Show passion wihtout going overboard


Published: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 1:05 a.m.
Making predictions is the theme of this column as always but there is one I hope I get wrong.
It concerns Saturday night. I worry about the Florida-Georgia aftermath. Whether it's the Bulldogs barking or the Gators chomping after the big game in Jacksonville, I think there could be trouble.
It's the first time the game has been played in primetime, making it the World's Latest Outdoor Cocktail Party. I've always been against the game being played at night because it gives fans on both sides too long to drink too much.
"We've talked about it," said Florida offensive tackle Max Starks. "We're wondering if some fans are going to make it into the stadium."
Florida-Georgia leads the world in tailgating, but the extra time could make for an ugly scene. And you know fans are going to get there early with GameDay set to be on hand more than nine hours before kickoff.
We knew this would come one day because ESPN wasn't going to continue to pour money into its deal with the SEC without having a chance to televise the conference's biggest games. CBS gets first dibs, but the all-sports network wanted to have an occasional shot at something like Florida-Georgia. The schools obliged, much to the pleasure of the other conference institutions who reap the benefits of an increased TV deal.
Both sides have made public service announcements to their fans and ESPN's Chris Fowler also recorded a plea for sanity.
Remember, it's just a game. Pace yourselves and have fun. What makes this a unique experience is the split crowd, but that also increases the likelihood of an irate fan of one team getting in the face of a fan of the other team.
Hopefully, those dressed on orange and blue or black and red will show us that you can have passion without going too far.
Now for some predictions I feel confident will come true. Last week, the Swamp Swami was 7-5. Don't blame me, blame a wacky college football season.
  • FLORIDA (5-3) VS. GEORGIA (8-0): Ron Zook was being presumptuous, maybe even a little defensive this week when he looked at a roomful of media types and said, "It's just like the Tennessee game. Nobody in this room thinks we can win."
    Not true. Members of the University of Florida athletic department were in the back of the room, including Jeremy Foley. The Florida athletic director would like the Gators' chances against Green Bay.
    Certainly, it's not fair to assume that The Swamp Swami does not think Florida can win Saturday. OK, that was true before Tennessee, but not this week.
    For one thing, I'm still not sure how good Georgia is. Those who are predicting a Bulldog rout are basing it on Georgia's second half against a Kentucky defense that gave up 41 points to Florida. Remember when Florida could score 41 points in a game?
    Here is the big question Saturday - we know Florida will be loose and throwing everything at the guys in red and black, but what about Georgia? Might the Bulldogs be a little tight with so much on the line?
    The off week helped Florida get healthy, but you wonder if a struggling offense has some rust on it. You wonder if the Gators can protect Grossman, if they can get to the Georgia quarterbacks, if they can avoid turnovers.
    If they do those things, they will win. Yep, I think Florida can win. I just don't think the Gators will. GEORGIA 31, FLORIDA 24. n AUBURN (5-3) AT MISSISSIPPI (5-3): Now that Jason Campbell is in control at quarterback, perhaps Auburn is ready to make a stretch run that will land the Tigers in Atlanta. Or perhaps he's ready to show that he's still a mediocre quarterback and Daniel Cobb will be asked to rescue Auburn.
    Ole Miss is unbeaten at home, but the true Rebel defense has shown up in its last two games giving up 90 points to Alabama and Arkansas. All of which makes Florida's scoreless second half in Oxford so much more of a mystery.
    This could end of being a bit of embarrassing season for David Cutcliffe. His team was 5-1 but with a brutal stretch of games to close the season, the Rebels may be shut out of a bowl game again.
    AUBURN 31, OLE MISS 17. n ALABAMA (6-2) AT VANDERBILT (2-6): Much has been made of Vandy coach Bobby Johnson's no-cussing rule, but I'm guessing there might have been some blue language when the Commodores trailed Connecticut late in the game last week.
    Vandy rallied for its second win, but it will likely be its last this season.
    The Tide is rolling, winning its last two games by a combined 76-21. That could be the final this week.
    ALABAMA 52, VANDY 12. n KENTUCKY (5-3) AT MISSISSIPPI ST. (3-4): The Bulldogs must be thankful Vanderbilt is in the league. Otherwise, Starkville would be home to the SEC's worst team.
    Mississippi State has wins this season over Jacksonville State, Troy State (by three) and Memphis. The heat is definitely on Jackie Sherrill, but this may be the Saturday when he gets a conference win. The Wildcats have to be down after talk about tearing down goalposts ended with a 31-0 second half by Georgia.
    Still, I just don't see how the Bulldogs can score enough to win.
    KENTUCKY 30, MISSISSIPPI STATE 24. n TENNESSEE (4-3) AT SOUTH CAROLINA (5-3): Tennessee offensive coordinator Randy Sanders not only has been criticized for his play-calling, but also for showing signs of disgust on the sidelines during the Vols' loss to Alabama last week.
    "I hope everybody knows I care, but I was probably too animated on the sidelines," Sanders said.
    It's just nice to know that someone cares in Knoxville. The team sure isn't playing like it.
    A Tennessee loss in Columbia would allow the Vols to overtake Nebraska as the most disappointing team in college football this season.
    Oh yeah, Tennessee has Miami next week. But it's not like the Vols will be looking ahead. Teams struggling to become bowl eligible don't look far down the road.
    TENNESSEE 24, SOUTH CAROLINA 21. n ELSEWHERE: Ohio State over Minnesota 23-21, Texas over Nebraska 28-17, Oklahoma over Colorado 34-30, Arizona State over Washington State 45-41, Jags over Giants 24-17, Bucs over Vikings 16-12, Gatorskins over Seahawks 28-21, Packers over Fins 30-17.
    You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5053. You can hear Pat on the radio Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on "The Pat Dooley Show" on WTMN "The Team" AM-1430.
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