Contrary to what the history buffs said, Florida never had a chance against Georgia
I couldn’t believe it.
For whatever reason, there were people who believed Florida would cover a 14.5-point spread against the No. 3 team in the country.
Never mind the fact that the Gators came into Saturday 3-3 having lost two straight games in The Swamp. Never mind the fact that the Dawgs outscored their SEC opponents 170-45 en route to a 4-0 start to conference play. Never mind the fact that Florida’s offense ranked 96th in scoring among FBS teams. Never mind the fact that Georgia’s unbeaten defense ranked fourth in scoring defense.
Many were willing to toss all of that 2017 data out the window. Instead, they wanted to focus on 2014-16. You know, when the Gators won three games in a row at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (oh stop, that’s the name and that isn’t changing).
Apparently Florida was under the impression that pre-2017 history was going to matter on Saturday. Otherwise, why else would the Gators have come out with this shirt?
People around Florida’s program have been wearing this shirt this week. The number is the opening line on the game. pic.twitter.com/PbxQ97Ak9V
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) October 28, 2017
That was just part of Florida’s mid-week chirping. From Gators referencing the Dawgs’ inability to win in Jacksonville to Chauncey Gardner calling out Jake Fromm’s “slant passes,” they truly couldn’t help themselves. History gave them entitlement that they shouldn’t have had Saturday.
Instead, Georgia reminded us that it’s a different team in 2017. And much to the surprise of the Gator history buffs, so is Florida.
Narratives are easy to draw up when there’s so much history, especially in a rivalry like Florida-Georgia. I mean, we remember all of the great games these teams have been a part of, especially in the 21st century.
But there was a big, simple difference with all of those games. Florida had never been as bad as its 2017 version and Georgia had never been good as its 2017 version.
We were reminded of that all afternoon.
From Florida false-starting and going three-and-out on its first series to Elijah Holyfield’s 39-yard scamper in the fourth quarter, it was a complete and total beatdown. Nobody could question that, not after 42-7. In hindsight, it’s amazing that anyone questioned that plot unfolding in Jacksonville.
There were questions that should’ve been asked this last week.
“Will Feleipe Franks last 60 minutes against that Georgia defense?”
“Will Georgia run for 250 yards?”
“Will Florida score a point?”
No, yes and barely.
The Dawgs were a couple minutes from handing Florida its first shutout in 367 games. But it didn’t matter that Florida had the longest streak without a shutout in college football history. Nothing that happened under Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer was going to matter on Saturday.
This was Kirby Smart vs. Jim McElwain. That’s not a fair fight.
While Smart spent his week getting national coach of the year talk, McElwain spent his week backing off claims about death threats he made earlier in the week. He admitted he didn’t know if that — or the swirling rumors about his demise — would be a distraction on Saturday. He told the CBS crew that they’d find out after 60 minutes.
That wasn’t the reason Florida got its tail whipped Saturday. There were dozens of better reasons that could explain his team’s loss. The biggest one was that his football team was just nowhere near Georgia’s level.
How long did it take for people to realize that? Anyone who thought otherwise probably got a wakeup call on the opening series when Lorenzo Carter dismantled Franks and forced the first of many three-and-outs.
We didn’t need 60 minutes of football to tell us how much better Georgia was. We had the past two months. There are people who keep waiting for the Dawgs to collapse and have that letdown game. Florida fans were hopeful that it would come on Saturday.
After all, history.
But history was never going to cover up Florida’s blemishes. Lord knows there are too many of those right now. The fact that the Gators’ first score of the game came on a Malik Zaire-led drive in the fourth quarter down 42-0 in garbage time says everything one needed to know.
Georgia will head into the first College Football Playoff poll unbeaten with a top-4 spot. That won’t impress Smart. It was a year ago that Texas A&M entered the first poll with a top-4 spot. That demise appeared imminent.
The Dawgs don’t look like a team on the brink of demise, hanging on by miracle finishes like Florida was in the first month of the season. Georgia looks like a team ready to overcome every hurdle that stands in its way. Some thought there was a monster hurdle in Jacksonville. If it was, it didn’t look like one.
Georgia left no doubt about that.