Dooley: Today’s game still holds meaning

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Florida defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III, left, jaws with Florida State's Tyler Hunter during the 2015 game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The records are poor this year, but the rivalry remains intense. [File]

Between all of the flight tracking, speculative guessing, contract language, agent envy and will he-or-won’t he?, we have noticed something else during this Thanksgiving weekend.

There’s a football game today.

It may be Rivalry Week, but in Gainesville it’s more of the Afterthought Bowl.

Yeah, yeah, a couple of six-loss teams are playing, but will Jimbo Fisher stay in Tallahassee or is this just more posturing by the FSU coach’s agent? Offensively, today’s game could be like “Home Alone 4” meets “Rocky V” considering both teams rank in the 100s in total offense, but more importantly — what is Chip Kelly thinking?

It almost seems sacrilegious that these two teams are playing on the 20-year anniversary of what might have been the greatest game ever played in The Swamp.

But that was a different time and these were different programs.

I saw this Tweet from Corey Clark of the Tallahassee Democrat this week (want to make sure I give credit where credit is due):

“Saturday’s Iron Bowl will be just the sixth time, ever, Auburn and Alabama are both ranked in Top 10. … FSU-UF did it 12 straight times. What a decade. Yeesh.”

Yeesh, indeed.

Makes you kind of nostalgic, huh?

Instead, we get two teams that both have a chance to have losing records (it’s a done deal for the Gators) for the first time since 1961. Florida and FSU each went 4-6-1 that season. Of course, they tied each other.

That year, it was the second game of the season. Two years earlier, Florida and FSU went into the game with the worst records in the series. FSU was 3-4, Florida 3-4-1.

FSU had an excuse — the Seminoles were in their sixth year of football.

Florida won that day by the odd score of 18-8 long before you could cram 90,000 in the stadium. The Gators won the next week against Miami to finish with a winning record.

Back then, neither school had dreams of winning a national championship. What is numbing is that both schools thought they had a chance this year.

Raise your hand if you had the Semis in your preseason playoff foursome. And back in July, we thought Florida had its best team under Jim McElwain. You remember him?

FSU has less of an excuse for this disaster of a season than Florida. But that’s irrelevant when toe meets leather because this is an old school Florida-FSU game today.

Nothing on the line except an offseason of bragging rights (unless you want to count FSU’s dreams of going to a bad bowl game).

It is amazing that we are here for a noon kickoff that will get the kind of ratings usually reserved for televised poker and PBS specials on the Industrial Revolution.

But we are here and to write today’s game off as insignificant would be a disservice. It matters. It’s Florida-FSU in The Swamp and for three-plus hours everybody can forget about why these teams are where they are and just hope their players can put 4-6 behind them.

Touchdowns will still count for six points (unless the guy in the review both says they don’t) and the energy will be as real as a Lavar Ball-Donald Trump Twitter war.

Florida will take the field with an NFL-sized roster without enough NFL-sized players and try to gut it out for one last game and let the drive for 2018 start immediately after.

FSU will try to feed off its war chant and try to extend a winning streak against the Gators and you know that means something.

And Miami will sit back and watch these two teams stumble and bumble and size themselves for state championship rings.

Everything is cyclical, but it’s rare that two cycles hit these two proud programs in the same season. What a mess that collision has left behind, like a train full of used diapers smashing into a semi full of Port-a-lets.

Still, today counts just as much as any other regular season game between the two teams when it comes to sticking your chest out. It’s just that this year’s winner will be in the humble-brag mode.

Remember that this is it. It’s the last game of the season. It’s the last chance to be in the stadium, hug after a big play and high-five total strangers. It’s the last opportunity to complain about play calls and go into Surrender Cobra mode after a turnover.

It’s a chance to send off seniors the right way and hear your voices come together.

In what many will see as a meaningless game, that has to mean something.

And it could be worse. We could be watching Vandy-Tennessee.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Here are my goals for today: BP scores a TD; MT scores a TD and rushes for 100+ yards; EP kicks another 50 yard field goal and at least 3 to 4 FGs overall; FF passes for over 200 yards and at least two TDs. At least one interception and one fumble recovery by the Gator D. No turnovers by the Gator O. If we do all this, then UF wins 37-27. GO GATORS!!!

  2. We do have a real chance to send Jimbo out as loser of his last FSU game. If Pinero can kick another 3-5 FGs, backs are successful running the edges (would love to see Thompson have a big day pounding their tired front in 4th quarter preserving a lead), defense has at least two BIG picks, and Franks hits just two good big throws for either TDs or big yards deep in their end. UF 27-21

  3. Great article today.
    Gators win 31-30, flash back repeat ?
    Lemons goes off big time. The starter next year. Frank’s dials in that Cannon Arm with TD accuracy. EP kicks 50 yard FG with 3 sec to win it. Swamp erupts.
    What a thrilling game in the I-4 War. Think that’s what AD Stricklin means about making Florida football fun again ?? 😂😂

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