Dooley: How Florida can beat Georgia

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Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman (4) is tackled by Florida defenders during last year's game at TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]
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 pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Hear, hear: Dearly beloved GS.com members, Gator fans, and friends,

    We are gathered here today to say goodbye to the dearly departed GS.com comment section. The Gainesville Sun, Halifax Media Group, and The New York Times Company thank you for your condolences and for your attendance at this celebration of life.

    I shall now call upon Gator-6 for the reading of the obituary.

  2. Good afternoon, my name is Gator-6 and I’ll keep my remarks brief. Friends, we are gathered here, those few of us left, to grieve the demise of the GS.com Comment Section, but take comfort in the thought that it is in a better — albeit more lonely — place now. Sadder indeed is the vibrant responses of old time Gator fanatics losing such a forum and we know that despite their silence they mourn with us. Such is the tragedy of a lingering demise, one day in August of last year so alive, so full of hope, only to become a shell of its former self less than a year later.

    It will do no good for we survivors to rail against the sun in futility, asking repeatedly the same question of how this all happened. But dear hearts, there are still lessons to be learned and our dearly departed GS.com Comments Section would have wanted us to understand them. It is indeed a tale of riding high, suddenly being seduced into the wrong bench marks of number of “hits” versus strong membership involvement, and then taking the final fall. I ask you however, who among us on this mortal coil has not taken the wrong road or used the wrong bench marks to determine what success means? Fortunately, GS.com has left us all with a means to repent! And that will be its lasting legacy.

    GS.com is survived by many, not the least of which are the great sportswriters who labored so strenuously to provide grist for the mill. May their names go down in Gator posterity.

    I’ll open up the floor now for others to post their tributes.

  3. Good afternoon fellow Gator fanatics. It is my distinct honor to follow you august gentlemen in extolling the now nearly expired virtues of this once great GS comment section. I was originally drawn to the GS website by the thoroughness of Robbie’s articles, the humorous wit of Pat’s columns and the passionate banter of many in Gator Nation that enthusiastically followed and responded to both and to each other.

    I guess all good things must come to an end. With the near death of fan commentary on this site on account of the surprise pay wall thrown up last August and the likely delay, if not the complete demise of a promising Gator 2020 football season, there is really not much point in keeping this comatose website on life support much longer.

    Hopefully some day, this once vibrant website will be replaced by another equally worthy of Gator Nation’s passionate involvement. Until then, so long good friends. It was fun while it lasted!

  4. And now, a poem in honor of the dearly departed.

    GS.com, our dear old friend,
    Sadly, we have come to the end.

    In recent past we’d rush to read
    Your chronicles of mighty Gator deeds.

    To the comments boards we’d swiftly go,
    To type our responses laced with imho.

    Then one sad day we read with surprise,
    Our continued reading would come with a price.

    Our beloved source of free information
    Would now be subject to a paid subscription.

    The fee itself caused little objection,
    But the ambush led to a great rejection.

    So one by one the posters departed
    Until the hangers on were broken hearted.

    The comments section they tried to revive,
    But to no avail, they couldn’t keep it alive.

    Articles with responses, nary a one,
    Tell the sad tale, the comment section is done.

    So now old friend it’s time to part
    With your memory tucked safe in our hearts.

  5. As I take one last stroll through the GS.com comment section, I am saddened at what I read…or rather, don’t read. I am reminded of a Florida beach in the midst of a pandemic and left pondering the despair of a graveyard with nary a headstone.

    As we committed Gator fans take our slighted loyalty to another forum, I can only hope for a new audience for Robbie, Pat, and the others. We do miss the product of their journalistic efforts. But as for us, we remain alive and well.

    GS.com, may you rest in piece.

  6. GS has throngs of followers some read in silence some posted often others not so much. It was a good to read articles of substance and others of lesser substance. The diversity of Gator opinions some hotly debated some in not so with words of more well spoken than I but all ambushed without warning one day. Sometimes it’s not that something had to be done it’s how it’s done. So in one stroke GS fate was set. To my fellow posters some of you know me and know how to contact me I bid farewell and while this once fine forum fades we are GATORS 🐊. In all types of weather. GO GATORS!

  7. Long (long) time time reader and infrequent poster. The board and forums brought me the gator O&B stories while on Route Irish, in the green zone, on the DMZ, and roving the sands of the middle east in too many countries to name. Posters told stories of uniforms with laser beams, cheerleader rivalries (“show pics!”), and my word the (enjoyable) posted vitriol towards UT and their ever-present trolls. The Tom Tebow and Oh-Fours Natty’s were a great era as well. Now, the best, appears behind us. RIP GSMB and “tanks” for the memories.

  8. It amazes me how a business can get something so wrong, how it can shoot itself in the foot and not feel the pain! GS you had a passel of loyal fans for decades that loyally came here and read and commented. Thru all the years of past great coaches and even thru the decade of hell, they stayed with you thru thick and thin but like a mistress you threw us away. Now you pay with a dead comments section and once fans who now go to other places like Floridagators and Gatorcountry etc. Well Dooley, at least now you can make all your lousy predictions against the Gator teams without criticism! hasta la vista , Baby!