For only the second time since 1980 Florida and Georgia will face off against each other with both teams absent from the top-25 polls. Injuries are the chief reason that the two have stumbled to identical 4-3 (3-2 SEC East) records and the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has been newly dubbed the “World’s Largest Outdoor Pity Party” by fans of both schools.
While it’s easy to make jokes from the outside looking in, don’t expect either head coach to use injuries as an excuse for how their teams have performed this season.
“We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “I doubt Florida is feeling sorry for themselves. I think both teams know that with a win you stay in the race for the east. That’s nothing to feel pitiful about.”
Georgia has had a total of 24 players miss time this season, ranging from injured enough to miss practice to season-ending. Georgia was already trying to replace a school record eight players who were selected in last year’s NFL Draft but the injuries have left them relying on younger, less experienced players to fill the void. Georgia has played 14 freshmen this season with seven earning starts.
It’s an issue that Will Muschamp and the Gators have been dealing with as well as the Gators have played 17 freshmen (10 true freshmen) this season.
“Anytime you take a player that’s repped a position or a situation over a long period of time and you introduce something within a game week, it’s difficult,” Muschamp said. “That’s not something you ever want to do, especially if it’s an inexperienced player that hasn’t played a lot. That’s happened to us a couple times.”
A “couple of times” is an understatement. The Gators have lost eight players to season-ending surgery and that’s a list that includes five starters or players who were presumed starters (Andre Debose, Chaz Green) heading into the season.
Both Florida and Georgia have had to adapt and adjust on the fly this season. Richt credited his team’s mentality that has been instilled during his tenure as the reason that the team has been able to stick together through adversity.
“We really have taken pride in having a tremendous team concept at Georgia, a very strong family concept at Georgia and we believe in each other. I believe in our coaches and I believe in our team.” Richt said.
The Dogs and Gators both limp into Jacksonville this Saturday, their razor thing hopes of making it to Atlanta on the line and both teams will make the best of what they have left on injury riddled rosters.
“It’s part of the game,” Muschamp said on Monday. “Injuries are a part of it. You strap up with who you have and you move forward.