Florida-Georgia matters again, and college football is better off because of it

By Adam Silverstein
October 26, 2018
Florida-Georgia matters again, and college football is better off because of it
Football

Image Credit: Twitter/GatorsFB

There are plenty of rivalries in the world of college football, but only a handful can truly capture national attention the way the game formerly known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has over the years. All you have to do is look back a decade to the 2007 and 2008 games for proof of the headlines this game can make, but the showdown between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs also goes a long way to deciding the champion of college football’s best conference and therefore an eventual national championship contender.

All of that and more will be tangential storylines to Saturday’s game as No. 9 Florida takes on No. 7 Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida, at 3:30 p.m. ET live on CBS. When you look at the showdown, it’s clear there is plenty on the line as the Gators and Dawgs have turned things around over the last 24 months to put the Florida-Georgia game back in the national spotlight.

The loss to Kentucky was bad enough when it happened, but looking back on it now, it took the SEC East out of Florida’s control. In order for UF to advance to the SEC Championship Game, it not only needs to beat UGA on Saturday but hope UK loses one of its next two games — at Missouri this week or at home against Georgia on Nov. 3.

It was not long ago that winning the SEC East was a pipe dream for the Gators this season. Now, it is suddenly a legitimate goal after Florida beat LSU at home, took down Mississippi State on the road and came back from more than two touchdowns to stave off an upset bid from Vanderbilt.

One could also make the case that a potential College Football Playoff bid is on the line Saturday when UF and UGA go head-to-head.

There are two ways in which the Gators can advance to the playoff this year. They can win out and see Georgia beat Kentucky next week, which would send them to the SEC Championship Game against (likely) Alabama, a game it would need to win. Or, Florida can win out and hope to get the No. 4 spot as a one-loss SEC team that did not play in the league championship, such as Alabama did a year ago.

Either way, a win Saturday is required, and it will not be easy for Florida. This is the first game between the teams in which both are ranked inside the top 15 since 2012, and it’s the first top 10 meeting between them since 2008.

This should not be lost on anyone. After years of seeing Clemson-Florida State on this same weekend dominate the national conversation, the Gators are back on the big stage in just the eighth game of head coach Dan Mullen‘s tenure.

Why else would ESPN send both “College GameDay” and “SEC Nation” to Jacksonville? Florida-Georgia is once again the biggest game in the final week of October, and if Mullen and Dawgs head coach Kirby Smart have their way over the next few years, it will remain that way.

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