Georgia set for No. 2 after decisive Florida win

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Own the burden.

That was Kirby Smart’s message to third-ranked Georgia coming into Saturday’s game at EverBank Field against arch-rival Florida.

While some coaches don’t want their team thinking about rankings, Smart took a different approach, challenging his Bulldogs to embrace the opportunity.

That’s just what they did with a 42-7 romp over the Gators. With Ohio State’s 39-38 win over Penn State, Georgia is now primed to move to No. 2 behind Alabama.

“We talked a long time this week about owning their burden, the burden of being a highly ranked team, to being the favorite,” Smart said. “Own the burden with your work and let it pay off on Saturdays.”

Georgia (8-0, 5-0) dominated the rival Gators from beginning to end, sacking quarterback Feleipe Franks five times and outgaining Florida in total offense 390-249.

Senior running back Sony Michel, a Florida native, enjoyed a stellar day by rushing six times for 137 yards, pushing him over the 3,000-yard mark for his career.

Backfield mate Nick Chubb also left his stamp on the game, rushing for 77 yards and one touchdown. Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm attempted just seven passes, completing four for 101 yards and one touchdown on a 17-yard pass to Javon Wims.

“We are just keeping the circle tight,” Michel said. “Once you start playing for each other, you start having fun and you start winning.”

Florida (3-4, 3-3) did little right as rumors about coach Jim McElwain’s future swirl.

Running back Lamical Perine put up some respectable numbers, rushing for 93 yards. Franks completed just 7 of 19 passes for 30 yards and an interception before being replaced by Malik Zaire, who led the Gators on their only touchdown drive, capped when Mark Thompson scored from 1-yard out with 2:42 to play.

McElwain was asked after the game if he was concerned about his job security.

“Well, (I) mean at the end of the day, we all were brought in here to win, and we haven’t done it,” McElwain said. “My concern isn’t about my job. My concern is about these players and our staff. We’ve got a fantastic staff, coaches support staff and their families. That’s the concern, you know it isn’t about me.”

The first quarter could not have been scripted any better for the Bulldogs as Georgia’s opening three possessions each resulted in touchdowns for a 21-0 lead.

A 6-yard run by Chubb capped a four-play, 53-yard drive that took just 2:02, followed by a 17-yard touchdown pass from Fromm to Wims that was set up by Dominick Sanders’ third interception of the year. Michel’s 74-yard touchdown run on the first play following Georgia’s third stop pushed the score 21-0.

Whatever chance the Gators had of mounting a comeback likely died on their next possession. Florida marched 82 yards, mostly on the ground, before a fourth-and-2 pass from the 4 fell incomplete, ending a drive that took 7:34 off the clock.

“They jumped on us early,” McElwain said. “I thought our guys hung in. I would have liked to have been able to punch that one in during the first half.”

That would be all the scoring for Georgia until Michel scored from 45 yards out with 6:43 to go in the third quarter. That was followed 1:22 later by the sack and strip of Franks that resulted in Reed’s scoop and score.

“We pride ourselves on offenses not scoring because if you can’t score, you can’t win,” linebacker Roquan Smith said. “We’ve still got some things to clean up, but we’ll work hard on that and improve. I’ll promise you that.”

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