Kirby Smart is 23-4 at Georgia in his past 27 games and hasn’t lost back-to-back games since 2016 (see chart at end), so living with losing isn’t exactly a part of the culture in Athens right now. Anyone who thinks they know how the Bulldogs are going to react Saturday against Florida is simply guessing.

But this much we know. That embarrassing 36-16 loss at LSU two weeks ago — the first loss of the year after six consecutive wins of 14 points or more to start the season — isn’t sitting well with the players. And when you toss in the bye week, it’s been a long time to chew on that nasty loss.

“It leaves a bad taste in your mouth until you are able to play again,” Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield told reporters. “So this is a great chance to move on from it. We hope to play better and execute better.”

They’ll need to against No. 9 Florida, a team that’s on a nice roll. Both clubs are 6-1, and 4-1 in the SEC, tied for the lead in the SEC East along with Kentucky. This Florida-Georgia game is always huge, just by the nature of the neutral-site environment in Jacksonville, but this matchup is really special because there’s so much at stake. It’s only the third time in 25 years where both teams were in the top 9 in the country coming into the game.

There’s also the familiarity factor in the border war. They all know each other pretty well.

Most of our kids know their kids,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “It won’t be about what we say or how we say it. It’ll be about who plays well on the field and who controls the line of scrimmage that will be the key to this game.”

Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas said this year’s matchup is par for the course.

I can’t remember a Georgia-Florida game that wasn’t a big, important game,” the Georgia native said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”

What makes this really special is that suddenly it matters a ton. During the preseason, Georgia was a prohibitive favorite to win the division. After reaching the National Championship Game a year ago and returning a lot of talent, it seemed like no one was close to the Bulldogs in the SEC East.

Florida, frankly, was an afterthought. Dan Mullen was taking over, but Feleipe Franks was still the quarterback and an early loss to Kentucky, which hadn’t beaten Florida in 31 years, made it seem like this was probably an 8-4 team at best.

But now they’re 6-1 and beat LSU, the team that thumped Georgia just a week later.

So now it’s huge. It’s a big, big game. Both teams know a loss likely eliminates any chance of reaching Atlanta. And they’ll be ready.

“A lot of us have payed in big games before, and we’ll stay in that same mindset, it’s just another game that we have to win,” Holyfield said. “I embrace it, I like playing big games, I think it brings the best out of people.”

It’s sure to be a war on every play. That’s how you get that bad taste out of your mouth.

How Georgia has responded to a recent loss:

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