Following a bye week, the No. 6 Florida Gators take on the No. 8 Georgia this weekend in Jacksonville. The game this weekend, as it does most years, has major SEC East implications and potentially College Football Playoff implications as well.
Dan Mullen spoke with the media Monday afternoon to preview the big game on the St. Johns River this weekend.
The Gators used its bye week to get healthy, something they haven’t been before they kicked off against Miami back in August.
Receiver Kadarius Toney has missed the last six games with a shoulder injury but was able to return to the practice field last week, in a non-contact jersey, for the first time since he was injured against UT-Martin. Mullen expects Toney to be able to play this weekend.
The Gators are also getting back defensive linemen Jon Greenard and Jabari Zuniga. Greenard missed most of the LSU game after spraining his ankle at the end of the Auburn game the previous week. He missed the South Carolina game entirely. Jabari Zuniga was in the same boat but has been out longer with his ankle sprain. Both players should suit up against Georgia
The Gators have only been outside of the top-10 in rankings one week this entire season but it will be the third time (Auburn, LSU, Georgia) that the Gators go into a game as the underdog according to Las Vegas. I’m not sure when or if that has happened before.
Playing the game in Jacksonville.
Save for two years, the Florida-Georgia game has been played in Jacksonville since 1933. The two schools and the city agreed on a contract extension to keep the game in Jacksonville through 2023. Some Georgia fans and more recently Kirby Smart have complained that the game in Jacksonville isn’t as neutral of a site considering the travel distances for the two schools and Smart isn’t happy about losing a home game where he can host recruits every year. Monday Smart was asked and addressed his stance.
“First the misnomer there is that I don’t want the game in Jacksonville. That’s not a case for me. I loved playing there it’s one of the best memories as a player being able to do that. I think the landscape of college football is such now that your home and homes are so valuable as you go out and try to find other teams t play. When you played these other teams that we’re playing out in the future, you got a home and home, so you got one less home game. The team that’s used a bye to come play you, you’re going to have one less home game, so now, with us every other year it may be two less. So it makes it tougher in that perspective. But I also think the financial significance of this game weighed in the factors, and administration felt like that was the best thing to do, and I’m 100 percent on board with it. I’m a team player and I always said, once the decision is made, it’s made. It’s a two-year commitment. We’ll continue to see where it’s going in college football. I think as you look across the board, you see more and more kids committing on these official visit weekend when they go to a home game, and they’re really important weekends. We just have one less shot at those. That’s the toughest thing.”
That statement makes it pretty clear that Smart doesn’t want to continue playing the game in Jacksonville but he’s putting on as good of a face as he can. He’s not wrong when it comes to recruiting. It’s been an issue that Florida, who wants to play seven home games every season, has also dealt with.
Dan Mullen addressed that same issue and while he doesn’t seem to feel as strongly as Kirby Smart, does speak to some of the same points.
“I’m never going to be someone who says that’s how we’ve always done it so don’t think about it. It’s a really unique scene for college football. There’s not many games like this in the country so I think that part of the game is pretty special. The landscape of college football is constantly changing and so I think right now for the next couple of years it’s beneficial for that and then we’ll see as it continues to go forward if that’s the case. All the schools will continue to look. The landscape of college football is constantly changing. Right now, the next couple of years, it’s beneficial for that and then we’ll see as it continues to move forward, if that remains the case.”
No news about Brenton Cox
The former Georgia defensive lineman is still going through a process to try and get immediate eligibility for this season. There are only four games left and the process began in August, so Monday I asked Dan Mullen where everything stood.
“We’re still working with the NCAA on that, with some more information.”
That could mean that Cox’s initial waiver was denied and Florida is appealing the decision or it could mean that the NCAA simply asked for more information and Florida provided it or is working to provide it.
Here is what we do know. Cox needs to waivers to play this season. First, he needs one from the NCAA, which he has not gotten. If the NCAA clears him then Florida would need to get a waiver from the SEC. Because Cox transferred within the conference and the SEC rules only allow for players who have graduated already or players leaving a school that is on probation or NCAA sanctions to have immediate eligibility when transferring within the SEC. Cox doesn’t fit either of those. So, as we sit on October 28 it doesn’t appear a likely scenario that Cox will play in Orange and Blue this season.