Is 2010 the year of the Dawg? The Chinese calendar seems to indicate otherwise. Tiger? Ouch. The Dawgs face 2 separate squads of Tigers in 2010 – Auburn and Idaho State (although I’m still not too sure what Auburn’s “official” mascot is, with all the War Eagle! Plainsman, etc.) At least Clemson hasn’t rolled back onto the schedule yet and LSU isn’t into the western divisions rotation either, or else the 2010 outlook might appear less than shiny, at least by Chinese standards. I might also point out that Idaho State’s symbol looks just a little too familiar to those residing in the Bayou, wouldn’t you say?
Regardless of lunar calendar designations, UGA sits in a pretty attractive position as far as this year’s Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division is concerned. Tennessee and Kentucky are both transitioning to new head coaches, and while Vandy may strike fear in their opponents in college bowl competitions, they certainly don’t do the same on the gridiron. Although some prognosticators may feel that South Carolina can finally make a run in the East, I firmly believe it is a 2 team race: Florida and Georgia. Which naturally means that the biggest game on either team’s schedule, should be the one played Saturday, October 30, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. Florida/Georgia. Or as those around here like to call it – Georgia/Florida. I’m still on board with the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party despite the wishes of the schools’ brass. One thing I will never call this game is "The Battle for the Okefenokee Oar," as I’ll leave that nonsense to the Big
Ten Eleven Twelve TEN! or whatever they call themselves now. But I have the date circled on my calendar, and I believe you should too.
Tebow has graduated, and a large percentage of Florida’s fearsome defense of the past 2 seasons has moved on – either to the NFL, the Alachua County court system, or elsewhere. Nonetheless, these talented defenders will no longer be tackling players donning the storied UGA “G” on their headgear. Gone also are Riley Cooper, Markice Pouncey and Aaron Hernandez. Let’s be clear here, the Gators are clearly in a rebuilding year. The last time this occurred was 2007. The Gators were coming off a 13-1 season (and national title), but lost a lot of talent to the NFL. A new starting QB was taking over the offense and there were a plethora of talented, but young faced on the defensive side of the ball. As you all know, the Dawgs stormed the field after their first TD and rode the momentum (along with their workhorse RB Knowshon Moreno) to a convincing 42-30 win over the Gators.
Besides all that, history should be on the side of the Bulldogs. Kyle has pointed out often enough the tendencies of this rivalry with regard to the “streak of 19”, which has been a truly amazing phenomenon, whether you admit it or not. I’ve gone on record in this blog predicting that 2010 is the next year that Georgia takes down the Gators. I hope I am wrong, but I think the chances are at least 50/50. It looks like UGA’s season will rest squarely on the shoulders of young Aaron Murray, a quarterback the Gators badly wanted to wear the orange and blue. Murray will have his old high school teammate Orson Charles to target, in addition to a pair of talented veteran WRs in AJ Green and Tavarres King.
It’s not ALL lined up perfectly for the Dawgs. The Gators will have the advantage of the open date before the WLOCP, while UGA will be playing for the ninth straight week. We all know that even the most durable teams get nicked up over the course of that many games. Also, despite all the question marks on both sides of the ball, the Gators are loaded with young talent. Quarterback John Brantley has yet to start a college football game, yet many project him as being amongst the best in the conference. Some homers have even mentioned Brantley’s name in a Heisman article. I hope he lives up to half that level of hype, but I’d kind of like to see Brantley play some football against some starters first. I’m looking forward to enjoying this year’s version of the Border War (can that be another name for the game?). I think the pressure is really on UGA to get a win before these guys mature and get some experience. Another loss this fall would make Coach Mark Richt's record 2-8 against Florida. Sooner or later, the UGA faithful will demand a change at the top. Richt has done well against all other SEC opponents as TKK shows in this article. But in the same article, Kyle admits:
Many critics claim that the major blemish on Coach Richt’s record is his lack of a national championship, but this is not the case. By far the worst deficiency to be found in Coach Richt’s resume is his singular lack of success against the Sunshine State Saurians. Where Georgia’s championship chances are concerned, the road from Athens to Atlanta (and beyond) runs through Jacksonville.
When, and only when, balance is restored to the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will higher achievements become possible; the days are gone when the Red and Black can lose to the Gators yet still win the East. Division, conference, and national championships will remain unattainable dreams as long as Florida occupies the upper hand in the rivalry. If this problem continues to remain uncorrected, it could overwhelm Mark Richt’s otherwise very successful career in the same way the inability to beat Michigan overshadowed every other achievement of John Cooper’s stewardship of the Ohio State program.
This Gator believes that 2010 could really be the "Year of the Dawg" and cool whatever heat might be creeping up on Richt. But get your licks in this year SEC, because when we add Andre Dubose (UF’s top offensive recruit last year, who missed the entire 2009 season with injury) to what is already one of the best classes ever, I’m thinking the Gators will be pretty tough to beat again in 2011, 2012 and beyond.