It's Still Important to Hate Georgia: A History Lesson
When your team has rolled over its rival opponent in 14 of its last 16 meetings, it is sometimes easy to twist the "hate dial" from eleven down to, say, an eight or a nine. Especially when Florida has four true rivalry games every year -- in addition to Georgia, that's FSU, Tennessee, and now South Carolina.
Florida has had the upper hand on the Seminoles for the past few years and is looking good to continue that trend, but it wasn't always so. (See: 1990s, excluding title game of 1996.) Tennessee is another team who has managed to spoil Florida's dreams on a semi-regular basis. In 2001, Tennessee stunned UF in a 34-32 victory which cost the Gators a trip to Atlanta for the SEC title... and a possible shot at the MNC playing Miami in the Rose Bowl. And of course, South Carolina is a new rival, for at least as long as Florida's former Golden Boy keeps a job as Head Ball Coach there. Spurrier is 1-0 against his former team, making it a top priority for Urban Meyer and his talented squad to destroy the 'Cocks when they come calling in November.
In a cupboard full of hot and fiery rivalries, that leaves Georgia.
Poor, helpless Georgia, who make the journey south to Jacksonville only to leave with their hearts broken... year in, and year out. The road from Jax to Athens is their own 'Trail of Tears.' It's easy for Gator fans, especially those of us who've known nothing other than total domination of the Dawgs, to forget that not only does Georgia still lead the series (46-36-2) but have also enjoyed their own long winning streaks over the Gators (Georgia was 15-5 in the 70s and 80s, and 7-0 from 1942 to 1948.)
If you say "Herschel Walker" or "Lindsay Scott" to a long-time Gator fan, watch him start twitching and sputtering. But the reasons to hate Georgia are so much deeper and broader; a dark river of blood and tears. It is from that river that Gator Nation makes its sweet Redemption wine, and that is what Gators drink at the conclusion of each Florida-Georgia Game. Some would call it a 1942 vintage -- because one must go back 64 years to truly understand what kind of cloth these "Dawgs" are cut from.
In '42, with World War II in full swing, most universities had sent their strongest and most able-bodied men to fight Hitler's advance through Europe. The University of Florida's football team roster was decimated by the righteous cause; as a result, most of the Gators on that '42 team were freshmen or physical rejects from the armed forces. Somehow, though, despite the world-changing events taking place overseas, Georgia had managed to keep an All-American quality squad together, thanks in part to their ROTC program. Instead of fighting for America, Georgia's boys were dating girls, eating weekend feasts with their families, sleeping in warm, safe beds, and piling points on teams which could barely line up correctly.
The first-string Gator players who would have worn orange and blue through those years, representing Florida with pride, answered a higher calling. They bravely fought and died in places like North Africa, Egypt, and Guadalcanal. They were fighter pilots. They were infantrymen. They were tank commanders.
Georgia's football team, meanwhile, was running scrimmages, putting on football clinics and destroying all those who came before them. When Georgia coach Wally Butts faced the Gators that year, he ran the score up to 75-0 -- all the way through the fourth quarter. It was the single worst loss Florida ever suffered at the hands of Georgia.
Think about that. 75-0 against a bunch of skinny freshmen who couldn't qualify for the military. Now that's class. That's the true Georgia Bulldogs.
It took seven years for Florida to recover from that wartime roster advantage. In 1949, Florida won in a stunning 28-7 victory to snap the streak.
While you enjoy the World's Largest Cocktail Party this Saturday, I'd like you to remember 1942. It's just one of many reasons that 14 out of 16 isn't nearly enough. It's the reason that 15 out of 17 should only be considered the continuation of a "good start."
And for the Gator Nation, it's the reason that Meyer should show no mercy. Go Gators.