2012 Media Days: Legge's Look at Florida

HOOVER, Ala. - Dean Legge's look at the Florida Gators.

October 27, 2012
EverBank Stadium
Overall Record: 48-40-2
Last 10 Meetings: 3-7
Richt vs. Florida: 3-8

It wasn't an easy first year for Will Muschamp – it's never easy replacing a legend. The pressure will be on for Muschamp to make the Gators relevant nationally once more. But alas the Diva, who took an entire year off before making his move to Ohio State, didn't leave Muschamp much to work with when he left.

Florida fans won't care. They will be ready to move back to the top of the SEC East standings in 2012 – a task that will be easier said than done. The quickest way back to Atlanta for the Gators is to beat Georgia.

That, too, will be easier said than done. The Gators were given a slew of opportunities to beat Georgia last season, but the Bulldogs (for once) battled back to top the Gators in Jacksonville.

It was a reprieve for weary Bulldog eyes. It must have been torture for those in blue and orange. But the disappointment didn't end there. After all, 2011 was the first year since 1989 that the Gators lost to both Georgia and Florida State in the same season.

So where to the Gators sit in this new world order of the SEC? South Carolina, which has beaten the Gators the last two seasons, will likely be picked above Florida in pre-season publications this season. The Bulldogs will likely be in front of Florida as well.

When was the last time Florida came into a season not picked to finish first or second in the SEC East? And that's the problem for Muschamp; after all the turnover in the off-season (see Charlie Weis at Kansas) and the disappointment of the 2011 campaign, Florida fans will be looking for someone to blame if 2012 isn't an improvement on 2010 and 2011.

If you are what your record is, then Florida isn't that great, and that's not going to be accepted forever.

With all of that said one win in a series full of domination is just that – only one win. The recent past dictates that Georgia is no closer to figuring out how to beat the Gators consistently than they ever have been. But from a pre-season vantage point this is the fist time in a long time Georgia patrons are expecting Georgia to outclass Florida, and that alone shows a bit of a shift.

Andre Debose
Wide Receiver
5-11, 191

Florida player to watch:

No, that's not a typo or error – Andre Debose averaged 27 yards per catch in 2011. Now, he only had 16 catches – a remarkable lack of touches considering his speed and playmaking acumen. There's no need for blame or reasons for his hit or miss presence in the Gators offense. Instead Florida coach Will Muschamp must unleash Dubose more often in 2012. Of his 16 grabs last season, four were for touchdowns – a remarkable ratio. Adding his skills on special teams, Dubose could be in store for a breakout season.

What the Dawgs must do:
Play with confidence. Winning one game against the Gators has been done several times now, but winning two in a row is still a mystery for the Dawgs when it comes to Florida. Georgia will be more experienced, and many would argue more talented than the Gators. There is no explanation for not performing in Jacksonville this fall outside of injuries.

Inside the numbers:
That's how many years in a row the Gators have finished with at least a .500 record in football. That's the longest streak in the country.

Recruiting Implications:
Urban Meyer didn't help the Gators in recruiting his last few seasons in Gainesville. His back-to-back late-December departures made recruiting at Florida very un-Gator like. Kids in the Sunshine State had grown tired of Meyer's diva act… suddenly Florida State became a cool new place for kids to go. The Noles have climbed steadily in the rankings since Jimbo Fisher took over. That means Georgia will have to deal with Florida even more within the state of Georgia. Georgia's coaching staff has focused more on recruiting in the last three cycles. Florida may get a kid or two in Georgia, but Georgia will do the same in Florida. I think almost anyone on Georgia's staff would gladly trade John Theus for almost anyone in Georgia, and that appears to be on the way to happening. Florida has signed one five-star player (Omar Hunter) from Georgia since 2002 and have had three players from the state drafted since 2005 – Channing Crowder, Maurice Hurt and Jermaine Cunningham.

Last year's prediction: Georgia has proven time again that they are unwilling to take advantages of coaching changes and bad times in Gainesville. Georgia has figured out every possible way to lose to Florida since Mark Richt has taken over.

This time Georgia spotted the Gators a huge lead and rallied to win thanks to gutsy fourth-down calls by Bobo and Richt.

Legge's Must-win Game for Florida - Georgia: Will Muschamp won't be expected to win the SEC East in 2012, but there will be tremendous pressure on him to beat Georgia in his second season with the Gators.

Jarvis Jones sacks John Brantley. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)
Click the above image for Dawg Post's look at the Cocktail Party over the years

Dawg Post's 11-Year History vs. Florida

2001 – Florida figured out how to win even though the Gators turned the ball over four times have committed 12 penalties. Even with the mistakes #6 Florida topped #16 Georgia 24-10. Down 17-10, Georgia had the chance to tie the ballgame on the first drive of the second half, but on fourth and two from at the Florida six-yard line Verron Haynes dropped a pass.

2002 – Georgia entered the 2002 game with momentum and the program's first realistic chance to win the national title since 1982. But #20 Florida stunned #5 Georgia 20-13 in one of the most painful losses of the Mark Richt Era. David Greene struggled going 11 for 29 with 129 yards, but still managed to get the Dawgs a 13-12 lead in the fourth quarter. That's when Rex Grossman, who ended the night 36 for 46, drove the Gators down the field 89 yards. He found Augusta native Ben Troupe on a ten-yard touchdown pass to give the Gators a 20-13 lead. Georgia still had a shot to send the game into overtime, but star receiver Terrence Edwards dropped a wide-open pass from David Greene at the Florida 30-yard line with 2:23 remaining in the contest. Georgia went on to win the 2002 SEC Championship and the 2003 Sugar Bowl, but the Florida loss still stings some to this day.

2003 – Georgia limped home after another painful close loss to Florida – this time on Matt Leach's 33-yard field goal in #23 Florida's 16-13 win over #4 Georgia. The Dawgs outran Florida 202-89, but Georgia's defense could not stop another long Florida drive in the fourth quarter. After Georgia rallied to tie the game at 13, Chris Leak drove the Gators 66 yards to set up Leach's game winner.

2004 – Georgia defeated Florida for the second time in 15 years as the #10 Bulldogs beat Florida 31-24. Georgia's win came six days after Florida fired its coach Ron Zook. The Bulldogs raced out to a 21-7 lead and would have been up 28-7 at the half if quarterback David Greene had not fumbled on the Florida one-yard line. Halfway through the third quarter Andy Bailey's field goal gave Georgia a 24-7 lead. That's when Florida rallied to make the game tight – 24-21 in the fourth quarter. Georgia then turned to three players trying to get their first win against the Gators in their last chance to do so. Greene found Reggie Brown on a 51-yard pass on the fist play of the drive. He followed that up with a 14-yard reception, which set up Fred Gibson's 15-yard touchdown catch.

2005 – D.J. Shockley watched from the sideline as his #4-ranked Dawgs fell to #16 Florida 14-10. Neither team played well offensively, but the Gators scored on their first two drives of the game to get a quick 14-0 lead. Joe Tereshinski, who replaced Shockley at quarterback, struggled on the day – he ended up going 8 for 21 with only 100 yards. Down 14-3, it seemed the Bulldogs might make a furious comeback after running back Thomas Brown threw a touchdown pass to Tereshinski on a trick play in the third quarter. But Georgia failed to score yet again.

2006 – Florida forced five turnovers, and Georgia lost its third game in the month of October as the Gators held on for a 21-14 win. Florida came out of the locker room with a 14-0 lead in the third quarter. Kregg Lumpkin was stripped by Derrick Harvey and Ray McDonald picked up the fumble and took it nine yards to put the Gators up 21-0. It seemed the game was out of reach for the Dawgs at that moment, but they rallied. Matthew Stafford scored on a 13-yard run to cut the deficit to 21-7. The Dawgs got within a score when Tim Tebow's fumble lead to Lumpkin scoring on an eight-yard run. But the Dawgs never got a chance to score again. Florida used the win to propel themselves to their first SEC East championship since 2000. They went on to win the SEC title as well as their first BCS championship since 1996.

2007 – Georgia stormed the field and went on to slam Florida 42-30 in the Bulldogs' first win over the Gators since 2004. 70 Bulldogs rushed the field after Knowshon Moreno's one-yard touchdown on the #20 Dawgs' first touchdown of the game. Mark Richt challenged his team: "I told them if they didn't get a celebration penalty after our first score, all of them would be doing early morning runs." Celebrate they did. #9 Florida's bench looked on, stunned. The Gators scored on their following possession, but couldn't keep up with the Dawgs, who scored their most points since routing the Gators 44-0 in 1982. Moreno slashed the Gators on the ground with 188 yards and three touchdowns. The loss was a difficult one for the Gators. Tim Tebow struggled to hold back tears in his post-game press conference.

2008 – Perhaps the most anticipated game between the Gators and Dawgs in decades went to Florida in a big way. Tim Tebow scored five touchdowns and Urban Meyer called two of his second-half timeouts in the final minute of the game to rub #5 Florida's 49-10 win over #8 Georgia. The loss was the worst in Mark Richt's career at Georgia and helped the Gators capture their second SEC title in three years. They would go on to win the 2008 BCS National title – also their second in three years. But the game was as much about Georgia miscues as anything else. Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions, the Dawgs missed two field goals and failed to recover an onside kick early in the second quarter. Florida took the great field position and scored a few plays later to grab a 14-3 lead. They never looked back after that.

2009 – There was a trick, but no treat for Georgia as the Bulldogs fell to undefeated and top-ranked Florida 41-17. The game, coupled with the 2008 blowout, was the worst back-to-back beating in the rivalry in more than a decade. Tim Tebow scored four touchdowns, and the Gators snagged four interceptions as Florida rolled to their 17th win over Georgia in 20 years. Mark Richt had the Bulldogs play in black pants and helmets, but the wardrobe change didn't help Georgia any as the Bulldogs fell to 4-4 on the season.

2010 – Both Florida and Georgia entered the 2010 game unranked for the first time since 1979, but Georgia felt the pain of a loss in the first overtime in this series' history. Chas Henry hit a 37-yard field goal to give the Gators the win, but not after a furious fourth quarter that saw Georgia outscore Florida 21-10. The Gators used the turnover edge (Florida 1, Georgia 4) to power their way to a 21-7 lead. The final turnover, which happened in Georgia's first frame of overtime, cost Georgia the game. Aaron Murray's third-down pass was tipped and picked off and Florida's Will Hill returned the ball to the Georgia four-yard line. The Gator bench thought Hill scored and stormed the field. But the game was not over, and without a penalty flag being thrown from an official, Florida took over their portion of the overtime at the 25-yard line. Florida moved the ball six yards in three plays before Henry kicked the game winner.

2011 - Two fourth down touchdowns powered Georgia past Florida 24-20, giving the Bulldogs their first win over Florida since 2007—in spite of the fact that Georgia did all it could to lose the game. Florida scored a touchdown on a fourth-and-19 play and a 99-yard kickoff return. Meanwhile Blair Walsh missed two field goals. Florida took a 17-3 lead before Georgia scored its first fourth-down touchdown. After Georgia tied the score it allowed a 63-yard kickoff return, which set up a field goal to give Florida a 20-17 lead. But Georgia's run game, which ended the day with 185 yards on 49 carries, was too much for the Gators in the end. The Bulldogs used backup running back Richard Samuel as a battering ram – eventually scoring on a four-yard touchdown to give Georgia a 24-20 win.

Moment of the Decade:

Georgia storms the field after Knowshon Moreno's first quarter touchdown. The score propelled Georgia to a 42-30 win over the Gators. The Bulldog celebration is one of the most controversial moments in series history.

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