Rivals seek much-needed win

Florida coach Will Muschamp shakes hands with Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt after the game last year in Jacksonville.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, November 1, 2013 at 9:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 1, 2013 at 9:02 p.m.

Welcome to the “Desperation Bowl.”

Two teams desperate for a win will collide on the grass surface usually reserved for the Keystone Kops of the NFL hoping to put together a performance that will save a season.

Right now, those seasons are hurting.

If you went as Florida’s football season for Halloween, you probably were in a walking boot or on crutches with your arm in a sling, a bandage around your head and a thermometer sticking out of your mouth.

The same goes for Georgia, although the Bulldogs have what nobody else in the SEC East has had this year — a quarterback who has been healthy all season. Aaron Murray is the reason Georgia has two big wins this season and has been right there in its three losses.

At 4-3, both teams are staring down the barrel of the unthinkable — no bowl for you. And at the same time, they both have a chance to win the SEC East and go to Atlanta. Is this a great country or what?

The game lacks buzz and it’s about as sexy as John Goodman in a Speedo. But it’s still Florida-Georgia.

So it’s big.

It’s big for Murray, who can become the third Georgia quarterback to win three games against the mighty Gators. This is a guy who came back for his senior season and was rewarded by losing his top four receivers and top two running backs to injuries. Thanks for coming back, pal.

His legacy may be winning two straight SEC East titles and breaking all of the passing records in the SEC. Yeah, right.

When you’re a Georgia quarterback, you are measured by the Florida game. He goes 3-1 against the Gators, a team that had beaten Georgia 18 out of the previous 21 times, that will be his legacy.

That will be his ticket to free drinks for life in North Georgia.

And that’s why it’s big for Mark Richt. The Georgia coach was having the same issues as predecessors Ray Goff and Jim Donnan with the Gators. He lost eight of his first 10 to Florida and one of those wins came against a coach who was fired earlier in the week.

But take three straight against the Gators? It hasn’t happened since 1987-89. And it would buy the coach a lot of good will.

Speaking of Will, as in Muschamp, it’s bigger for him than anybody. He can talk about how he doesn’t treat any one game differently than another, but this one is different because he played at Georgia. That’s one reason it’s big for him, to shut up the lunatic fringe who believe (and I’m not making this up) that he is throwing the games to Georgia because he’s still a Dog at heart.

But that’s not the biggest reason. Muschamp needs something good to happen in a season where bad news has shown up at the doorstep more than unwanted relatives. I’m surprised Muschamp hasn’t torn a hamstring yet, the way the injuries are piling up.

Would a win salvage this season? Absolutely. It would also cripple Georgia’s. The Dogs’ season would need a wheelchair to get to the plane home.

The bottom line is that these are two unranked teams with fleeting hopes of making steak out of hamburger. That doesn’t exactly make for must-see TV, but we all know better. The atmosphere is unlike any other and that rush of blood to the head when the teams come over the bridges is intoxicating.

There’s something else that makes this one big — neither season ends Saturday night, but one of them will be over.

The loser is finished in the East, finished in any hopes of a decent bowl and wondering if it will make one, finished in the eyes of their fans. There will be other games this season, but they will only be important for the winner.

So this game, this bowl of desperation, is big. It’s just big for different reasons than usual.

But this has been a different season.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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