have tremendous speed. They have great talent on the offensive side of the ball. You’ve just got to be patient and force them to execute and force them into third down-and-long situations, then once you get them into third down, you need to be successful.”

On working more this week to try to stop the play-action after struggling so badly against it in weeks past…

“We do that every week and it didn’t just start this week. You work on the things that hurt you in the previous game or throughout the season, and obviously build on the things you do really well. That’s no different. Prior to the Tennessee game, we did that. So we just have to play solid defense from the standpoint of lining up, fitting up right, making plays, forcing them into long yardage, and that means you have to do a really good job on first and second down and play-action. That’s always been part of their offense and why they’re so effective.”

On stopping Tim Tebow in the red zone this year after allowing him to rush for five touchdowns in the past two seasons…

“We’ve got to tackle better. We know he’s going to get the ball at those times, and you just have to make plays. He’s a very good player. If he wasn’t, we wouldn’t be talking about him every week. So you have to give him credit – he’s very talented and very tough. Our guys are looking forward to playing him, and you’ve just got to execute, play with an edge and play with a physicality that you need, especially in a game like this.”

On whether Florida's struggles in the vertical game mean he might challenge the Gators more, similar to what Mississippi State did by running a cover-zero last week…

“I don’t want to speak schematically, but the people that have had success and even our success when we beat them in ’07, it’s really the style that you play, the mentality you play with, the attitude you bring on every play. You’ve got to play physical. They’re a very talented football team, but we try not to make it about them. It’s really more about us and what we can do to help our team win. We know they’re tremendously talented on offense, but Mississippi State and Arkansas, they’re just playing hard, playing fast, making plays, forcing the quarterback to make poor decisions, whether it’s a breakdown in protection or just playing harder and faster. They just played really hard and really fast. That’s the key for us is to play that style, play that fast, play that hard and force the offense to get negative plays or keep them in long yardage.”