What We Call Them: The Sunshine State Saurians, The Floridians, Coach Boom's Crocs, The Gainesville Ganja Gremlins
Head Coach: UGA Secret Agent Double-Oh Boom (3rd season, 18-8 overall, 0-2 vs. Georgia)
Offense: Pro-style? More like LOL-style
Base Defense: 4-3
Location: Gainesville, Florida
Last Season: 11-2 (7-1 SEC) (0-1 in Jacksonville)
Last Bowl Game: 2013 Sugar Bowl, L 33-23 to Louisville
First Meeting: 1904 - Georgia 52, Florida 0 (in Macon, GA)
Series Record: Georgia leads, 49-40-2
SBN Affiliate: Alligator Army, who are generally a pretty good lot (but don't tell anybody I said that)
In all likelihood, the SEC Eastern Division Title will be all but decided on this day. Unless Auburn or Kentucky have a miracle renaissance this year, this game will be the final challenging SEC game for the Dawgs. Also, in all likelihood, South Carolina will have 2 or 3 SEC losses and both the Gators and Dawgs will have that many or fewer, meaning that this game will essentially decide who is going to play
the Western Division Champion Alabama in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.
You and I both know, however, that none of that really matters. This game is the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. If you've never actually attended a Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville, it's impossible to accurately describe what that means. Duval County is an unnatural zone of altered reality in which the weirdest things happen, yet they seem perfectly normal at the time. Like that time I nearly got in a fight with a Georgia fan because a Florida fan was taunting us mercilessly after a Georgia victory. Or that time you didn't remember that thing that happened because you were so blackout drunk that your slightly-less-drunk friends had to carry you to the car and hold your head out the window on the way home while you vomited. (Note: This is every year. The only thing that changes is which member of your group blacks out.)
I could go on, but I won't. Ostensibly, this is about the game, not the party. It's impossible to separate the two, however, so I'll just post this here link to the definitive preview of the party and move on to the gridiron. (I should not have to tell you that the previous link is NSFW, but I will tell you anyway. That link is NSFW.)
When Florida has the ball, we're going to be talking about the resistible object vs. the moveable force. Florida's offense last year was just not that good. It's partially because the Gators had 2 different offensive coordinators in Will Muschamp's first two seasons, but also because they just didn't have a load of playmakers on that side of the ball. On top of that, Andre Debose, their best WR, is out for the season with an ACL tear, and they had so many offensive line injuries during the spring that they actually had to cancel their spring game because they didn't have enough players. Jeff Driskel has missed most of fall practice due to an emergency appendectomy, but that won't be an issue by the time the cocktail party rolls around. His horrible quarterback play, however, will probably continue to be an issue for the Gators. The fact that he doesn't have any great players to throw to, hand the ball off to, or block for him will also probably be an issue for the Sunshine State Saurians.
On the other hand, Georgia's defense is, essentially, replacing everybody from last year. As we've covered ad nauseam already, we've got guys with experience, but they simply won't be able to fully replace all the talent we lost from last year. In the 2012 game, we beat Florida by causing 5 turnovers and being the gracious recipient of a 6th that was freely offered by the aforementioned Mr. Driskel. I think we're going to need some more conventional stopping of drives and causing of punting to stretch our win streak by the St. John's River to 3 games.
When Georgia has the ball, conversely, it will be the irresistable force vs. the immovable object. Georgia's offense is the strength of the team this year, and Coach Boom's Crocodiles have consistently been driven by their strong defensive play. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will be counted upon to establish the run to set up the pass to contributors like Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley, Michael Bennett, et al.
Bill Connelly of the mothership said it best about the Florida defense when he said this:
Florida didn't even have the decency to put a flashy, fun defense on the field. The Gators went with the Alabama-esque, submission-holds-instead-of-flying-elbow-drops style of defense. With a great push from the middle of the line and fast linebackers and safeties in pursuit, Florida leaned on its athleticism and adaptability in 2012, and the results were impressive.
Coach Larry is known for putting a strong defensive product on the field year in an year out, and this year will probably be no different. If we can move the ball against Florida's front 4, we stand a good chance of winning the game. If we can't move the ball, we won't win. It's just as simple as that.
Look, Georgia has its first winning streak in Jacksonville since 1989. We've now won 2 close games in a row, which we also hadn't even done once since 1989. That ain't chopped liver to us. Some of us desperately want to believe that we've already passed the turning point into another 20-year cycle of domination in this series, as we've seen happen 4 times previously throughout history.
I hate Florida with the fire of a thousand suns being fueled by the fire of an additional thousand suns. (No, that's not a prediction, that's just a fact, Jack.) I hate the Gators so much that I simply cannot think logically when it comes to predicting the outcome of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. As a result, I always predict that the Georgia Bulldogs will recreate the result of the 1942 Georgia-Florida game, which saw the Dawgs leave Jacksonville with a 75-0 win. In a pinch, though, I will accept merely a reenactment of the first game against the Floridians, which was a 52-0 Bulldog rout.