If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a hurricane making its way north from around Jamaica. If the current forecast holds, the storm should be a few hundred miles off the Florida coast by gametime. We won’t be playing in a hurricane. Whether it even rains during the game is still uncertain and depends on the exact track of the storm. One thing that’s fairly certain though is that it will be windy. As the storm passes to the east, we can expect a strong and gusty offshore wind. With the stadium’s north-south layout, that means a crosswind generally blowing from the Georgia sideline to the Florida sideline (because Florida sucks).
A windy day lends itself to humor like this, but wind could be even more of a factor any time the ball is in the air than it was last year. Shorter or erratic punts will affect field position. If either team is able to stuff the run and force the other side to throw the ball 25+ times, will the conditions allow for much success?
The wind is just one element Georgia’s kickers will be battling. For all of the outstanding kickers that Mark Richt has had, Jacksonville has been consistently humbling. After last year’s game, Richt’s kickers are a combined 7-of-16 from inside of 40 yards in the Cocktail Party. Under 50%. Walsh himself was a career 4-of-8 from all distances against Florida including a 1-for-3 performance last season.
Whether it was a loss of faith in the kicking game or the realization later in the game that field goals weren’t going to cut it, Mark Richt kept Walsh on the bench at the end of two Georgia drives. Georgia’s touchdown passes on a pair of fourth down conversions helped Georgia turn the game in 2011. Morgan has been fairly reliable on field goals this year, but given the conditions, the importance of the game, and the trouble his kickers have had in Jacksonville, Mark Richt should again think twice before calling on the field goal team.
PS…the best kicking performance I’ve ever seen on a windy day was Auburn’s Damon Duval against Florida in 2001. There was drizzle and easily a gusty 20-MPH wind, but Duval stuck 3 out of 3 field goals including the game-winner from 44 yards out. Duval basically played the wind as a golfer would and hooked his kick to let the wind take it back through the uprights. It was incredible skill and a big reason why Auburn upset then-#1 Florida.