ATHENS — Kirby Smart stood before his Georgia football team, as he usually does at team meetings, and took a poll: Everyone who has beaten Florida, Smart said, please stand up.
There were a few awkward moments.
“It was sobering,” senior tight end Jeb Blazevich said. “With so much praise going on, on the outside, it’s like, ‘Guys this is where we’re at.’ Nobody has beaten these guys.”
Technically, a few Georgia players were on the last Bulldogs team to beat Florida, but that was back in 2013, and the only holdovers were redshirting and didn’t take the field. Since then it’s been all Florida.
This season it’s expected to be all Georgia: The Bulldogs are two-touchdown favorites, unbeaten and ranked No. 3 in the country, while the Gators (3-3) are reeling on and off the field. So to counteract that potential rat poison, Smart and his staff have gone about reminding their players about the recent history of this game.
Signs have been posted around the football offices and meeting rooms featuring the scores and photos of the last few Florida games.
“Things we don’t want to see,” junior center Lamont Gaillard said.
There’s also been an effort to bolster this season’s Florida team, which is three points from being 5-1, as Georgia senior nose tackle John Atkins pointed out. (The Gators’ last two games were a one-point loss to LSU and a two-point loss to Texas A&M, both at home.)
That conveniently overlooks that the other loss, by 16 points, was to a Michigan team that has fallen out of the AP poll, and that the Gators barely beat struggling Tennessee at home and squeaked by Kentucky by one.
But three yearsago Georgia was also expected to cruise. Georgia was 6-1 and ranked No. 11 in the nation while Florida was 3-3 and unranked. Georgia was favored by nearly two touchdowns. The result: Florida rolled to a 38-20 win, and the Bulldogs scored a touchdown with three seconds lefts.
“I just remember them running for a lot of yards,” Georgia senior cornerback Aaron Davis said. “They ran for 400-something that game.”
Atkins recalled Florida’s fake field goal for a touchdown near the end of the first half.
“It was a crazy game,” Atkins said. “They really imposed their will on us.”
The next year saw Georgia, desperate for an offensive spark, vault former third-string quarterback Faton Bauta for his one and only start. He was picked off four times and Georgia lost, 27-3. (Georgia entered that game unranked while Florida was No. 11.)
Florida also held serve last year, winning a convincing 24-10 game. That made it three in a row, equaling the three-game win streak Georgia had going before that 2014 upset.
“Shoot, that was forever ago, it feels like. [But] it wasn’t that far ago,” Blazevich said. “We just try to keep it consistent; nothing in the past should affect how we prepare. Whether we won that game and the two after it, that shouldn’t affect how I practice and prepare.
“Coach Smart says it doesn’t matter who’s the better team or the favored team, it just matters who plays best on that day. We need to make sure that’s us.”