When a rivalry as significant as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” (sorry, Greg Sankey) arrives at a big moment, it is only natural to search for a strong comparison from the past.
In 2019, as the Florida Gators prepare to meet the Georgia Bulldogs, the search for a comparison isn’t hard at all. This might be the easiest comparison to make for anyone who has followed this series over the years.
There can be only one clear and resonant comparison to the 2019 Cocktail Party: 2012.
Everyone in Athens and Gainesville and Jacksonville, and places in between, can see this.
The Florida coach at the time, Will Muschamp, was showing signs of making progress. His offense could be clunky, but his defense could be great if it had all the main pieces healthy and whole.
The Georgia coach at the time, Mark Richt, had reached the SEC Championship Game the year before but ran into the team which would play in that season’s national championship game. Richt was trying to reaffirm Georgia’s place as a college football powerhouse, making sure the program continued to build strength instead of losing ground.
That all seems familiar, does it not?
Dan Mullen is trying to get a foothold at Florida and continue the upward trajectory the Gators have taken over the past 12 months. As was the case with the 2012 Gators, Florida will hope for the best from its offense in the Cocktail Party but lean on its defense to bring home a win. Avoiding huge mistakes is the Gators’ top priority on Saturday.
Kirby Smart has Georgia in national title contention, as Richt did in the 2012 season, but a loss to Florida would undermine a sense of sustained progress. A win would mean a certain trip to the SEC Championship Game and a date with the winner of the Alabama-LSU game… just like 2012.
Yes, we can recognize the parallels between 2012 and 2019. On Saturday, we will find out which team follows the necessary path and does what it needs to do.
In that 2012 game, Florida’s defense more than did its job, forcing three Georgia turnovers. It picked off Aaron Murray three times.
Florida’s defense limited Georgia to 273 yards, 1 of 10 on third downs, 14 total first downs, and 26:19 of possession time.
There was just one problem: Florida’s offense played as poorly as it could possibly play.
The Gators coughed up six turnovers. Jeff Driskel was… Jeff Driskel (not the impostor who played great later that season against Florida State).
The man who embarrassed Florida’s offense in 2012: Todd Grantham (above), who was then Georgia’s defensive coordinator under Richt.
Grantham will be Dan Mullen’s defensive coordinator against Georgia this Saturday.
In 2012, Will Muschamp coached against his alma mater.
In 2019, Todd Grantham will coach against his former employer.
It is true that the effects of the 2012 Cocktail Party did not carry into the 2013 season, when both Georgia and Florida regressed. UF and UGA have better head coaches now than they did then. We are not going to see Missouri become the class of the SEC East in 2020 and 2021, a contrast to 2013 and 2014.
Yes, Florida and Georgia are poised to dominate the SEC East in the coming decade. The futures of Florida and Georgia will be different compared to how they unfolded in the three to four seasons following the 2012 Cocktail Party.
Yet, this is a comparison not of how the world looks AFTER the annual meeting in Jacksonville. It is a look at how the world looks BEFORE the Gators and Dawgs brawl on the banks of the St. John’s River.
We can only hope we will get a game with far fewer than nine turnovers, 23 total penalties, and 28 completed passes in 53 attempts with five interceptions.
That, hopefully, is where the comparisons with 2012 will end… but life offers no guarantees to Dan Mullen, Kirby Smart, Todd Grantham, or anyone else.
Let’s see who will be shaken, and who will be stirred, at the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”
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.