It was really not that long ago that Florida-Georgia was a contentious rivalry for a minute. Florida had won 17 of 20 matchups between 1990 and 2009, and made it 18 of 21 in 2010, but that 34-31 win in overtime — on a Chas Henry field goal, lest we forget — began a four-year streak of one-possession wins in the game.
Georgia won the next three games in Jacksonville by four, eight, and three points, and the four years of one-possession affairs was the third-longest such string in the rivalry, following six straight one-score games — one an eight-point game in the first decade of the two-point conversion, but still — in the early 1960s, and five straight one-score contests bridging the Ron Zook and early Urban Meyer eras.
The last two Florida-Georgia games have not been so close. 2014 brought a 38-20 Gators win that was stunning in virtually every respect, and 2015’s 27-3 win was even more dominant, with Mark Richt’s baffling decision to feature backup quarterback Faton Bauta likely playing a significant role in his eventual firing.
This year’s game, on paper, could be even more lopsided in the Gators’ favor.
Florida and Georgia weren’t that far apart over the last two years. Florida finished 27th in F/+ in 2015; Georgia was 30th. Georgia finished fourth in 2014, and while Florida was No. 32 — making the Gators’ upset one of the big ones of the season — the Gators did have the nation’s No. 8 defense in Will Muschamp’s last year.
Entering this week, Florida is No. 11 in F/+ ... and Georgia is No. 72, sandwiched between Wyoming and Syracuse. Georgia has also lost to Vanderbilt and nearly lost to Missouri — whose best win is, uh, Eastern Michigan — and Nicholls, which has yet to beat a team by more than a touchdown. There is, perhaps, a case to be made that Florida’s impressive numbers have been compiled against bad competition — Florida’s best win is Kentucky, probably — but the Gators at least have impressive numbers.
Georgia’s only top-20 rankings in scoring, total, rush, and pass offense and defense are in rush defense (No. 17) and total defense (No. 20), and its only other top-50 ranking in those eight categories is the No. 45 billling in rush offense. Florida ranks ahead of Georgia in six of those eight categories, and in the ones in which the Gators don’t sit ahead of the Dawgs — rush offense and defense — Florida’s per-carry averages are better than Georgia’s, anyway.
For me, there is little fear about facing this talented Georgia roster, like there was for so many of Richt’s teams, especially on offense. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are both averaging fewer yards per carry than Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine; Jacob Eason, for all his prodigious talent, has the nation’s No. 90 passer rating at 118.96, one closer to Treon Harris’s in 2015 (118.08) than even the unimpressive ones posted by Luke Del Rio (127.29) and Austin Appleby (126.92) in 2016. Georgia’s leading receiver is 5’8” jitterbug Isaiah McKenzie, whose lifetime contribution to the Florida-Georgia rivalry is 64 return yards on five returns in 2014.
That Georgia offense is No. 89 in S&P+, behind the Kentucky and Missouri offenses that saw their starting quarterbacks — former four-star recruit Drew Barker and former four-star recruit Drew Lock, mind you — complete two and four passes, respectively.
Florida is favored by 7.5 points, per Bovada. S&P+ forecasts a margin of victory nearly triple that, projecting a 34.1-12.3 final score and giving the Gators a 90 percent chance of winning.
Often, the omnipresent alcohol implied by the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party name is supposed to be guzzled by fans to steel for what could be a close game. This year, those libations might be unnecessary lubrications for Florida fans.