Florida vs Georgia: Not Much Left to Do But Drink

floridagrandstandsThe annual border rivalry that is the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators is known as “the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Every year tens of thousands of Gator fans and Dog ans descend upon the city of Jacksonville for one of the best college football games of any season. The atmosphere in the city on this week is as great as you will find in college football. This game and the “Red River Rivalry” between the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns are the only two still played annually on a neutral site. These two games are the only two where you will see half the fans rooting for each team. This makes for a very unique and exciting college football event.

So many times, the game between the Gators and Bulldogs has decided the SEC East. It is nothing unusual for the winner of this game to go on to the SEC Championship Game and a major bowl game. So many times both were in the running for this coming into the game. Such was the case last season in a game the Bulldogs won 17-9. They wound up playing the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game. There they lost by five yards. Had they gained five more yards they would have played the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for the National Championship. The Gators only loss in the regualr season was this game. They wound up in the Sugar Bowl. Had the Irish lost a game along the way, which they should have to the Pittsburgh Panthers who missed a chip shot field goal in overtime that would have beaten the Irish, Florida would have also played for the BCS title. So two plays that could have gone the other way was all that prevented a BCS Championship Game match-up between Georgia and Florida. Two plays.

This year, the two teams come in limping. Both teams have had a ton of injuries to key players. Georgia has lost both star tailbacks in Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. Marshall is out for the remainder of the season. Gurley will play on Saturday, but it will be his first action in several weeks. They have lost their vest wide receivers too. Quarterback Aaron Murray seems to be all alone out there, trying to throw the ball to a bunch of kids.

They’ll get no sympathy from the Gators who only wish they were as healthy as the Bulldogs. Florida has been devastated by injuries to starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, star defensive lineman Dominique Easley and star running back Matt Jones who are among eight Gators lost for the season. As many as ten Gators starters have been out at the same time in some games this season.

Both Florida and Georgia come into this game 4-3 and on two game losing skids. This game is not even the biggest game happening in Northern Florida on Saturday. The Miami Hurricanes and Florida State Seminoles will get together a couple over hours west on I-10 in a game between two unbeaten top ten teams. The buzz around Georgia-Florida is as quiet as fans have witnessed in years. For the winner, it will be a season saver. For the loser, the final dagger in a season gone terribly wrong.

Nobody needs a win worse than Florida Head Coach Will Muschamp. He is 0-2 in this rivalry already. Another loss and he will have doubled Florida’s losses over the 21 years before he took over as Gator coach. That will not sit well with the Gator Nation. There are already rumblings in the crowd about whether Muschamp is the right man for this job. Another loss to the Bulldogs and the noise will be even louder.

Georgia Coach Mark Richt knows all about that. Before he won this game the past two seasons, many in Bulldog Nation were calling for him to be fired as well. One of the main reasons the fans wanted him gone was because he couldn’t beat Florida. So even though we are talking about two teams hoping to qualify for a dot.com bowl, there is still a lot of pressure to win this game. But it is not the same pressure as we are used to seeing. It is enough to drive Florida and Georgia fans to drink. They certainly are at the right place for it.

Jim Folsom is a regular contributor at http://www.bettingsports.com