GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Will Muschamp already has faced two former teams and a former boss this season.
Now, he goes against his alma mater.
Muschamp played four years at Georgia in the 1990s — and has some highlights to show for it — but insists any stories about him coaching against the Bulldogs would be “wasted ink.”
“Wherever I played has no bearing on this game at all,” Muschamp said.
Probably not, but it’s certainly a major story line leading up to one of the Southeastern Conference’s most revered rivalries Saturday in Jacksonville.
Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) will try to avoid the program’s first four-game losing streak since 1988, stay alive in the Eastern Division race and continue its recent dominance in the series. No. 22 Georgia (5-2, 4-1) will try to win its sixth consecutive game and end speculation about coach Mark Richt’s job security.
So there’s more at stake than Muschamp wearing orange and blue instead of red and black.
“This profession is different than a lot of professions in that you do your job for the school you’re working for,” Muschamp said. “I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone, but I’m loyal to people, not places. ... That’s how I view things. I’ve worked at Auburn. I’ve worked at LSU. I’ve worked at Texas. I’ve worked at a lot of places. This isn’t the first time I’ve played Georgia.”
No, but this is one that will stay on Muschamp’s resume forever.
Muschamp is 3-4 against Georgia as an assistant at Auburn and LSU, including three consecutive losses. That’s better than his record against Florida as a player.
Muschamp began his college career as a walk-on safety in 1991 and ended it as a defensive captain in 1994. He played in 44 games and had four shots at the Gators.
He lost them all.
His memories? “There weren’t many good ones, that’s for sure,” Muschamp said.
That’s not entirely true. Muschamp had seven tackles in each of his final two games against Florida and had a huge hit on receiver Chris Doering in 1994. Doering was running a drag route, and Muschamp hammered him in the ribs when he reached up to grab a pass.
Muschamp remembers the play, but his record in the series stands out even more.
“Not only did coach Muschamp play there, but he never beat Florida, so now he gets a chance to be on Florida’s team playing Georgia,” Gators defensive end Sharrif Floyd said. “Obviously, he may come out with his win.”
Florida has won 18 of the past 21 in the series, a commanding run that includes three different coaches on each sideline. Now, Muschamp gets his turn to continue the trend.
“I think that there’s no question there’s a little more juice involved as far as a game like this one,” Muschamp said. “This is one of the great rivalries in all of sports, so there’s certainly a little extra juice involved.”
First-year coaches at Florida have had uncanny success in the series.
Ray Graves (1960), Doug Dickey (1970), Galen Hall (1984), Steve Spurrier (1990), Ron Zook (2002) and Urban Meyer (2005) all beat the Dawgs in their first try. Charley Pell (1979) is the program’s only head coach in the past 50 years to lose to Georgia in his inaugural season.
Win or lose, Muschamp will make history by becoming the first on either side to play at one school and coach at the other. Still, he doesn’t anticipate any emotions when he takes the field Saturday against the Bulldogs.
And Richt understands why.
“He won’t know until the game is played,” Richt said. “He has experience coaching against Georgia, so he’s used to that. He’s just not done it as a head coach, so I’m sure there might be some different emotions as maybe a coordinator. I don’t know. ...
“When I came to Georgia and coached against Florida State I knew at least 50 percent of the players and just about 90 percent of the staff. Now, it is far removed for him. He hasn’t really coached or played with hardly anybody on our staff, so I think I can buy into what he is saying.”
Charles Odum contributed to this story.