Fourteen days will have passed since Georgia last played a football game by the time the Bulldogs take the field against the ninth-ranked Florida Gators on Saturday.
After suffering a 36-16 beatdown at the hands of LSU on Oct. 13, seventh-ranked Georgia has been eager to get back on the field to correct the extensive issues that plagued it during the loss to the Tigers. While the bye week could serve the Bulldogs well in correcting those issues, Saturday’s meeting with a bitter rival serves as Georgia’s chance at redemption.
"It's the beauty of the sport. You win some, you lose some, but it's all about how you respond,” senior linebacker Natrez Patrick said. “It's never about what you start, it's always about how you finish. Right now, we're about to see how our team responds, see how our young guys respond, see how our leaders respond. It's all about the response at this point."
Not much went right for the Bulldogs against LSU. Georgia was outgained by over 150 yards, gave up a season-high 275 rushing yards and the Bulldog offense was stale for the majority of the game.
Georgia can’t afford to repeat those problems.
Saturday’s matchup in Jacksonville will determine the frontrunner in the SEC East, and a loss would take the Bulldogs out of the national title picture far sooner than expected. Not to mention the fact that a loss to Florida could represent a power shift in the division as the 6-1 Gators are thriving under first-year head coach Dan Mullen.
"This is really the game where we've got to come out and play Georgia football,” junior defensive lineman Michael Barnett said. “We have to attack them early. We have to do what we do best. And that is basically stopping the run and getting touchdowns and making everything right and execution, execution, execution."
Last season, a resounding road defeat appeared to light a fire under the Bulldogs.
Georgia responded to a 40-17 drubbing at Auburn with back-to-back wins to end the regular season before topping the Tigers for the SEC title. And, of course, the Bulldogs came within a few points of a national title later on.
There’s no guarantee this year’s team will come close to that level of success. But that doesn’t mean it won’t have the chance to.
A win over a top-10 team in a rivalry game would have Georgia riding high again, and the Bulldogs are aware that a strong performance would indicate that this year’s team still has a shot of achieving its national championship goals.
It’s for that reason the players are hungry to take the field again, and to try to erase the bad memories of their last performance.
"We're very eager,” Barnett said. “We're just trying to hone in on what we know best. I mean, we were banged up [against LSU]. We've just got to keep pushing through that wall. Even though we're tired and what not, we've just got to keep pushing through and I think we're going to push through. Having that week off, everybody just regrouped and just took a load off and just basically got back right."