GAMEDAY: UF/UGA In Jacksonville Days Are Numbered

My first Florida/Georgia game was in 1982 and it was amazing. Actually I had gone over the two previous years for Friday night fun but returned to Gainesville in the morning. Not the best game to watch for a recent UF grad, but it was a phenomenal football game, and I did get to see the greatest college football player in history. It was an atmosphere unlike anything I had ever experienced and I have only missed one of them since.

But with the noise coming out of Athens, it appears the annual get together aka: "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" may change. Georgia Coach Mark Richt says he would like to see the game in the Georgia Dome every other year, forcing Florida to travel a greater distance like the Dawgs currently do every year.

The contract to keep the game in Jacksonville ends with the 2006 contest. After that, I don't think there's much chance of the series remaining on the banks of the St Johns River.

Why Not Go Home And Home?

If Georgia insists it will no longer maintain the series in Jacksonville, there's little reason to go along with an alternating neutral site set-up. The lone reason for something like that would be financial since student tickets do not hamper the gate revenue at neutral sites as opposed to campus sites. Instead, it would make more sense to go ahead and switch to a home and home rivalry. If tickets for the Georgia game have to be an extra ten bucks to cover the difference, so be it. Having this game on campus would surely enhance the revenue potential from club seats and skyboxes for both programs.

It was a great night when Georgia played at Florida Field in 1994. Not only was it a great Florida performance, it included one of the most remarkable interception returns in the history of the free world by Darren Hambrick. And it was pretty cool seeing the Bulldogs and their fans in Gainesville.

1995 was even more fun. The Gators again dominated the game, Athens is a great college town, and no Gator who was there will ever forget actually outnumbering Georgia fans for much of the second half. But my favorite memory from that game was watching Chris Doering catch two straight touchdown passes only to have penalties wipe out the score. So, the HBC calls a third and decisive pass to # 28… and this time, it counts.

Several Benefits To Having The Game On Campuses

If/when Florida/Georgia becomes a home and home situation the Gators will gain some very useful scheduling flexibility. Having four SEC home games every year means the Gators can create a home-and-home series outside the region to play schools like Michigan, Stanford, Notre Dame, etc. That series could run opposite the FSU series, so only one designated cream puff need be on the schedule instead of two.

Additionally, it balances the attractiveness of the Gator home schedule from year to year. Even-numbered seasons would have LSU, Georgia, South Carolina and an inter-sectional opponent. Odd-numbered years would bring FSU and Tennessee to Gainesville along with two Western Division teams.

One last positive, visiting Athens every other year would be cool.

Win One For The Zooker?

That appears to be the mantra for Florida's emotionally wounded football players this week. They want their coach to go out a winner, as they should, and there's nothing wrong with them using the situation to fuel their enthusiasm and energy for the game. Unlike many others, I don't have a problem with what several Gators have said about the administration, although I don't agree with them at all. The kids are hurting, and it's natural they would lash out. We'll see if that translates to success Saturday.

Georgia is a tough match up for the Gators because they run the ball so well, and Florida's run defense has not been good. Add to it David Greene has thrown just one interception all year and you have a massive challenge. Georgia has not scored a lot of points this year except against LSU where the Dawgs receivers made a slew of big catches. Look for Georgia to try and create one-on-one match ups on the outside with Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson who are having outstanding seasons. Still, it all starts with dramatically improved run defense.

There is one encouraging statistic. Georgia is near the bottom of the SEC in Red Zone efficiency. Forcing them to earn points and not allowing big plays is another key for the Gator "D".

The Gator offense needs a big day and that starts with protecting Chris Leak from David Pollack and company. Georgia average three sacks a game and 13 different Bulldogs have at least one. They will blitz with anyone on the field at virtually any time and Florida has to handle it. After Pollack the key guy is safety/rover Thomas Davis who is as good as anyone in the nation. Great speed, great instincts and he hits HARD.

From The E-Mail Bag---Sorta

I have gotten a lot of emails about Steve Spurrier, asking what there is to debate about bringing back the HBC and why some people are reacting against the idea.

No one has more respect and appreciation for what Spurrier did for the Gators for 12 years than I do. It was an amazing run of success, entertaining football and unforgettable moments. For 2005-06 I don't think there's any question a second Spurrier term would be the best way to go. But President Bernie Machen and those with whom he consults are legitimately concerned about how long the sequel would run. And if you think SOS was tough to replace three years ago, imagine trying to do so five or six years from now after another run of success.

So, while the decision may be a no-brainer for some of my friends in the media (insert your own joke about using media and no-brain in the same sentence) it is a legitimate debate that is worth having.

I would never criticize bringing back Steve Spurrier. But I also see the wisdom of trying to determine if Bobby Petrino (my choice) or Urban Meyer or someone else might be the next great coach in college football. And if so, having him in Orange and Blue could pay dividends for many years to come. It's a tough call, but that's why Machen and Foley get the big bucks.

Keep those emails coming!

Don't forget to email me your questions and comments, but please do not include attachments! My email address is: .

I look forward to you joining me on the radio, Sunday nights from 6:00-to-8:00 on Gainesville's WSKY-FM 97.3 (877/975-9825 toll free)

Have a great week.

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