Georgia has won three in a row against the Gators (3-3, 2-3), matching its longest winning streak in the series since its six-game streak from 1978-83.
Can they extend the streak and perhaps put the final nail in Will Muschamp’s coffin as Florida’s coach? Here are four key factors and storylines as we approach kickoff:
Florida coach Ron Zook was fired during the week of the 2004 Florida-Georgia game and nearly led his team to an upset win against No. 7 Georgia. The Bulldogs led 24-7 early before Florida rallied to make it 24-21 early in the fourth quarter. Georgia had to recover a late onside kick and run out the clock to seal a 31-24 win.
On the Georgia side, who knows whether Mark Richt and his staff would still be in place were it not for their 2011 win in Jacksonville. To that point, Richt was 2-8 against the Gators and had nearly lost the fan base after starting that season with losses to Boise State and South Carolina.
Some program insiders thought the Richt regime would not survive another loss to Florida, but it never came to that. The Bulldogs connected on fourth-down touchdown passes to Michael Bennett and Tavarres King, took the lead on a Richard Samuel touchdown run in the fourth quarter and built momentum that carried UGA to its first SEC East title since 2005.
Maybe Georgia covers the double-digit spread on Saturday, but remember that teams with coaches on the hotseat typically refuse to roll over in this series.
Turning to Treon: Freshman quarterback Treon Harris will make his first career start against Georgia -- mostly because Jeff Driskel (97-183, 928 yards, 6 touchdowns, 10 interceptions) has been atrocious and partially because Harris has injected some much-needed life into the Gators’ stagnant offense when he has come off the bench.
Harris (12-18, 263 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception) generated instant buzz when he went 2-for-2 for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the Gators’ opening rout of Eastern Michigan, but has played only intermittently since then. He split time with Driskel in Florida’s last game, a 42-13 loss to Missouri, and led the Gators to two late scores. It seems to be his job now, so Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has surely designed schemes to confuse the rookie.
The Bulldogs frequently blitz opposing quarterbacks, with defensive back Damian Swann (two sacks, five quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles) and linebacker Amarlo Herrera (three sacks, five hurries) making several big plays as extra rushers.
Florida versus the run: Harris versus Georgia’s defense is certainly the key matchup, but a close second is Florida’s rushing defense against Nick Chubb and the Bulldogs’ backfield.
The Gators likely believe this is their saving grace since they rank 12th nationally in total defense (317.3 ypg) and No. 22 against the run (117.7 ypg), but those numbers are somewhat deceptive. Florida has faced two offenses that rank in the nation’s top 50 in rushing offense -- Alabama and LSU -- and both ran effectively against the Gators. Alabama had 52 carries for 223 yards in a blowout win over Florida and LSU ran 50 times for 195 yards and three scores in a 30-27 win.
Even with this week’s news that Todd Gurley will not play for Georgia, the Bulldogs still figure to pound the run with Chubb and Brendan Douglas. Since Gurley was suspended prior to the Missouri game, Chubb is averaging 34 carries per game and 172.5 rushing yards per game.
If Florida devises a way to slow down the UGA freshman, it has a chance to win. So far, nobody has done that.
Turnover battle: If quarterback Hutson Mason (10 touchdowns, 3 interceptions) and Georgia continue to protect the football the way they have thus far, it’s difficult to envision Florida pulling the upset.
No team has committed fewer turnovers (four) than Georgia or surrendered fewer points off turnovers (three). Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have scored 55 points off 17 takeaways and rank sixth nationally with a plus-52 points-off-turnovers margin.
Driskel was a turnover dispenser, so it will be interesting to see whether Harris fares any better in his first college start. The Gators have turned it over 16 times (five fumbles and 11 interceptions) and are tied for 75th nationally with a minus-6 points-off-turnover margin (they’ve scored 48 points after turnovers and given up 54).
That trend looks like a huge advantage for Georgia, but the Bulldogs have to force mistakes from the freshman and continue to capitalize like they have in the past. Georgia has scored a defensive touchdown in three of the last four games. Another play like that might bury the Gators.
1. This team, unlike its predecessor, is at times more lucky than good.
2. The Seminoles are still pretty darn good, even with all their injuries.
3. Jameis Winston is an excellent crunch-time quarterback.
4. FSU likely has too many warts to repeat as national champion.
5. Jimbo Fisher is an unquestionably brilliant coach.
Let's focus on the last item. Fisher's coaching acumen often gets overlooked, often because of what Fisher says and does away from the sideline.
He out-coached Louisville's Bobby Petrino in the second half Thursday, pushing the right buttons, especially on a third-and-6 from Louisville's 35-yard line late in the fourth quarter. Winston found a wide-open Freddie Stevenson, who scooted in for an easy, euthanizing touchdown. It's another reminder that Fisher is at the top of his game.
Fisher's clout as a recruiter also showed up as three freshmen, led by running back Dalvin Cook, reached the end zone. And his Seminoles team, despite myriad mistakes and continuing controversy, won its 24th straight game.
So why is it so hard to celebrate Fisher? Because of the other stuff.
2. Saturday’s South Carolina-Tennessee game will be a battle of the walking wounded. Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said Thursday that linebacker Skai Moore (ankle) and Kadetrix Marcus (shoulder) will not play. Ward said the Gamecocks are preparing to face Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs, not South Carolina native Justin Worley, whom Tennessee’s coaches have said will not play. The oft-injured Worley will not get the homecoming he would have liked to cap his career.
3. Sebastian Tretola was an obvious choice as the SEC’s Offensive Lineman of the Week after Arkansas’ left guard threw a touchdown pass on a trick play last week against UAB. But a Heisman Trophy contender? The Razorbacks are promoting him for college football’s most coveted award with a tongue-in-cheek video after the 350-pound lineman put himself on the map last weekend. In all seriousness, Bret Bielema’s trick plays are part of why his teams are entertaining to watch.
Around the SEC
" The NCAA reinstatement committee denied Georgia’s appeal on its Todd Gurley decision, meaning the Bulldogs’ star running back must sit out the next two games before a Nov. 15 return against Auburn.
" Kentucky hopes to end its SEC road woes when it visits Missouri this weekend.
" Texas A&M won’t announce its decision on a starting quarterback until Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe.
" LSU’s grounds crew had to replace at least nine patches of sod that were dug up by fans on the Tiger Stadium playing surface after the Tigers’ 10-7 win Saturday.
" Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley writes that it will be shades of 1973 for Florida when it faces Georgia on Saturday.
Tweet of the day
Guess who Bruce Pearl wants to be for Halloween.
The NCAA announced Thursday night that its Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee has upheld Georgia running back Todd Gurley's four-game suspension, meaning he'll miss the Bulldogs' next two games after sitting out the previous two.
Georgia officials appealed the ruling earlier this week after the NCAA had said that Gurley would have to sit out 30 percent of his team's competition, or four games, for accepting $3,000 to autograph memorabilia for multiple dealers over the past two years.
Gurley, who was a leading Heisman Trophy candidate before the suspension, will miss Georgia's game against Florida in Jacksonville, Florida and next week's game at Kentucky.
He will be eligible to return for the Bulldogs' home contest against Auburn (No. 3 CFP, No. 4 AP) on Nov. 15.
"We are very disappointed in tonight's decision by the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee regarding our appeal on Todd Gurley's eligibility reinstatement," Georgia said in a statement Thursday. "We believe our case to the NCAA for Todd's immediate reinstatement was strong and compelling. However, we now have exhausted all available options and look forward to Todd's return to competition on Nov. 15. The full attention of Bulldog Nation now needs to be focused on our team and Saturday's important game against Florida."
Georgia (No. 11 CFP, No. 9 AP) has won its last two games without Gurley, as freshman Nick Chubb has rushed for 345 yards and three touchdowns while leading the Bulldogs to road victories at Missouri and Arkansas.
Gurley, a junior from Tarboro, North Carolina, has rushed for 773 yards with eight touchdowns and has averaged 8.2 yards per carry.
Hey Georgia Bulldogs, lift those chins up and poke those chests out. You've got a playoff run to make.
Then, the first tattered domino fell Tuesday night. The College Football Playoff committee wasn't very impressed with you. Couple that bad, early-season loss to a less-than-impressive South Carolina team with what the committee must have thought was a soft first-half slate, and you debuted in the College Football Playoff Rankings at No. 11. I even agree that the best win Georgia has is against Clemson, which just happens to be ranked No. 21, but come on. Eleventh? This team is better than that.
However, that wasn't the most disheartening news. On Wednesday, you found out that Gurley will have to sit out two more games for accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia. The NCAA then arrogantly boasted that it could have made things even worse for Gurley, adding a little gasoline to the already effervescent flame dancing on the program.
But fear not, Dawgs. Grab those hoses, because there's plenty of time to prove the committee wrong.
Don't like the committee or Twitter tell you that you aren't a beautiful butterfly. Don't let esteemed ESPN colleague Andrea Adelson try and steal your shine! (I heard what she said about you guys on our Spreecast, too.) You guys are the real deal, right now, and you have a chance to really impress the committee with what you have ahead in November.
Plus, you'll start the month without Gurley. Yes, he's out against a struggling Florida team and a Kentucky team still looking to grow, but Nick Chubb will once again have to carry the rushing load with Keith Marshall and Sony Michel sidelined. Hey, if he keeps trucking along without help, the committee will have to take that into account. This kid is a true freshman, yet he's dazzling fans and punishing defenders barely removed from his senior prom. Not to add anymore pressure to his already piled plate, but he does look like a young Gurley.
People want to trash your schedule? You know, the one you were dealt and had no control over this season? Well, you still have No. 3 Auburn (at home), and chances are you're headed to Atlanta for the SEC championship game, unless you get really sloppy. I understand that the East is, well, like an old horror movie, but that's not your fault. Don't beat yourself up because there is no real East challenger at the moment. Just take care of business, and the committee will start to come around. A win over Auburn will have you skyrocketing up the rankings.
Even though people aren't impressed with your early state, you're a better team now than you were after the South Carolina game.
I was wrong about this defense not having what it took to sustain success through the entire season. The secondary still doesn't exactly wow me, but the front seven is playing better than I thought it would, thanks to new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt deciding to go with a more aggressive plan by getting those linebackers more involved in the backfield. The defensive line has been disruptive at the right times this season.
This is a defense that is getting better each week. Do not dwell on what happened during the second half of the Arkansas game. I get it, you built a commanding 38-6 halftime lead and coasted in the second half. Hey, it happens. Look at Alabama against Tennessee for crying out loud.
Before that game, you shut out Missouri 34-0 on the road in the first of two games without Gurley.
I've learned that this team doesn't need to stretch the ball with the deep pass because it runs so well. Hutson Mason would like to chuck it around, but he hasn't had to, yet, even though he's getting more comfortable with his receivers. And once Gurley gets back for the Auburn game, Mason might be able to do even more with Gurley and Chubb helping out.
The SEC and the Playoff are both there for the taking, Georgia. So ignore the Twitter tough guys. Shake off the hatin' committee. Just continue to do what you're doing, and people will come around.
I know I did.
Three teams -- Mississippi State, Auburn and Ole Miss -- found their way into the top four of the rankings, nearly causing a viral revolt. Let's get one thing straight, though. There is no SEC bias, but there are some very talented teams in the SEC. The committee sees it and decided three SEC teams were worthy of their high placements.
These folks complaining about the SEC's initial playoff outlook might not have much to gripe about in a few weeks (when the rankings actually matter) because the conference is in for a bloody, bloody month. The SEC West, which owns four of the top six teams in the country, is about to beat its ever-loving brains in.
The SEC now finds itself in an interesting situation. A week ago, everyone was talking about the possibility of the SEC getting two teams in. Then, Ole Miss lost to LSU.
After the first set of rankings were released, it's clear the committee is impressed with what the SEC West has done to this point. But things are about to get a little complicated for the league, as it begins to devour itself even more, starting with No. 4 Ole Miss hosting No. 3 Auburn on Saturday in what is essentially an elimination game in the Grove.
"This is the time of year where the good teams really come up to the top because they've got to be consistently good," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "It's hard to get better this time of year. Most teams can't do it."
There are four regular-season games remaining between top-six teams, and they all involve SEC West teams. Shame on you if you can't get excited about the cannibalization that is about to ensue in the SEC.
With Ole Miss playing Auburn and Mississippi State, Alabama playing LSU and Mississippi State, and Auburn playing Georgia, the SEC will feast on itself during the month that houses our most gluttonous holiday -- Thanksgiving.
As of this moment, what playoff scenarios still lurk for the SEC? Well, let's take a look:
(Note: I think we can all agree that the SEC champion will make the playoff, regardless of if it has one or two losses. Three losses could complicate things, but we're going off the assumption that the SEC champ won't have three losses.)
This is the simplest scenario. If No. 1 Mississippi State wins out and wins the SEC, the Bulldogs are in. Duh. Same for No. 4 Ole Miss. No questions asked.
Well, what happens if Ole Miss wins out and Mississippi State's only loss is to the Rebels on the road? I think the committee would have a tough decision involving Mississippi State, because its only loss would be an Ole Miss squad that probably wouldn't dip below fourth in the rankings. Mississippi State beat three top-10 teams in a row earlier this season and No. 6 Alabama (on the road) still looms.
Ascending in Alabama
Alabama or Auburn wins out. Now, there's a chance one of these teams could still make it to Atlanta, but they both need help. Auburn needs Mississippi State to lose at least two more games, and Alabama needs Ole Miss to lose at least one more.
But even if neither makes it to Atlanta, a one-loss Alabama or Auburn could make it into the playoff. Think about the gauntlet both teams would have gone through only to escape with one loss to a team currently ranked inside the top four. It's similar to Alabama making it into the BCS title game in 2011 without playing in Atlanta.
Also, Alabama is currently ranked first in ESPN’s Football Power Index and second in ESPN's strength of record metric and Auburn still has to play three teams on the road ranked inside the top 11.
Georgia ... Oh, Georgia
These Bulldogs could really stir things up. If Georgia wins the East, then a win in Atlanta will send the Bulldogs to the playoff. Even with a loss to Auburn in two weeks, an SEC-winning Georgia would make the playoff.
And that's where things get interesting. What if unbeaten Mississippi State loses to Georgia? Is Mississippi State left out? Would a two-loss Georgia team eliminate Mississippi State altogether?
You think that's tricky? What if Alabama or Auburn wins out, but either Mississippi State or Ole Miss goes to Atlanta and loses? Who do you send? Chances are a two-loss Ole Miss team would be eliminated, but how does the committee look at one-loss Mississippi State and one-loss Auburn? Mississippi State won head-to-head, but will the committee care later? You'd think so, but these are imperfect humans we're talking about.
Honestly, this is what everyone should be rooting for. There's a chance the SEC might have four two-loss teams from the West before the SEC championship game.
Here you go: LSU wins out, beating Alabama; Alabama beats Mississippi State and Auburn; Ole Miss loses to Auburn and beats Mississippi State; Auburn beats Georgia. Now Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss all have two losses. Or Alabama beats LSU and Mississippi State, but loses to Auburn; Ole Miss beats Auburn and Mississippi State, but loses to Arkansas; Auburn beats Georgia and Alabama. Now, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss all have two losses.
A tiebreaker decides the West, and then the winner of the SEC title goes to the playoff. Chances are the loser, which would have more than one loss, won't make it.
How the committee views the SEC in the coming weeks will be interesting. If everyone starts losing, hold onto your Tiger Rags and pour another hot toddy, because there are going to be a lot of sleepless nights in the month of November.
Why Georgia wins big: Even without Todd Gurley lining up for Georgia, the Bulldogs still have an absolute stud in freshman Nick Chubb. In two games as a starter, Chubb has rushed for 345 yards and three touchdowns. The kid just tosses people around out there and certainly has a little Gurley in him. Florida is starting the Treon Harris era at quarterback, but the offense has been lousy for the better part of the season, while Georgia's defense is on a roll. It'll be tight early, but Georgia pounds away in the second half. Georgia 28, Florida 14 -- Edward Aschoff
How Florida keeps it close: This is Harris' game at quarterback, and he certainly provides more of a spark than Jeff Driskel. If Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor can run the football and negate some of the pressure from Georgia's talented pass-rushers, Florida could have some success moving the football. If they can even out the time of possession battle, you'll see a much more effective defense from the Gators. Georgia 21, Florida 13 -- Alex Scarborough
Why Kentucky wins: Missouri just can't seem to get it together. Just look at last weekend's game against Vanderbilt. Sure, the Tigers won, but not convincingly. And Kentucky is no Vanderbilt. The Wildcats gave Mississippi State a run for its money and beat South Carolina a few weeks ago. With a true playmaker at quarterback and a better-than-expected defense, Kentucky will give Missouri fits on both sides of the ball and win on the road. Kentucky 30, Missouri 20 -- Alex Scarborough
Why Missouri wins: Ever since a 34-0 beatdown at the hands of Georgia, the Tigers have looked shaky, especially on offense. But things are gradually getting better as quarterback Maty Mauk re-learns how to take care of the ball. This game offers the improving Wildcats a plum opportunity to show they can win conference games. But look for the home team to squeeze out a hard-fought victory. Missouri 26, Kentucky 23 -- Jeff Barlis
Why Ole Miss wins: The Rebels were injected with some playoff hope after the first batch of College Football Playoff rankings were announced. That should energize a team that lost an ugly one at LSU. Bo Wallace has to regroup, and he has to follow what his coaches tell him. The Rebels haven't had a consistent running game all season, but Auburn's pass defense ranks 75th nationally, and that should help Wallace regroup after a bad showing in Baton Rouge. Watching Ole Miss' defense try to tackle Auburn's running game might be the highlight of the day. A late turnover will seal it for the Rebels. Ole Miss 31, Auburn 28 -- Edward Aschoff
Why Auburn wins: Ole Miss' sideline was like a M*A*S*H unit last week against LSU, with multiple key players leaving with injuries. Even if most of those guys play Saturday -- and it looks like they will -- the Rebels aren't going to be at 100 percent against arguably the best offense they'll face all season. If Wallace doesn't play better than he did a week ago, Auburn might win easily. Ole Miss' quarterback is the X factor here, and I suspect he'll fare well against Auburn's mediocre defense at home, but the Tigers have way more firepower at their disposal right now. Auburn 31, Ole Miss 24 -- David Ching
Why Mississippi State wins big: Playing its first game with the No. 1 ranking, Mississippi State came out tight against Kentucky. Dan Mullen even admitted that. Look for the Bulldogs to play more relaxed at home Saturday in front of the familiar sound of cowbells clanging. They’re the No. 1 team in the country, and Dak Prescott, Josh Robinson and the defense will prove it against the Razorbacks. Mississippi State 35, Arkansas 14 -- Greg Ostendorf
How Arkansas keeps it close: It should be a triumphant return to Davis Wade Stadium for the nation's No. 1 team, but things aren't perfect for the Bulldogs. Kentucky's offense exposed some issues with the MSU secondary. While Arkansas doesn't have the same caliber of passing attack, the Hogs do have a stable of talented runners, a veteran quarterback and two good tight ends. Mississippi State 37, Arkansas 26 -- Jeff Barlis
More unanimous picks:
Texas A&M over UL Monroe: The big storyline will be who starts at quarterback for Texas A&M, Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen? Either way, the Aggies should roll against a lesser opponent. Texas A&M 52, UL Monroe 14
South Carolina over Tennessee: Steve Spurrier won’t have to go for it on every fourth down against the Vols, but don’t be surprised if he still has a few tricks left up his sleeve. The Gamecocks have won three of the past four games in this series. South Carolina 35, Tennessee 24
Vanderbilt over Old Dominion: Vandy is looking for its third win of the season, but it won’t come easy against Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke and his 54 career touchdown passes. Vanderbilt 31, Old Dominion 28
Edward Aschoff: 64-11
Greg Ostendorf: 64-11
Jeff Barlis: 63-12
Chris Low: 63-12
David Ching: 62-13
Alex Scarborough: 61-14
Sam Khan Jr.: 57-18
More than $3,000 in cash, actually.
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2. Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian echoed Volunteers coach Butch Jones' prediction that senior quarterback Justin Worley will not be available Saturday against South Carolina. Maybe that won't be such a bad outcome. Sophomore Josh Dobbs offered reason to believe he might be the Vols' quarterback of the future with a strong performance off the bench last Saturday against Alabama. But the Crimson Tide had not prepared for the youngster. South Carolina will have the entire week. He might be the X-factor in Saturday's game at Columbia. Or for the superstitious Gamecocks among us, maybe it will be South Carolina's uniforms. South Carolina will wear black jerseys and black pants on Saturday for the first time since losing 24-14 to Florida in 2009.
3. Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC) is clearly the favorite to win the SEC East, but Missouri (6-2, 3-1) can still make some noise if the Bulldogs fall into any sort of slump. The Tigers haven't played particularly well lately, but they have only one conference loss as Kentucky (5-3, 2-3) prepares to visit on Saturday. Both teams will be looking to get back on track for the stretch run. Perhaps Mizzou quarterback Maty Mauk found his stride last week against Vanderbilt after several rocky games in a row. Meanwhile, Kentucky needs just one more win to achieve bowl eligibility, but it hasn't won a true road game since the 2010 opener. Not the greatest sign, particularly since its previously productive running game has underperformed lately and coaches are questioning whether they should use fewer backs in the regular rotation.
Around the SEC
" The State asks how South Carolina's disappointing season might impact its 2015 recruiting class.
" Formerly suspended safety Jermaine Whitehead does not appear close to returning to Auburn's starting lineup.
" Derrick Henry is leading an unusually thin group of Alabama running backs this week in practice with an open date ahead.
" LSU is focused on cleaning up its mistakes from last Saturday's Ole Miss game with Alabama ahead next weekend.
" John Kadlec, better known as “Mr. Mizzou” after serving the school as an athlete, coach, administrator and broadcaster, died Wednesday at age 86.
Tweets of the day
The cruel twist in this whole Todd Gurley mess is that the NCAA’s archaic rules may end up being the only thing with any prayer of stopping the Bulldogs’ splendid junior running back.
And that’s a shame, because those rules are outdated.
The NCAA announced Wednesday that Gurley must sit for a total of four games, meaning he will be eligible to return Nov. 15 against Auburn, after acknowledging that he received money for autographs.
At the crux of this debate is whether a college athlete should be able to profit from his own name and likeness.
Earlier this week, NCAA president Mark Emmert told USA Today Sports that schools should revisit the rules regarding autographs and decide if they’re still proper.
My immediate reaction: It’s about time.
This is a battle the NCAA is going to lose. The August ruling in the Ed O'Bannon federal court case was just the start. If this were a football game, there would be about a minute to play and the NCAA's opponent would be lining up in the victory formation.
Right after Gurley was suspended Oct. 9, you were able to go to Georgiadogs.com, the school’s official site, and purchase a Nike No. 3 Georgia home jersey for $134.95. Guess what number Gurley wears. A quick check now of Georgiadogs.com produces only a No. 11 jersey -- worn by former star quarterback Aaron Murray.
All of these big-time college athletes, who receive a free education but also are watching everybody else around them getting rich, have noticed. Of the 14 current SEC football coaches, 12 are making at least $3 million per year. You’ve got assistant coaches making $1 million or more per year, and athletic directors approaching that same figure. Emmert, by the way, is raking in a cool $1.7 million annually.
The revenue being generated today in college sports is akin to Monopoly money and makes the premise that athletes don’t deserve a slice of the pie -- or at the very least the opportunity to profit by signing their own names -- all the more absurd.
Yes, it would be complicated to set up a system where players could cash in. Maybe a fund could be created that would be spread out among teammates and the school. After all, Gurley doesn’t pile up those yards on his own.
Surely there’s a way to figure it out without having this same issue crop up year after year. Players have long been signing memorabilia for money. They’re still doing it, and they’re going to keep doing it.
Did you see former Georgia offensive lineman Chris Burnette’s tweet right after Gurley was suspended? Burnette tweeted: “Man the NCAA is full of crap. Being a college athlete who can’t profit off your own name?! NCAA didn’t give him his talent or his name. Wow.”
I’d say Burnette’s tweet echoes the sentiments of the large majority of college athletes right now.
The NCAA says Gurley acknowledged breaking rules, so he’s not an innocent victim. He knew the rules, as out of touch as they may be. All college athletes know them. They’re browbeaten with the NCAA dos and don’ts from the time they walk onto campus.
But what’s at issue here is that the rules are obsolete, with all the money that is being made.
The NCAA is an easy target right now, no question. But just maybe the fact the best player in college football has been sidelined will finally bring everything to a head.
It's time for some real reform that makes sense, and not just dollars and cents for everybody but the players whom the fans come to see every Saturday.
Georgia issued a statement Wednesday saying it plans to appeal the decision immediately. The NCAA membership committee that oversees the reinstatement process will review the appeal this week. The committee can reduce or remove the conditions the staff has imposed, but cannot increase them.
According to the NCAA, Gurley received the cash for signing memorabilia and other items over two years and must repay a portion of the money he received to a charity of his choice and also complete 40 hours of community service as conditions of his reinstatement.
Gurley, whom the NCAA said acknowledged violating NCAA rules, has already missed two games for the No. 11 Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) and would be eligible to return Nov. 15 against No. 3 Auburn.
"We can only control certain things,'' Georgia coach Mark Richt said Wednesday. "My goal is to control how well we practice and how hard we prepare. That's been our focus all season long, and maybe a little bit more the last couple of ballgames.
"There are questions and things swirling around that could become a distraction. But I think our players have done a really good job of only worrying about things they can control.''
Georgia is nearing the three-week mark since Gurley, a star tailback who had been among the top Heisman Trophy candidates, was indefinitely suspended Oct. 9 while the school investigated allegations he received improper benefits for signing autographs.
Gurley, a junior, has rushed for 773 yards with eight touchdowns and has averaged 8.2 yards per carry.
In its release, the NCAA said Gurley's punishment, which equals 30 percent of his team's competition, "is consistent with precedent in similar cases. Additional withholding was strongly considered because the violations occurred over multiple years with multiple individuals and the student received extensive rules education about the prohibition of receiving payment for autographs."
The NCAA also said: "The university's due diligence in its investigation and the student's full disclosure of his involvement in the violations were factors in not imposing a more severe withholding condition."
Earlier this month, ESPN.com reported that Bryan Allen, a memorabilia dealer from Rome, Georgia, had hired Atlanta attorney Ed Garland because of Allen's relationship with Gurley. Garland confirmed to WSB-TV in Atlanta on Thursday that Allen paid Gurley $400 to sign several UGA mini helmets.
In the weeks before Gurley was suspended, Allen sent emails to several news outlets, claiming he'd paid Gurley "thousands of dollars" over the previous 18 months to autograph large quantities of footballs, helmets, photos and other memorabilia.
In Gurley's absence, freshman Nick Chubb
Todd Gurley's 4-Game Suspension Upheld
12:00 PM ET Louisiana-Monroe Texas A&M 3:30 PM ET Florida 11 Georgia 4:00 PM ET Kentucky Missouri 7:00 PM ET 3 Auburn 4 Ole Miss 7:00 PM ET Old Dominion Vanderbilt 7:15 PM ET Arkansas 1 Mississippi State 7:30 PM ET Tennessee South Carolina