The end of October means one thing for Georgia Bulldog fans– it is time to make the trip to Jacksonville, a “neutral” site, for the annual “Florida vs Georgia Football Classic.” Georgia Coach Mark Richt has not had much success in this rivalry as he is a mere 2-8 against the hated Gators. However, Georgia’s agony against Florida extends far beyond who is patrolling the sidelines. Jacksonville has been a thorn in the paw of the Dawgs for the past two decades. Georgia has just three wins against Florida in the past 20 years.
Speaking as a diehard fan myself, there is not a more important game on the schedule than Georgia versus Florida. Every year I am completely emotionally invested in the outcome. I want nothing more than to beat Florida, so that Georgia fans everywhere don’t have to go another year hearing about how the Gators bit the Dawgs again.
Unfortunately, that has become the theme of this rivalry over the past decade. Other than in 2004, (the year that Ron Zook was a lame duck head coach) and 2007, (the year of the big end zone celebration) the trip to Jacksonville has ended in misery for Dawg fans.
Horror stories of the past notwithstanding, 2011 brings about a sense of encouragement for Georgia. The Dawgs have won five in a row, and are in the thick of the SEC East race. Florida started hot in winning their first four contests. Since then the Gators are ice cold, having lost three straight games, and they are all but out of conference contention. But, what better way for Florida to circle the wagons than to ruin another season for the Dawgs.
Georgia must eliminate the critical errors that the Gators have thrived on in the past. Last year, the Dawgs could not get out of their own way soon enough, as they committed four turnovers. Although, even with the benefit of three interceptions and a fumble, the Gators could not fight off Georgia in regulation. Aaron Murray’s interception in Overtime doomed the Dawgs and allowed Chas Henry to kick a spirit crushing game winner.
The Dawgs need to treat this contest like any other game as much as possible. Pressing too much on either side of the ball is a recipe for disaster. Quarterback Aaron Murray must avoid forcing a throw if it is not there. Defensively, the Dawgs must avoid over pursuit to eliminate big plays.The Gators have a dynamic duo in Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. If either of them is allowed space in the open field they can score a touchdown at any moment.
This game should not be about the future of Mark Richt, or what has happened lately in this match-up. Instead, it must be about turning the page in this bitter rivalry and ushering in an era of Dawg Days in Jacksonville. Furthermore, If Georgia can take care of business on Saturday, nearly all of the axillary issues will resolve themselves. Mark Richt’s approval rating will go way up in gouging the Gators, and Bulldog Nation can bark without fear of Gator trash talk.
Georgia has no control over whether South Carolina loses again. The Dawgs must take care of their own business and finish the 2011 season strong. Ending the regular season on a 10 game win streak would capture the hearts of even the most cynical Georgia Bulldog fans whether they make a return trip to the Georgia Dome on December 3rd or not. I hope the Georgia Bulldogs repeat their much talked about 2007 celebration. Only this time, they should wait until the game is over.