Since going down with an injury four weeks ago, Florida quarterback John Brantley had his heart set on returning in time to face rival Georgia.
It appears as though he will get his wish, which should delight Gator fans.
Brantley looks to give his sputtering offense a boost as Florida tries to avoid its longest losing streak in 23 years and continue its dominance over the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs in Jacksonville on Saturday.
Brantley, who injured his right ankle in the second quarter of a 38-10 loss to then-No. 3 Alabama on Oct. 1, returned to practice Monday for the Gators (4-3, 2-3 SEC). The senior put up modest numbers in his five games - 942 passing yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions and a 64.7 completion percentage - but those numbers dwarf his backups.
In the 2 1/2 games he missed, freshmen Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel combined to complete 50.0 percent of their passes for 228 yards with a TD and three interceptions in leading the Gators to 17 points.
"Getting him back is going to be a huge psychological shock for our football team," coach Will Muschamp said. "I really believe that. ... Obviously, the production when he was not in the game went down."
Florida, which hasn't played since a 17-6 loss to then-No. 24 Auburn on Oct. 15, was ranked 12th in the AP poll before a three-game slide coinciding with Brantley's injury. The Gators were held to a combined 629 yards in losses to the Crimson Tide, LSU and Auburn - the program's fewest in three consecutive games since 1988.
That's also the last year in which Florida lost four in a row.
The Gators snapped a three-game losing streak last season with a 34-31 overtime victory over the Bulldogs, as Brantley completed 16 of 25 passes for 193 yards with an interception. Florida has won three straight in the series and 18 of 21.
Brantley's dad, John Brantley III, and uncle, Scot Brantley, both played for the Gators, and the current signal-caller knows the importance of this rivalry.
"When John had his injury, he was very disappointed and hurt, down," Muschamp said. "He told me back then, he said, 'I want to get back for Georgia.' It's important to John. Of course, his dad is a Gator; his uncle was a Gator. There's no question that he really pinpointed trying to get back for this game."
Brantley will have his work cut out for him, having to face a Georgia team that is sixth in the FBS in total defense (273.0 yards per game). The Bulldogs (5-2, 4-1), however, will be without defensive starters Kwame Geathers and Shawn Williams for the first half after they were punished by the SEC for incidents in a 33-28 win over Vanderbilt on Oct. 15.
Georgia, which also had a bye last week, is tied atop the SEC East and back in the Top 25 thanks to a five-game winning streak. Its surge, however, hasn't come against stiff competition. The Bulldogs' streak started with a 59-0 win over Coastal Carolina and continued with victories over Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt - teams that are a combined 1-15 in the SEC.
"I'm not shocked that we're doing well right now, but we've still got a ways to go," said coach Mark Richt, who is 2-8 against Florida.
While Florida has been forced to rotate quarterbacks, Georgia has enjoyed stability at that position.
Junior Aaron Murray threw for a career-best 326 yards with three touchdowns against Vanderbilt, and he leads the SEC with 16 TD passes. His only other 300-yard game came last season against Florida, throwing for 313 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Murray is joined in the backfield by freshman Isaiah Crowell, who ranks fourth in the conference with 608 rushing yards. He'll be facing a Florida run defense that has yielded an average of 206.3 yards during the three-game skid.
Gators running back Chris Rainey, who rushed for 84 yards and a TD against the Bulldogs a year ago, should be happy to have Brantley back under center.
Rainey's production significantly decreased since Brantley's injury as defenses focused on stopping the run. He has rushed for 89 yards on 40 carries over the last three games after running for 411 yards on 63 attempts in his first four.