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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.