I miss the old days when Florida and Georgia fans hated each other and the game always mattered. These days it feels more like a Shriner’s Convention in Salt Lake City.
In the scheme of things today, has this onetime Blockbuster gone the way of the movie rental store of the same name?
Well, yes – and no.
One Big Cocktail Party is still in the making for the Red and Black, because Georgians declare this beach blanket bingo week, lining the East coast from the Golden Isles to the First Coast of St. Augustine.
As Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity calls it, “The Greatest Rivalry in College Sports at a neutral site.” For Bulldog Nation it’s like a holiday – for a whole week.
“It’s a week long event for Georgia fans and a one-day event for Gator fans,” said McGarity. He should know. He spent time on both sides as assistant athletic to Florida’s Jeremy Foley before becoming Georgia AD.
“This will by my 37th Georgia-Florida game,” McGarity said this week. “And there is nothing quite like it.
“It’s sort of like a homecoming. So many generations of family and friends gather at the same parking lot, in the same vicinity, or on the same place by the ocean … they have for years.”
Indeed, time was when Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville was the top of the food chain, pure gourmet, with a 5-star rival rating. Not so much anymore.
Here on a November Halloween weekend, there should be angst in the air for either Florida or Georgia faithful – or both.
In a season of Slobber-knocker Saturdays full of fabulous wall-to-wall football feasts, we roll into
Weekend #10 anticipating that November will be the filet mignon of the main course. Because Novembers bring the finest cuisine of all: Blood rivalries.
This one is short on juice.
What was once tabbed “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” is looking more like One for The Road. Cynical Gator followers can’t get this weekend over soon enough so they can see who’s going to take Will Muschamp’s job.
Given that these programs have become so interwoven, with a former Bulldog player coaching the Gators and a one-time Florida assistant athletic director as AD at Georgia, it held great promise as a Family Feud Border War Uprising.
It’s even difficult to get up a good hate anymore.
Remember when Vince Dooley virtually owned the Gators and drug them through the mud with a 51-0 drubbing in 1968? When Steve Spurrier arrived in Gainesville and completely reversed that momentum by winning 11 out of 12 games over Georgia and ringing up 52 points on the Sanford Stadium Scoreboard as payback? When Urban Meyer wrote in his book that Florida would avenge Georgia’s entire team running on the field after a touchdown for what was later call “The Gator Stomp”? And the following year Meyer called two straight time outs with a big lead just so Mark Richt and his team could get a good visual of that scoreboard?
And even though Meyer posted a 5-1 record against Georgia, the last decade Richt has gone 5-5 against Florida and Georgia has the upper hand again.
The rivalry has, indeed, seemed somewhat irrelevant the last three seasons of the decade — which is why Georgia owns a 10-game edge in the series. Muschamp has lost all three times to his alma mater.
There is this major geographical issue for Saturday’s game. The Bulldogs are going North, the Gators South. Check that: Georgia appears to be headed West toward Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. Florida could wind up staying home for holidays if it doesn’t turn things around. With a 3-3 record, a loss to Georgia would put them in a position of needing at least three wins out of the remaining four games that include both South Carolina and Florida State.
Georgia, though dropped to 11th in the new world order rankings, is sitting in a good position to be a sniper because the Bulldogs have a crack yet at Auburn. And by that time, it’s likely suspended running back Todd Gurley might be back. The way it looks, Richt’s 6-1 team will also be the one with a shot to knock off the SEC West winner in the league championship game, which would be a virtual lock to the Final Four.
And then there is this weekend, with about the only thing left for the Gators to play for is pride, or maybe future consideration for Will Muschamp’s career – if not at Florida, somewhere.
In my mind it’s going to be a rout unless Florida finds some magic in freshman quarterback Treon Harris and Jeremy Pruitt’s improving defense reverts to its early season Swiss cheese imitation. Maybe a three-touchdown victory for the Dawgs?
The wise guys in Las Vegas don’t see it that way. Apparently some money has come in on the Gators, who are only a 12-½ point underdog.
Strange things have been known to happen when these teams meet – see Run Lindsay Run, Apple to Washington, Fourth And Dumb and Half A Hundred in Athens.
For history’s sake this great college football spectacle can’t die a death of irrelevance.
After all this is Florida-Georgia. And it always matters.
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LIKE IT OR NOT, FSU DESERVES PROPS
The word that best describes Florida State’s 2014 campaign is “resiliency.”
When the Seminoles fell behind 24-7 Thursday night in Louisville, half the world began relish The Fallen as if this was a morality play and not a football game.
Blowing up the game in the final four minutes to win 42-31, FSU rescued its playoff hopes which would have surely gone awry with a loss.
Let’s be honest: This is a troubled program and given that the ‘Noles keep on winning despite some poor judgment by their players is difficult for many to swallow.
Put it this way: FSU had better win on the field because it isn’t going to win any popularity contest.
Thursday night’s win was one of the most impressive comebacks I’ve ever seen, as FSU roared back to win its 24th straight – second only to FSU’s national championship rally for an 18-point deficit to overcome Auburn.
I agree with Jimbo Fisher – it was, indeed, a “fun game to watch,” unless you were a Louisville fan.
His off-the-field antics not withstanding, Jameis Winston is a remarkable football player with that “amnesia” attribute that coaches love to see in a cornerback after getting burned.
How many quarterbacks could throw three interceptions, stay the game – injured, by the way – and lead his team to a comeback victory with everything on the line?
It’s time to call it like it is: Jameis Winston is a great college quarterback. And he’s probably not going to repeat as a Heisman winner. However, unless he falls complete apart and I find out more about his personal comportment that dissuades me otherwise, he’s going to be on my Heisman ballot.
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WHAT THE PLAYOFF COMMITTEE RANKINGS TAUGHT US:
We knew the SEC was the best conference in the land, loaded on the side of the West. And it took all those film cutups, metrics, hours of meetings and processing data from the fourth corners of earth to find out that four of the five best teams in America are from the SEC West? Hello?
OK, so we were a little surprised to see Ole Miss up there at No. 4. But apparently this committee of 11 men and one woman didn’t get hung up on conference designations and showed that they cared more about which good teams beat other good teams as opposed to which ones had the least damaging loss.
I predict most of us will be happy with the ultimate outcome after the next six weeks. But really, all the fuss about not having the ratings come out too soon was flawed thinking. I would have been fine with it in the first weekend of the season, because it’s still really only a beauty contest at this point.=
Even now, this snapshot of the elite Final Four picture of Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Ole Miss is inconclusive because they can’t wind up there. Either Auburn or Ole Miss will be gone after this weekend when they play each other. So it’s a faux rating, more like a daily weather forecast.
At least in the SEC, this will be decided on the field and not by computers or media polls or such.
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- Florida fans pay up – most of you wagered that Georgia’s Todd Gurley would be reinstated before the game this weekend. We know now that’s not going to happen. But BTW, Nick Chubb is no bargain for the Gator defense, either.
- Memo to Jimbo Fisher: Love your loyalty, but you can’t keep sounding like all your players who get in trouble are really Mother Teresa. You lose cred.
- Give Florida AD Jeremy Foley credit: He’s stuck to his guns on Muschamp up until now, but I can’t imagine that he will retain him as coach. It’s just cheaper to fire Muschamp after the FSU game. But Foley’s coaching search info is locked up tighter than Fort Knox. He’s learned to elude the media, fans and even the Bull Gators and is keeping them all in the dark. Well done, Jeremy.