I am an SEC football fan. No apologies and no regrets there. Never mind the history and tradition and all the past greats who have played the game in that conference. The football is just better. It’s more compelling, the teams actually play defense and stick with good, hard hitting, no nonsense, and in many cases, no flash football. There’s nothing wrong with this because it creates a product vastly different from the other conferences playing FBS college football. A bit of proof comes with the fact that certain games will always be compelling and produce anticipation even if the rivalry has been a one-sided one. This weekend’s game between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs, also known as The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, is such a rivalry.
Wins have been few and far between for the Bulldogs in this rivalry’s recent history as the Gators have won 18 of the last 22 games between the teams. Many of these wins have been blowouts by the Gators, but the Bulldogs have had their moments as well. In 1997, the Bulldogs handed Steve Spurrier his first loss against them as coach of the Gators, by a very satisfying score of 37-17. And who could forget the “Gator Stomp” during the Bulldogs’ win in 2007? Still, the Gators always regain their mojo after a loss to the Bulldogs over these past twenty years, and it’s followed by a Gator winning streak in the series.
The Bulldogs won last year’s meeting 23-20 by holding off the Gators for the final thirteen minutes of play. That loss, and the circumstances with which it happened, have to be the prime motivating tools that Gators’ coach Will Muschamp has been using this week to get his team ready for tomorrow’s game.
This year’s installment of the rivalry features both teams in the top ten and fighting for the SEC East title. This isn’t a rarity in the series as many of the games in this rivalry over the years have had similar stakes. However, it has been a while since both teams have been this close to the top and the game has been anticipated the way it is this year. The Gators will clinch the SEC East and a trip to Atlanta for the conference title game with a win. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, need to win out in conference to earn their trip to Atlanta, but still control their own destiny. The Gators are currently ranked second in the country while the Bulldogs are ranked tenth. This will make this weekend’s meeting the first time since 2008 that both will be ranked in the top ten at the time of this game.
For myself and many college football fans, this game is an October tradition. It’s one of those rivalries that isn’t at the beginning or end of the year, nor in the middle. This is a rivalry positioned specifically to be the beginning of the road to the end of the regular season for both teams. All rivalry games put tremendous pressure on both teams, but this rivalry game isn’t just about putting pressure on both teams with regard to one specific game. This rivalry game is about putting pressure on both teams to attempt to shape the final month of their season in one afternoon of football before that final month even begins.