I hate Florida. I hate Florida in the springtime when ESPN begins it's annual lovefest. I hate Florida in the fall when Ole Miss drops 30+ on them. I hate Florida in the summer when it sizzles and Jamar Hornsby's off stimulating the economy and inflating gasoline demand. I hate Florida in the winter when it drizzles in the Capitol One Bowl. Why? Trust me, I have my reasons.
I'm sensing here and elsewhere in the larger Georgia blog community a slowly rising simmer of excitement. Early this week there was some buzz for the game, then by midweek everyone around me was talking about it. Then, this afternoon, as I drove down I-16 and counted a total of 3 tattered car flags/windsocks within the limits of Bibb County, I realized that it is almost that time. But first, here's what you'll see:
1) Knowshon Moreno rushing for 150+: As I said before the Vanderbilt game, it doesn't take an Auburn sociologist to tell you that Knowshon is likely to run for 100+ yards behind an improving offensive line against a Florida front four that gave up 133 to Arkansas's Michael Smith.
But it takes either a fool or a genius to tell you he'll run for 50% more against a defense that has since held LSU's Charles Scott to 35 yards on 12 carries. While LSU's massive offensive line is prodigious, it ran into serious trouble when the Bayou Bengals' defense put their counterparts in an early hole. And LSU didn't have a passing attack capable of keeping the Saurian front seven from coming after the run. In algebraic terms, Matt Stafford > (Andrew Hatch+Jarrett Lee). Plus I just have a hunch that this is the week that our young offensive line that was a liability for the first five weeks of the season finally moves squarely to the other side of the balance sheet, becoming a huge asset during a game in which we must keep the defense off the field and fresh to have a shot.
2) Justin Houston: Last year Tim Tebow got hit by everybody but Katharyn Richt. Though certainly better than last season, Tebow is still not the world's most collected pocket passer. He still has a tendency to want to run, and at times has looked a little conflicted about whether or not it's ok to do so. Houston is the perfect guy to make him pay either way, and is quickly emerging as the Federal Express of our defensive line: he's the go to guy when you absolutely, positively have to get someone to the quarterback.
3) Early laundry: I have a feeling that the crew calling this game will be captained by an Eric Cartman impersonator. He will get out of his car, walk up to both teams, hit them in the kneecaps with a nightstick and shriek "You will respect my authoritaaayyy." I expect a ton of stop-and-go football and ticky-tack fouls early while the refs remind both teams that this "fun" and "excitement" and "spirit" they speak of is really a danger to the Republic. The team that adapts best to this environment will benefit. My money is on us, because, frankly, I think Florida's just going to be more jacked up to start with than us.
4) Two plays of 25+ yards by Percy Harvin: Despite all the talk about tailbacks Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, it's Harvin who really scares me. He's not only lightning fast, but he's also big enough to be a matchup problem in pass coverage and strong enough to break tackles at the line. That's how our defense generally gets itself in trouble. I'm assuming Urban meyer noticed that during the 364 days he's been plotting his revenge for last year's "bad deal".
5) UGA 41, UF 35: This one will not be easy, no matter who wins. I don't think either defense is capable of holding the opposition's offense out of the endzone with any regularity, and the whole thing will come to resemble an NBA game: the last team with the ball may very well win it by passing downcourt for an easy layup. But I think that when I parse the matchups I like our defense to get a key stop better than I like theirs.
My nightmare scenario involves a) no pressure being placed on Tim Tebow, b) the kind of insanely polite tackling we see about once a year from Willie Martinez defenses ("no please, run all the way to the endzone, we'd dare not stand in your way, kind sir . . .") and c) Matt Stafford throwing the kind of picks that Jarrett Lee threw to Daryl Gamble last week, thereby proving that karma is real and that she is, in fact, a witch.
While everyone is talking about "the celebration", I get the impression that some in the national media just assume that Florida's righteous angst will be enough to carry them to victory on Saturday. But what happens if Urban Meyer's team doesn't win? What does it say if he's dealt the best hand ever in the history of motivational poker and still manages to lose his bankroll? I'm looking forward to this game because it is a referendum on Urban Meyer's coaching administration. If he louses this one up, the Gator faithful will not be happy. Some of them may be psychologically devastated. This makes me chuckle. Because I hate Florida.
I'll see ya'll after the game. Until then . . .