WATCH: Paul Finebaum puts Georgia football rivals on blast
ATHENS — ESPN analyst and SEC Network host Paul Finebaum said he “almost answered” Alabama when asked to name the Georgia football program’s biggest current rival.
Finebaum, guest on the Ingles On the Beat Show on Monday, settled with Florida as his answer and provided a twist.
“It might be bigger on the other side — in fact, I know it’s bigger on the other side,” Finebaum said of the Gators’ infatuation with Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs.
Georgia has won the past three meetings in the series and six of the last nine.
“I almost answered Alabama, because in some ways, there’s that battle, there’s the invisible conversion among fans,” Finebaum said. “But to me … Georgia still has to deal with Florida every year. There’s no escaping Florida.”
That’s quite literally true in the sense of the location of the game, which is under contract to be played in Jacksonville through 2023 even as COVID-19 makes travel significantly more complex and arguably dangerous for Georgia than Florida.
The Gators have been making the 71-mile bus ride for decades, grinning at the notion of a “neutral site” as the Bulldogs make the 338-mile trek annually.
Indeed, all-time Florida great Steve Spurrier cackled at playing UGA in stadium once known as the Gator Bowl.
“Heck, when I was coaching at Florida, I said it’s to our advantage to get on the bus, and they’ve got to get on the airplane,” Spurrier told DawgNation, “and we’re in the state of Florida, (and) the stadium used to be called the Gator Bowl.”
And what of annual opponents and border-state foes Tennessee and Auburn?
“There was a time when Tennessee was a little bit more important,” said Finebaum, himself a graduate of the Knoxville school. “Auburn is a unique rival, but it’s not a live-or-die rival.
“You can go to Atlanta without (beating) Auburn, you really can’t do that without (beating) Florida.”
But the rivalry that Finebaum seemed to zero-in on as somewhat nonsensical — and at the very least, non-valuable — was Georgia Tech.
“From my standpoint very little (value), and I say that as someone who grew up in that rivalry,” Finebaum said. “I’ve been around long enough to remember when Georgia Tech mattered — they really don’t anymore.
“That’s not a game that, and as you know I spend a lot of my time on Saturdays getting through airports and going places, when I go through the Crown Room in Atlanta I’m not saying, ‘Oh man, Georgia-Georgia Tech is on,” Finebaum said.
“That’s not a game that, even in Atlanta, that’s not going to draw many people to watch it.”
Georgia has won the past three meetings with the Yellow Jackets decisively — 38-7, 45-21 and 52-7 — and the rivalry doesn’t seem to be getting any closer.
Even so, Georgia Tech greatly damaged Georgia’s chances in the SEC Championship Game last season.
D’Andre Swift suffered a shoulder injury, and George Pickens was lured into a third quarter fight that led to his ejection and suspension for the first half of the game against LSU the following Saturday in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
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