October 25, 2009

Bulldog brace for defending champs

A reporter from Florida threw Mark Richt a line during Sunday's teleconference but the Bulldog head coach wasn't biting.

The question posed was whether or not Richt thought that Gator quarterback Tim Tebow was throwing the football any different and perhaps trying to do too much to make up for any perceived lack of talent at wide receiver compared to last season.

Richt wasn't about to play that game.

"I don't know about that," Richt said. "I've always said that Tim Tebow was one of the finest players in the history of college football and he hasn't changed my opinion one bit."

There will be no bulletin board material this year.

Last season, all the talk leading up to the annual showdown in Jacksonville was Georgia's touchdown celebration from the season before, and what kind of "revenge" Gators coach Urban Meyer might have in mind.

A couple of timeouts by the Gators in the final minute with Florida up by 39 helped rub salt in the Bulldogs' wounds. But this year, after a 4-3 start, Georgia is content to simply ease its way into Jacksonville as quietly as possible.

"That stuff (from last year) hasn't even entered my mind," Richt said. "I'm just trying to prepare for this game - period. All that stuff from last year doesn't mean much."

Richt is more interested in his team playing a complete game, something the Bulldogs have only come close to doing once all year.

"The season has been up and down; there's no doubt about that," Richt said. "We've just not played consistently well, in really any game this year. I guess the closes we came was against Vanderbilt where we did well offensively, defensively and special teams. We were pretty good overall, but we know we'll have to be much better (Saturday)."

Kickoff Saturday in Jacksonville is set for 3:30 p.m. (CBS).

"This is just a game where we've got to go out and just let it all hang out," linebacker Rennie Curran said. "We can't worry about making mistakes. We've just got to fly out and do what we can to make plays. There's no pressure on his at all in this game. We just need to go out and have fun."

Although defending national champion Florida (7-0, 5-0) remains the top 10 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, the Gators have looked a bit more human in recent weeks.

First, there was a 23-20 close call against Arkansas, followed by last Saturday's 29-19 victory at Mississippi State.

But whatever perceived issues Florida might be having, Richt isn't buying it.

"We've got to prepare for this game thinking that Florida is going to be at its best, which I'm sure they will be," Richt said. "We have no reason to think that's not we're going to get. We've always gotten Florida's best shot before so that's we've got to be expecting."

At least the Bulldogs should be healthier than they've been in several weeks.

Richt said Sunday that it appears that both linebackers Marcus Dowtin and Akeem Dent will be able to return.

Dowtin has missed the past two games since undergoing finger surgery, while Dent has missed the past six games with a bad hamstring.

"As of right now both are probable, although Marcus is more probably than Dent at this point," Richt said. "That's not to say that Dent won't make, but if he is able to go (Sunday), my guess is he will be in there, too."

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