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Kirby Smart has won three straight games against Florida as the Georgia head coach.

National media sees Florida and Georgia on same level entering 2020 season

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National media sees Florida and Georgia football on same level entering 2020 season

The last three seasons, Georgia has been the superior team when it has played Florida in Jacksonville, Fla. In 2017, the Bulldogs blew out the Gators 42-7. When the two teams met in 2018, Florida put up a better fight, but Georgia wore them out over the course of four quarters for a 36-17 win in Dan Mullen’s first year.

This past season saw Florida play Georgia close, but the Gators never had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead in the second half of the game, as Georgia came away with a 24-17 victory.

Factor in the talent advantage via superior recruiting rankings and it’s easy to see why Georgia has been a clear step above Florida for most of Kirby Smart’s tenure.

But entering the 2020 season it appears the Bulldogs and Gators are seen as equals. At least in the eyes of the national media.

College football writer Matt Hinton compiled a number of the ‘Way Too Early Top 25’s’ for the upcoming 2020 season. And interestingly enough, Florida and Georgia averaged out to finish with the same ranking, tied for sixth.

And more interesting is that while Georgia’s range is greater — as high as second, low as 13th — Florida has a much more consistent ranking across the 15 lists that were put together.

There are a number of reasons why some in the national media might think this way.

Looking at Florida first, the Gators do bring back quarterback Kyle Trask. After beginning the season as a back-up, he shined for the Gators throwing for 25 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. The Gators also bring back most of their starting offensive line. While Florida does have to replace four of its top six receivers, there are former highly recruited playmakers like Trevon Grimes and Jacob Copeland waiting to take on bigger roles to go along with star tight end Kyle Pitts.

Florida also lose their top two pass rushers in Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga from the 2019 team. But former Georgia Bulldog and 5-star prospect in Brenton Cox waiting in the wings. And while the Gators haven’t signed many 5-star prospects in recent years, Florida is bringing in mammoth defensive tackle Gervon Dexter, someone who Georgia very much wanted to land in the 2020 cycle.

There is also nowhere near the coaching turnover on Florida’s staff that there has been at Georgia. And stability sells.

Georgia had to replace well-regarded offensive line coach Sam Pittman this offseason. The Bulldogs also brought in a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken, who will replace James Coley. Georgia’s offense, as bad as it was last season, is going to look very different in 2020. And the unknown naturally leads to skepticism.

There’s also the fact that Bulldogs had five players declare early for the NFL draft. All of them were on the offensive side of the ball and two of them — D’Andre Swift and Andrew Thomas — were clearly Georgia’s best offensive players last year.

The Bulldogs must replace also replace quarterback Jake Fromm. As much as he struggled down the stretch last season, he still led the Bulldogs to an SEC East title, Sugar Bowl win and was the unquestionable reason why Georgia beat Florida. Replacing him, even with someone who has starting experience in Jamie Newman, is not an easy task.

Related: ESPN labels Georgia football a loser of NFL early entry process

For as much as Georgia returns on defense next year — multiple starters at every level — or brings in with its highly-touted 2020 recruiting class, those aspects don’t appeal as much nationally as a competent offense and potentially great quarterback do.

As for what this ultimately means, not a whole lot. The national media perceptions isn’t going to change how these two programs recruit, as Georgia is always going to be a better recruiting power with  Smart than Florida will be with Mullen. People will also always give Mullen the benefit of the doubt of replacing talent on offense, given his extensive offensive background.

While Georgia has beaten Florida in each of the past two seasons, it’s not like the Gators have been that far off in comparison to where the Bulldogs end the season. Both teams finished the 2018 and 2019 seasons ranked in the top-10 of the final AP Polls. And thanks to Hinton’s data, both seemed poised to start the 2020 season with those same lofty rankings.

We ultimately won’t know which team is better until the two teams meet once again in Jacksonville on Oct. 31. But at the very least to start the 2020 campaign, there seems to be a thought that Florida is continuing to inch closer to Georgia’s level coming from the national media.

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