Welcome to the Florida-Georgia game, known to us as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. After seven weeks of the 2017 college football season, we need a good rivalry with some liquid refreshment, and this game fits the bill perfectly, even if the powers-that-be tried to change the nickname of the game a few years ago.
The best part about this annual SEC East donnybrook is that this game is also known to be one of the — if not THE — most unpredictable rivalries in our sport. According to those boys in the desert who set all betting lines, there have been six upsets in the last 14 matchups. If you’re keeping track, those came in games back in 2002, '03, '05, '07, '12 and '14.
The Gators also have history on their side, having gone 21-6 vs. the Silver Britches since 1989 and having won the last three matchups as well. But it is obvious that the Bulldogs are big favorites for this year's meeting and the team that is pegged to face Alabama in the SEC title game — barring a slip-up here.
Georgia vs. Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Georgia -14
Three Things to Watch
1. Can the Florida offense do ANYthing?
This game presents the perfect formula for a mismatch. Georgia’s defense is one of the stingiest in the nation, giving up just 12.6 points per game, good for fourth in the FBS. Florida’s offense posts 23.7 points per game, 95th in the nation. With QB Luke Del Rio now out due to injury, the offense falls completely on redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks (above, right), who has underwhelmed of late, missing open receivers and tossing a few interceptions. The Gators' offense did put up 371 yards vs. Texas A&M two weeks ago, but that unit pales in comparison to the defense these dirty Dawgs will throw at them.
2. Special teams
All you pigskinners know that this is the one area that can help an underdog hang around. The Gators must be sound in the kicking game, and they could use a special teams score or big play along the way. But Florida special teams errors have been costly of late. A bad hold on an extra point was the difference in a 17-16 loss to LSU, and a long punt return allowed Texas A&M to kick the game-winning field goal in the 19-17 loss. On the positive side, Gators punter Johnny Townsend is first in the SEC (second nationally) with a booming 48.5-yard average. If he can flip the field and force the UGa offense to go on longer drives, that’ll help the Gators’ chomp.
3. Rattling Jake Fromm
Georgia’s youthful offense is directed by a true freshman quarterback. If the Gators have any hope at all, they’ll need to get in Fromm's grill and force him into bad decisions. In last year’s game, the Gators' defense had 16 QB hurries and eight tackles for a loss and held the Bulldogs to just 164 total yards on the day. It won’t be easy to attain these numbers again because of all the attrition on the defense, including injuries to defensive end Jordan Sherit and safeties Nick Washington and Quincy Lenten. Also, defensive back Chauncey Gardner and end Jabari Zuniga were limited in practice this week. The patchwork defense must rush Fromm effectively and play its best game of the year.
This game can go one of two ways: It can either turn Florida’s season around and land a crushing blow to Georgia’s College Football Playoff hopes, or it can put the clamps on the Gators’ confidence from here on out. The Dogs have won their first four SEC games by an average score of 43-11. Hmmmm.
The Gators aren’t going into this one meekly. Florida wide receiver Josh Hammond proclaimed: “They might be the No. 3 team in the country, but they can’t beat Florida.”
Georgia safety J.R. Reed responded with this: “That’s Florida, so that’s what you expect from some teams. I don’t really pay that much attention to it.”
Linebacker Lorenzo Carter chimed in: “At the end of the day, nothing that you say is going to affect the outcome of a game. We let our football do the talking.”
Yes, Georgia is as cool as the other side of the pillow right now. These Bulldogs know they will win. That’s what confidence does for a team at this time of the season. But give the Gators a nod for not whistling past the graveyard. They seem ready to strap it on and hit somebody. You know how these rivalry games go. Expect the unexpected.
Prediction: Georgia 23, Florida 14
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.