Florida Feature Columnist Trey Jones clinks cocktail glasses with Georgia Feature Columnist Isaac Scheidt and offers his slant on what it will take for the Gators to come out on top in Jacksonville.
Isaac's excellent thoughts on this party can be found here.
First, let’s state the obvious—even though the Florida/Georgia game has lost a bit of national luster over the last 18 years or so, it’s still the premier grudge-fest for both of these teams.
Sure, Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Auburn boil the blood of the Gators and the Bulldogs but nothing really compares to the hype, hatred, and pageantry of what was formerly known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”.
This season there’s much more at stake than just bragging rights.
For the Gators, winning cleanly over head coach Mark Richt and his Georgia Bulldogs is a necessity if they want to keep their lead in the SEC east and top BCS ranking intact.
Richt’s Bulldogs, tagged with two conference losses already, find themselves once again in the all too familiar role of spoiler.
But there are greater implications at work here.
Florida is preparing to undergo one of the most drastic losses in leadership and talent ever seen in the SEC. A win over Georgia is crucial when attempting to gain the attention of much needed four and five star high school talent in the tri-state area.
For Georgia, another loss to Florida is not only a battlefield defeat in the recruiting war but also a blow to the perception of Bulldog coaching competence.
This contest has never favored the desperate. Florida may be looking for improvement and playing ugly but they are undefeated and winning games with grit. Georgia, hopes dashed with midseason losses and an offensive identity crisis of their own, could find themselves seduced into creating a game day strategy of hope.
For Georgia “GD” doesn’t mean Go Dawgs it means Gator Defense.
Five games into the SEC schedule and Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and his Gator squad have accepted the fact that there can be no margin for error this season.
Now tasked with supporting an offense with significant production and turnover issues, Strong’s defense has stepped up to the challenge and successfully kept opponents out of the end zone and off the field.
On Saturday, Georgia will face a top ranked defense that allows fewer than 230 total yards and less than 11 points per game. The Dawgs, owners of the 103rd ranked rushing attack, face the prospect of having to force a passing game in front of one of the fastest defensive backfields in the nation.
This weekend, should Georgia find that airing the ball is the only option, the Gator defense might do more than just contain the Dawgs, they may even take some pressure off the offense by putting a few points on the board themselves - with or without Brandon Spikes.
Is there a silver lining around this Gator shaped cloud? Sure, the Bulldogs are in possession of the top ranked punting unit in the nation…
Even when Tim Tebow scores points for the opposition the Gators still win.
Tebow had one of his worst outings as a Gator quarterback last Saturday when playing against a very motivated and prepared Mississippi State team. But by force of will, Tebow shook off two interceptions, three sacks, and multiple hurries to rush for 88 yards and a score.
Frustrated and very much out of sorts for most of the game, Tebow showed how much he has matured as a player and kept his cool while continuing to lead his offense on the field.
Now that Meyer has promised to address issues that have been impacting Tebow’s performance, look for the leading Gator rusher to see more crossing routes, a fullback for pocket protection, and a power formation or two for short yardage gains.
Against Georgia, Tebow will return to doing what he does best – lead the team with confidence and excitement, blow over corners on power sweeps, draw 8 in the box on 3rd and shorts, and pass accurately when given time in the pocket to throw.
Something new this way comes – at Georgia’s expense…
Immediately after the “Defectory” over Mississippi State, Meyer confessed that he was personally responsible for creating the game plans and calling the plays that resulted in very “un-Gatorlike” third down and red zone performance.
This acknowledgment is huge news since it suggests that Meyer will finally toss a few older pages out of the playbook and start coming up with imaginative ways to use his trusted AND underused skill players.
Although it’s a stretch to think that the Power I will become the new look for Florida, it’s not unconceivable to expect to see a few new Gator plays or formations—especially in the red zone.
This change in attitude will spell big trouble for Richt since he has been preparing the Bulldogs to face an opponent obsessed with making an offensive strategy work. Now that Meyer has cracked open the door to change the most desired element in college football, unpredictability, will return to the Gator offense.
For Georgia, the spirit of Lindsey will be fleeting at best…
In past years, seeing the Gators ride into Jacksonville with a solid SEC record and a high national ranking was nothing short of a bad omen.
However, things have changed over the last 18 years and the Bulldog juju that had been hanging over Florida has now settled over Athens.
Richt and his Bulldogs will play hard this Saturday but no amount of passion or pep will overcome Meyer, his mission to improve his offense, and Strong’s defense.
The final toast?
Florida 31 Georgia 17