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Florida-Georgia always big, especially this year

Pat Dooley
Gator Sports

It seems as if we have been here before with the defense that cannot be penetrated against the offense that cannot be stopped. That didn't turn out well for Georgia against Alabama, but as we know, every game is its own game.

This one Saturday is different because Florida-Georgia is always different. And this one is different from everyone before it because of the rules against tailgating and a limited crowd.

Call it "The World's Largest Outdoor Tumbleweed Party." 

But once toe meets leather, this annual tussle will come down to which team is able to elevate its game without getting too hyped up and out of position. That's the recipe for all big games and believe me, this is a big one.

"Our guys like playing in big games," UF coach Dan Mullen said this week.

Big games have their recipes, but every recipe has its ingredients. For Florida to win Saturday and take control of the SEC East, the No. 1 thing it must do is stop the run.

The winner of this game has rushed for more yards than the loser 14 consecutive years. 

Now, I agree with Mullen that sometimes that stat gets skewed because the team with the lead is going to tend to keep the ball on the ground. I also agree with him that you never know how a game is going to play out.

"I don't know if pure rushing yards is a true stat," he said. "I've been in those games where you go in thinking Georgia's going to run the ball and control the clock, but it can flip."

Like last year. Although Georgia did have a rushing edge, the Bulldogs won because Jake Fromm threw for more yards (279) than Kyle Trask. (That's another thing — Florida has to avoid busts in the secondary).

Florida will beat Georgia if it shuts down the running game. Florida will not beat Georgia if it does not.

"We have to force third downs," said UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, "and then win those third downs."

I believe the running game will be the key, but you never know how a game is going to play out. Earlier this week, UF assistant Brian Johnson talked about it being a chess match and usually games like this are exactly that.

Because Florida knows what Georgia is going to do and Georgia knows what Florida is going to do. It's about execution and being in the right defense for the right offensive play and taking your game to a different level.

That "B" game stuff isn't going to work today. Georgia's effort against Kentucky a week ago won't cut it. Florida played with a high-level of energy last week against Missouri, but it needs to be turned up another notch in Jacksonville.

Because it's here.

After talking about this game since the last orange was ripped open in the postgame celebration in Miami Gardens, it's here. The spring is over, the COVID tests are filed and the prelims have been fought.

It's here.

We're about to see if Florida has what it takes to even be in the discussion about winning championships. Old time Gator fans have this feeling in the pit of their stomachs because no team has inflicted as much pain on their souls as the Georgia Bulldogs.

More modern fans have enjoyed 21 wins in the last 30 games against the Bulldogs and are brimming with confidence.

Of course, none of those things matter. I'm a believer that to be the champ, you have to beat the champ. But really, does a three-game Georgia win streak (fueled by Jim McElwain's lame duck performance at its inception) really matter?

All that matters are these players against those players. They write books about this game, but that's not why both sides are going to play like their hair is on fire Saturday today.

They know what it is going to mean on a national and regional level and mostly within their own fan bases. 

It's Florida-Georgia, always big. But more importantly, it's the biggest game of the year.

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