Florida and Georgia are in for an interesting next couple of weeks.
Although their seasons begin Saturday, things get a bit more challenging and exciting in Week 2 with two historic road games.
After the traditional opening cupcakes, the Gators and Bulldogs will be the first SEC opponents for league newbies Texas A&M and Missouri, respectively. Hype for both of those games is through the roof and the game-day atmospheres should be nothing short of epic.
New teams mean new surroundings, new faces, new challenges and new excitement. That excitement can bring a change in focus.
While coaches and players try to steer away from looking ahead, it can be nearly impossible to stop.
“It’s a new team and we’ve heard a lot of about them,” Florida senior linebacker Jon Bostic said of playing at Texas A&M in Week 2. “We’ve heard a lot about their stadium and we’re excited about going to play there and get their best game early.”
And Kyle Field should be rocking for the Gators.
Bostic said Florida, which opens at home against a Bowling Green team that went 5-7 last season, has taken baby steps when it comes to preparing for the Aggies and new coach Kevin Sumlin’s schemes. They have looked over some Houston film here and there, and players have become a little more familiar with A&M’s personnel. Still, the real preparation begins Sunday.
Bostic can see the excitement his teammates have about College Station, Texas, but he insists their attention is on Bowling Green. This team struggled too much last year and has too much to fix before it can think about the second week of the season.
“Everybody is excited to get things back on track,” he said. “We didn’t come here to accept where we’re at. The standard was set above us before we got here and that’s one of the reasons we came here. It’s our job to get it back to where it was.”
For Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, he and the rest of the Bulldogs’ veterans have made it a point to block out all of the Mizzou talk. Some of the woofing by Missouri at SEC media days hasn’t fazed the Dawgs, Murray said, and they’re too pumped about hitting guys dressed in Buffalo attire to worry about next week’s trip to Columbia, Mo.
“We just want to go out there and play,” Murray said. “It’s been a long offseason, but it’s been a very productive and great offseason. Guys have worked hard and they just want to go out there and play football.”
It was an offseason that took a few detours away from the football field because of some embarrassing off-field incidents, but Murray said practice and focus never suffered. He said the team's focus hasn't been better during his four years at Georgia.
Because of that he doesn’t fear a sluggish start against a Buffalo team that won just three games last season.
“It’s definitely been the most successful summer that I’ve been a part of because of the amount of work everyone put in and the amount of time [players put in],” he said. “Everyone was extremely focused and understood the goals that we had and were ready to do what was needed to accomplish those.
“We have such great leadership that we aren’t going to let our guys look ahead. I don’t see how you can look ahead when you have your first game. We’ve been waiting to play a game for seven, eight months now.”
The Gators also stayed focused this summer. The team wasn't plagued by off-field incidents and Bostic said players have bought more and more into second-year coach Will Muschamp and his staff.
This team is thrilled to play Texas A&M, but that enthusiasm can wait, Bostic said. There is too much to get done Saturday to worry about what the second week will be like.
“We weren’t happy with the outcome of last year, and we have to do the little things right before we can start looking ahead,” he said.