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Savoring the Cocktail Party
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Forsyth County News

The most meaningful rivalry in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division is meaningful again. After years of teetering on the brink of an afterthought, the fizz in the "World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" is back as Georgia and Florida order up another round this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in The River City.

A few years ago, school officials and the SEC requested that CBS refrain from promoting the game as the "World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." SEC Banter did not receive a similar request but, out of respect for the nation’s finest football conference, we’ll refer to the contest in this space as "the WLOCP."

The stakes for the 2012 edition of the WLOCP could not be higher. Actually, the stakes would be higher if the Electoral College decided that all votes go to Mitt Romney if Georgia wins; all votes go to Barack Obama if Florida wins. If that’s the case, can I get a big Go Dawgs!

Politics aside, the WLOCP returns to prominence this year as a Florida win clinches the SEC East and a Georgia win puts the Bulldogs in prime position for a return trip to Atlanta. Let’s imbibe in this matchup from top to bottom, SEC Banter style, by considering a variety of on and off the field factors.

Stereotypes: Ask a Georgia fan to describe the stereotypical Florida fan and you’ll no doubt hear about jorts. And mullets, tank tops, and thin mustaches. Ask a Florida fan the same question about Georgia fans and you’ll hear disdain for guys sporting red pants. And barking like dogs, exiting the stadium at any hint of adversity, and expectations of dominating Florida despite a 4-18 record against the Gators over the last 22 years. It is doubtful that all Florida fans sport jorts (it’s probably more like 85 percent), so the stereotype factor is even.

Momentum: Georgia’s last two games include a clobbering by South Carolina and a lackadaisical win at Kentucky. Florida has improved each week and comes off a clobbering of the South Carolina team that clobbered Georgia. Advantage: Florida.

Defenses: Despite being littered with high-round NFL prospects, Georgia’s defense has underperformed but looks to improve this week with the return of star linebacker Jarvis Jones.  Florida’s defense has played lights out, surrendering a season-high 20 points on the road against a potent Tennessee offense. Georgia gave up 44 points to the same Tennessee team in Athens.  Advantage: Florida.

Uniforms: Georgia has silver britches with red or white shirts and the classic "G" logoed helmet.  So long as Mark Richt doesn’t break out something goofy like black jerseys, Georgia’s unis are solid and what you expect from a traditional SEC program. Florida’s duds, while distinguished by bright orange and blue, are tacky and emblematic of the country’s cheesiest state. Advantage: Georgia.

History: My old high school football coach said it’s not what you’ve done — it’s what you’ve done lately. Georgia won its last national title in 1980 and its last SEC title in 2005. Florida won SEC and national titles in 2006 and then again in 2008. Florida has certainly done more lately.  Big advantage to Florida.

Mascots: Uga is Georgia’s lovable bulldog mascot and, let’s face it, if you don’t like Uga, you’re probably voting for Obama. On the other hand, I’ve always wondered why Florida doesn’t stick it to PETA by having a live gator on campus. No live gator means Georgia wins the mascot battle.

Coaches: Tough call here. Mark Richt has compiled a respectable 112-39 record at Georgia but watched a handful of SEC coaches claim national titles. He’s also 1-9 against top ten teams since 2008. Florida head coach Will Muschamp had a rocky start but has the Gators unexpectedly on the rise in his second year. Maybe a little emotion on the sideline is a good thing. Advantage: even.

Notable alumni: Georgia has turned out several distinguished alumni, including actor Wayne Knight (he played Newman on Seinfeld), American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, the members of Grammy award-winning R.E.M., and Alton Brown of Food Network fame. Florida claims Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills & Nash, Steve Spurrier, and Erin Andrews. Advantage: even.

College towns: Athens is a classic Southern college town with the culture, entertainment, and charm you’d expect. The only thing distinguishing Gainesville, Florida from Des Moines, Iowa is palm trees. Advantage: Georgia.

Given these tangible and intangible factors, which team will be the last one standing after the party’s over? SEC Banter says the Gators have a higher tolerance for big-time games this year and will pull off a close, competitive win over the Bulldogs. If you’re in Jacksonville for the game, be on the lookout for jorts-wearing fans in tacky colors screaming how great it is to be a Florida Gator. Cocktail in hand, of course.