It might seem too severe to draw a big bright line between Florida and Georgia before the latest edition of the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party,” but writers highlight contrasts so that readers will absorb them. Writers emphasize differences so that readers will not walk away with the mistaken impression that two teams enter a game under the same basic conditions or circumstances.
Sure, the Gators and the Bulldogs are both fighting for a division championship and a trip to Atlanta on Saturday. Both teams are ranked in the top 10. Both teams have big dreams and large aspirations. Yet, let us not think that the pressure and implications of this game are the same for both sides.
Florida could very realistically win this game, especially if Georgia’s offense remains as dormant and unimaginative as it has been in recent weeks. Moreover, the Gators’ improved health should make their defense much stronger than it was in October.
Jon Greenard and Jabari Zuniga give Florida its two foremost difference-makers on defense, exactly what coordinator Todd Grantham needs to make Georgia’s life miserable.
Yes, Florida can very realistically win this game. To that extent, these teams do not inhabit completely different worlds as they prepare for combat.
The main difference between these teams does not lie in the quality of their play or in their chances of winning; those measurements are fairly similar. The big chasm between these schools resides in the realm of short-term expectations.
This is not to say that Florida football carries no expectations into this game. This is meant to emphasize the point that Florida has not reached a stage in its evolution which merits the same expectations.
Florida has the quarterback, Kyle Trask, it wasn’t expecting to play in this game at the start of the season.
Georgia has the quarterback it wanted, with Justin Fields going to Ohio State.
Florida hasn’t yet won an SEC East title under Dan Mullen. Georgia has reached the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, won a Rose Bowl playoff semifinal, won the SEC, and won two East titles under Kirby Smart.
Dan Mullen has not yet found a game-changing quarterback in Gainesville, a reality which transcends the particulars of this 2019 season.
Kirby Smart has crushed the recruiting trail and displayed the level of program-building chops Mullen has not yet attained.
If Florida loses, what is the negative consequence for Mullen and the program? A 10-2 season and a New Year’s Six bowl, with the program sustaining a high standard in spite of the Feleipe Franks injury and other key losses on defense.
If Georgia loses, Kirby Smart has to face the reality that he lost to Florida despite a clear edge at quarterback. Florida gains significant recruiting momentum. Georgia’s hopes of keeping Florida at bay would take a big hit. The idea of a “Pax Georgia” – many years of SEC dominance akin to Steve Spurrier from 1990 through 1996 at UF – would die.
Georgia is in much more of a “win now” mode – not that Florida isn’t, but the stakes are so much higher given what Kirby Smart has built in Athens. If Dan Mullen can beat him with an incomplete Florida team, imagine what Mullen could envision with all his ideal pieces lined up in 2020.
Florida fans do have very large dreams. Florida fans do not hold small-scale aspirations. Yet, when judging where these programs are and the resources they currently own, Georgia carries the huge expectations in the 2019 Cocktail Party. Georgia is trying to defend its turf and its position.
Florida, for all of its successes, is the challenger who can say that if it loses, it was never in an ideal position to win (which is true regardless of result on Saturday).
Keep that in mind as the Cocktail Party gets poured into living color in Jacksonville.
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.