WATCH Dan Mullen: ‘We’ll see what the future holds’ on Georgia-Florida rivalry in Jacksonville
GREENSBORO — Florida coach Dan Mullen referenced the “landscape of college football changing” when asked his thoughts about the Georgia-Florida football game being played in Jacksonville.
“I think for everybody, it’s such a unique venue for a game, and it’s one of the special games when you come over the bridge into Jacksonville and you see that stadium split right down the middle,” Mullen told DawgNation.
“But with the landscape of college football changing, we’ll see what the future holds for that game.”
The game is contracted to be held in Jacksonville through 2021.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart has pointed out the bullet the teams take by not being able to recruit at the Jacksonville game.
By rule, the teams can only provide a ticket — as opposed to the all-expenses paid official visits to Athens and Gainesville, which include campus facility tours, time spent with other players and meetings with academic department heads.
Indeed, the best recruits in Florida and Georgia this season might find themselves on official visits in Tallahassee to see Miami play Florida State on the same Nov. 2 Saturday afternoon the Gators and Bulldogs split up TIAA Bank Field.
The Georgia-Florida game could determine the ultimate SEC winner if the East Division continues its upward trend.
However the 2022 location it turns out — it would be UGA’s year to host the game — the Jacksonville discussion has fanned flames on what ESPN and SEC Network analyst Paul Finebaum said has been the hottest rivalry in the SEC this offseason.
Mullen predicted at this same charity golf event last summer that the power could be shifting to the East in 2018, and in fact, the East Division finished with a 9-6 advantage against West teams.
“I just think you look and the league sways back and forth sometimes, and there are obviously great teams on the other side,” Mullen said at the Lake Oconee Celebrity Golf Tournament on Monday, presented by the Mullen Family Foundation and the (Bruce) Arians Family Foundation.
“But you see a lot of the strength in the performance of the teams on the East side.”
Mullen said the Gators reaped the benefits of finishing last season with big victories. Florida scored a 41-14 win over the Seminoles and a 41-15 dismantling of Michigan in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
“It gives you a lot going into the offseason, our guys with their development and excitement when they get to finish No. 6 in the country (Coaches Poll), and finish with a big New Year’s Six Bowl victory,” Mullen said.
“That excitement, that energy carries them through the offseason, through spring practice and the offseason development, and it gets everyone excited about this upcoming season.”
Georgia finished the 2018 season 11-3 after season-ending losses to Alabama and Texas.
The Bulldogs fell to the Tide in the SEC Championship Game 35-28, and then just missed the CFP in controversial fashion, according to ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit.
A disappointed UGA program trudged into New Orleans and suffered a 28-21 Sugar Bowl loss to Texas, a game that saw first-round NFL pick Deandre Baker sit out to protect his draft status.
Georgia, however, rallied to land the No 2 signing class per the 247Sports composite, in addition to adding Miami transfer receiver Lawrence Cager and former Tennessee team captain and tight end Eli Wolf.
Florida finished with the No. 9 signing class, but Mullen believes his program will settle in more as it’s Year Two under his leadership.
“I think the guys know what to expect within the program in Year Two,” Mullen said. “Year One, everybody is learning what our practice style is … in Year Two, there’s a lot more comfort with everything we’re doing within the program.”
Florida coach Dan Mullen