Break out the hyperbole. It’s Georgia-Florida week.
The nation awaits the game formerly known as The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. This edition of the annual tilt presents a clash of titans, a rumble between two irresistible forces. The battle for supremacy in the SEC’s rugged Eastern Division. An outside shot at the national championship. Not to mention celebration rights.
Did we mention the fact that both teams are ranked in everyone’s Top Ten? As rich as the history of this series has been, this marks only the fifth time that Georgia and Florida have collided as top ten teams.
The first such meeting occurred in 1976, when No. 7 Georgia beat No. 10 Florida 41-27. The Gators led 27-13 at the half, but never stopped Georgia in the second half. The Gators’ demise was aided by coach Doug Dickey’s infamous “fourth and dumb” call, which enabled Georgia to tie the score midway through the third quarter.
In 1983, No. 4 Georgia drove the length of the field in the second half to defeat No. 9 Florida, 10-9 — the same score by which it would win the Cotton Bowl two months later.
The No. 10 Gators got their revenge a year later, dusting No. 8 Georgia 27-0 in a game featuring Ricky Nattiel’s 96-yard touchdown catch. In 1999, the No. 5 Gators beat No. 10 Georgia 30-14. Steve Spurrier over Jim Donnan, as usual.
Despite all the memorable games between these two teams, that’s it for top-10 match-ups. Now we have the fifth. As Flounder said in Animal House, anticipating the big parade scene, “This is gonna be great.”
After all, this isn’t the Big Ten, where last week’s prime time game for the de facto conference championship provided some of the most soporific fare of the entire season. Penn and Ohio States did provide a fine example of what awaits in Miami in January if Penn State emerges as one half of the BCS championship game.
I have developed the utmost respect for Joe Paterno and his program over the years, but come on. All these two teams proved was that no one in the Big Ten has the speed to spar with any contending team clad in SEC or Big XII uniforms.
Of course, the last time Georgia lined up to play a much-hyped game, after bringing the College GameDay crew and the entire nation into Athens, the Dogs laid that big egg against Alabama.
Even though the Dogs made a spirited comeback in the second half, most of the weary nation had tuned them out.
They’re still paying for it in the polls, where the computers have them ranked higher than the humans. Hey, they only lost to the No. 2 team in the nation. It’s not like they lost to Ole Miss or Oregon State.
But since that dark night, when Georgia’s lines were overwhelmed by Alabama’s, the Dogs have matured at a rapid rate. Apparently that debacle helped the coaches to focus their charges.
“The main thing we’ve done after we got our rear ends kicked by Alabama is that there’s not a lot to think about except the next game,” coach Mark Richt said during his Sunday media conference call. “We can only concentrate on one thing and control one thing per week, per day, to prepare.
“We’ve stuck to that pretty good and hope to continue with that. These guys will be ready to play. I promise you.”
They certainly were last week. You just don’t go into Baton Rouge and hang half a hundred on LSU. Though we did witness the offensive line come together during the final drive against Tennessee, we couldn’t imagine ripping the proud Bayou Bengal defense for 443 yards, while allowing but a single sack of Matthew Stafford.
Ah, but the Florida team lying in wait for the Dogs for the past 12 months, thanks to that little celebration incident, remains a formidable foe.
Saturday, the Gators stormed out of their bye week and throttled a fine Kentucky team, 63-5. It wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
The Gators blocked Kentucky’s first two punt attempts and turned them into instant touchdowns. Kentucky hadn’t surrendered more that 24 points in a game all season. The Gators rang up 28 in the first quarter.
Kentucky had allowed two rushing touchdowns all season. The Gators scored two in the first six minutes, three in the first eight.
Florida led, 42-3, at halftime, and scored on the first play of the third quarter. Ahmad Black returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown, tying Florida for the national lead with four pick-sixes.
We could continue, but you get the idea. It all led coach Urban Meyer to reveal at his post-game press conference that he was “very pleased with our effort today. We dominated on offense, defense and special teams. I can’t say enough about our players today.”
Kind of makes you think that the loss to Ole Miss was an aberration. Kind of like Georgia’s loss to Alabama. Kind of makes you conclude that we’re on to something really big this Saturday in Jacksonville.
Somebody crank up the hyperbole machine.