Here is what I’m NOT worried about as we face KJ Bolden’s former college of choice:
The next Cook family dinner. Older brother Dalvin was probably pretty cocky all season, letting everyone know that the Noles were back. And younger brother James just probably pointed to his ring finger in response. If this was a CFP semifinal or such, the back-and-forth could get heated. Now, it’s probably the loser has to drive the drunk uncle back home.
I’m not worried about Mark Richt’s state of mind either. He put blood, sweat, and tears into coaching each program. But it’s telling that he resides in Athens, and not Tallahassee. Even in the face of health issues, he decides he wants to be around UGA – not FSU.
In almost any other year, in almost any other scenario, the 2023 Orange Bowl matchup between the ACC Champion Florida State Seminoles and the 2-time National Champion Georgia Bulldogs is perfect. The schools aren’t that far apart but rarely play, both have national championships this century, and both fanbases will travel to Miami Gardens to watch their respective teams no matter the day or weather. The Convention & Visitors Bureau would love it, the Chamber of Commerce would drool, and the TV networks would shout out with glee.
But to be honest, the luster of midday was taken off this “New Years 6” bowl game as soon as it was announced. Both teams and both fanbases are pretty disappointed to not be in the College Football Playoff – FSU historically so. Squads laden with NFL talent but no national championship to play for will become restless. And many in Leon County got enough of an itch to declare alternate intentions.
You’re aware that (then) Heisman finalist favorite Jordan Travis went down with a gruesome injury in FSU’s penultimate regular season game. The backup who led them to victory over the Gators, and thus a favorite in Bulldog Nation, has decided to take his talents elsewhere and won’t suit up. In all, the Seminoles won’t have their season leader in passing, running, receiving (top 3), kick returns, or sacks.
The Bulldogs are not immune to this, as we’ve seen upwards of 20 players declare to enter the transfer portal. While the ones officially “opting out” of the bowl game to prep for their NFL careers is minimal, you can expect to see several players on the sidelines Saturday with zero intention of suiting up or entering the field of play.
That doesn’t worry me in and of itself. And since I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch, I can always find something. So here’s what does worry me about facing the team that actually celebrated Jameis Winston:
1. Tomorrow is now. As in, next year’s players and hopefuls will get meaningful playing time in this game. Head Coach Kirby Smart’s philosophy of position by committee is very helpful here – it would be rare to see someone in red and black taking the field for the very first time. FSU is reasonably deep as well, but with the aforementioned attrition we will see young men trying to make their mark. That motivation to shine could lead to some spectacular individual plays by those in garnet and gold. And crazy things happen in bowl season. A few heroics here and there can tip a game if you’re not careful.
2. Going deep in the playbook. Another thing you see in bowl games are trick plays. fake field goals, tackle eligible passes, you name it and you’ve probably already seen it. So what does the top Seminole Mike Norvell do to motivate his players after having their hopes dashed? Break out some non-traditional formations and get players psyched. They are already down to their 3rd string quarterback – what do they have to lose? And I hate to see a successful fake punt executed on UGA. Or a hook and lateral or other such nonsense. I mean, they’re great when we do it, but someone else? Please. Have some respect for the game.
3. Georgia most recently played FSU in the 2003 Sugar Bowl. And the Seminoles were down to their 3rd string QB that game as well. I can’t remember why Chris Rix didn’t play. And I don’t remember why Fabian Walker was pulled, and FSU star wideout (and future NFL star) Anquan Boldin suddenly went under center. You’d think a 12-1 Bulldog team would knock the slobber out of a 9-4 Seminole team going that far on the depth chart for their quarterback. While the game was mostly in control by halftime, it wasn’t a runaway. And that’s what worries me. You leave these guys hanging around long enough and they start to believe. Or they run a trick play that catches you unawares. Or a player starts compiling a highlight reel. We are the better team in every regard – we need to make that known early and often.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me while The Equalizer is on. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the Bulldogs of Georgia against the Seminoles of Florida State. And as always…