The Florida Gators head to Jacksonville this weekend to write the next chapter of storied rivalry against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Florida hasn’t dropped a game to Georgia since 2013, and it has won 21 of the last 27 meetings, but the Bulldogs are still favored to win by more than two touchdowns on Saturday.
That is no surprise. Georgia holds a 7-0 record this season, and aside from a close one with Notre Dame, it has won every game in dominant fashion.
Then, there is Florida. The Gators enter the game at 3-3 after suffering back-to-back one-score losses to LSU and Texas A&M.
While Florida has played in some ugly games, this team could’ve easily won each of its last five games. Then again, it could have just as easily lost every game this season.
That could be taken two different ways, but the Gators don’t feel like they are that far off from being a better team than its performances put on the field show this season.
“We’re not satisfied,” said sophomore safety Chauncey Gardner. “We know what we’ve been doing. We know what we’ve got to do. We haven’t been blown out. We’ve been playing tough games. We just couldn’t make plays when things were going wrong. I mean, a lot of people look down at us as an underdog, but if you think about it we’ve been playing tough all year.”
Florida may be down, but no one can be counted out at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The Gators are a longshot in the SEC race at this point, but a win over the Bulldogs would throw a wrench into things and earn back some lost respect.
“I feel like going in as the underdog people just expect you not to win,” said redshirt sophomore linebacker Kylan Johnson. “They think you don’t have a chance, but when you come in and you play ball and you end up on top, it’s a little bit of a respect factor.”
Florida comes in as the largest underdog it has been in this game in more than 30 years, but getting the short end of the stick in predictions is something this team has grown accustomed to for a while now.
Many players either don’t pay it much mind, or they relish in it. The Gators shouldn’t need any more motivation or incentive than they already have to beat the Bulldogs, but if they do, this is it. Gardner even said on Monday that this game feels like a championship game going into it.
“I feel like we’ve been the underdog for the past 10 years,” Gardner said. “Everybody wants to see us lose every game. Oh, Florida this, Florida that. We’ve been the underdog since the first game of the season … I just want to go out there and play football, and if you’re better than us, prove it. If you’re not, just keep it pushing.”
Only a handful of Florida’s players even know what it feels like to lose to Georgia. Actually, most of them don’t even know what it’s like to finish a close game with the Bulldogs since the Gators have won by two touchdowns or more in each of the last three years.
This is a completely different team, but it is carrying that same mentality over to Jacksonville this week.
“We haven’t lost to Georgia in the last three years,” said sophomore wide receiver Josh Hammond. “Our seniors have never lost to Georgia. I think that mentality that they bring, being that they’ve never lost to Georgia, that brings a lot of confidence to us, just knowing that Georgia isn’t a team that we lose to. So, I think that’s the message in the locker room right now, ‘They might be the No. 2 team in the country, but they can’t beat Florida.’ That’s our mentality going forward and we’ll come out and be ready to play.”