Bill Shanks

Georgia can’t let history get in the way against Florida

It’s hard to think about sports and omit history. We’re so guilty of that as fans. It’s natural that we’ll think of anything and everything that has happened before to try and predict what will happen in the future.

The fact Florida has won three in a row over Georgia means nothing for the game Saturday in Jacksonville. The fact that there’s just something the Bulldogs just can’t shake about the Gators is irrelevant.

It won’t matter. Georgia fans will still try and talk themselves out of believing the Bulldogs will easily beat the Gators this weekend. Even with how good it might look on paper, the weird aura that hoovers over the place that used to be the Gator Bowl still haunts people in red and black.

Things happen in Jacksonville, Bulldogs fans will say, that are inexplicable. It used to happen to the Gators, back in the 1980s, when Georgia had Florida’s number. But since 1990 (the year Steve Spurrier took over as Florida’s head coach), Georgia is only 6-21 against the Gators.

Six wins and 21 losses in 27 years. That explains why Georgia fans aren’t talking much smack this week.

None of this matters. This is a different team, with a different coach. Sure, Florida won last year, but the Gators had seven defensive players who went on to the NFL. Georgia was in a transition year, and it showed.

This season, the Bulldogs have a great team. They’re undefeated and ranked third in the country. Florida is 3-3 and is just not a very good team. They have nine players suspended in a scandal and several others hurt.

If Georgia doesn’t win this season, it may never win in Jacksonville again. But the Bulldogs will win. They have to.

The scars that come with this game will be healed if Georgia can beat Florida, and since the Bulldogs should beat the Gators easily, a big win might even ease the minds of the Bulldogs faithful. There’s still that big concern that at some point this Georgia team is going to flop, to have that one game when it just doesn’t show up and embarrass itself.

But in the seven games Georgia has played thus far, does this look like the type of team that will do that? No. This Georgia team looks different. The Bulldogs may get beat at some point, since they are far from perfect. Just don’t expect this Georgia team to simply not show up.

And don’t expect this Georgia team to run for 21 yards on 19 carries, as it did last year. That just won’t happen this season. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel might have been neutralized last year, but these two are running behind a much-improved offensive line this season.

The Georgia defense won’t face a Tim Tebow or Emmitt Smith this season. The Florida quarterback position has been a mess, as Feleipe Franks has taken over for the injured Luke Del Rio. Freshman running back Malik Davis is good, but no one has been able to run against the Georgia defense so far this season.

Frankly, Georgia should do the same thing to Florida it did to Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Missouri. The Bulldogs beat those three teams by an average of 32 points. Those games weren’t even close, and this game Saturday shouldn’t be either.

Georgia is the better team in all three phases of the game. Florida is beaten down and depleted, and sure, it’s scary the Gators are trying to salvage something of their season. You know they would love nothing more than to spoil Georgia’s perfect season.

It won’t happen this year. Georgia is too good to let anything, even previous scars, get in the way of taking care of Florida on Saturday.

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