The "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" has been the vein of the Bulldogs existance for as long as I can remember. In fact, you have to go back to the 1980s to find a time when Georgia dominated the series as the Dawgs went 8-2 against the Gators in that decade.
Since then the Gators have ruled the WLOCP by the tune of 18 to 3. During that time period it really didn't matter who the coach was for Florida. Steve Spurrier went went 11-1. Ron Zook went 2-1. Urban Meyer went 5-1. It also rarely mattered the record of the Florida team as Spurrier won twice with teams that finished 9-4, Zook won with two teams that finished 8-5 and Urban Meyer won with a team that finished 8-5 last season.
As the Head Coach at Georgia, Mark Richt is 2-8 against the Gators. Mark Richt has a winning record against all Georgia's other rivals (9-1 against GT, 7-4 against South Carolina, 6-4 against Auburn, and 7-4 against Tennessee).
Florida is that monkey on Georgia's back. This year the teams come in seemingly going in opposite directions. Georgia has won five straight games and comes in on a bye week. Florida, also on a bye week, is reeling after losing three straight games. After losing a heart-breaker in OT last year (34-31) is this the year that Georgia starts a turnaround against Florida's new Head Coach Will Muschamp?
While this rivalry has probably simmered a bit on the Florida side because of their dominance, it hasn't on the Georgia side. If you want to read about how much Georgia hates Florida you can go here, here, or here.
Earlier this season we rounded up some of our favorite Georgia Bulldogs bloggers to discuss our outlook and expectations for the Dawgs. Last Week, I gathered the guys again to take a "mid-season" look at Georgia. This week we take a look at the Georgia/Florida game from a Georgia perspective.
Here are the panelists for this version of the roundtable. Make sure you give their sites a look and consume all of the information they will give you this week on the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" and follow them on Twitter if that's your thing (you can also follow us @CFBZ). Before we get into the roundtable, here are some panelists:
WhoSiteTwitter HandleBernieDawgBernie's Dawg Blawg@BernieDawgGenXDawgA Damn Beast!!!@ADamnBeastBlogKevinSicemdawgs.com@sicemdawgscomParrish WaltonThe Victory Formation@ParrishWaltonRev WhitewallOutside (The Arena) Looking In@Rev_WhitewallTyler DawgdenGeorgia Sports Blog@TylerDawgden
Just like some years past this looks like it might be shaping up to be a good opportunity for Georgia to beat Florida. Why should we be optimistic Georgia will come out on top this year?
BernieDawg (Bernie's Dawg Blog): Like many have pointed out, we haven't put together a complete game yet. Everything points to the Dawgs having the advantage overall. But can special teams overcome their missed assignments and miscues? Can the offense perform for 60 minutes? Can the defense refocus after losing their composure in a very chippy game in Nashville? These are much better questions to have than the ones Muschamp's team is trying to answer.
But more than anything this team worked hard in the off season to mold a new image. And that's what we need in Jacksonville; a new attitude that isn't concerned with what's happened the last two decades, just with what happens on the field this year.
Kevin (College Football Zealots): From the positive perspective I think it's the play of the defense. Overall, Georgia has done a much better job stopping the run and also playing well against the pass. Jarvis Jones was just named as one of the 12 finalists for the Butkus Award and this week Georgia also gets ILB Alec Ogletree back from injury. Kwame Geathers and Shawn Williams will be suspended for the first half of the game but this year depth is much better so John Jenkins and Sanders Commings should be able to take up the slack of them missing time until the second half. I have a lot more confidence in Todd Grantham and his defense going up against the Florida offense then I've had in several years.
Why should we worry Florida will come out on top this year?
Kevin (Sicemdawgs.com): Florida owns the psychological advantage over Georgia lately, plain and simple. The Bulldogs need to go down to Jacksonville knowing they are the better team AND play like the better team. If Georgia gets in Georgia's way, Florida will come out on top again.
Kevin (College Football Zealots): It has to be the concerns with Special Teams. Special Teams cost Georgia the South Carolina game (Melvin Ingram fake punt TD) and it just seems like everything on ST is out of sorts. Blair Walsh is missing FGs, everybody and their mother is completing fake punts for first downs (or better), I could go on but I know you don't want me to.
Reverend Whitewall (Outside (The Arena) Looking In): Because it has become such a mental block for our program. For whatever reasons, our guys have a way of just freezing up mentally in Jacksonville and doing things they haven't done all year. Just like last year, Murray had played with such poise and composure all year..........Then I believe it was Senator Blutarsky who aptly described Murray as having played the first quarter like he had shot-gunned three Red Bulls right before kickoff. As long as the game is going ok, we play fine, but the moment one thing goes wrong (turnover, big penalty, etc) you can see our guys start to tighten up and think "Here we go again". Then that leads to more mistakes, which leads to even more tightening up, and so on and so forth. We've seen that scenario play out way too many times.
Plus, I know Florida laid an egg against Auburn, but it's not like they don't have any talent or playmakers, and they looked impressive at times early in the year. I do believe UGA has an edge in talent, but I don't think the difference is as great as some others do.
In what area do you see Georgia as having a specific advantage over the Gators?
Kevin (Sicemdawgs.com): Quarterback. If Aaron Murray plays like he is capable of playing and minimizes his mistakes, Georgia should win. Florida's QB situation is questionable with John Brantley injured (note: Brantley returned to practice in a limited role on Monday). Their top two backups, Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett, have 5 INT's and only one TD between them.
Tyler Dawgden (Georgia Sports Blog): Passing offense vs passing defense. The Gators have really struggled with Brantley out. They weren't exactly world beaters, passing wise, with him in. Murray has had his issues, but he is quite good when he is given a few seconds to make his reads. I expect the Gators to come after him. I also expect us to be able to exploit that with the TEs, RBs and quick routes like last week against Vandy. Tyler Bray did a good job until Tennessee's lack of running game allowed the Gators to sit back and dare them to pass without Justin Hunter in the game. We have more competent receivers than Tennessee and more plays designed to leverage that.
In what area do you see Georgia as being at a specific dis-advantage to the Gators?
Genxdawg (A Damn Beast!!!): I would have to say the match-up between our offensive line and the Gators defensive line. Based on the mediocre line play the DAWGS have gotten this season, this worries me most. Florida’s D-line is young, but very talented. They show their youth at times, but this group could grow to be something very special for the Gators. The player that concerns me most is Domnique Easley. He is a monster. Easley plays with explosive quickness, great leverage and technique and is among the team leaders in tackles for loss. This could be the best defensive line the DAWGS have faced since playing Boise State. Georgia has its work cut out along the offensive line of scrimmage.
Parrish Walton (The Victory Formation): The only reason why I see this game being close is because of the Florida defensive line matched up with Georgia's offensive line. While the back 7 for the Gators leaves much to be desired, the front four is stout, and with Ronald Powell presumably getting healthy that makes them even scarier. Let's face it, UGA hasn't blocked a decent defensive front in about 4 years, so I don't expect them to all of a sudden do it against Florida. For another bite at the apple I'd also say special teams. Florida has been one of the best special teams programs in the country for a while now, and after seeing the abortion in Nashville I'm more than a little worried in that area.
Tyler Dawgden (Georgia Sports Blog): Individual big play threats on offense. Hey, we've got very good play makers, especially Mitchell. He will be individually as good as Rainey or Demps in a year. At any given time, on any given play, at any given spot on the field, either of those guys can hurt you running or catching the ball. We don't have that.
Give us one Georgia player that needs to play his best game of the season for Georgia to win this ball game.
Kevin (College Football Zealots): How about Cornelius Washington? He's coming off of a two-game suspension after letting the team down. His best game so far is 2 sack and 4 tackles against Mississippi State so if he plays better than that then we are in business. On offense I think it's Isaiah Crowell. I know it's tough putting that much on a Freshman who has been a bit banged up the last couple of games but the last time we beat Florida it was in part because of a dominant running game. Knowshon Moreno ran for 188 yards and 3 TDs and if Georgia can get the running game going then the play-action will follow.
Kevin (Sicemdawgs.com): Isaiah Crowell. I hate to keep calling his name, but the Dawgs need 100+ yards and a couple of TD's from the true freshman. A solid ground game will give Murray some throwing room.
Tyler Dawgden (Georgia Sports Blog): Murray. The smart money would be on someone on defense, but I feel ok about them. If Murray gets rolling, completes 60% of his passes and has one int. or less, I feel very good about our chances. If he tops 325 yards, completes 65% of his passes, has 3+TDs/0ints and throws around 30 times, we win big.
Who is the one guy that Georgia just has to stop for Florida in this game?
BernieDawg (Bernie's Dawg Blog): I think there's one on either side of the ball. Defensively it's #52 Bostic. He's everywhere and makes solid tackles. We need to get a hat on him to give Crowell more space to make his yards.
But if you are to confine me to only one player it would have to be Chris Rainey. He's put down his texting device with its murderous intent and is really putting together a spectacular season. He has 500 yards rushing and 275 yards receiving with 4 touchdowns overall. He's an explosive player, as dangerous as you'll find in college football. One small seam and he's gone. Grantham's guys need to keep him moving east-west as much as possible. Auburn has their issues, but they did a great job of confining him in their last game. Bama did as well. If someone like Herrera or Jones, maybe a really hungry Tree who'll be back from his injured foot..if they can plant him hard once early in the game, we may have a good idea how this one's going to go.
Genxdawg (A Damn Beast!!!): Chris Rainey is a no-brainer, but I’m going to go with Andre Debose. I expect we will see everything, including the kitchen sink from the Gators even if John Brantley is back under center. I’m looking for the “Wildcat” with Rainey and Jeffrey Demps…multiple players lining up at quarterback to run the option…trick plays…everything. So, I say take away Florida’s only legitimate game breaker other than Demps and Rainey. Deonte Thompson has disappeared from the Gators offense since Brantley went down, and that leaves Debose. Squish the field on the Gators, keep everything in front of you and TACKLE in the open field.
I’ve got one more, over-arching point here. Regardless of who lines up for the DAWGS on defense or who lines up for the Gators on offense, Georgia should field an experienced unit in the secondary. That should give the DAWGS the opportunity to disguise their coverage, change up the looks on defense and confuse the Gators young quarterbacks if they get in the game. Mix this with a little pressure in the quarterback’s face and that should lead to good things for Georgia.
Parrish Walton (The Victory Formation): Chris Rainey. I'm not even sure Florida has another player worth a damn on their team as far as offense goes (which is remarkable, by the way). If Rainey gets to the edge all bets are off because of his insane speed. While Jeff Demps is a bit faster, Rainey is the better football player. Keep Rainey in check and make John Brantley (if he's even healthy, something I'm skeptical of) beat you. The Gators are so weak on the outside that the threat of their receivers having a big day is rather minimal. The only guy that scares me as far as catching passes would be Trey Burton, but Florida hasn't used him nearly as much as they should have in my opinion. Of course as I say that watch him go off in Jacksonville.
If you were Mike Bobo, how would you attack the Florida defense?
Genxdawg (A Damn Beast!!!): As I mentioned earlier, I expect the offensive line will have its hands full on Saturday. However, there will be opportunities to run the football right at the Gators young defensive line. If the DAWGS can have some success in the running game, they can take a page from the LSU playbook and really hurt Florida with shots down the field off play-action. The Gators are young and vulnerable on the corners, especially Cody Riggs because of his height. I would work to establish the run…down hill, not sideline to sideline…mixing in the intermediate passing game. Then I would protect using the fullback and a tight end to block everything up and take my shots down the field.
Kevin (College Football Zealots): I think you have to establish the run early and I would like to see Bobo get the FBs and TEs more involved in the passing game early in the game. This will open up the receviers and you can go deep (if Mitchell is in the game) or work some of the other guys on slants and screens to keep the Gators on their toes (and by screens I don't mean the one where the QB doesn't look and then wheels around and throws a blind pass to the receiver). I would also like to see Boykin and Branden Smith in the game early even if they are used as decoys. Having them in the game creates question marks for the defense and could cause mis-matches or opportunities for the offense. And more than anything, just take what the defense give you. If we have to work our way down the field methodically then do it, if they are giving us the deep ball then take it. We have enough talent that anybody on our offense should be able to perform when called upon (expect maybe on the line).
Reverend Whitewall (Outside (The Arena) Looking In): Get Murray into a rhythm early. We have to establish the run as well, which will be a challenge against their front 7, but I believe Murray is the key to this game. While Murray has been inaccurate all year on his deep passes, he has for the most part been pretty good on the short and mid-range stuff. So get the tight ends and fullbacks involved early - it seems like the fullbacks haven't had a pass thrown their way in a month, and we haven't seen nearly the production from the tight end spot that we all expected. If they are successful, that will settle Murray down, and also start to open things up on the edges for some of our other playmakers. And, as is always the case, once you find one or two things that are working, don't go away from them until UF proves they can stop it.
Mark Richt has seemingly had "must win" games all year long. Is this a "must win" game for Mark Richt's tenure at Georgia?
BernieDawg (Bernie's Dawg Blog): No, I don't think it is. He can survive another loss in Jacksonville with a strong November run. But it would be another embarrassing addendum to Richt's resume in Athens. Florida's had four coaches during Richt's tenure and he's lost to all of them except for their current head coach. If he loses to a former Georgia player at the WLOCP it would not sit well with boosters, alumni and other supporters. It would give his detractors a pretty strong argument that if he can't win this year against Florida, he will never be the one to turn the tide of the St. Johns river.
So is it a must win game for him to keep his job? Maybe not, but a loss here could easily spell the end.
Kevin (College Football Zealots): This is not an easy question. Yes, this is a "must win" game for Mark Richt in terms of his standing with the general fanbase. Every game is so important to him this year and Georgia will come into this game as a favorite. That being said, if Richt runs the table in the rest of the games and finishes 9-3 then I don't think this game matters as much. But if you can't beat Florida, then you are probably gonna have a lot of trouble with Auburn and Georgia Tech as well.
Reverend Whitewall (Outside (The Arena) Looking In): We have debated this over at my blog a couple of times. One of my co-writers believes that there's no way Richt is retained this year without a win over the Gators. However, I believe that if Richt goes 9-3 for the regular season, he will be retained no matter who that final loss comes to. We have already beaten Tennessee, and if we win 2 out of 3 against UF, Auburn, and Tech, then Richt will have gone 9-3 and beaten 3 out of our 4 major rivals for the year. I just don't see McGarity firing Richt after that. Granted, the collective quality of our four major rivals may never be lower than it is this year, so I understand why some folks feel there's no excuse for not beating all four of them. But no, I don't see this as a "must win". However, if we lose, then it turns every other game the rest of the year truly into "must win" games.
There is still a lot of time before the game but give us a quick prediction on the outcome.
BernieDawg (Bernie's Dawg Blog): I've steered clear of predictions all season long. So I can't give a prediction of the outcome, but I will say this. If the game is a blowout I think that favors Georgia. Florida has to be tired, even with the bye week, after the murderous row they've faced this month. If it's close I think that favors Florida for two reasons: our special teams have been inconsistent and history says we just can't seem to get into this game mentally for the duration.
The only other thing I'll predict is that we see a heavy dose of Crowell Saturday. The more he's on the field the better our chances are of finally winning another one in Jacksonville.
Genxdawg (A Damn Beast!!!): I said in a blog post before the season that the DAWGS would win in Jacksonville in 2011 and I stand by it. The Gators are stinging from three straight losses and are wounded by injuries and youth. The DAWGS are as healthy as they can be and they have everything to play for. This is JAX…this is Florida…and because of that the DAWGS will have to overcome some adversity at some point to claim this victory, but they will get it done. Georgia wins 31-17.
Kevin (Sicemdawgs.com): Yikes. I'm not a big fan of predictions when it comes to the Bulldogs, but.....Georgia 27, Florida 23.
Parrish Walton (The Victory Formation): Georgia has absolutely no business losing this game. None. Zilch. Nada. The Gators are ripe for the picking in the secondary and borderline inept on offense without Brantley playing under center. Having said all of that, I expect this game to come down to the wire. No team leaves bad teams in games as well as Georgia does. Given Mark Richt's conservative nature and his job still in the balance (especially if he loses this game) I suspect that you'll see Georgia play it close to the vest and win an ugly game in which many UGA fans will want to jump off of a ledge several times throughout. Georgia 23 - Florida 17.
Reverend Whitewall (Outside (The Arena) Looking In): I'm still waffling on this, and reserve the right to change my prediction by the end of the week, but right now my pessimism based on recent historical performance is overruling my optimism of the growth we've seen this year. UF 25 UGA 23