It has been a full Hate Week here at Dawg Sports, complete with RedCrake’s artistry, vineyarddawg’s Biblical trek through history and his questions and answers with the opposition, Dawg Haus’s 15 Thoughts, Dawg2011’s 12 Uses, Cherokee’s Grip’s several fine literary offerings, and the many other worthy contributions put forth by staff writers and community members alike. In addition to all that, folks who don’t know the name of the game have added their thoughts, as well. Given the foregoing outpouring of insight, what am I able to add at this juncture? Would you believe . . . Too Much Information?
First, though, permit me to set the stage with a little mood music:
Here we go:
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the Sunshine State Saurians run the ball really, really well. Their 212.7 yards per game on the ground give them the third-best rushing average in the league, while the Classic City Canines languish in sixth place with 205.1 yards per game on handoffs. It should not be overlooked, however, that the Gators run the ball 45.6 times per game, more than any other team in the conference. (There are circumstances in which Georgia Tech passes more frequently than do the Gators.) Florida’s 4.7 yards per carry give them the lowest such average among the SEC’s top seven teams in rushing offense, while the Bulldogs’ 5.3 yards per rush attempt are the second-most in the league. The Red and Black likewise boast the conference’s second-highest rushing touchdown total (20), whereas the Orange and Blue rank a middling sixth in the SEC with 16. The Gators just run the ball more than Georgia; they don’t run it better, or even as well.
Last weekend, against Kentucky, Aaron Murray broke the school record for career touchdown passes. The Georgia mark previously had been held by David Greene, who set it in 2004 . . . a year in which the Bulldogs beat the Gators. Prior to Greene, the last Red and Black quarterback to have completed his collegiate eligibility with more than 35 touchdown passes to his credit was Mike Bobo, who threw his 38th and final TD toss in 1997 . . . also a year in which the Bulldogs beat the Gators. Given this rivalry’s defining play, I don’t suppose it should surprise us that Georgia tends to win in Jacksonville in seasons in which the Athenians’ signal caller sets a career touchdown mark.
No team in the Southeastern Conference has attempted fewer field goals than Georgia (6). No team in the Southeastern Conference has made more field goals than Florida (12). These facts make me happy, because we will need the Mark Richt who went for touchdowns on fourth downs in Jacksonville last year to show up on the sideline by the St. John’s River tomorrow afternoon in order to win.
Last year, Florida became the fifth team to have lost to Georgia for the 48th time, joining a club to which previously had been added the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (in 1993), the Auburn Tigers (in 2003), the Kentucky Wildcats (in 2007), and the Vanderbilt Commodores (also in 2007). Three of the last four times the Bulldogs beat an opponent for the 48th time, the Red and Black notched their 49th victory against that team the following year.
The Bulldogs’ offensive line is worse than the Gators’ and Jeff Driskel is more mobile than Aaron Murray, right? Well, then, how come Florida ranks twelfth in the SEC in total sacks allowed (21) and 13th in the league in sacks permitted per game (3)? Georgia, by the way, ranks fourth in the SEC in both categories, having conceded a dozen quarterback takedowns overall, for a 1.7 per-game average.
Uh . . . have you turned on a television in, like, the last 20 years?
All right, let’s get serious here. I’m not honestly suggesting that a Georgia team that lost to South Carolina could beat Florida, am I?
Well, actually, kind of, yeah.
After all, in 2011, Georgia lost to South Carolina but beat Florida. Before that, in 2007, Georgia lost to South Carolina but beat Florida. In the last two seasons in which the Bulldogs beat the Gators back-to-back, in 1988 and 1989, Georgia lost to South Carolina both years. Four of the Red and Black’s last six wins over the Orange and Blue have come in seasons in which they lost to the Garnet and Black. Between 1959 and 2011, Georgia lost to South Carolina an unlucky 13 times, but the Bulldogs beat Florida in seven of those 13 seasons.
It is difficult to overestimate the significance of tomorrow’s contest. Even the Gator faithful deem this game the biggest in series history. I wouldn’t go that far---I’m a Georgia fan; I don’t pretend history started at some arbitrary late date (be it 1906 or the 1940s or 1990) the way Florida fans do---but it’s still a pretty big deal.
A Bulldog win tomorrow would snap a lengthy streak of futility against top-ranked teams, decisively silence the renewed “hot seat” talk surrounding Mark Richt, and (barring a stunning upset by Ole Miss or Auburn) earn the Red and Black a second consecutive trip to the SEC Championship Game. It also would mean that, after a maddening 1-13 stretch against the Sunshine State Saurians between 1990 and 2003, the Bulldogs will have won four of the last nine, three of the last six, and two in a row in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, finally silencing the ESPN narrative that supposes Ray Goff’s shortcomings somehow are relevant to college students who consider Steve Spurrier that old guy at South Carolina, which is almost as dumb as the notion that the Gators come into tomorrow’s game looking for “revenge” after their six-loss 2011 team was beaten in a clean and incident-free game by a ten-win division champion in a single-score contest.
Although chuckdawg argues forcefully for the opposite proposition, I took heart from Shawn Williams’s remarks taking his teammates to task, but, unless the defense is as inspired as it was in the Vanderbilt game, that fiery outburst will provide only a short-lived spark for an underachieving unit.
This game, like most games, will be won and lost in the trenches, in the weight room, and in the craniums of the combatants. Georgia has the edge in exactly none of those categories. Neither psychology nor field position nor defensive prowess nor even Mother Nature appears to be operating in the Bulldogs’ favor in this matchup. Simply stated, there are no measurable or intangible criteria to which we may point confidently in support of the proposition that the Red and Black will get the better of the Orange and Blue tomorrow.
I have hope, because, where there is life, there always is hope. However, having looked to find a reason to believe and found no cause for belief, I do not believe.