Early Christmas comes this weekend with the gift of a football game that should be celebrated, commemorated and consecrated.
These are the best of times for college football writers, announcers, talkshow guys, etc. with a much-anticipated, thoroughly discussed and drama-laden game hanging there like a shiny bauble on the tree.
Seems like it took forever to get here.
The vigil of a newsperson/journalist sometimes feels like an elongated bird watch for a near-extinct species. You wait half a lifetime for Saturdays like the next one. It’s almost like digging for gold or drilling for oil without knowing for sure it’s there.
It will be worth the wait.
For 75 per cent of my life I have been regularly watching Florida-Georgia games both in person and on TV — over a period of nine presidents and eight Gator coaches. I can’t remember one with this much hoopla and anticipation.
This one is rife with literary fiction themes: Revenge, conflict and — eventually — resolution.
Seems there is always some kind of controversy surrounding the World’s Largest Outdoor Adult Beverage Party — beginning with the disputed game. Florida says there has been one less victory than the 47 claimed by the Bulldogs and so the series should be 46-37-2 in favor of Georgia.
Georgia, making the stats work in its favor, cites the decided 9- or 10-game series advantage as clearcut dominance, choosing to overlook the 15 losses to the Gators in the last 18 outings.
Clinging to their one-game winning streak and the fact that the Bulldogs even out-psyched the normally astute Gators with “The Incident,” they therefore also claim superior intelligence.
Let me pause here while the collective blood of the Gator Nation simmers down from a boil.
This time it’s personal on the Gators’ behalf.
I have covered bigger games with more meaningful outcomes and definitive results — like national championships. However, for sheer blood rivalry spiced with spite and malice and bad intentions, the 86th (or 87th) Florida-Georgia game has the potential of a Sam Peckinpah or Quentin Tarantino movie plot.
No matter how you slice it or dice it or even if you can understand how as desperate coach like Mark Richt might have suffered a lapse in judgment, there is no getting around the fact that he committed an almost obscene disrespect for his opponent. And somebody has to pay.
When the Georgia Bulldogs stormed the field at the direction in a coach-mandated act after their first touchdown, they might as well have hiked their legs and peed in the face of Urban Meyer and his players.
As Meyer said, this did not win the game for Georgia. He points to the poor protection of Tim Tebow and the two turnovers as the culprits. It did, however, do more than rub salt in the wounds of the defeated: “The Incident” seared a painful memory in the brains of the Gators, their coaches and fans forever.
Just because he has ignored the revenge angle and placed a gag order on his team, don’t think Meyer hasn’t been suffering a slow burn for a year.
We all know by now that Meyer means to make a statement; as he said, “The Incident” was a big deal that is worthy of a response. As for guessing what that means, as so many message boarders have been doing, simply fill in the blanks:
To get even for “The Incident” last year, Urban Meyer and his Gators will____________________________.
This one hurts even more than the devastating 51-0 beating administered by Vince Dooley’s team in 1968 during which a backup center was kicking extra points as the Bulldogs laughed their way through the rain. Dooley didn’t know it, but that would provide the impetus years later for the Reign of the Gator that began with Steve Spurrier in 1990.
The day Spurrier’s Gators hung 52 on the Bulldogs in Athens — he ran off strings of 52, 52 and 47 on them in successful seasons — The Ol’ Ball Coach called Ray Graves, and said, “We got ‘em back for you (in 1968) coach.”
Now Urban will “get ‘em back” for “The Incident.”
If these Gators don’t play their best game of the year and win by at least 10 points, I’ll be shocked. The prevailing feeling is that Florida win score 50 points for the third straight week and I’m inclined to agree.
In the end, none of that really matters. The sweetest revenge will be winning the game and getting back to Atlanta.
But if the Gators want to inflict a little carnage along the way, however, that’ll be fine, too.
FIVE THINGS I EXPECT TO HAPPEN
1. Percy Harvin will blow up and have maybe his biggest game ever.
2. Georgia, behind in the second half, will make stage a comeback behind running and passing of Matthew Stafford — but it will end badly for the Bulldogs with a Will Hill or Ahmad Black pick.
3. Knowshon Moreno will be scary and rip off a couple of 20-yard-plus runs, but will not rush for 100 yards; A.J. Green will catch at least one deep ball for a score.
4. Florida will dominate both lines of scrimmage and Stafford will be sacked several times — but Tim Tebow will not.
5. Florida won’t block any punts, but Brandon James will make several nice returns — maybe one of them for a touchdown.
An Alabama friend of mine regularly dines with an SEC official who has called one of their games this season said he was told that the Georgia Bulldogs are not very impressive upfront and lack depth in their offensive line … Funny how some people don’t get that the Gator offensive line has been dominating in games against LSU and Kentucky. Ex-Georgia quarterback Buck Belue said on talk radio this week that the Bulldogs “match up better with the Gators” because they were not as physical as teams like LSU (wonder what games he has been watching?) … Watch for Will Hill to come on at safety in the new three-man rotation.
HAPPY TIMES IN BRANTLEYVILLE
It’s a tossup as to who was happier about Johnny Brantley IV’s first touchdown pass against Kentucky: Johnny, his dad John III or his old Trinity Catholic coach Kerwin Bell.
Bell, now the head coach at Jacksonville (5-3), called Johnny Saturday after the game to congratulate him. Immediately, some of John III’s friends and former Gator teammates chided him with text messages after his son took off on a successful scramble, with “Johnny beat your career rushing record in one carry!”
One of the most impressed spectators was Chris Collinsworth, former teammate of III’s who has been watching Johnny’s development for many years. He called the red-shirt freshman quarterback “one of the most impressive I’ve seen at this stage of his career.” And he’s seen lots of young quarterbacks.
Enjoy Tim Tebow for as long as you’ve got him, because nobody will ever leave a better legacy at UF than No. 15. But relish the thought of what’s ahead with young Brantley and sophomore Cam Newton.
If Tebow decides to leave early, the cupboard isn’t exactly going to be empty.
AND GOOD MORNING …
… All you Bulldog partygoers along the First Coast — Ponte Vedra, Jekyll, Amelia and St. Simons Island. Grab a life preserver because I’m afraid you are doing down again Saturday.