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Why Winning the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party Against the Florida Gators in 2011 is Critical for the Georgia Bulldogs

How important is next year’s Cocktail Party? Well, it’s always pretty important, but the 2011 SEC East clash in Jacksonville figures to be even more significant than usual.

The last three Gator coaches all departed Gainesville with a record against the Bulldogs ending in "and one." It is said that first impressions are lasting impressions, and, boy howdy, has that been true for Sunshine State Saurian skippers.

Since the Orange and Blue started playing football acknowledge having started playing football, Florida has been guided by 20 full-time head coaches (not counting interim coaches Gary Darnell and Charlie Strong). Three of them (Jack Forsythe, G.E. Pyle, and J.A. Van Fleet, who may have appeared in "Dynasty," "The Andy Griffith Show," and "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," respectively) did not cross paths with Georgia.

Eight of the remaining 17 began their careers in command of the Gators by going 1-0 against the Red and Black. Here is how that worked out for them:

Coach 1st Yr. v. UGA 1st Mtg. w/UGA Career v. UGA Fla. Career W%
Charles Bachman 1928 W, 26-6 2-2-1 .594
Tom Lieb 1940 W, 18-13 1-4 .436
Ray Graves 1960 W, 22-14 6-3-1 .686
Doug Dickey 1970 W, 24-17 3-6 .573
Galen Hall 1984 W, 27-0 2-3 .686
Steve Spurrier 1990 W, 38-7 11-1 .817
Ron Zook 2002 W, 20-13 2-1 .622
Urban Meyer 2005 W, 14-10 5-1 .810

Obviously, those eight coaches account for every first-place finish in the conference standings and the national rankings in Gator history. Five of them finished their careers at or above .500 against the Red and Black, with one of the remaining three finishing just one game shy of a winning mark against the ‘Dawgs. Seven of the eight won more than 57 per cent of their games, with half going .686 or better.

What of the nine Florida coaches who opened up at 0-1 against Georgia? These are they:

Coach 1st Yr. v. UGA 1st Mtg. w/UGA Career v. UGA Fla. Career W%
Charles McCoy 1915 L, 37-0 0-2 .474
A.L. Busser 1919 L, 16-0 0-1 .467
William Kline 1920 L, 56-0 0-1 .690
Tom Sebring 1926 L, 32-9 0-2 .600
Dutch Stanley 1933 L, 14-0 0-3 .517
Josh Cody 1936 L, 26-8 1-3 .419
Ray Wolf 1946 L, 33-14 1-3 .359
Bob Woodruff 1950 L, 6-0 6-4 .554
Charley Pell 1979 L, 33-10 0-5 .556

Of the nine who failed to beat Georgia the first time, six never beat Georgia. Only one had a winning record against the Bulldogs, and that lone coach was the only one of them to post a winning percentage of better than .250 against the Classic City Canines. Four of those coaches had losing ledgers to show for their respective stays in Gainesville, and just two won at least 56 per cent of their games with the Gators. William Kline alone won at better than a 60 per cent clip.

In short, when a new Florida skipper takes the helm, it matters a great deal whether he gets off on the right foot in Jacksonville. Those who emerge triumphant from their first encounter with Georgia generally go on to be successful, both against the Bulldogs and overall; those who don’t, don’t.

Next October, we need to break in the new guy, in order to avoid getting broken in by the new guy. For what it’s worth, five of the nine Florida coaches who opened up 0-1 against Georgia sustained shutout setbacks in their initial encounter with the ‘Dawgs, and none notched more than 14 points against the Red and Black. A breakout defensive performance that paves the way to a win in the 2011 Cocktail Party is mission-critical to Georgia’s success next year . . . and beyond.

Go ‘Dawgs!