It’s Deja Vu Time

This scene has been repeated all too often during the last 21 years. Is it wishful thinking to hope that it won't happen again in 2011?

Those of you who are Georgia fans know precisely what I mean.

Florida-Georgia is only hours away, and we all know what that means:  Time to prepare yourself psychologically for the inevitable beatdown.

It isn’t just that this year’s Georgia team has done little to inspire confidence despite being 5-2 and ranked #22 in the AP poll, though it has.  Georgia’s four SEC wins have come against opponents that are a combined 1-15 in SEC play, and none of those wins has been a masterpiece of domination.  One of those almost got away right at the end; the Vanderbilt game was not decided until the last play when Vanderbilt tight end Brandon Barden was tackled well short of the end zone.

And it isn’t just that Florida isn’t as bad as we would like to make out.  Though that is true.  Florida got boatraced by Alabama and LSU.  And Georgia would have done any better?  Florida lost to Auburn 17-6 but it is clear they were still missing quarterback John Brantley, who was out that game.  And who’s to say Auburn wouldn’t do the same thing to this Georgia team?  Florida and Georgia have one common opponent to this point:  Tennessee.  They both won.  Yippee.

For Georgia, the problems run much deeper than that.  Florida has won the last three in a row.  The long view is even uglier:  Florida has won 11 of the last 13 and 18 of the last 21.

Another statistic for those of you who are statistically inclined:  Since this 21-game stretch started, 7 classes of seniors have graduated from Georgia without ever experiencing a win over Florida.  Unless Mark Richt can figure something out, the class of 2011 will be #8.

This year’s Georgia team enters the game on a five-game winning streak, ranked #22 in the AP poll, and a 3 point favorite while Florida is on a three-game losing streak.  No matter.  Last year Georgia entered on a three-game winning streak while Florida was on a three-game losing streak.  Florida won for the 18th time in 21 years.

There is no Georgia lead so large that Florida can’t overcome it.  In 2000 Georgia led 17-9 in the waning minutes of the first half and was only a few plays away from going up 24-9.  Three plays later the score was tied at 17.  Florida went on to win 34-23.

And there is no Florida lead so slim that Florida can’t hold it to the end of eternity if need be.  In 1999 Florida led 16-14 but Georgia was only one play away from, at the very worst, kicking a field goal and taking the lead in the fourth quarter.  Jasper Sanks fumbled on the next play.  Florida went on to win 30-14.

Having the better team is no source of solace whatsoever.  Much better Georgia teams than this year’s edition have lost to much worse Florida teams than this year’s.  1992 and 2002 are prime examples.  In the Mark Richt era, three Georgia teams played in the SEC championship game.  None of those teams beat Florida.

Florida has been average or maybe even sub-average in Year 1 under Will Muschamp.  No solace here either.  Florida was sub-average in three years under Ron Zook, and Zook still left Gainesville with a winning record against Georgia.  Georgia couldn’t even touch him until 2004, by which time he was a lame duck.

Another statistic of note:  Mark Richt has worked against three different Florida coaches, and has a losing record against all three (Steve Spurrier:  0-1, Ron Zook:  1-2, Urban Meyer:  1-5).  Lose today and Richt will have losing records against four different Florida coaches.  I don’t think any other Georgia coach has sunk to such a level of infamy.

Believe it or not, however, there once was a time when Georgia owned Florida.  AJC sports columnist Mark Bradley offers reflections from former Florida coach Ray Graves and other eminent Gators who were associated with the program during that era.