Manic Kyle is dead, and the brief appearance of his zombie manifestation ended in absolute disaster. Doug is resigned to the inevitable and vineyarddawg fears we may be teetering on the edge of the precipice. Statistical projections, gut reactions, and Dr. Saturday all say the Georgia Bulldogs are doomed in tomorrow’s World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (although Matt Hinton’s lack of faith in the Red and Black may be a good thing).
Hopeful signs are few. While the Florida Gators have struggled offensively of late, recent history tells us that the best way to have your offense get healthy in a hurry is to face a Willie Martinez-coached defense. Meanwhile, the ‘Dawgs do virtually nothing well. This is not a formula for success.
Fortunately, rivalry series are streaky in nature, often rendering moot the tangibles that dictate the outcomes of ordinary football games. Consider the following, most of which you know, but all of which bears repeating:
- Georgia has gone 7-1 against defending national champions since 1965. Many found that datum meaningless when I cited it in January 2007, back when the record was 5-1. Surely, though, subsequent events have given the faithless some cause to lend credence to those numbers.
- Since 1933, the pendulum in the Georgia-Florida rivalry has moved with metronomic regularity. In 1933, the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party moved permanently to Jacksonville and the Southeastern Conference came into being. Since that epochal year in the history of the series, the teams have traded periods of dominance in precise 19-year increments, as I outlined in my overview of the rivalry for Spencer Hall’s Maple Street Press annual. For 19 years, from 1933 to 1951, Georgia went 15-3 against Florida. (The two teams took a year off in 1943 on account of World War II.) For the next 19 years, from 1952 to 1970, Florida went 13-5-1 against Georgia. For the next 19 years, from 1971 to 1989, Georgia went 15-4 against Florida. For the next 19 years, from 1990 to 2008, Florida went 16-3 against Georgia. A new 19-year cycle begins in 2009.
The open date matters. If you don’t believe me, believe Steve Spurrier, who recognized how harmful it was to the Sunshine State Saurians SEC championship prospects for Florida to have to play Auburn and Georgia back-to-back. From 1956 through 1991, the Gators played the Plainsmen just prior to taking on the Bulldogs. During those years, Florida was 9-11-1 against Georgia after losing to or tying Auburn but 9-6 against Georgia after beating Auburn. In that 36-season span, the Evergladers lost to both rivals more often than they beat both rivals and the Floridians carded victories over each in a single season only one-fourth of the time.
Starting in his fourth year at the helm in Gainesville, however, Coach Spurrier succeeded in getting a bye week prior to the trek to the St. John’s River. Since 1993, Florida has gone 12-1 against Georgia when coming off of an open date and 1-2 against Georgia when the Gators played a game the week before. During that same span, the Bulldogs have had the week off on the Saturday before facing Florida just twice . . . once in 2007, and again this year.
Half the time, it helps to be the underdog. Since Mark Richt arrived in Athens in 2001, the lower-ranked or unranked team has beaten the higher-ranked team in four out of eight showdowns in Jacksonville. In the last six series meetings, a pattern has emerged:
Year Higher-Ranked Team Winner 2003 No. 4 Georgia No. 23 Florida 2004 No. 10 Georgia No. 10 Georgia 2005 No. 4 Georgia No. 16 Florida 2006 No. 9 Florida No. 9 Florida 2007 No. 9 Florida No. 20 Georgia 2008 No. 5 Florida No. 5 Florida
In other words, in the last half-dozen series meetings, the higher-ranked team has won in the even-numbered years and the lower-ranked or unranked team has won in the odd-numbered years. It’s an odd-numbered year and Georgia is the unranked team.
Well, there you have it. This isn’t Manic Kyle talking; this is Scientific Kyle bringing you the insights, and every inexplicable trend in this series says it’s the Bulldogs’ year. Oh, sure, you could place your faith in such ephemera as coaching, talent, momentum, rankings, and which team is better than the other, but those things didn’t help us when Ron Zook was coaching the Gators and they won’t help Florida now.
The rational part of my brain is ready to think the unthinkable. The worrier in me is deeply concerned about the possibility that last year’s loss may have set the Georgia program back a decade and restored the status quo ante 2001. There is, however, enough of the optimist left in me to believe it could be 1985 all over again.
Defeat, particularly by another lopsided margin, could carry far-reaching consequences, which might be good in the long run (Willie Martinez, pick up the white courtesy phone . . .) but would be devastating in the short term. Never before in Mark Richt’s stewardship has there been a game that more truly qualified as a "must win" than this one. A second straight Gator beatdown of the Bulldogs would produce a bloodletting.
I believe because I have to believe.
My Prediction: Georgia 16, Florida 15.