My former "Dawg Show" co-host, Travis Rice, no doubt spoke for many metropolitan Atlanta sports fans when, after the local National League franchise missed the playoffs for the first time since 1990, he said, "It turns out that I'm not a baseball fan, I'm a Braves fan."
Well, I am a baseball fan and, while the Braves are, far and away, my favorite major league team, their absence from the postseason had only a minimal impact on my rooting interests. With a modicum of effort, I could rank the National League teams in sequence from most favorite to most disdained, so that I always know for whom I am cheering in the postseason.
Since my grandfather was a Cardinals fan, I was pulling for St. Louis. (My inclination to support the Cards was not diminished by the fact that they had to beat the National League team I dislike the most, the Mets, to get to the World Series.)
Accordingly, my compliments go out to the St. Louis Cardinals on their World Series victory. (I won't ruin the moment by raising the question whether a world championship being claimed by a team that only won 83 games during the regular season confirms my belief that all playoff systems are inherently flawed.)
Now, let us return to the matter of this afternoon's showdown between the Bulldogs and the Gators, to which even those of us who do not drink before football games refer as the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
That's what we call it, Il Duce. Cope, you arrogant preening sanctimonious hypocritical chump.
We have already compared the two teams in terms of offense, defense, and special teams. Let us now take a look at the last few data deserving of our consideration:
The Feel Good Stat of the Week
Last weekend, Georgia beat Mississippi State between the hedges. The last time the Classic City Canines beat the Western Division Bulldogs in Sanford Stadium was in 1997 . . . when the Red and Black also beat the Gators, 37-17.
Prior to that, the 'Dawgs had beaten M.S.U. in Athens in 1989 . . . then Georgia went on to defeat Florida in Jacksonville, 17-10.
Before that, the Bulldogs beat the squad from Starkville in the Classic City in 1971, 1975, and 1983 . . . and proceeded to get the better of the Gators by scores of 49-7, 10-7, and 10-9, respectively.
In seasons in which Georgia beats Mississippi State in Athens, the 'Dawgs are 6-2 all-time against Florida in Jacksonville. The Red and Black have claimed five straight series wins over the Orange and Blue after defeating M.S.U. at home and the Bulldogs have not lost to the Gators after beating Mississippi State in Athens in my lifetime.
Look at it this way . . . there's a lot more recent evidence of Georgia's ability to win in Jacksonville than there is of Florida's ability to win in Starkville!
The Bottom Line
The Bulldogs might as well embrace their role as underdogs; it isn't as though being the favorite has served Georgia well in recent meetings with Florida. Besides, it's pretty clear that any team can beat any other team on any given day, isn't it?
Admittedly, the situation appears rather dire. The Red and Black head into Jacksonville in the midst of a disappointing season that has produced just six victories thus far. Georgia's highly successful head coach has led the Classic City Canines to four 10-win seasons in the last five years, but this fall has failed to live up to expectations.
This year, the 'Dawgs have held a lead over a conference rival in a night game at home yet gone on to lose the contest. This year, the Red and Black have hosted an overmatched opponent from what is now the Big 12 and escaped with a narrow win in a low-scoring affair. This year, despite claiming road wins in the Magnolia and Palmetto States, the Bulldogs have suffered the embarrassment of seeing their 11-game winning streak over Vanderbilt snapped. Finally, this year, Georgia will take the field in Jacksonville to face a highly-ranked Florida squad that is favored to win the Southeastern Conference crown and remains in the running for a national title.
Does that scenario sound familiar to anyone?
It should . . . because those were exactly the circumstances that faced the 'Dawgs in 1985, when the Gators were ranked No. 1 and the outcome on Duval Street was such a foregone conclusion that Sports Illustrated didn't even send a reporter to cover the game.
Georgia won that contest, 24-3.
I've compared their numbers and, believe me, Chris Leak is no Kerwin Bell.
In the aforementioned 1997 season, Florida was a 20-point favorite . . . and Georgia won by 20 points. This time, the oddsmakers claim it will be a 14-point game. I believe they're right.
My Prediction: Georgia 24, Florida 10.