I wrote about this back in June, but my feelings remain the same: Georgia has to win this game. There are many reasons why the 96th edition of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is a must-win for the Dawgs this season. But here are what I see as the five biggest reasons, in no particular order.
#1: The Last 27: Years Head-to-Head (1990-2016)
In the last 27 years, since 1990, here are a few facts that should alarm Dawg fans everywhere.
- Georgia has lost 21 of the last 27 meetings against Florida
- the Dawgs' 6-21 record has come with an average score of 30-18 (12 point margin of defeat)
- span also includes Florida's longest winning streak in the series (7 straight from 1990-1996)
- span also includes Florida's two largest victories in the series (47-7 in 1996; 49-10 in 2008)
- in 95 meetings against Florida, nearly half of Georgia's losses (49%) have come in just the last 27 years
#2: The Last 27 Years: Championships (1990-2016)
For the last 27 years, things have been bad for Georgia against Florida not just in Jacksonville, but on the conference and national stages as well.
SEC EAST TITLES
Florida - 14
Georgia - 5
Florida - 8
Georgia - 2
Florida - 3
Georgia - 0
All three of those disparities are unacceptable, but perhaps the most troubling is the number of conference championships. The Gators have 4 times as many SEC titles in this time span, while the Dawgs have only won the SEC twice during these last 27 years (in 2002 and 2005).
#3 - The Last 3 Meetings
Georgia has lost 3 straight against archrival Florida by a combined score of 89-33. The last two losses were by a combined score of 51-13.
- 2014: Florida 38-20
- 2015: Florida 27-3
- 2016: Florida 24-10
#4 - Kirby Smart
Kirby Smart is currently 0-1 against Florida. The reason Mark Richt is no longer in Athens is because of this game in Jacksonville. You can say it was due to the lack of conference championships, letting the division get away, or not winning the "big games". That is code for not beating Florida. Losing this game directly impacts your team's ability to win the East, win the SEC, and compete for national championships. Richt's 27-3 loss in 2015, his 10th loss in 15 tries against the Gators, sealed his fate.
In order for Kirby Smart to be "successful" in 2017, it's my opinion that he needs to win this game more than any other on the schedule. He has changed the culture of this program already. But the next step is taking control of this rivalry. Then Kirby can be Georgia's Spurrier - and start a new era for this rivalry, one that flips the table and sees the Dawgs looking forward to Jacksonville each year to beat the Gators regularly.
#5 - The East and Our Future
Since 2006, for the last 11 seasons, the loser of the Cocktail Party has never won the East.
Somehow - during the longest stretch of mediocrity for the Eastern division in recent memory - the Bulldogs have failed to seize control of the East.
Despite Phillip Fulmer being gone from Tennessee following a 5-7 record in 2008, and despite Urban Meyer being gone from Florida following a 7-5 record in 2010, Georgia has failed to capitalize, and so far missed the opportunity to own this division. Georgia has failed to win the East in the last four consecutive seasons.
We let MISSOURI win the East twice in a row in just their second and third seasons in the SEC. Then we let TREON HARRIS (only 50% completion percentage, only 1,676 yards, only 9 touchdowns and 6 interceptions) win the division in 2015. Then we let LUKE DEL RIO and AUSTIN APPLEBY win the division in 2016.
The ridiculousness has to stop now. No longer can we afford to not take control of this division. Florida and Tennessee are light-years away from where they were as programs from the days of Steve Spurrier, Phillip Fulmer, and Urban Meyer. And Kentucky and South Carolina, though stabilized, are still significantly behind Georgia in terms of talent and recruiting.