Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs urgently need win to boost SEC East hopes

In the hours after Florida's loss to Mississippi State two weeks ago, even coach Urban Meyer thought the Gators' ultimate goal was effectively out of reach after their third consecutive loss.

Then someone slipped him a little updated information. Even with three losses, Florida was still in the hunt for the SEC East title.

"I didn't know that," said Meyer, whose team's hopes benefited from division leader South Carolina's loss to Kentucky. "So it lifted my spirits, and it lifted a lot of guys' spirits around here.

"I think 18- to 22-year-olds are all motivated differently, obviously differently than maybe a grownup or a coach or a parent or something like that. I think the moment I put up the standings of the SEC East and they see what's going on (they were motivated)."

Such is life in the SEC East these days. Once considered the premier division in the league, the East is now the side that could very well have a three- or four-loss team representing it in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

When Florida (4-3, 2-3) and Georgia (4-4, 3-3) meet today in the annual rivalry in Jacksonville, both will still be fighting for their SEC lives. Florida controls its destiny but must win the remainder of its league games. Georgia needs help.

For two teams that have had their share of struggles this year, it's not something they are primarily focused on, but it's clearly a big part of today's game.

"Let's face it, every season winning the Eastern Division is very important to us," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "And if we're mathematically out of it, it's tougher to motivate. Even when we were 0-3 in the league, it was not mathematically impossible (to win the division). And I was personally keeping my hope the whole time. I wasn't talking much about it; I was just trying to win a game when we were sitting there 0-3 in the league.

"But as we began to win and other teams began to lose, it was apparent that there's a chance. … So everybody's aware that even though we don't control the East in any way, shape or form, it could happen that a three- or four-loss team can get there."

Having something at stake isn't unusual when these two meet. In the 18 years of the SEC Championship Game, the winner of this rivalry has represented the East 12 times.

But their game has a different feel this season, particularly for Florida. The Gators have won 17 of the past 20 and four of the past five games in the series. But they enter today's game after a bye week and three consecutive losses. The Gators can't downplay how much a victory would mean.

"Real bad," senior safety Ahmad Black said when asked how much the Gators need a win. "These next couple games are huge for us. Like (Meyer) has said a couple times, we need to get urgent about everything. And urgency is a key factor."

Meyer isn't fond of the word "desperation," saying it sounds, well, too desperate. But he acknowledged this week that the Gators are just that and need to play with urgency. The players have gotten the message.

"We really need this win," senior center Mike Pouncey said.

If momentum is everything, then the edge today should go to the Bulldogs. Georgia enters the game on a three-game winning streak, with a solid defense and its offense finally clicking behind redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray, out of Plant High. For the first time, the Bulldogs have scored more than 40 points in three straight SEC games, all victories that have kept them in the title hunt.

Because Florida had the bye week, the Bulldogs expect to face a different team than the one they've studied on film.

"We've lost three games, so there's definitely a sense of urgency," senior receiver Carl Moore said. "Those are three games that we didn't expect to lose and that we didn't want to lose.

"Everyone is taking it serious. Everyone is realizing that the window is closing and either we step up now or we don't know how the season is going to end for us."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com. Follow her coverage at gators.tampabay.com.

. fast facts

SEC East standings

Team SEC Overall

S. Carolina 3-2 5-2

Georgia 3-3 4-4

Florida 2-3 4-3

Vanderbilt 1-3 2-6

Kentucky 1-4 4-4

Tennessee 0-4 2-5

Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs urgently need win to boost SEC East hopes 10/29/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 29, 2010 9:57pm]

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