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Bulldogs can quiet critics with win

Frankly, the Bulldogs are sick of hearing about it. In fact, they would sincerely appreciate it if everybody would just shut up.

The problem is there's only one way to silence talk on the topic.

Beat Florida.

Georgia has had some trouble with that over the past decade. The Gators have won 12 of the past 13 between the schools.

So it stands to reason that questions about curses, psychological advantages and plain old bad luck have permeated talk this week.

"I think we're definitely tired of it," Georgia quarterback David Greene said. "Obviously Florida has had our number for like the last decade or so, and we definitely want to go out there and get a win.

"Most years we do play them close, but we can't ever get that win. That's something we definitely want to change."

The No. 4 Bulldogs' opportunity comes today when they play No. 23 Florida in Jacksonville. Georgia is favored by two but enters the game injury-riddled.

Seven players have been lost for the season, and a long list of others has missed multiple games. The injuries have taken a physical and emotional toll.

"The thing is, it's kind of discouraging," All-America defensive end David Pollack said. "You look around the huddle on defense and we're used to seeing Kedrick (Golston, defensive tackle) and I'm used to seeing Kentrell (Curry, safety), Decory (Bryant, cornerback) and a lot of other guys that are out, and it hurts you.

"Those are your brothers and it's frustrating that they don't get to be in there with you. It's disappointing, but we've got to keep fighting."

The Gators and Bulldogs meet for the 81st time traveling very different paths.

Florida lost consecutive home games to Tennessee and Ole Miss and three weeks ago looked headed for a disappointing season. But the Gators rebounded with wins on the road against LSU and Arkansas, both ranked in the Top 11 at the time. They can make school history by winning three straight against ranked opponents away from home.

Georgia has lost once but is coming off consecutive games in which its offense struggled. The Bulldogs scored two in the first half against Vanderbilt and defeated unranked UAB by three last week while Florida enjoyed a bye.

"It's going to be tough on us," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We're as banged up as I've seen a team be banged up, and they've gained an awful lot of momentum the last two ballgames. Plus, they got some time to rest.

"We barely had enough juice the last two weeks. I'm not sure if we've got enough or not, but we're going to try."

Florida coach Ron Zook isn't buying it, and for good reason.

The Bulldogs are ranked No. 65 in rushing offense and average 27 points, but what the offense has lacked, the defense has more than made up for.

Georgia is No. 1 in the nation in total defense, holding opponents to 243.38 yards per game, and third in scoring defense with opponents averaging 11.

"This is my seventh (Florida-Georgia) game and I really don't believe that it matters whether you're tired, whether you're banged up," Zook said. "I told our guys don't play that game. We'll get their best game Saturday."

As is customary with this series, a lot is on the line. Both are trying to remain in the hunt for the SEC East title. Georgia is first at 4-1, Florida and Tennessee are tied for second at 3-2.

"We're in a position where we control our own destiny, and I think our football team understands that," Zook said.

Added Richt: "It's huge for both teams. Both teams are still in it and mathematically all kind of things could happen if Florida were to win the game. (A win) keeps either team in the running."

Stats, injuries and game plays aside, the players and coaches said heart and pride matter most in this historic rivalry. Zook is so convinced of that he asked his seniors to try to mentally prepare the team's younger players, including freshman starting quarterback Chris Leak.

"You think of the biggest rivalry in high school and times it by 20," offensive tackle Max Starks said. "I've been in big games. We've had big rivalry games where things happen the entire week leading up to the game. This game, there's no comparison.

"No Florida State, no Tennessee, no Miami game can compare to this game right here. It's one of the top games in college football. It's one of the top games in the SEC. Once they get there they'll understand."