Georgia football has a tradition that only Texas and Oklahoma understand: having a game on neutral ground against your biggest rival.
We all know by now that it’s Georgia, Florida week, and the world’s biggest drinking party has already started in Jacksonville, even though it’s only Tuesday.
For the first time since 2017, this game will not be between two top-10 opponents. Instead, the top-ranked Dawgs 7-0 against the unranked Gators 4-3.
If we break down the history between Georgia football and Florida football, it will show some interesting insights as the Dawgs earned their series lead 53-44-2.
Since 1933, the Dawgs and Gators have met on neutral ground to compete and play for bragging rights or generally for conference division rights.
Outside of the World War II years and 1994-95, when Jacksonville Stadium was renovated, this game has been in the same location, forming what has become one of the best college football traditions of all time. .
Some like the game in Jacksonville, some don’t, and that’s okay.
After seeing what AJC reporter Chip Towers posted on October 25, hopefully it will help change the minds of those who want to abandon this historic place.
The Dawgs and Gators have always hated each other, and it’s just in their blood. Since head coach Kirby Smart took over in 2016, he’s 3-2 against the Gators, falling to them in the first year and in 2020.
However, the three years between his Georgia teams embarrassed the Gators and gave them a taste of their own medicine.
This series goes up and down
It seems like every three years Georgia or Florida would be beaten depending on who won the previous three meetings. The Dawgs saw this happen last year.
Before that, Florida won 2014, 2015 and 2016. The Dawgs won in 2013, 2012 and 2011. It’s crazy to see it like this, but it’s something that carries throughout the rivalry – in outside of the 1990s decade, of course.
However, there’s no doubt before Smart came to town, the series was a bit unbalanced. Prior to taking the job, Richt only beat Florida five times.
Granted, Florida won a national title during that time and had Urban Meyer in the lead, but it’s still not fun to watch, especially on the losing side.
It seemed that regardless of whether the Dawgs were playing well or not when the Gators game came around, it’s almost like they were meant to lose, and more often than not, they did.
2002 was the biggest heartbreak of Richt’s era
There were some heartbreakers in Richt’s time, but this 2002 game stings the most.
Even the overtime loss in 2010, when Georgia should have won, hurts no more than in 2002.
The Dawgs were 8-0 that season, ranked No. 5 in the nation and entering Jacksonville as favorites looking to clinch the SEC East for the first time since 1982.
David Greene was the quarterback and he helped Georgia go 7-0 in the second quarter and then the Dawgs fell flat.
Richt decided to put DJ Shockley in the game at quarterback after the Gators scored to make it 7-6. On that drive, Shockley threw a six pick and the Gators went up 12-7.
Georgia couldn’t do anything offensively and instead settled for field goals.
This game can’t be won on field goals, and despite kicking twice in the second quarter to lead 13-12, Florida took off in the fourth quarter, scoring a touchdown and a two-point conversion to win. 20-13.
The Dawgs would once again leave Jacksonville heartbroken. That loss should have told Georgia fans what they were dealing with in Richt, but the head coach helped the Dawgs to the next level.
Some of his practice decisions against Florida, however, are forever etched in the memory of Dawg fans.
Back to the first UGA National Championship
Why should we go back so far, well, because there was something similar between 2021 and 1942?
The Dawgs were No. 1 in the nation, which is the only other time they’ve been ranked this high before Florida Week, and that was in 1942.
Frank Sinckwich led the Dawgs with four scores this game and helped produce the biggest margin of victory in the game’s 99 encounters. Georgia won that match 75-0 and captured the program’s first national title.
Now the Dawgs head to Jacksonville as the top-ranked team, but they can’t let that matter to them.
Instead, they have to treat this game as if they were 0-7 and Florida is No. 1 in the nation.
Vince Dooley’s Dawgs handled the rivalry properly
During head coach Vince Dooley’s era, from 1964 to 1988, the Dawgs had more wins than losses against the Gators. Like Smart, he was 3-2 against Florida in his first five years. In his sixth season, they tied the Gators 13-13.
He was 17-7-1 against arch-rival Georgia and had the second-longest six-game winning streak from 1978 to 1983.
When the Dawgs won their second national title, his team defeated Florida 26-21 and entered the game with an 8-0 record. That victory produced Larry Munson’s infamous “Run, Lindsay, Run” call, and the rest is history.
This victory was crucial for the Dawgs as it helped them stay undefeated and ultimately win a national championship.
A new era of Georgian football
Despite losing to Florida last year, Smart is building something in Georgia. He keeps his teams in contention every year and, more importantly, he has a winning record over the Gators.
Remember, it’s the same one Dooley started out with, and thankfully there are no more college football ties.
Smart can start his coaching career with the best record against his nemesis since the greatest coach was around.
This kind of domination is overdue and one of Dawg’s fans has been waiting for so long. Some more than others, but this game marks a turning point for Georgia.
If the Dawgs can come out of this game with the same result as in the first seven games, then it will be impossible to keep our hopes contained.
Smart and his team have a point to make on Saturday. This game usually takes place when Georgia’s season ends in disappointment, or it means something big is about to happen.
Georgia has the team, can they now overcome the mental block that comes with playing in Florida? Smart’s first five years say yes, but it’s not a match to be expected. Instead, it’s a game where you hope the Dawgs come in and crush the Gators.