Florida-Georgia Reflections: Party Like It’s 1999

It’s Florida-Georgia week once again.  This week Florida and Georgia are both ranked in the top 10 in various places, depending on which poll you consult.  The AP has Florida and Georgia at No 5 and No 8 respectively, the USA Today poll has them at 7 and 8 respectively, and the BCS poll has Georgia at 6 and Florida at 8.  What it all adds up to is that this year’s matchup is the biggest and most significant that we have had in a long time.  The last time we had both Florida and Georgia in the top 10 going into Jacksonville was…that’s right, the very last year before Two Thousand Zero Zero Party Over Oops Out of Time.

Yes, the year was 1999.  The dot-com bubble was puffing up wildly, making hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t know the first thing about money into instant millionaires.  The whole country was growing weary of the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinski soap opera.  People were all in a dither over the impending shutdown of computer systems the world over at midnight on January 1, 2000, and the ensuing chaos which would surely spell the end of civilization as we knew it.  And on a beautiful fall afternoon in Jacksonville, Florida and Georgia teed it up one more time.

Georgia was only two years and one loss removed from the 37-17 beatdown that they had administered to Florida in 1997, and was anxious to prove that this was no fluke.  At that point Florida had won eight of the last nine, but with 1997 only two years removed, optimism ran high among the Bulldog nation that the tide of the rivalry was beginning to turn and that Georgia would once again be competitive with Florida.  Of course, history has since informed us that 1997 was a fluke and Florida was by no means about to give up their position of dominance in the rivalry.

But a Bulldog fan could hope and dream.  And at the beginning it seemed that those hopes and dreams would be justified.  For three quarters Georgia held its own against a Florida team which would prove to be vastly superior as the remainder of the 1999 season played out.  Georgia actually held a 14-13 lead briefly prior to halftime.  Through most of the second half Georgia kept it close.  The score remained 16-14 Florida as Georgia tried to play field position, forcing Florida farther and farther back while working themselves into better and better position.  And about midway through the fourth quarter, Georgia stood only one play away from taking, at worst, a 17-16 fourth-quarter lead on Florida and imposing upon them all the pressure that that would bring.

But then it all came unglued.  The field goal which was to have given Georgia that fourth quarter lead never had the chance to be attempted.  Jasper Sanks, running back extraordinaire through much of the Jim Donnan era and only the second most overrated athlete ever to don a Georgia uniform (behind Quincy Carter, of course), fumbled.  Florida recovered.  Florida drove right down the field and scored a touchdown.  Ballgame.  Florida would get the ball back and score another touchdown in the waning minutes to put an exclamation point on it.  The final score was 30-14, and Florida had assured themselves of dominance in this rivalry for another year at least.

So now we come to 2008.  Florida has continued its dominance over Georgia through much of the current decade, but there are a couple of Georgia wins in the not-too-distant past which give Georgia fans reason to hope that at last the tide may be turning.  Both Florida and Georgia are top 10 teams.  Florida appears to be the superior team–what else can you say about a team that hung half a hundred on the No 4 team in the country?  But Georgia has shown themselves capable of playing at the same level as Florida, hanging half a hundred on the very same team that Florida hung half a hundred on.  So there is reason to hope that Georgia can at least hold their own against Florida.

It has been almost two decades since Georgia has beaten Florida in consecutive years.  If Georgia can pull it off this year, then it would definitely give reason to believe that the tide in this rivalry is turning.  A Bulldog fan can hope and dream.