A chance to be great on the line in Jacksonville

19
2363
Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks gets sacked during the second half of last year's game against Georgia in Jacksonville. [Alan Youngblood/Staff photographer]

The energy is different. It reeks of wheelbarrows full of liquor being dragged from one tailgate to another and two fan bases who have had years where they’d just as soon stay at the tailgates.

Florida-Georgia is different, but this one is really different. This one has more implications than an SAT exam. Today we find out a lot about the futures of two teams while focusing on the present.

This is what Florida-Georgia is supposed to be, but rarely is. It always is important, but this year it is vital.

In the last 18 seasons, this is only the second time both teams have been ranked in the top 10. One of them will not be Sunday afternoon. One of them will have its season heading in a different direction.

To the victor belongs the better opportunities for something special.

You’ve been inundated with a lot of trends, numbers and history this week. Whether you choose to watch GameDay, SEC Nation or Gainesville GameDay today, you’re going to get some more.

Some of them are important. Some of them are just noise.

For example, the history of this wonderful series is irrelevant. It’s fun to think about the great games and the celebrated wins and difficult to be reminded of the numbing losses. But history has never won a game.

Last year’s game doesn’t matter. That was a different set of circumstances and two different teams and one different coaching staff on its way out.

Turnovers matter a lot. They always do. So do the lines of scrimmage.

The team that runs the ball the best might win the game. Might not. The winning team often has better run stats because it runs more with a lead.

It certainly matters that Georgia is coming off a loss to LSU. That game will likely serve as fuel for the Bulldogs, who know that their season is on the line. Florida’s five straight wins are important because this team has learned different ways to emerge victorious.

But as we know, every game is its own game.

It’s not important that Dan Mullen was successful after bye weeks at Mississippi State. Even he acknowledged that was a product of who his team played after a week off.

Georgia had the week off, too. And it really doesn’t matter that Mullen was 3-1 as Florida’s offensive coordinator against the Dawgs. Different times.

It does matter that Georgia will throw two quarterbacks at the Gators. It does matter that the both teams are in the top 14 in the nation in pass defense. And that the two teams have two of the most balanced SEC offenses.

You know what really matters?

“All that really matters is what happens between the lines,” Kirby Smart said this week.

Yep.

This game is a lot about tradition, pageantry, a split stadium and tailgating. It’s the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party for a reason.

But all of that is just on the periphery.

Today is about two teams playing one football game.

“Every game is different,” said Florida linebacker David Reese. “Some people say, during the season, you got beat in the pass game this game, you got beat in the run game this game. Every game, the schemes are different.

“It’s about who comes out the most prepared. Who’s ready to fight.”

Both teams want it the same, no matter what the winner will tell you after it’s over. Both teams know what’s at stake. Lindsay Scott doesn’t matter. Treon Harris beating Georgia two years in a row doesn’t matter.

The fight songs, what uniform each team wears, the ride over the bridges and the national attention this game is receiving — don’t matter.

All that matters is that two really good teams will be playing today in Jacksonville.

And that only one of them will emerge with a chance to be great.

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

19 COMMENTS

  1. History does matter! Especially, recent histories of plays called, player performances on certain plays, etc. Some Top Managers often say “I just want results, I don’t have time for the details”…that has always been a recipe for disaster!

    In the early morning hours of June 2, 1876, Custer didn’t heed the warnings of his Crow scouts to “not divide your men today”. I’m paraphrasing, but Custer told them thanks for the Sioux Camp location data, but i’m in charge of tactics. Don’t tell me too many details! I’ve often wonder, if a few hours later on “Last Stand Hill”, if Custer was wishing he had listen to the details?

    I guarantee the team who wins today, the Coaches will have prepared by studying the success and failures of specific plays and player’s performance in those plays, to determine which ones to call today. Yes, recent history, back to last year. Pat remember your Doug Dickey history lesson. He made the wrong call for the players he had on hand! Talent wise these teams are about equal. The difference today will have been all about who, got the details right and prepared the best. Yes Pat, ignore history and pay the price!

  2. And well, there’s this too: the last time Coach Mullen coached against U.G.A. in the Orange & Blue as Florida’s O.C. in ’08, and ironically it was also one of the last times both schools were ranked in the Top 10, Florida dominated the game 48-10, if my memory serves me correctly. Either way, GO GATORS!
    ”Time to make history” …again! CHOMP-CHOMP!

  3. History is not what happened this year, but in previous ones. And it does matter somewhat listen to what Tim said about the effect on the players that this game has, or had. Coaching over time, and the players executing the plan will matter a lot, and more how they adapt to circumstances.

  4. This is going to look like High Plains Drifter at High Noon today. We are going to paint the town Orange and Blue; Sherriff Mullen Aka Clint Eastwood Dr. Grantham and revenge minded Gators haven’t forgot about the whipping from a year ago…

  5. A win for the Gators today would put them in the conversation about who will make the playoffs, which would exceed any realistic expectations coming into the season to a mind-boggling degree. The Gators are playing with house money and should not be thinking that success or failure for the season is on the line in this game. It is true that a Florida win would open the door to the possibility for a great season, but the remaining SEC games could still trip them up. In other words, one game is not going to define the season, and Gator fans can have the confidence that their team is now being led by a very good coach whatever happens today.

    • Absolutely, 67. The last time I said something similar, I was informed that I — or at least people like me — didn’t understand the nature of rivalry games. I still think, however, that this is the best possible time to play this game and that it doesn’t define a season that has already been defined. This is far from your typical year and typical circumstances — we can worry about those later. As Mveal says, this may well be Georgia’s last chance to take us for a while. So we go in loose, not tight, make plays, and come out with a win….GREAT!

      We come out with a close loss on the other hand….where is the disaster? Just play one game at a time afterwards, and Dan Mullen may well have a 10-2 first season, a great bowl game, and a great recruiting season….pretty damn good if you take the long view during the building year(s) versus the short view. I still think we win this one by a close score just the same, but I refuse to lose the will to live or sign up for FireDanMullen.com if we don’t.

      See Cody Alan’s post — he really likes our chances and him, I trust.

      • Both Gator67 and Gator-6 have nailed it in my view. I may even have to add a number or two to my sign-in name! There is no team on the Gator schedule each year that I want to beat more then these red and black dogs, and that includes FSU (a brother, a sister and several nieces insist I not have them first on my list). That said, should the Gators play to their best today and lose, I will go with that and still appreciate the unexpectedly good season this team is providing and know that with this coaching staff the future is bright. We needed to start our climb back to being relevant this 1st season under Mullen, and we have certainly accomplished that. A win today and it will be like a slice of key-lime pie dessert on the season. As “-6” stated above, “where is the disaster?” Bring on the rest of the season and have some more pie! Go Gators!!

  6. Here is the history that does matter: 3 months ago, most of us would have been ecstatic if we were told that this game would have national implications for both particpants. Now, it seems like most of us are expecting a win. I’ll be honest in saying I ever would have expected the Gators to be in the top 10. Today was going to be their third loss on the way to a good seadon of rebuilding. Now, I have no idea how this game is going to go or who will win. And that kind of excitement in a game as important as this is remarkable given where this team was one year ago.