Florida, Georgia fanbases having different reactions to similar seasons


Florida head coach Will Muschamp reacts on the sidelines against Missouri during the second half at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo., on Oct. 19.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 9:14 p.m.

When they meet Saturday at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, the coaches and players on both sides of the stadium would be forgiven if they met at the middle of the field and told war stories.

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Florida head coach Will Muschamp reacts on the sidelines against Missouri during the second half at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo., on Oct. 19.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun

It could be like that scene in “Jaws” when the occupants of the Orca try to top each other.

“See this? Dominique Easley. Best defensive lineman in the SEC. Tore his ACL on a non-contact play … IN PRACTICE!”

“Oh yeah? Check out Malcolm Mitchell's ACL scar. Hurt it celebrating SOMEONE ELSE'S TOUCHDOWN!”

“I can top that (points to chest). Maty Mauk. He broke my heart.”

In fact, at first glance, Florida and Georgia look like mirror images of themselves.

Both lost a tough early-season non-conference game that propelled their rival into the national spotlight. Both of them have lost two straight SEC games leaving their seasons teetering on the brink. Injuries have taken away some of the best players on each team and wiped out their depth.

If anyone can understand what Mark Richt is going through, it's Will Muschamp and vice versa. Not that either of them care.

The interesting thing to me is that although these teams have had almost Xeroxed seasons so far, the fan bases have reacted differently.

Florida fans are livid. Georgia fans are resigned.

“There is a loss of passion from the phone calls we're getting,” said Buck Belue, the former Georgia quarterback who co-hosts a radio show on 680 The Fan in Atlanta. “I think fans are thinking more about what this team could have been.”

The Gator Nation has had a different reaction to Florida's 4-3 record. Some of the emails and tweets I have received have made me worry about the sanity of those sending them. I actually have made it a policy not to read any of them on Sundays after Florida losses because they are so mean-spirited.

Injuries are not an excuse, they claim. They should have players who can step right in and do the job, like anybody has two Easleys on their team.

I have several theories as to why Florida fans are angrier about their 4-3 than Georgia fans about their 4-3. It's not like Georgia fans aren't grinding their teeth, but it all seems to be directed at defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and the special teams mistakes.

“They understand the offense is hurting,” said Tony Barnhart of CBSSports.com. “Georgia fans are upset that the defense hasn't gotten any better. The reality is, though, that it's better to lose 42-35 than 17-10.”

The most obvious reason for the difference in attitudes is that Georgia has been entertaining on offense. They score points and never seem to be out of a game until its over. Florida's offense has been about as entertaining as playing chess with Gene Chizik.

Losing is never fun and never tolerated. But losing with a boring offense is like racing in the Daytona 500 on a scooter. It's not only deflating, it's frustrating.

Another thing that Florida fans have to deal with that Georgia fans do not — the archrival in-state school to the West looks unbeatable and may play for a national title. If Florida's season is an open wound, FSU is the vinegar and Miami has added some salt.

I have more. Georgia has beaten a quality team in LSU. After hearing all summer how the Bulldogs would get their comeuppance by finally playing a good team from the SEC West, the Dogs survived with a gritty performance.

Florida, on the other hand, has beaten nobody. It's four wins have come against teams that are a combined 13-18 and 1-11 in SEC play.

“Georgia bought some good will with that win over LSU,” Belue said.

There is also this — while all of this is going on here, the coach who left them in a mess hasn't lost a game at Ohio State no matter how hard Florida fans have rooted against him. It's just another twist of the knife.

And, finally, I think Florida fans expect more. Save your emails, my Bulldog friends, but Florida has won three national titles since your last one and eight SEC titles since 1990 to your two.

Florida fans are spoiled, of that there is no doubt. Maybe that makes it tougher when things sour.

This much we know — all that has happened in the first two months of the season will be soothed for one team and amplified for the other Saturday night.

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

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