For the very first time, College GameDay and SEC Nation will meet at the same regular season game for a Top 10 matchup between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs.
The environment at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is always special, but with such high stakes on both ends, the energy surrounding the game just feels renewed.
“You kinda have been starved for this situation,” said Marcus Spears. “Two Top 10 teams with Georgia and Florida are returning here to this point so excited. I’m excited to see how Georgia responds after the LSU loss and the bye week and see if Florida can keep this train rolling. Both of these teams I think are gonna find out a lot about themselves playing at a neutral site.”
Both shows bring in former players who experienced this game first hand.
For Tim Tebow, it’s a game that always had a special place in his heart, even before he became a Heisman and National Championship winning quarterback for the Gators. He said he remembers going to the games as a kid and sitting in the nosebleeds with his dad and brothers.
But no childhood memories can top taking the field in front of the split crowd.
“When you drive over the Hart Bridge and you see all the tailgaters and you see all the red and black and orange and blue, it does something to you,” he said. “And it kind of makes you get crazy butterflies and you get anxious and you get nervous and you tighten up. Some players respond and love it, and some players don’t. And I loved it. I mean, when I would get off the bus, I could barely contain myself. It’s three hours before the game. It’s an unbelievable feeling. That’s why I love games like this. That’s what I love about college football.”
As an All-American defensive end at Georgia from 2001-04, David Pollack found himself on the wrong end of this rivalry for most of his career. But it was still a game he looked forward to playing in every season.
Florida’s biggest rival may be up for debate between a few teams, but for Pollack, there is no question which game carries the most meaning for the Bulldogs.
“It’s not debatable, it was Florida,” he said. “Florida was number one every year. Now listen, part of that was because they beat us a lot and [Steve] Spurrier kind of put his thumb on everybody and made it personal and destroyed us a lot. So, I think it was Florida for me. It was Florida for the fans. I think it still is. They’re going to say game-to-game, week-to-week, but I promise you there’s not a lot of love for the other side on either side. I can tell you as a player, this was number one.”
Reminiscing about the good old days is great, but this is a new season with completely different teams. And both teams are in very similar, yet very different situations at this point.
While the Gators and Bulldogs have the same 6-1 record with SEC Championship and College Football Playoff hopes still alive, Florida has won its last five games and seems to be a team that can scrap it out with anyone it faces, while Georgia lost its last game to LSU in ugly fashion.
Next to no one expected the Gators to be in this position so quickly under the new coaching staff, but here they are. Both teams will be hungry to take home a win from Jacksonville, but Lee Corso seems to think Florida is in a better place than Georgia coming into the game.
“Dan Mullen’s done a great job,” he said. “He took a good football team and he’s made it into a great football team. His motivation, his energy and his enthusiasm isn’t a secret. But Florida is a good football team. They lost one game to Kentucky, but they’re really good and they’re coming on really strong. They’ve passed more tests than Georgia. Georgia has had one test and failed it.”