Today is not Groundhog Day, the movie. Neither was yesterday or the day before that or tomorrow.
We may wake up daily to the same song (my alarm is “Love Shack” by the B-52s), but as each day progresses, things change. We get good news and bad news and strong opinions from strong writers who are simply offering what may happen in the wide world of sports, eventually.
Make no mistake about it, we will all be different.
But this is where we are, in a state of limbo that is one-part anxiety and one-part anticipation. And it changes by the hour.
Here in the land of the orange-and-blue sunsets, there is one prevailing theme that overwhelms the fans when they allow themselves to pull down their masks and stop watching Netflix long enough to offer an opinion.
Florida needs to beat Georgia.
That’s it. That’s the eventual story.
It’s a long time until that game is scheduled and could be even longer if the season is pushed back. Still, Gator fans are obsessing and Georgia fans are obnoxious about their recent success over Florida even if it has resulted in the same number of national titles that Georgia won from 1981 to infinity and beyond.
During this prolonged offseason, the two coaches who had the most success against Georgia have already weighed in on Dan Mullen’s next season with the simple words, “He has to beat Georgia.”
Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer went a combined 16-2 against the red and black. They owned Georgia despite each of them having one glitch year. And because they won that game so many times, they combined to play in 10 SEC Championship Games.
I do feel it’s important to note that they played against lesser Georgia teams than Mullen has so far. (Or did they contribute to making Georgia lesser teams?)
Georgia’s winning percentage in the years these three coaches faced them:
Mullen 23-5 .821
Meyer 54-24 .692.
Spurrier 88-51 .633.
Of course, Meyer and Spurrier were responsible for a lot of those Bulldog losses. Spurrier got two coaches fired, Ray Goff and Jim Donnan.
Heck, even Jim McElwain contributed to getting Mark Richt fired after Richt lost for the 10th time against Florida.
Here’s what we know — there was one weird spell where the loser of the Florida-Georgia game played for the SEC title three times in four years (yes, Ron Zook was involved in two of those seasons), but for the most part the losers of the Cocktail Party will not be headed to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the SEC title game unless they win tickets in a radio contest.
So … Florida needs to beat Georgia.
We all know that. Mullen said after last year’s loss there was only a seven-point difference between the two programs. Might as well be 70.
All that matters is which team wins and which team’s fans are left to crying in the St. Johns River (which flows north for obvious reasons).
Which is why Gator fans think about it at least once a day. Minimum.
Mullen can lean on his former boss for advice or the guy one floor up at the stadium. Or he can just come to me.
I’ve seen more Florida-Georgia games than most people. I’ve sat in just about every section of the stadium, watched from a skybox, sat in the old stinky press box and the poorly-designed new one.
My second-guessing is unparalleled.
But this is first-guessing.
I’d go all Nick Saban on Georgia.
It’s not the same situation because of what we are dealing with pandemically, but it’s possible to do what Saban did after the 2008 loss to Florida in the SEC Championship Game.
He obsessed about Florida. Every practice, every meeting. By the time the Tide got ready to play the mighty Gators, his players knew everything they needed to do to win the game. You want guys who are all-in, make them all-in about beating Georgia.
It comes with a risk because your players and coaches can get caught in a trap game. And that certainly happened to Alabama in 2009 when the Tide almost lost a home game to a mediocre Tennessee team in Game Eight.
But I’d give it a shot.
Because even though the Doggies have games in the first half of their season against Alabama and Auburn, you know it’s going to come down to that one game.
And you’d better beat Georgia.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.