Party in the Swamp

A sore right shoulder isn't going to keep Tim Tebow from playing for the first time in his hometown for the defending national champions.

Tebow looks to continue his outstanding play for No. 9 Florida when it meets No. 20 Georgia in the arch-rivals' annual showdown in Jacksonville. The winner will maintain at least a share of first place in the SEC East division.

In his first year as a starter, the sophomore quarterback has emerged as one of the leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy. His 177.5 passer rating leads the nation, and his 10 rushing touchdowns are second in the SEC behind Mississippi State running back Anthony Dixon.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said that Tebow "is a freak of nature, really."

"I've see quarterbacks who can run, but not with that kind of power and toughness," Richt said. "And he's throwing the ball extremely well. He's a leader, and he's just tough. And that makes that whole football team tough."

Tebow may be coming off his best effort of the season in a 45-37 win over then-No. 14 Kentucky last week. He threw for a career-high four touchdowns and also carried 20 times for 78 yards and a score.

Florida coach Urban Meyer, though, is worried about his star quarterback, who has thrown for 17 touchdowns but also taken plenty of hits this season because of his high number of carries.

Tebow has been limited to non-contact work in practice this week.

"He's getting about 20 carries a game, but a lot of those are him all of a sudden making a play," Meyer said. "When you take that away from Tim Tebow - not that he's a normal quarterback - but he's not what Tim Tebow is to our offense.

"The thing we all have to understand is we can't get him hurt.''

Tebow, who starred at Nease High School in Jacksonville, said he wouldn't be hampered by the shoulder injury.

"It's just a little banged up,'' he said. "It's fine."

Florida (5-2, 3-2) and Georgia (5-2, 3-2) are both tied with No. 15 South Carolina for the top spot in the East, while No. 14 Kentucky and Tennessee each lurk one-half game behind. The Gamecocks visit the Volunteers this weekend.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Florida -9 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 54% of bets for this game have been placed on Florida -9 (View College Football bet percentages).

Since the SEC went to a title game in 1992, only one other East team (Florida in 1992) has made it with two losses in league play.

"There's not too many years where a team from the East goes to the championship game having two losses," Bulldogs tight end Tripp Chandler said. "We're definitely fortunate."

Tebow's presence will pose a unique challenge for Georgia linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who has a team-high 53 tackles. Ellerbe may slide over to weak-side linebacker if Marcus Washington returns at middle linebacker after missing a game with a shoulder injury.

"The bye week gave me a little bit of extra time to get healthy," Washington said. "Now, I'm going to come out and practice this week and tackle full go, and we'll see what happens this weekend."

Georgia had last week off after rallying for a 20-17 win at Vanderbilt on Oct. 13. The Bulldogs outscored the Commodores 13-0 in the second half and won the game on Brandon Couty's 37-yard field goal as time expired.

Tailback Knowshon Moreno is expected to make his second straight start because of injuries to Thomas Brown and Kregg Lumpkin. Moreno rushed for a career-high 157 yards in the Vanderbilt game, and has been named as one of Richt's four captains again this week.

The Bulldogs have lost 15 of the last 17 meetings with the Gators, and both since Meyer took over at Florida. But Georgia doesn't think its poor recent history in the rivalry will factor into this game.

"Last year's team is different from this year's team, and the year before that was different from this year," Chandler said. "This is the '07 team. We can't worry about '06 or '05 or as far back as this bad stretch has gone for us. It's not about those other teams - it's just about this team."

Besides Tebow, Florida has two other injury worries. Safety Major Wright had surgery to repair a broken thumb Monday, while receiver Riley Cooper had surgery the same day to repair a broken finger. Both are expected to play.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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