Earlier this week, I took you through the period of history which gives Florida the template it will need this Saturday against Georgia.
Now, let’s unpack what that template is.
It begins and ends with a simple principle filed under “easy to say, hard to do.”
The principle: Shake, rattle, and roll over Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. Florida can’t expect to win a game in which it doesn’t make Fromm’s life miserable.
Let’s explain, and touch on the history of the “Cocktail Party” before moving to 2018.
I cited 2002 through 2005 as the key years of this series’ history, relative to the Gators’ chances this upcoming weekend. If you recall, D.J. Shockley was injured as Georgia’s starting quarterback for the 2005 game, which Dan Mullen coached in as Urban Meyer’s assistant. Joe Tereshinski took Shockley’s place.
Of course, Fromm is not injured. Georgia will not be without its starter. There are no health questions surrounding Fromm. That is a basic difference between 2005 and 2018.
What remains, though: the need to shut down Georgia, drag the Bulldogs into a messy, mucky, low-scoring game, make fewer mistakes, and walk away with a win akin to that 14-10 triumph in 2005.
That project starts and ends with Fromm.
The glimmer of hope — not a huge one, but a realistic one — for Florida in this game was provided by Fromm’s performance against LSU.
The Tigers were muscular enough and active enough up front to take away Georgia’s ground game. Georgia ran for 71 yards on its second possession of the game… and ran for only 42 yards in the following three-plus quarters, finishing with a modest 113 yards. Why did Georgia not run for a lot more yards after that encouraging early drive?
First, LSU scored the game’s first touchdown after that very same Georgia drive ended with a botched field goal attempt. LSU gained the lead — as it needed to — and put scoreboard pressure on the Dawgs. That was step one. Then, armed with said lead, LSU dared Fromm to beat the Tigers with the forward pass. Fromm might not have been spectacular last year, but he played with the poise of someone more experienced than the freshman he was in 2017. He made the throws his team needed him to make against Auburn in the SEC title game, and against Oklahoma in a classic Rose Bowl. That version of Fromm held firm under intense scrutiny, thrust into the cauldron of massive tension.
That was not the player who showed up against LSU.
Fromm might have started with a few nerves in Baton Rouge, mindful of the fact that a year earlier, in another Georgia road test at Auburn (the meeting with Auburn a few weeks BEFORE the SEC Championship Game rematch), he didn’t play well. However, Fromm never pulled himself out of that rut against the Bayou Bengals. In the second half, when Georgia tried to mount a rally, Fromm became rattled.
He was skittish in the pocket. He might not have gotten a lot of help from his teammates, but he did not rise above his situation. Given how coolly he met the challenges presented to him in 2017, one might have expected him to demonstrate even more command against LSU.. but that did not happen.
Florida’s plan might be hard to execute, but the goal is simple enough: “Shake Jake.”
We know that the architecture of this plan — using LSU’s performance against Georgia as the template — depends on other pillars such as shutting down the UGA ground game and doing enough on offense in the first quarter to stay even on the scoreboard so that the Dawgs feel scoreboard pressure. Yet, the heart of a winning Gator effort in the Cocktail Party lies in the ability to get in the head of Georgia’s quarterback and establish a rent-free residence with no chance of eviction.
Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday
The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.
The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:
Coast to coast❗
🐻 at 🐊 2026
🐊 at 🐻 2027#GoGators
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) February 7, 2020
A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.
With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.
As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.
Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.
It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.
Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.
Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools
National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.
The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of former DB C.J. Henderson.
Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.
The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.
Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?
Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.
The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.
Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.
Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.