JACKSONVILLE — Greetings from EverBank Field, formerly known as Alltel Stadium, formerly known as the Gator Bowl. We’re here to cover the event formerly known as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party,” also known as the Georgia-Florida game, also known as the Florida-Georgia, and never to be known as the “River City Showdown.”
Call it what you like, the Bulldogs (4-3, 2-3 SEC) and the Gators (5-1, 3-1) will renew their rivalry here on the banks of the St. Johns River for the 85th time since 1933. Georgia has won the most of those — 43-40-1 — but just barely.
Vegas seems to think Florida is going to narrow that margin a bit more today. Bookies have listed the Gators as 7.5-point favorites. Based on the way the game has gone the last two years, UF victories by an average of 21 points — the Bulldogs might just take that for the sake of aesthetics. But the object, after all, is winning the game. And Georgia is certainly capable of that.
There was at least one minor development that might help Georgia to that end. Florida’s Mark Thompson, one of three tailbacks the Gators utilize regularly, was busted for pot possession in the wee hours Thursday morning and was suspended for this game. He’s the biggest of UF’s backs, at 6-2, 237 pounds, and has 252 yards rushing and two TDs. But the Gators like Lamical Perine (42-300-1) and Jordan Scarlett (67-373-5) have been a little better overall and it might simplify the rotation.
As ever, this game will come down to what it always does for Georgia: running the ball, stopping the run and eliminating turnovers and mistakes, especially in the special teams area. In case you need a reminder, Reggie Davis’ muffed punt that resulted in a Florida touchdown played a big role in last year’s 27-3 defeat. That and playing the third-string quarterback.
The plan for the Bulldogs today is to go with their high-profile freshman, Jacob Eason, and that’s going to make for another intriguing storyline. Florida features the nation’s best pair of cornerbacks in Jalen “Teez” Tabor and Quincy Wilson. The first-round NFL prospects have seven interceptions between them and will probably line up in man coverage against Georgia’s average receivers all day.
But the good news for Eason and those wideouts is that should present them with some opportunities. The fact is, the Bulldogs are going to have to take some shots, get those Gator DBs with their backs to the line of scrimmage and try to hit them on the edges in the run game as well.
We shall see. I’m here with Seth Emerson and Jeff Schultz, as usual, as well as editor Bill Speros and Zach Abolverdi and Ryan Young of SEC Country. I promise, we’ll have it covered from all sides, including throughout the game.
So hang with us and let’s see what happens.