Florida Gators

The Flying Shoe

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Last week the Florida Gators had a loss Florida fans never saw coming, a 37-34 shocker against LSU.

UF being a three touchdown favorite and losing won’t be forgotten in Gainesville.

The Gators weren’t a shoe in for the College Football Playoffs with a showdown with mighty Alabama this Saturday night.

This game was a microcosm of the Florida Gators season. Florida’s sloppy and unemotional play by the entire team all came together last Saturday night.

The Gators have been fun to watch this season but they have not yet been a dominant team.

Other than the Georgia game, I can say there hasn’t been one game where the entire team played with the passion and desire to destroy the opponent.

Mistakes through lack of effort by the offense, defense, special teams and coaches cannot go overlooked.

Kyle Trask has brought the Fun & Gun back to Gainesville, but the critics will knock him for the three turnovers.

Trask finished the night making University of Florida history by surpassing Danny Wuerffel’s 1996 single season touchdown record, setting a new high with 40 touchdown passes on the season.

After starting the second half with back-to-back touchdowns drives (nine plays, 156 yards, 3:42 time of possession), the offense followed up with three consecutive three and outs.

Rewatching the game, Florida’s running backs and wide receivers did not help Trask with six drops on the night. The offensive line allowed too much pressure and missed assignments that put the Gators behind the sticks.

The Gator’s defense had been struggling all season. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has been under fire by the media and fans all season.

In the past two games (Tennessee and LSU), Florida’s defense has blown coverages, lined up incorrectly, and made costly penalties.

Florida’s secondary has blown coverages the entire season. I cannot remember one game this season where an opponent’s receiver isn’t running wide open. Majority of the time it ends in a touchdown or a chunk play that sets up a touchdown.

For some reason, Grantham likes to corner blitz. The safeties are on another page and they allow the receivers to run their routes against air.

He called corner blitzes twice in the LSU game, first one led to a 51-yard touchdown and the second one set up LSU’s last touchdown.

The Gator’s defense has struggled to line up correctly due to the play calls getting to players in a timely manner. This has been an issue the entire season and it has reared its head a couple times Saturday night.

The Shoe! No one is ever going to forget about the shoe. Marco Wilson’s boneheaded unsportsmanlike act didn’t lose the game but it helped hammer the nail in the coffin. This blunder won’t be forgotten soon by Gator fans or their rivals.

With all of those miscues, Trask and company got the ball on their own 25-yard line. Three big plays later, Evan McPherson was lining up to try a 51-yard field goal to tie the game.

McPherson is more than capable of drilling a 51 yarder, but there is no denying that McPherson blew the most important field goal of his college career on Saturday night.

Dan Mullen and his staff are not blameless. Mullen’s arrogance was costly, telling the ESPN production crew that he felt the Gators would get into the College Football Playoff even if they lost to LSU as long as they beat Number 1 Alabama. My biggest issue with the statement is his mindset. WHY?

Many believe Kyle Trask’s chances of winning the Heisman Trophy disappeared just like Florida’s College Football Playoff hopes.

That may not be the case. Trask completed 29 of 47 for 474 and 2 touchdowns and 2 rushing touchdowns; good looking stats for an ugly loss.

Whether it’s right or not, Trask’s turnovers will enhance the chance of Alabama’s Mac Jones to win the award.

Everyone please take a moment to pray for Keyontae Johnson.

Striking the Pose

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Heisman race is narrowing down to a two-man race, but it’s tightening up at the same time heading into the final week before conference championship games begin.

Mac Jones and Kyle Trask have separated themselves from the pack, but players like Desmond Ridder, (QB, Cincinnati) Najee Harris, (RB, Alabama) Zach Wilson, (QB, BYU) Trevor Lawrence, (QB, Clemson) Justin Fields, (QB, Ohio State) Jaret Patterson, (RB, Buffalo) and Breece Hall, (RB, Iowa State) have made major impacts in the 2020 season.

The Heisman trophy went to the best player in college football once upon a time. Today, the Heisman goes to the top quarterback on any winning team.

Last year at this time, Joe Burrow was being announced as the 2019 Heisman trophy winner after putting up early-gen PlayStation stats.

Burrow completed 402 passes for 5,617 yards and 60 touchdowns in 15 games. He also threw 44 touchdowns in the regular season.

The two front runners in this year’s Heisman race will have only played 10 regular season games, and only against SEC teams.

The voting deadline has been moved back to December 21st with finalists announced on Christmas Eve.

For the first time, voters will judge a Heisman winner on his conference championship game. That game being the SEC Championship in Atlanta on December 19th.

Mac Jones runs the Alabama offense at an exceptionally high level while putting up crazy numbers in the process. Against LSU, Jones completed 20-28 passes for 385 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Now that gives the first-year starter over 3,100 yards passing with 27 touchdowns and only three interceptions. It obviously helps having a stacked offense including DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris, but Jones puts throws on the money and is a tough quarterback to stop.

Kyle Trask has brought the Fun & Gun back to Gainesville. Trask has no problem chucking the ball around without much of a running game.

Trask’s ability to make smart decisions and avoid mistakes helps make that a winning formula for the Gators offense.

As absurd as it may sound, Trask is on a better scoring pace and on the same yardage pace as last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. Trask ignited the Heisman talk by leading the Gators victory of Georgia Bulldogs 44-28.

Trask was 30-43 for 474 yards passing 4 touchdowns and a pick. Trask’s ability to place the ball where only his teammate can make the catch is amazing.

That’s how good the Gators quarterback has been with over 3,200 yards and 38 touchdowns with only 3 interceptions with the season finale against LSU this Saturday.

The Heisman race might come down to the SEC Championship game in a couple weeks, but barring a complete drop off from Kyle Trask against LSU, it’s hard to imagine Jones catching Trask in this race.

One question to all my readers, if you took both quarterbacks off their respective teams, which team would be affected more?

The Best

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

When Kyle Pitts took a brutal hit from Georgia safety Lewis Cine, many speculated that his football career at Florida was over.

Talking heads in college and pro football stated it was in Pitts best interest to opt out the remainder of the season to prepare for the NFL draft.

The impact from the hit by Cine left Pitts with a fractured nose.

Pitts was cleared to play two weeks ago against Vanderbilt, but Coach Mullen decided not to allow him to travel with the team to Nashville.

Sidelined for two weeks, Pitts made an immediate impact in the contest Saturday against Kentucky.

On the first drive of the game, Pitts twisted Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph into a pretzel for a 56-yard touchdown catch.

Pitts was back in full swing and added a two-yard slant route for his second touchdown. Then capped off the day with a fake slant and out for his third touchdown.

Prior to the game Kelvin Joseph was quoted “I feel like the biggest challenge to Pitts is going to be facing me and my teammates.”

J.J. Weaver stated, “Kyle Pitts is most definitely going to see me this Saturday.  We’ve just got to be more physical than him.”

Pitts wasn’t opting out and he wasn’t going to let Joseph get the last laugh. Pitts rocked the baby and Kentucky’s defense.

Kyle Pitts has become the best tight end and maybe the best offensive weapon in today’s college football.

In six games, Pitts has 29 receptions for 513 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has more touchdown receptions than all of Tennessee and Florida State have touchdown passes.

Pitts is the perfect example of a player utilizing his length and size correctly. He maximizes his build with innate body control, ball tracking ability, high-point timing, and sheer strength at the catching point.

In the red zone against 6 foot 2 cornerback Tyson Campbell (future NFL 1st round pick), it wasn’t just size that made the difference, but the fact that Pitts leaped up for his balls and secured them with total authority.

Coming into the 2020 season, there was a clear-cut top 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft tight ends: Penn State’s Pat Frieermuth, Miami’s Brevin Jordan and Pitts. As of today, Pitts has gained access to this tight end group.

Truthfully, Pitts is an absurd athlete. He stands 6 foot 6, 246 pounds, but he moves with the explosiveness of an outside wide receiver. He has become a defensive coordinator’s nightmare.

Most mock drafts have Pitts going in the top 10 and the first tight end off the board.

Plenty of NFL teams have a need for a player like Pitts, but creative offensive minds would have a field day sifting through the mismatches that Pitts provides.

Before the NFL Draft 2021, Pitts still has a few games left as a Florida Gator. Gator and college football fans can enjoy the Kyle to Kyle combo for just a little longer.

Florida Recruiting Wars

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the Early Signing Period less than a month away, I want to look at the Big Three in Florida’s potential recruiting classes for 2021.

The Current ranking for the Miami Hurricanes is 13th in the nation and fourth in the ACC with 21 commits.

The Canes currently have 1 running back, 5 receivers, 3 offensive linemen, 4 defensive linemen, 3 linebackers, 2 defensive backs, 2 athletes and 1 kicker.

Coach Diaz has done an excellent job of keeping the top talent in South Florida to commit to Miami.

Leonard Taylor, the number two player in the state and ninth nationally, is the anchor to an outstanding class. The Canes have commitments for three of the five heralded players from Miami Palmetto (Taylor, Bashard Smith WR, and Savion Collins DE).

Miami has 19 current commits from the State of Florida and 16 of the 19 are from South Florida.

Key players in this class: James Williams 5-star safety, Romello Brinson high 4-star wide receiver and Laurence Seymore 4-star offensive guard.

Miami needs to find a quarterback, two or three more offensive linemen and 3 or 4 more defensive backs.

When the dust settles after the early signing period, I predict the Canes will be in position for a top 10 class.

The Florida State Seminoles are currently ranked 28th and in the ACC with 15 commits.

The Seminoles currently have 1 quarterback, 4 receivers, 3 offensive linemen, 3 defensive linemen, 1 linebacker and 3 defensive backs.

Coach Norvell must think he is still at Memphis with the star power of the current class. FSU (Five Star U) has ZERO five stars in this class, four 4-stars and eleven 3-stars.

The Seminoles only have six recruits from the State of Florida.

The disaster on the field has affected recruiting. If Norvell wants to be competitive on the field it starts with recruiting top players in the States of Florida and Georgia.

Norvell may want to utilize the transfer portal this season to acquire some talented players who are dissatisfied with their current situation. The current roster has six five-stars and a top 10 composite ranking but only two wins on the field.

The Seminoles need to add 4 to 5 offensive linemen, 2 receivers, 3 defensive linemen and 2 defensive backs. Norvell sure looks to have his work cut out for him.

FSU will finish the 2021 with a class ranked around 25th. Maybe FSU fans are wishing they didn’t fire Willie so quickly!

The University of Florida Gators are currently ranked seventh in the nation and fourth in the SEC with 26 commits.

The Gators have 2 quarterbacks, 6 receivers, 5 offensive lineman, 5 defensive linemen, 2 linebackers, 5 defensive backs, and 1 athlete.

When Dan Mullen arrived in Gainesville, he was not known as a top recruiter but he had made smart hires. The Gators will carry over the success on the field into recruiting.

The Gators snagged the two remaining players for Miami Palmetto in Jason Marshall and Corey Collier. The Gators currently have 18 commits from Florida and 3 from Georgia.

Florida may have lost a commitment from 4-star linebacker Chief Borders out of Franklin, GA to Sanford.

Players to watch for commitment are 4-star linebacker Xavian Sorey and 4-star safety Terrion Arnold out of Tallahassee, it’s a Florida – Alabama battle for both players.

The Gators are in good shape to finish with a top 10 class. My prediction is they will have the sixth ranked class in the nation.

Florida is one of the richest recruiting states in the country, and if the Big Three want to stay in the Big Three, they must recruit the State of Florida first.

Sunshine Saturday

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Here’s a Florida College football fan’s guide to this week’s games as the 2020 college football season is on its way into Week 12.

Last Saturday, Florida showed no signs of hangover from the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, by trouncing Arkansas 63-35.

Senior Quarterback Kyle Trask keeps breaking SEC records with his sixth game with four or more touchdowns.

The Gators travel to Nashville to take on the Commodores of Vanderbilt. Florida opens as a 31.5 point favorite.

Can Kyle Trask continue to play at an All-American level? Can the Gators put the game away early and rest some starters? My predictions: Trask throws for 5 touchdowns and they roll Vandy 45-13.

Last Saturday, FSU fans got a glimpse of their future. Chubba Purdy started the contest versus the North Carolina Wolfpack. Purdy played well, going 15 for 23 for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns, but it still wasn’t enough as the Wolfpack dominated the Noles 38-22.

FSU hosts number four Clemson at noon in Doak Campbell Stadium and the Noles are a historic underdog in the contest.

The Tigers open as a 32.5-point favorite over the 2-6 Seminoles. FSU was a 26-point underdog to Clemson last season, which was believed to be the largest point spread in school history.

Clemson suffered their lone loss two weeks ago to Notre Dame without star quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Their signal caller is expected back and that means bad news for the Noles. Clemson is a national powerhouse and Florida State is a national landfill.

In my opinion, this is the worst Florida State team in program history! Clemson 52 FSU 20.

Last Saturday night in Orlando, UCF manhandled Temple 38-13.

The Knights opened the game with a strip sack and never looked back. The Knights offense did not look like it was clicking until the start of the 3rd quarter, when Dillon Gabriel found Marlon Williams for an air mail touchdown.

For UCF, standards this season have been disappointing. The Knights are 5-2 after being picked by many to win the AAC conference.

The Knights and Bearcats renew their revere on Saturday in the Bounce House. With very limited capacity, the Bounce House during the 2020 season has not provided their normal home field advantage.

The Bearcats come into this game looking to remain unbeaten and take another step towards a potential playoff spot.  Cincy opens as a 4-point favorite.

This is a battle between UCF’s offense and Cincinnati’s nationally ranked defense. The Bearcats are outscoring their opponents 212-57, with an average margin of victory of 31 points per game.

Those numbers are against quality offenses like Memphis, Houston and SMU.

UCF will score points, but Cincinnati is too legit this year. Give me the Bearcats 48 Knight 38.

The Miami Hurricanes game against Georgia Tech has been postponed due to COVID.

The Canes are coming off an impressive come from behind victory over Virginia Tech last Saturday.

D’Eriq King led a second half comeback to keep the Canes in the mix for the ACC title game. King makes Miami the U again.

So, sit back, buckle up and enjoy some college football this weekend.

If you are a Knight expecting a battle in the Bounce House, a Seminole praying for a miracle, a Gator witnessing a massacre or a Hurricane just waiting to troll the other fan bases, live college football offers us an escape during these stressful times.

The Heisman Race

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Normally this time of year means the college football regular season is almost over.

Due to the pandemic, the season was delayed for several conferences like the Big Ten and Pac 12. I’m going to take a look at the top five Heisman Trophy candidates.

Kyle Trask/ Florida: I feel like he should be the hands down favorite at this point. It’s hard to believe this guy was sitting on the bench behind Feleipe Franks.

Earlier in the season I said he’s this year’s Joe Burrow. I don’t think anybody can match Burrow’s video game like stats from 2019 but I’m talking about the drastic improvement he made. Also, both of them were not expected to play at that level going into their final season.

They have had the LSU game postponed due to several players on the team having COVID. I hope that game can get played in December so Trask can play the maximum amount of games.

He led the Gators to a win over No. 5 Georgia that they desperately needed. The defense is not very good, so they basically have to outscore their opponents. Trask is basically good for at least four passing TD’s every game.

Trevor Lawrence/ Clemson: He’s the clear consensus as the best quarterback and number one pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Unfortunately, he had COVID and had to miss two games.

One of them was at No. 4 Notre Dame and that could have been his Heisman moment.

The Tigers like to run the ball with All-American running back Travis Etienne so that takes away from Lawrence’s stats.

If he plays well against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship that could catapult him to the top of the Heisman list.

Travis Etienne/ Clemson: I know this has become a quarterback award but he really deserves consideration.

He’s a true dual threat running back and his number are very good.

Mac Jones/ Alabama: He has the Crimson Tide undefeated (6-0) and he’s playing very well. Jones has thrown for 2,196 yards (8th), 16 TD’s (tied-13th), 2 interceptions with a 95.6 QBR (2nd).

He’s on the best team and I think Bama will finish undefeated. His stats are impressive because Alabama is another team that likes to run the ball. Najee Harris has over 700 yards rushing.

The LSU game has been postponed due to a Coronavirus outbreak in the program. We don’t know if that game will actually get played but that would be an easy win for Bama.

The only challenge should be against Florida in the SEC Championship.

Justin Fields/ Ohio State: The Buckeyes have only played three games because the Big Ten started the season late and the Maryland game was canceled.

Fields only has 7 games to make a case as the best player.

The Matchup

By: Teddy Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Even though the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is being severely curtailed due to Covid-19, the game that accompanies The Party still has significant meaning.

The winner of the Georgia-Florida shootout will likely win the Southeastern Conference East title and take on Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

The winner of the match-up against Alabama will win the SEC title and secure a spot in the College Playoffs for an opportunity to win a National Championship.

Florida had two games postponed because of a Covid outbreak, including head coach Dan Mullen testing positive, and couldn’t even take the practice field for twenty-one days. But all of that seems to be in the rearview mirror, at least for now.

Mullen has returned Florida to national prominence, going 21-5 in his first two seasons, but has not found to way to beat Georgia. Mullen’s Gators lost to the Bulldogs 37-26 in 2018, and 24-17 last year.

In Athens, Kirby Smart took over as Head Dawg in 2016 and had compiled a 44-12 record going into this Covid-plagued year, including three feasts on Gator tail with only one loss.

Florida opened the season with convincing wins over Mississippi 51-35 and South Carolina 38-24, before falling to Texas A&M 38-41.

Georgia rolled to three consecutive wins to start the 2020 season, beating Arkansas 37-10, Auburn 27-6, and Tennessee 44-21, before running into an Alabama buzzsaw 24-41.

The debacle in Tuscaloosa notwithstanding, Georgia’s defense has looked good for the most part.  On the other hand, the Gator D has been porous at times.

The high-powered Gator offense is forcing maintenance crews to change a lot of light bulbs on scoreboards, averaging over 42 points per game, but the Bulldogs offense hasn’t done too shabbily either, putting up 33 points per contest.

A huge key to any game, of course, is the play of the quarterback, and it says here that Kyle Trask gives Florida the advantage over Stetson Bennett and the Dogs in the QB Dept.

Through three games, Trask has thrown 14 touchdown passes with only one interception, averaging well over 300 yards passing per game.

In four outings, Bennett has 7 TD passes and 3 interceptions, while averaging about 240 yards passing per game.

Having quoted all those stats, I don’t believe Florida has faced a defense as good as Georgia’s. If you take away the Alabama game, which you can’t, of course, the Dawgs are surrendering fewer than 13 points per game.

Trask’s task is to avoid pressure from the Georgia defense, and I just don’t see that happening.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two local players now wearing the Red and Black for Georgia: former Brunswick High offensive lineman Warren McClendon and former Glynn Academy kicker Jack Podlesny.

Podlesny is having a sterling season for the Dawgs, converting 14 of 14 extra points and eight of 10 field goals, including a 51-yarder.

McClendon (Willie’s nephew), a redshirt freshman, is arguably the best offensive lineman ever to come out of Glynn County, certainly the best I’ve seen in my 18 years of broadcasting Brunswick High football.

Final score for the 2020 Georgia-Florida game: Bulldogs 33; Gators 30.

Podlesny kicks a last second field goal to win the game. McClendon, of course, makes the key block.


Out Of Sorts

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Florida Gators might be the team that embodies this strange 2020 season the best.

The Gators stopped all football activities Oct. 13 after a coronavirus outbreak spread through the team.

Head coach Dan Mullen and two assistants also tested positive, with at least 26 players positive since that time.

“Everybody’s really excited to get back to football and get back playing,” Mullen said. “I think that’s something that is big within the team right now is that ability to get back out on the field.

This year’s been a unique year like no other, with stops and starts and different schedules. Our guys have handled everything extremely well throughout the year. I think they’re going to be really excited to get back out there on the practice field.

“I don’t expect us to come out there and have our sharpest, most crisp practice of the year, but I expect us to have great energy, excitement and enthusiasm to be back out there to get going as we build up to Saturday.”

During the two-week quarantine period Florida had to postpone games against LSU and Mizzou. That was much needed time to gain experience and try to get better against outside competition. They also were not able to work out during this time.

Through the first three games quarterback Kyle Trask looked like a Heisman Trophy frontrunner. He’s thrown for 996 yards, 14 touchdowns, 1 interception while completing 72% of his passes.

His favorite target is another Kyle, tight end Kyle Pitts. Pitts has 17 receptions, 274 yards and 7 TD’s. UF looked like one of the best offenses in the nation.

The Gators were ranked No. 4 in the last game they played at Texas A&M. They were upset by the Aggies and lost 41 – 38. I think the team’s confidence was shaken after that loss then they have not had the opportunity to build it back since the last two games were postponed.

The defense has been atrocious. They’ve given up an average of 495 yards per game and 33 PPG. I don’t think that’s something they can flip a switch and fix quickly.

Before the teams COVID outbreak they had one advantage going into the Georgia game, which was a bye week. That week was used to reschedule the Mizzou game.

No matter how hard they try, game shape can only be worked on by playing games. I think the team will struggle in this game. Also, if there are any injuries, they will be in jeopardy of missing the following game against UGA.

Florida will be at a disadvantage going into the November 7th showdown. Their defense can’t stop anybody without any of the things we talked about factored in.

At this point we do not know what we are going to get out of them. The offense might be out of sync now with the layoff.

Worth The Hype

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Some rivalries are formed due to their close proximity to each other. Some rivalries are forged on the field or court due to memorable games, indelibly ingrained in your mind for years. Other rivalries come about because both programs have sustained a level of excellence unmatched by most programs.

What makes a rivalry special is when you can combine all three of these aspects; something Georgia and Florida have come close to achieving in the past, it has just never quite gotten there.

Location has never really been the issue, not because the schools are all that close to each other, but because the game is played in Jacksonville every year.

Normally, I’m not a fan of playing an entire series at a neutral location, but in this case it works.

Whether it’s allowing an equal number of Georgia and Florida fans to attend on a yearly basis, or making it easier to attach a moniker like “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”, the central location in Jacksonville has really enhanced the game and rivalry.

As for the games themselves, there have been some really great ones, the problem is most of them took place years ago.

Recently, the games haven’t been all that competitive or memorable. There also hasn’t been a ton of parity between the two teams.

By that I mean in most cases the rivalry has been dominated by one team or the other. It’s been a little better in recent years, but even looking at the past twelve seasons the programs have just alternated three-year winning streaks.

Part of the reason the dominance has see-sawed back and forth is even though both teams have seen some level of sustained excellence, rarely have they both experienced it at the same time.

Over the last twenty years, only three of games were played with both teams being in the Top 10. (Two of those games have taken place in the last two years, so that’s at least a sign things might be changing.)

That’s not to say the games can’t be great unless they’re both ranked in the Top 10, but if you’re trying to attract a national audience, which is needed if you want it to be considered a top tier rivalry, having something on the line certainly helps.

Miami and Florida State is a perfect example. Their games from the mid-80’s through the early 00’s were some of the most memorable in college football and almost always had national title implications.

Regardless of where you lived, or what teams you rooted for, that was the game you tuned in to watch.

Now that neither team has been relevant for years, outside of Jameis Winston’s tenure in Tallahassee, the game is merely a blip on the college football radar.

As I alluded to briefly, if you desire the rivalry to be perceived as one of the best in the nation, the future looks promising.

Both teams have excellent coaches, who don’t seem to have ambitions of leaving their respective schools to go along with top of the line sports facilities and strong recruiting pipelines- all important attributes to not only reach the pinnacle, but to stay there.

The Georgia/Florida game has all the makings of becoming a great, nationally recognized rivalry.

The last two years have been a good start; could this year’s game be the one to put them over the edge?

Leading In

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It’s been a weird year, which isn’t news, but it keeps coming up with ways to feel new bouts of weirdness.

The newest odd sensation was a sense of lacking where it doesn’t belong. Halloween came (with sadly few trick-or-treaters, at least in our neighborhood), Halloween went.

That old familiar football showdown between the University of Georgia and the University of Florida – traditionally positioned closer to All Hallow’s Eve – was nowhere to be seen.

Instead, the game was pushed back a week and will now take place on November 7th. However, even that day won’t feature the same, familiar pomp and circumstance and it makes me wonder…if it isn’t a big, drunken, hate-filled party on the beach and at the stadium, is it really Georgia/Florida?

I think the answer is both kind of and kind of not. I’ve been down to Jacksonville for the game, and it is an atmosphere unlike most anything else, particularly for what is always a mid-season game and doesn’t always feature two evenly matched teams.

This is a rivalry that runs very, very deep, and the partying and pageantry is a massive part of that tradition; without RV City, the Bold City Bash, the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame luncheon, and, perhaps most notably, no tailgating, can this Georgia/Florida week feel like Georgia/Florida week?

Mercifully, the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs have done their respective parts to make this a game worth investing in, even if the investors, aren’t sipping brews in northeastern Florida all day long.

Instead, this year’s game is a big one because the SEC East will be hanging in the balance. So, while TIAA Bank Stadium will only be at 25% capacity, all fans across the Southeastern United States will be hanging on to every snap.

And it should be a contest worth watching. Both UGA and Florida rebounded from their first losses of the season last week, with Florida smacking Missouri around 41-17 and Georgia, who has been ranked higher but won less impressively, beating Kentucky 14-3.

UGA’s not-so-pretty win might foreshadow troubles they could have against Florida.

Their defense held the opposition to 3 points, but quarterback Stetson Bennett was intercepted twice and passed for just 131 yards.

Coach Kirby Smart said after the game that he is going with Bennett against the Gators on Saturday.

That offense is going to have to step up in a huge way if they want to match up with Florida, who has put up at least 40 points in 3 of their last 4 games.

Their defense also looked to have turned a corner after an embarrassing showing two weeks ago; more bad news for the Bulldogs.

There’s also the issue of Florida’s blood being up. There was a matter of a late hit on their quarterback on Saturday, which led to a brawl with Missouri that saw two Gators get ejected.

Now, that might sound like it doesn’t affect their game against UGA, but they’re hungry and they’re probably pissed about being ranked below Georgia in weeks when they don’t feel like they should be.

This game could be a statement for a team that has players willing to get ejected for fighting.

With a quarter of the fans in the stadium and the normal pomp and circumstance that surrounds this game is absent this year.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this game won’t feel like the hard-hitting contest that fans are used to.

However, the rest of the context, and particularly the SEC East crown hanging in the balance, means that this one is going to be about football in a way that it isn’t always. And it should be very good football.