Can the Georgia Bulldogs Turn Page in Rivalry With Florida Gators?

David MitchellCorrespondent IMay 30, 2010

On May 21, officials for the University of Florida and the University of Georgia completed a draft of a new contract that would keep the annual game between the two teams in Jacksonville, Fla., through the 2016 season.

According to the Athens-Banner Herald, which obtained a draft of the contract through an open records request, the contract, among other things, makes stipulations for monetary reimbursement for Georgia's travel expenses as well as marketing assets being split between the two schools rather than three ways with the city of Jacksonville.

This would allow the two schools to sell naming rights to the game to corporate sponsors.

Now the only question is whether it will be same Dawg time, same Dawg blowout for the Georgia Bulldogs or if the departure of former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow might reignite the competitiveness for the Silver Britches.

For the past two seasons, watching this game has been like watching a dog chase its tail. It's been a losing battle from the opening whistle and could only have been made worse if I had driven the 350-plus miles from Athens, Ga. to see them in person (I did.)

After an encouraging 42-30 victory in 2007 which included the now-infamous "Gator Stomp" the Bulldogs were embarrassed in both of the next two season with losses of 49-10 and 41-17, respectively.

And, though it pains me to say it, Georgia deserved what it got in each. The team was painfully unprepared and overconfident when it arrived in Jacksonville two years ago, despite being humbled by the Alabama Crimson Tide earlier in the season, and last year took the field in black pants and helmets proving the old adage that you can't teach an old dog new tricks only to leave the field with its tail tucked between its legs.

But this season will usher in a new generation for both teams. Florida will be lead by junior quarterback John Brantley while Georgia will turn to Aaron Murray, a redshirt freshman from Florida that would love nothing more than to be successful in his home state.

And while Georgia's run of disappointments in the Sunshine State have spanned nearly two decades, there are reasons to believe that the team could find success sooner rather than later.

To begin with, Georgia returns 10 starters to its offense, losing only quarterback Joe Cox (which some would consider a gain).

While Murray, a freshman, should experience some growing pains throughout the season, recent history has shown that underclassmen can have big impacts on the offense at the quarterback position if handled correctly. This would be limiting how much the rest of the offense relies on his success and allowing him to simply manage the offense.

Florida, by comparison, returns just six starters to its offense in 2010.

Another cause for optimism in the Georgia camp is Florida head coach Urban Meyer. While he is widely considered one of the best coaches in the country, and justly so, Meyer experienced a rather turbulent offseason which should be cause for some concern for the Gators.

After originally resigning from his position as head coach of the Gators, Meyer withdrew his resignation and claimed to be taking a leave of absence. Not long after, he claimed he would take a break during the offseason and reassess his position after the spring.

The last I saw of Meyer this spring, he was angrily insulting journalists during a Florida practice. Not exactly the best actions for a man with potential heart condition.

And if all of these sound like stretches, then take into account that Georgia will now be without the "services" of much-maligned defensive coordinator Willie Martinez. New defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will implement a much more aggressive 3-4 system that could prove to be the difference in slowing down Florida's offense.

The key will be whether Georgia's defensive line will be capable of containing Florida's speedy halfback Jeff Demps and whether the secondary will be able to blanket receivers long enough to allow Georgia's versatile outside linebackers to reach and rattle quarterback Brantley.

With the annual rivalry game back in Jacksonville for at least the next six seasons, it is clear that tradition will not change for the two schools. Changing history, however, will be up to the Bulldogs.