Cocktail Party upset? There's always a chance, but ...
Florida has beaten Georgia each of the past three years.
To hear the confident Gators tell it, they must think it’s 30.
This rivalry is no stranger to upsets. Who gave Florida a chance in 2014, when the Gators rolled up 418 yards rushing to upset No. 11 Georgia 38-20? Nick Chubb went for 156 that day, by the way, and Treon Harris completed just three passes. That Florida team was 3-3 and coming off a 29-point home loss to Missouri.
In 2012, Florida was undefeated and ranked No. 2 when it fell. Georgia, however, was No. 10 and on its way to Atlanta. It was an upset based more on rankings than reality.
In 2005, a 5-2 Gators team knocked off undefeated and No. 4 Georgia in an ugly 14-10 affair.
Then, of course, there was 2002, when Rex Grossman threw a dagger into the Dawgs’ championship dreams.
So it has happened.
Will Cocktail history repeat itself Saturday or will everything we’ve seen so far in 2017 produce a blowout Georgia win? That’s something we’ve been discussing this week.
Jon Cooper, director of operations: I’m buying cocktail history over current results. There are just some opponents that give teams trouble, and Florida just plainly gives Georgia trouble. It’s called a rivalry.
Yes, Georgia will probably win by two touchdowns, but that doesn’t mean the game won’t be close in the fourth quarter. History has told us this game will be tough and a major upset isn’t out of the question, but Florida will have to play its best game of the season, while Georgia will have to play its worst so far.
Neil Blackmon, Florida beat writer: At least for a generation or so, history hasn’t been kind to UGA on the rare occasions they’ve been a heavy favorite in this series. Plenty of outstanding Georgia teams have come to Jacksonville and lost. The 2002 Georgia team, which probably should have won the national championship, even managed to lose.
And I don’t entirely buy Kirby Smart’s success this year as being evidence he’s restoring Georgia to Vince Dooley-era greatness, either. He’s doing a tremendous job in Year 2 managing a freshman quarterback and winning with a power run game behind elite senior running backs and a tough, veteran defense. It’s similar to what Will Muschamp did at Florida in his second year at Florida, and we all know how that turned out. Muschamp’s young QB finally bit him in this game in 2012, too.
But to me, this game seems more about what’s going wrong at Florida than the incredible season at Georgia.
The “death threat” comments were, for lack of a better word, weird, and you just get the sense things are coming unglued for McElwain a bit.
I think the Gators will play inspired football, and I think a young defense that has improved every week will give Florida a chance to win the game.
But it comes back to the same old problems for Florida under the past two coaching staffs. Can the quarterback make enough winning plays? Feleipe Franks just hasn’t shown me any evidence that he can, even with more playmakers at his disposal than any Gator quarterback in almost a decade. Georgia wins. I don’t think they cover.
John Crist, senior writer: Yes, Florida has owned this series dating back to Steve Spurrier’s first year returning to Gainesville (1990), even on a few occasions when Georgia had the better program.
But this season feels different, as these aren’t the Gators we’re used to seeing and these certainly aren’t the Bulldogs we’ve become accustomed to lately. While UF is running its collective mouth ahead of Saturday’s showdown, which has become commonplace under coach Jim McElwain, UGA is saying all the right things and not providing any bulletin-board material.
No question about it, the Dawgs are superior at running the ball, stopping the run, passing the ball and stopping the pass. It’s difficult to find any matchup in favor of the orange-and-blue team, although an argument can be made that kicker Eddy Pineiro and punter Johnny Townsend deserve the nod on special teams. The red-and-black squad also has the coaching edge, as Kirby Smart — he’s only getting started in Athens, too — is doing quite a Nick Saban impression.
While I haven’t bet on a football game in about 20 years, I’d feel pretty comfortable laying the 14 points and expecting a rather comfortable victory for the Cocktail Party favorite.
Chris Wright, executive editor: I grew up with UNC-Duke basketball. Long before I could spell Krzyzewski, I learned that anything can happen in these games.
Emotions dictate performance. Right, Nick?
I do like the fact that the Gators are supremely confident. It’s laughable to think the Gators could arrive in Jacksonville overconfident, but it’s hard to shake the swag off some of these guys.
The reason is there’s nothing about this Georgia team that they haven’t seen, haven’t handled.
Chubb, Sony Michel? Seen it. Lorenzo Carter, Roquan Smith? Blocked it. Florida held Georgia to 10 points last year, three the year before. In 2014, they beat Chubb on a day they completed three passes.
And this team nearly knocked off LSU and Texas A&M, two of the SEC’s five best teams.
It’s just difficult to envision any scenario in which Florida scores three offensive touchdowns. Even two might be tough. If Antonio Callaway were playing, OK, maybe they return a punt for six, the defense produces a scoop-and-score or pick-six and Pineiro drills a couple of 50-yarders.
The only way Florida wins is if Fromm throws multiple interceptions, and I think Smart will design the game plan to eliminate that possibility, knowing the first one to 20 wins.