It’s been three years since I moved back to the place where I grew up from home. And in that time, I’ve missed Gainesville like hell.
I miss the actual cold in the fall and winter, fleeting though it may be. I miss the heat being wet and sticky instead of smothering and dry. I miss Hogan’s, and Satchel’s, and Burrito Bros. — may it rest in peace — and trivia nights and friends. I miss wandering around Publixes, each different from the last, and shaking my head sadly at developments that went from dreaded to delivered.
I miss the traffic — sometimes. I miss the drives late at night more.
But right at the top of the list of things is miss is the Florida Gators.
I’ve been to one (1) Florida sporting event since 2016, and it was last year’s game at Mississippi State — I, like a genius, didn’t go to any of the home games while needing to, while the pangs got sharper with each passing day. I haven’t seen the renovated O’Dome; I haven’t seen the lighted signage on the wing walls in The Swamp; I haven’t been there to cheer for Thayer Hall or Grant Holloway; I haven’t sung “I Won’t Back Down.”
I really want to sing “I Won’t Back Down” today.
And I get to, during Florida’s game against Auburn (3:30 p.m., CBS or CBS Sports).
Today, I’m going to the game — as you read this, I’m either in line to get into the stadium, or inside it, probably; as I wrote this, the sun was rising — for the first time in too long, and planning on savoring that as much or more than I analyze it. I’m not writing the recap, making this one of maybe a dozen games I won’t have written the recap for in a nine-year tenure helming Alligator Army.
I’ll be writing some analysis on Sunday, but, well ... I’m going out tonight, right?
I get to see people I love and a team I love and a city I love today. Those are good enough things to melt away some of the frustrations of everyday life.
And I don’t want to wait years for this to happen again. But I also don’t want to not make memories today that could last that long if necessary.
That a football game is happening in the midst of all that is kind of secondary — but it’s also not, because it’s why this is happening. Loving this team, this program, this school, these people: That’s part of what bonds me to the friends I’ll be chanting and chomping and screaming and swaying with.
Fandom — note how we came up with a word other than fanaticism for fanaticism? — is madness even at its best, but it binds tightly. Let it bind you to good people, and you’ll have friends worth having for life.
Not all of the 90,000 people who attend this game will be definitionally good people — some, of course, will root for Auburn. But all of them are going in search of something like what I’m seeking: An experience, and a moment in time, and a tale to tell.
Let us hope this game provides that — and hope that the memories get to be mostly wonderful for Florida fans.
In the interest of keeping on predicting things and in hopes that I might, one day, be able to review them, here are my 25 predictions for this game.
- Florida will score in the first quarter.
- Kyle Trask will throw for more than 200 yards.
- Trask will not complete a pass of more than 50 yards.
- Trask will account for at least two touchdowns.
- Florida players other than Trask will throw no more than five passes.
- Kyle Pitts will have at least three catches.
- Multiple Florida receivers not named Kyle Pitts will average over 15 yards per catch.
- A Florida QB will record a rush of 10 or more yards.
- A Florida running back will have a run of at least 20 yards.
- Florida running backs will combine for fewer than 150 rushing yards.
- Florida will record at least six tackles for loss.
- Florida will record at least two sacks.
- Jonathan Greenard will be responsible for at least a sack.
- David Reese will make at least eight tackles.
- CJ Henderson will make a big play.
- A Florida safety will record an interception.
- Florida will force at least two turnovers.
- Florida will allow points in the first quarter.
- Florida will not allow more than 450 yards.
- Florida will allow more than 17 points.
- Florida’s defense will allow between 2.0 and 4.0 yards per play.
- Both teams will score in double digits.
- Florida will lead at halftime.
- Florida will win by at least three points.
- Florida will defeat Auburn, 27-21, and run its record to 6-0.
Please behave yourselves in the comments.
And as always: Go Gators!