Dean Legge / Dawg Post

Legge's Thoughts: 2016 Florida Preview

HOOVER, Ala. – Here's a look at Florida coach Jim McElwain and the Gators heading into the 2016 season.

Last season: 10-4, (7-1 SEC)

Last game vs. UGA: UF 27, UGA 3 in Jacksonville

Series Record: UGA leads 50-42-2

Last five meetings vs. UGA: UGA 3, UF 2

Most memorable Georgia win: 1980 – Lindsey Scott

Most painful Georgia loss: 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 in No. 5 Florida's 49-10 win over No. 8 Georgia.

Legge’s Take: You get the feeling the annual clash with the Gators just got a little bit more flavor sprinkled in now that former Alabama coordinators Jim McElwain and Kirby Smart are going head to head. In the end it was this game more than any other that cost Mark Richt his job in Athens. Richt’s early struggles against the Gators were well documented, but the inexplicable loss to the Gators in 2014, and the suicide-like decision to start Faton Bauta in 2015 seemed to cement Richt’s fate. 

But those days are gone, and Smart enters the equation as a former UGA player who had his own struggles against the Gators of yesteryear. While the Gators won the East last season, both the Bulldogs and Gators enter the 2016 season with the very unfamiliar position of seemingly chasing Tennessee. 

The Gators have taken the Vols down 11 consecutive times. UGA has beaten the Vols five of the last six times the teams have met. Tennessee hasn’t seemed like much of an equation in the past as Tennessee has been very good about Voling on their face at some point in the season. 

This year Tennessee seems to be the most talented team - self-inflicted wounds or not. So where does that leave UGA and the Gators - the two programs who have split all but five Eastern division titles since 2002? 

Both will have to figure out convoluted and imperfect quarterback situations, and, naturally, both will have to win in Jacksonville. That’s where seasons are made or lost for these two programs. There is no more important game for the Dawgs than the Gators - and the opposite is likely true in Gainesville. 

My take is that these two programs have settled in on their coaches of the future, and they are about to start a decade-long struggle to see who will rule the SEC East and perhaps beyond. Sure, Tennessee will factor in, but it feels like the decade belongs to the East’s two traditional powers - the Bulldogs and Gators. 

Let the Cocktails flow.

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