No surprise, the stakes are once again sky high as Georgia and Florida do battle on the gridiron in Jacksonville. Practically every year, at least one of the two rivals is ranked – usually highly. This season, as has often been the case, both have championship dreams. Both are in the top ten – Florida is 7-1, 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference, Georgia is 6-1 and 3-1. Both are hungry for victory in this 98th renewal of this bitter rivalry, which the Bulldogs lead 52-43-2.
Both are also coming off open dates, which has become a regular occurrence in the 2010s.
Georgia has won the last two meetings in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs 42-7 victory in 2017 was a signature Saturday on Georgia’s run to the SEC championship. Last season, the Bulldogs pulled away with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to topple Florida 36-17 en route to a second straight 11-1 regular season, and a berth in the SEC Championship Game.
Following Georgia’s win in Jacksonville, the Gators fell the next week to Missouri 38-17. Gators coach Dan Mullen, essentially said Georgia beat them twice. Since then, the Gators have gone 11-1.
Florida won its final four games of the 2018 season, including its first win over Florida State since 2012 and an impressive Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl victory over Michigan.
Carrying that momentum over to 2019, Florida opened the campaign with a 24-20 win over Miami in Orlando in the season kickoff. The Gators season took its biggest turn three weeks later in Lexington. Florida trailed Kentucky 21-6 in the second half when starting quarterback Felipe Franks was lost for the season with an injury. Enter Kyle Trask off the bench. He engineered a 29-21 comeback and has played very well under center, as the Gators have beaten Tennessee, Auburn – in a then battle of unbeatens – and South Carolina. The lone loss was a 42-28 decision to LSU in Baton Rouge the week after Florida beat Auburn in Gainesville.
The highlight of Georgia’s season has been a rousing 23-17 victory over Notre Dame between the hedges on September 21st. Two games later, the Bulldogs were dealt a stunning 20-17 double-overtime loss at home to South Carolina. In the cold, rain and wind of Athens the following Saturday, Georgia and Kentucky were deadlocked 0-0 at halftime. Georgia needed a jolt. The Dogs got it and won 21-0, led by junior tailback D’Andre Swift, who ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Georgia threw, and completed one pass in the second half.
So the stage is set. The winner is in the driver’s seat, for at least a week, in the race for Atlanta, and in this fiercest of classic rivalries in a setting unlike any in college football, victory is extra sweet, defeat sickeningly sour.