B.J.‘s Blog - Jacksonville Style
By BJ Bennett
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Senior editor B.J. Bennett looks at Florida-Georgia. See which former Gator player made this statement: "I wish I would have stayed another year for that, when they were jumping on the field.....
By B.J. Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com Senior Editor
Be careful how you say it. In Fernandina Beach, it’s Florida-Georgia. In Valdosta, it’s Georgia-Florida. No matter how you phrase it, the annual grudge match between the Bulldogs and Gators (or Gators and Bulldogs) will be one of the defining storylines of the 2008 college football season. An SEC championship elimination game? A possible springboard towards a national championship?
That’s only the beginning.
For one of college football’s premier rivalries, the competition never stops. Georgia fans brag that they own the season series: 46-37-2. They talk of Herschel Walker and yell “Lindsay Scott, Lindsay Scott!”. Florida fans are quick to point out their Gators have won 15 of the last 18 meetings and experienced a two decade stretch of dominance. To that, Bulldog fans are quick to remind of their 17-out-of-20 run in the 30s, 40s and 50s or their 11-out-of-13 run in the 70s and 80s. Florida fans taunt back with two recent national championship rings. Georgia fans bark about last year. Gator fans reply with “...it’s about dang time”. The debate never ends. http://www.secsports.com/image_lib/fbc_uga_matt_stafford_123006_164w.jpg
Georgia enters the game at 7-1, Florida comes in at 6-1. The Gators are 5th in the AP poll, the Bulldogs 6th in the BCS. While both teams already have a loss, the winner has a very real chance to get back in the national championship race. Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma each have games with ranked teams left and have potential conference title games to deal with. Southern Cal has five games left. While Penn State looks good, there have been questions raised by those in the national media as to if the Nittany Lions will earn a championship slot if a team from the Big XII or SEC escapes with just one loss. Considering both Florida and Georgia have multiple games with high-profile opponents remaining and the well-respected SEC Championship Game ahead (which could be against 2nd ranked Alabama), the winner in Jacksonville just might be able to propel themselves right into the national championship race.
Excitement is buzzing for this contest and there is a BCS bowl game feel in Jacksonville. Coaches, players and fans alike can’t wait for this one to kickoff.
“I get excited. I like to call it butterflies,” Georgia head football coach Mark Richt said to the media Thursday. “I think everybody gets them, and I think everybody gets excited about a game like this. It’s every week. Let’s face it. Every time you go out there and compete you take the chance of something great happening and you take the chance of something bad happening. You want the outcome to be positive, you want your team to play well and you want to represent Georgia well.”
As if the rivalry needed any more spice, it got it last season when the entire Bulldog football team marched into the endzone to celebrate the ‘Dogs’ opening drive touchdown. Whether it was a motivational idea from the coaching staff, a genuine response or a little of both, Georgia made a statement. In a series in which they had been dominated for much of the last two decades, the Bulldogs showed a newfound swagger. They parlayed that moment into a 42-30 victory over the then defending national champion Gators, just their third since 1990.
“That wasn’t right,” Florida head coach Urban Meyer said in an biography that came out in September. “It was a bad deal. It will forever be in the mind of Urban Meyer and in the mind of our football team. We’ll handle it and it’s going to be a big deal.”
Some are downplaying the celebration and what happened last season, but it’s hard to imagine the incident won’t have an impact on the players this Saturday. Many of the players know one another and played against each other in high school. This is one of the most heated rivalries in all of college football. Celebration or no celebration, the intensity is always there.
“It’s going to be a dog fight when they come down to Jacksonville. I’m looking forward to watching that game. I wish I would have stayed another year for that, when they were jumping on the field,” laughed former Florida Gator and current Jacksonville Jaguar safety Reggie Nelson after at pre-season game earlier in the year. “I’m looking forward to watching the boys go at it. I like my Gators all the way.”
The post-game controversy was what you might expect in a rivalry like this. Bulldog fans called the celebration brilliant and a needed confidence boost. Gator fans labeled the move arrogant and petty. These two can’t even agree on where they want their games to be played; why would they agree here? There is no harmony in rivalries like this. The only accord between Bulldogs and Gators can be found in the parking lots outside Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. Here’s a hint: it comes with power windows and seats.
This year’s BCS National Championship Game will be held on January 9th, 2009 in Miami, Florida. With both teams entering this game with one loss and there being widespread conversation about the SEC champion, even with one loss, earning a spot in the title game, this game is about as big as it gets. Literally, the drive to Miami goes right through Jacksonville. Figuratively, it just might too.
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