Florida – Georgia Preview

I could not bring myself to write about the Gators yesterday after the piece I posted in the morning. The subject matter is so heavy that I just couldn’t do it.

This year’s Florida – Georgia game is much like those of the past couple of years. One of the teams is playing noticeably lower than expectations, so the game is not getting that much of the national spotlight. I mean, even GameDay is skipping it to cover the Fulmer vs. Spurrier angle in the Tennessee – South Carolina game.

This is still the Florida – Georgia game however, and it means an awful lot to an awful lot of people. The current generation of students does not regard the Bulldogs with the same high level of emotion that most of the alumni do. Since I was 5 years old, Florida has only lost to Georgia twice. The only losses came in 2004, during the same week that Ron Zook got fired, and in 1997, after Florida lost a lot of player to the NFL draft. I don’t remember Vince Dooley and the Dawgs owning Florida.

The game certainly has enough tradition though. It is one of only three neutral site, regular season games that occurs annually along with Oklahoma – Texas and Army – Navy. It even has its own hall of fame. While I will always prefer to watch football in the Swamp more than any other stadium, the atmosphere in Jacksonville is definitely something special.

So what about this year’s game? It seems pretty cut and dry that Florida will win this year. If you ask any UGA fan right now they’ll probably tell you that. I just spent the last day or so in Tampa on another office visit/interview, and one of the people there told me that some Georgia students he knew didn’t even bother trying to get tickets because they think it is a foregone conclusion that they’ll lose. Florida has been playing much, much better over the course of the season, the Gators get all their players back healthy now, and Georgia lost to Vandy and should have lost to Mississippi State.

Some people, most notably Brady Ackerman, have been saying that Gators shouldn’t get overconfident because it’s Georgia and they’ve seen too many things happen in this game over the years to automatically pick Florida easily winning. Well, over the past 16 years, we’ve seen all sorts of things, and it took a coach being fired and a game played so poorly it is sometimes called The Fumble Bowl for Florida to lose. UF has been the best team in the SEC, and they won. Georgia has been the best team in the SEC, and Florida still won. Florida has started a freshman quarterback and still won. Florida has such a psychological edge in this game, it’s hard to understate it.

I think Georgia will probably come out and do something different from what they have done all year and get a surprise touchdown early, since Florida always seems to find a way to fall behind early. Still, Georgia is outmanned in this game, and it will be a significant surprise if Florida loses. Matthew Stafford has done nothing this year to suggest that he can beat a top-five team, and he’ll be under pressure all game from Florida’s defensive line. We will see more of Percy Harvin, Jarred Fayson, and Tim Tebow than we have in recent weeks though, and all three have the ability to add the exciting icing to the already substantial cake of the senior leadership on offense. I also expect Chris Leak to throw for more than 200 yards for the first time since the Kentucky game (yes, it’s been that long).

Urban Meyer is 19-2 when he has had more than a week to prepare for a game. He is undefeated in the state of Florida. As an ESPN.com headline for the game went not too long ago: Death, Taxes, and Florida over Georgia. It’ll be closer than it should be since it’s the Florida – Georgia game, but Florida wins 27 – 10.

One additional note – I’ll be staying north of Jacksonville this weekend in a house my aunt and uncle built less than a mile from the St. Mary’s River. It doesn’t really have Internet access, and maybe not even cable (I haven’t been up there in a while thanks to marching band), so there will be no GameDay column tomorrow. I’m sure you all will survive.

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