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Chop On!

By: Colin Lacy

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Everything that the Braves have heard for 6 months is that “if the Braves have to rely on pitching, they’re in trouble.” What did the Bravos do? Only churn out the best record in baseball and prepare for a NL Division Series match-up against NL East rival Philadelphia Phillies that will serve as a re-match of the 2022 NLDS.

The Braves rang out a record of 104-58 and joined only the Orioles and Dodgers as the only three teams in MLB with 100 wins. A big part has been the best offense in baseball scoring the most, and the biggest run differential in MLB this year.

A big question for Atlanta has been the ace of the staff Max Fried, who has been dealing with a blister on his pitching hand.

In the downtime between the end of the regular season and the Saturday beginning of the Phillies series, the Braves had 3 days of simulated games between current players and minor-leaguers split into two teams.

In the Tuesday intersquad game, Fried threw with a band-aid on the pitching hand in question just for a little precaution. All indications after the outing from Manager Brian Snitker and Braves personnel point to Fried being a go for the NLDS roster, and potentially starting game 2 on Monday. Signs would lead Braves fans to expect the series opening nod to go to right-hander Spencer Strider.

As much as Braves fans enjoyed the down years for the Phillies (just one year over .500 from 2012-2022), it’s good to have the Braves-Phillies rivalry back to it’s best. This year in the 13 games head-to-head, the Braves hold the 8-5 lead as the two look to the best of 5 game NLDS.

With the best record in Baseball, the Braves have locked up home field advantage all the way through to the World Series.

Atlanta will host game one on Saturday at Truist Park with a 6:07 first pitch.

Game two from Atlanta will come Monday at the same time before the series shifts to Philadelphia for games 3 and (if necessary) 4 at Citizen’s Bank Park.

If the series goes the distance, the deciding game 5 will return to Cobb County in metro-Atlanta.

The Phillies come into the series with a 90-72 record in the regular season and finished 14 games back of the Braves in the NL East.

After sweeping the Marlins in a best-of-three series in the Wild Card round, the Phillies come into Atlanta behind an offense led by Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos, who each drove in over 100 runs, and Bryce Harper, who missed just shy of 40 games earlier in the year with injury.

On the mound, the Phanatics are led by the duo of Aaron Nola and Zack Weeler who both threw over 190 innings and fanned 200 hitters.

Outside of Jeff Hoffman (the only Phillies reliever with a sub-3.00 ERA), the bullpen for the Phils is familiar to Atlanta fans. Craig Kimbrel capped off 23 saves to the tune of a 3.26 ERA while fighting off some nagging injuries.

So, what’s different this postseason for the Braves, who look to get the bad taste of the 2022 NLDS that the Phillies won 3-1?

A big key is the pure health of the squad. Going into the postseason last year, off the top, they were without infielder Ozzie Albies who only played 64 games last year because of a broken right pinky and broken left foot.

Spencer Strider was trying to fend off an oblique injury that pushed him to a game 3 start. He threw 2 strong innings before the 3rd seeing him only recording 1 out.

This postseason, the Braves franchise have adopted the mantra “As One” to symbolize that the Braves “team” isn’t just the players on the field, but also coaches, staff, front office, and even the fans.

So “As One” it’s time to Chop On Braves Country!

In Need Of Highlights

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It’s October now so the NBA season will begin later this month.

There are typically about four teams that have legitimate chances to compete for a championship. Atlanta is normally not one of those teams.

Let’s take a look at the Hawks and what we should expect for the 2023-24 season.

Star point guard Trae Young is entering his sixth season in the league. He’s a two time NBA All-Star (2020, 2022) and he averaged 26.2 points per game and 10.2 assists per game last season.

The biggest struggle the franchise is having is adding another great player to the roster.

Atlanta is typically decent enough so they do not get a high draft pick. They consistently pick in the middle of the first round so they add role players. Also, they are not a free agent destination and I am surprised by that.

A couple of decades ago the franchise also had this problem with Dominique Wilkins. Hopefully history does not repeat itself and they don’t waste a star players prime years.

Last year they finished the season 41 – 41 and beat the Miami Heat in the Play-In tournament. Then they lost to the Boston Celtics (2 – 4) in the first round of the playoffs.

Head coach Nate McMillan was fired in February and he spent three seasons with the team. Quin Snyder was hired as the head coach a few days later.

The Hawks drafted guard Kobe Bufkin (Michigan) with the 15th pick in the draft. The sophomore earned Third-Team All-Big Ten honors. He’s a 6’5 left hander and hopefully he can become a solid scoring option.

In the second round they drafted 6’6 guard/forward Seth Lundy (Penn State). He’s a four year starter and as a senior he averaged 14.2 ppg and 6.3 rpg.

They also brought in two veterans in guards Patty Mills and Wesley Matthews. They will both contribute to leading the team and sharing their knowledge with the younger players.

The team emphasized how important it is to establish good habits.

“It’s about a day in day process about creating good and sustainable habits so that when you do reach those goals, you can continue to surpass them, because you’re leaning on the process of your work, rather than just ‘we’re doing anything we can to just achieve this specific goal,’” general manager Landry Fields said. “So that sort of paradigm of that mindset is really what we’re hopping on right now.”

Spacing the floor is also crucial to their success this season.

“I mentioned spacing a lot last year and spacing allows you to move the ball, it allows you to attack and even though you think it’s subtle, if you’re spaced properly sometimes that can be as simple as like you’re not in someone’s way when they get to go lay the ball in,” Snyder said. “So again, you’re doing something for someone else.”

Another goal entering the season is establishing an unselfish mindset.

“This season is about hard work,” Snyder said. “I would like for that to be characteristic of our system, us being a selfless team is huge and you can point to that in so many different areas, whether it’s taking the charge, making the extra pass, running back on defense, celebrating your teammates successes, all those different things.”

The season will begin at Charlotte on October 25 and is followed with a home game against the Knicks two days later.

I think they will finish the season slightly above .500 with an early playoff exit.

Walking the Plank

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

There was no way for the Bucs to find another quarterback who could command the offense the way Brady did. So, they chose to give the gifted but unsuccessful Baker Mayfield a chance and allow room for the development of second-year passer Kyle Trask.

The  Bucs will be dependent on much more than whoever is throwing the ball. They will need solid coaching, an improved running game, dependable receivers, and a better defense. It will take many to replace the greatest in the history of the game.

I feel like the Bucs, without Tom Brady, have fallen off the face of the earth. Has there ever been a team that went from winning a Super Bowl two short years ago to fighting for relevance within its own division this fast? (OK, let’s leave the Rams out of this.)

Let’s start with the reality that Tampa was somewhat limited by salary cap issues they knew would come due (such as $35 million in the wake of Tom Brady’s retirement). Releasing running back Leonard Fournette ($5 million) and several others totaling $75 million in dead money … yikes. Nothing like biting the bullet for 2023- and Tampa Bay has lead teeth.

The Bucs defense is easiest to trust, and they will have to sustain dominance to give their tender offense the chance to score. Overall, they ranked in the top half of the league in most defensive stats last season, being top 10 in sacks and third down stops.

Devin White’s performance has tailed off a bit since his All-Pro season in 2020, nevertheless he is a supremely gifted linebacker and at 25 he probably has not yet played his best ball.

White should be more motivated than ever. He reportedly requested a trade in the offseason because he wants his contract reworked.

The Bucs exercised the option year of his rookie contract and he will be a free agent after this season, barring an extension or tag.

White knows the cost of middle linebackers has gone up in the last year with Roquan Smith, Fred Warner, and Tremaine Edmunds signing new deals. White and the defense need to play at  an extremely high level for the Bucs to have anywhere close to a successful season.

I like GM Jason Licht’s philosophy of drafting BIG with his top three picks this year — two front-seven players on defense and an offensive tackle. Add free-agent acquisition Greg Gaines from the Rams at defensive tackle, and this group has gotten a nice makeover on a limited budget.

Also, it’s year 2 under head coach Todd Bowles, and roles should be defined more clearly after the awkward departure of Bruce Arians last offseason.

On offense, I struggle with Baker Mayfield. He is on his fourth team since being the first pick in the 2018 draft. I have less faith in Kyle Trask.

The Bucs’ inexperience at running back and lack of depth in the perimeter leave me with more questions than answers for this offense.

Today, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt as the division winner from 2022, even if it was with an 8-9 record.

At least they have that Super Bowl trophy to shine up if all else fails. If the future’s looking bad, why not live in the past Tampa Bay?


It’s A Gimme

By: Joe Delaney

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Glynn Academy Golf has long been a perennial power in the state.

And while it’s been over a decade since the Glynn Academy Boys Golf team has won a state championship, it couldn’t have been soon enough for Mike Zito and the Senior laden 2023 Red Terror outfit.

Meanwhile over on the ladies’ side, the very young Lady Terrors of Kip Hall waltzed through the AAAAAA tournament again to become back-to-back state champs for 2023.

With the old adage of age before beauty, let’s take a look at the boy’s side today.

The Glynn boys have won multiple state championships in Golf. The lineage goes back decades with great teams and great individuals.

However, as talented as Glynn has been, 2011 was the last time they had hoisted the trophy as the best team in the region and state.

I got to sit down and talk with coach Mike Zito about this year’s outfit and how the 2023 Glynn outfit was different.

Mike has headed the Red Terrors for the past decade and he has had teams as talented as this one. He will tell you that. Some very good players have come through the old school down on the south side of Brunswick. But the recurring theme of our conversation was that this team “jelled” at the right time.

He spoke of how it wasn’t easy with this group. They had ups and downs throughout the early part of the season. Some of it being injuries. Try a broken leg to one of your best players! And some of it was just young men being young men!

Through it all, Zito said these guys never lost sight of the team and the prize. And about a month before the state tournament, they jelled. They became a senior led team, which wanted it.

The result was 5 shot win for the Terrors and Red Terror Williamson Mosher taking home the individual title with an outstanding -3 (141). It was Coach Zito’s first title and a week later he was still smiling ear to ear.

“These guys were a close-knit bunch and jelled at the right time.” He said. In the weeks leading up to the tournament it was all business. The maturity and realization that it was the last shot time hit home for the boys and they responded. Let’s take a look at the 2023 State Champs and how they fared in the tournament.

I guess we should start with Williamson Mosher, who led the Terrors and won the individual trophy. His 141 over two days in subpar weather carried the Terrors. Zito noted his overall game and focus. “When he’s on, he’s just tough to beat.” And he was on!

The leading junior on the team, Hank Holcomb, finished tied for fourth at 147. Coach Zito mentioned that he was the team’s most consistent ball striker and had that “confidence in his game.” He will be back to lead the 2024 outfit.

Seniors Shep Davenport and Ellis Long rounded out scoring with a 151 and 158, respectively. Zito said Davenport had “all the shots and was uber competitive.”

While Long was “long off the tee with a great short game and demeanor.

Senior Grady Sanders, who was 3 months removed from breaking his leg in a car accident, shot a 159. Before his accident, Grady was maybe the team’s best player. It was a testament to the team concept that he fought his way back and contributed.

Seniors Michael Cook and Walker Larkin provided the depth needed and were integral members of the team.

Drew Harrison and Hayden Couturier were the young guns, having recently picked up the game and Zito spoke of how they all had steadily improved during the year, were consummate team players, and their best golf being in front of them.

Back for another shot next year are Juniors Chris Reddini and Jake Dancy, whom Coach Zito said worked hard and their time is coming.

He’s looking for them and Hank Holcomb to step up and fill some big shoes next year. I can’t express how proud Coach Zito was of these young guys and who they were and what they had accomplished.

He mentioned that ALL of the seniors would be heading to the University of Georgia next year with the exception of Ellis Long, who will head to Harvard.

Next year’s Terrors will be talented and young. But with Tim Hall churning out players from the Junior Varsity and the returning core, Zito is excited about the future.

But today, lets enjoy what these guys and this team accomplished.


And next issue we get to look at the burgeoning dynasty that is Glynn Academy Girls Golf.


By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With Texas and Oklahoma entering the SEC in 2024 the conference will move to a 9-game SEC football slate.

Most are speculating that the SEC could adopt a 3+6 scheduling model. Under that model you would have three permanent opponents that you would play annually and six other conference opponents.

Also, under that model every team in the SEC would play each other every two years and play home and home with every non-permanent opponent every four years.

The current SEC scheduling format has some flaws. Example Georgia has only played Texas A&M once since they joined the conference in 2012. The Dawgs have yet to make a trip to College Station to play the Aggies. A 3+6 model will eliminate that.

There are rivalry games in the SEC that need to be protected at all costs under any new scheduling format. Here are my top six annual rivalry games that need to be protected by the expanding SEC.

Alabama vs Auburn: The Iron Bowl is the most iconic rivalry game in all of college football. To tinker with this one is a sign of the pending Rapture.

The Iron Bowl has given us some of the greatest moments in college football history.

Georgia vs Florida: The best border war in all of college football. The “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” currently resides in Jacksonville.

I would like to see it stay there forever. It could end up going to a home and home series, but frankly I would hate it. The game is not going anywhere however and is an SEC staple.

Auburn vs Georgia: The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has lost some of its luster lately with UGA winning fifteen of the last eighteen games, but there is too much history in place to discontinue playing this contest on an annual basis.

Alabama vs Tennessee: The Third Saturday in October is a classic SEC Rivalry game that needs to stay in place.

The 2022 game in Knoxville was a classic with Tennessee breaking a 15-year losing streak to Alabama. You saw the passion for the contest in the Tennessee postgame celebration.

Oklahoma vs Texas: There is no conceivable way the SEC does not keep The Red River Shootout in place once these two teams join next year.

A huge game played in Dallas every year during the Texas State Fair in the Cotton Bowl Stadium.

Mississippi State vs Ole Miss: The Egg Bowl is very intense and usually played on Thanksgiving Night.

The intensity and passion this game displays must not be touched.

These six games mentioned above are the fabric of the historic SEC and the newly expanded SEC.

The SEC must decide everyone’s three permanent opponents. Other big games that we could see annually depending in the SEC:

Florida vs Tennessee: This was the SEC in the 1990’s. It has lost some luster lately but is still a huge game.

Alabama vs LSU: This has become the matchup that determines the SEC West Champion often.

Texas vs Texas A&M: What a shame this game ended when A&M joined the SEC. I suspect it will get back on track.

Georgia vs South Carolina: Georgia is South Carolina’s biggest SEC rival.

Kentucky vs Tennessee: Kentucky will want Tennessee as one of its permanent opponents and Tennessee will jump for joy.

Tennessee vs Vanderbilt: See Kentucky vs Tennessee above.

Florida vs LSU: This is an underrated rivalry game.

Auburn vs Florida: This was a classic rivalry game that got lost in the shuffle when the SEC reshuffled permanent opponents after the 2002 season. These teams have played 84 times, but only 4 times since 2002.

Arkansas vs Texas: Old Southwest Conference rivals could reunite annually.

You never know how it will all shake out. Some folks will be happy, and some will not. We shall see.



The Bobo Sequel

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Todd Monken is no longer in Athens, headed back to the NFL ranks to join the Baltimore Ravens after leading Georgia’s offense for three seasons.

Mike Bobo is stepping into the role as offensive coordinator after having served as an analyst for the Bulldogs this past season and a quite well-traveled past before that, much of which took place in Athens.

What’s old is new again, with Bobo’s promotion to offensive coordinator being announced. There were two other options for Smart to go in replacing Monken, and each had its upside but also a downside.

Look outside the program. Smart may have operated quietly behind the scenes, the same way he did with Monken after the 2019 season for James Coley’s job. There may not have been a home-run hire available: Look at the trouble Nick Saban had finding a new offensive coordinator before landing Tommy Rees, who had an uneven and inconsistent past with his years at Notre Dame. Now, Notre Dame is having trouble finding a replacement for Tommy Rees.

Sources report that Monken played a big role in Bobo being named offensive coordinator.

Monken and Smart had more than one conversation about Bobo and his contributions in 2022, and Bobo was a big part of the game planning each week.

This isn’t to say Georgia has upgraded or downgraded, just because Bobo’s past two stints in the SEC didn’t go well. It’s best to label it a lateral move for the program, because fans still harbor reservations about Bobo’s early years at Georgia.

It took time before he grew into his position and became cutting-edge. For some reason, there’s a perception he was a run-first coordinator, but Georgia passed 57 percent of the time in 2011 and 2012, following 50-50 in 2013, then run-heavy in 2014 when it had the triumvirate of Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.

Were there play-calling mistakes during the Bobo era? Sure (feel free to bring up not giving the ball to Gurley at the goal line in 2014 against South Carolina, even though Georgia scored on a goal-line pass earlier in the game).

Does being a good fit make Bobo the right hire? There are no guarantees; in the position that Georgia is in now — more talent, more financial support, everything in place that led to two straight national titles — the safe hire seems like the right one.

Super Recap

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2022 NFL season has concluded. Kansas City beat Philadelphia 38 – 35 in Super Bowl LVII. It was the third-most-watched television show in history, with an estimated 113 million people watching, according to preliminary numbers released Monday.

The 2015 game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks on NBC holds the record at 114,442,000 viewers (not including streaming), followed by Super Bowl LI in 2017 on Fox between Atlanta and New England (113,668,000).

Rihanna’s halftime show averaged 118.7 million viewers, making it the second-most-watched show in Super Bowl history. Katy Perry’s 2015 performance holds the top mark at 121 million.

The Eagles scored a touchdown on their opening possession. The Chiefs responded on their first possession with a touchdown as well. Travis Kelce caught an 18-yard score from Patrick Mahomes.

Kansas City missed a 42-yard field goal on their second possession. Philly made them pay on the next drive. Jalen Hurts threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Brown.

The momentum shifted on the next drive when Hurts fumbled, and Nick Bolton recovered the ball and scored a 36-yard TD. Bolton also lead the team with 9 tackles.

Philadelphia scored a touchdown and field goal on the next two possessions of the first half. They had a 24 – 14 lead going into halftime. Mahomes was tackled toward the end of the first half and he tweaked his high ankle sprain.

KC outcoached the Eagles after halftime and the second half was completely different. They scored three touchdowns and a field goal.

Mahomes was 21/27 for 182 yards, 3 scores, 0 interceptions and he was not sacked. He also ran 6 times for 44 yards. He was named the Super Bowl MVP.

The Eagles led the league for the most sacks with 70 in the regular season so it’s surprising they could not record one in the Super Bowl.

Kelce had 6 catches for 81 yards and a score. JuJu Smith-Schuster had 7 receptions for 53 yards. Isiah Pacheco had 15 carries, 76 yards and a touchdown.

Hurts was 27/38, 304 yards, 1 TD and no 0 interceptions. He also led the team in rushing with 15 carries, 70 yards and 3 touchdowns.

“I thought guys just embraced the moment,” Mahomes said about rallying from a 10-point halftime deficit. “In that first half, we were playing and doing some good stuff, but I felt like the guys were getting consumed by everything around us.”

Coach Andy Reid, who couldn’t win the big game in Philadelphia, beat his former team to earn his second ring with Mahomes and the Chiefs.

“We wanted to get this so bad for him,” Tracis Kelce said. “His legacy in Philly lives on forever. … There’s a lot of pride in knowing that he’s had success in two different organizations, but this was the better one.”

The Chiefs won their second Super Bowl following the 2019 season, 50 years after the first one. Mahomes led them back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter against San Francisco in that one. It took just three years to get another Lombardi.

Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL and he’s now adding to his resume as an all-time great. The Chiefs played the third most rookies in 2022. Only Chicago and Houston played more rookies and they have the top two picks in the NFL draft.

KC has reached at least the AFC Championship game in the five seasons that Mahomes started. That has to be the expectation going into the 2023 season.

All Area

By: Jason Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The High School Football season has come and gone.

Here are my selections for the All-Area Team, which consists of five schools….Camden County High School, Glynn Academy, Brunswick High School, Frederica Academy and McIntosh County Academy.


Coaches Of The Year-Garrett Grady (BHS), Jeff Herron (Camden)



Offensive Linemen-Danny Thomas (MCA), Caden Copeland (Camden), Zach Owens (Camden), Daniel Rush (MCA), Jamal Meriweather (BHS), John McCleod (Glynn), Jack Hunt (Glynn)

Tight End-Dawson Hassler (MCA), Hamp Thompson (Frederica)

Wide Receivers-David Prince (Glynn), Terry Mitchell (BHS), Jayden Drayton (BHS)

Running Backs-Jordan Triplett (Frederica), Greg Peacock (Glynn), Jayden Daily (Camden), JaReese Campbell (MCA)

Quarterback-JR Elkins (BHS)



Defensive Linemen-Ka’Shawn Thomas (BHS), DeNigel Cooper (Camden), Sam Norris (Frederica), Xzavia Cummings (Glynn), Kristian Dallas (Camden), Jordan Jimerson (BHS)

Linebackers-Devin Smith (BHS), Lionel Twitty (BHS), J’Shawn Towns (BHS), Lake Linton (MCA), Cooper Thornhill (Camden), Jake Lindsey (Camden)

Defensive Backs-Tyre Young (Camden), Keon Leggett (BHS), Rico Holmes (Frederica), Blake Holloway (Frederica), Shamarion Gibbs (Camden), Ivan Johnson (BHS)


Special Teams:

Kicker-Kody Arnold (Glynn), Gabe Caison (Camden)

Punter-McClain Fineran (BHS)

2022 Crusade

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Whether intentional or not, it would seem that every Frederica Academy football season has a theme.

2018 championship season was the fastest, the 2020 was the smartest, and it seems the 2022 was the steadiest.

If you had to describe the 2022 season in a single word, it would be weird.

The season started three hours late, when the opening game versus Brookwood was delayed by lightning. Thankfully, the game ended early as well, the Knights losing the abbreviated opener 41-12.

Week two was a much more favorable result, with the Knights leaving Chula, GA with a 34-27 victory.

Frederica went to an all-time record of 4-4 versus the Panthers and brought themselves to a .500 record on the early season.

The next four games proved to be as difficult as expected.

Head Coach Brandon Derrick knew that his team would not get better playing lesser teams, so he scheduled a buzzsaw of a lineup for this year’s squad.

The following four games against Valwood, John Milledge, Clinch County, and Tattnall Square would prove to be losses but valuable ones at that.

Invaluable they were, indeed. While the team was not registering wins, junior running back Jordan Triplett and classmate LB Hamp Thompson were putting up statistics that would place them in the top of the standings in the state of Georgia.

By the end of the year, Triplett would have 2,305 yards rushing on 315 carries with 26 touchdowns, while Thompson would wind up #10 in the state across all divisions with 123 total tackles and 70 solo tackles on the year.

After a 1-5 start to the year, the Knights ran out the schedule in championship style.

The last four games of the year saw the Green & Grey put up an identical 42-point score, and their offensive powerhouse RB Triplett put up a minimum of 300 yards and 3 touchdowns per game, apexing with a 400-yard 6 touchdown effort in the final game. That secured a region championship for Frederica.

The regular season championship would grant the Knights a first-round bye and a second-round matchup against Deerfield Windsor Academy out of Albany, Ga. Frederica had only faced the Deerfield Windsor Knights once before. That was a second-round playoff upset at home ‘Under the Oaks’ in 2016.

The game looked to be a tale of two halves; unfortunately, the first half was the better for Frederica.

The opening drive was a clinical one. The Knights drove 80 yards in 13 plays, cumulating with a Jordan Triplett touchdown 7 ½ minutes into the first quarter.

After a three and out, Jordan ‘The River’ Triplett picked up a punt on two bounces and took back a blissful 88-yard return for a touchdown, taking the Knights to a 14-0 first quarter lead.

Unfortunately, that would be the end of the offense on the night.

Deerfield Windsor would put up three touchdowns over the final three quarters while shutting out Frederica, ending their March to Mercer two weeks early by a score of 18-14.

While any season that doesn’t end on the field at Mercer University seems like a letdown for the Frederica faithful, the 2022 season seems almost like a warmup to what should be another championship run.

2023 should prove to be just as memorable as 2022, regardless of the outcome.

Florida Cup

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

For the first time in series history, the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles will play on Black Friday.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving has been the traditional date for the Sunshine Showdown but Mike Norvell had a different vision for this year. The Noles (8-3) opened as an 8.5-point favorite.

“It’s always important and we’re on Friday night. Friday night lights,” senior linebacker Amari Burney said. “It’s very important any time you play Florida State. It’s a rivalry and everybody knows that so we have to strap up and come ready to play.”

It will be the first time that Mike Norvell will be the favorite in the rivalry game. Norvel’s first season at the helm was in 2020, so his introduction to the rivalry was in 2021. The Gators, despite having fired Dan Mullen just six days before playing the Noles, edged out a 24-21 win at home.

After starting the season unranked, Florida State University broke into the Top 25 in September following a 4-0 start, however they quickly fell back out after their fair share of losses.

The Noles have been on a tear of late, winning their last four games. If FSU wins this Friday, it would be the program’s first nine-win season since Jimbo Fisher was Head Coach in 2016.

The Florida Gators are just 1-3 on the road at this point of the season, and Florida State is 4-2 at Doak Campbell.

The line sits at 8.5, home teams typically get three points on a betting line as home-field advantage, meaning Vegas views this as a one-score nail-biter.

This will be the 66th all-time matchup between the Gators and Seminoles. Florida owns a 37-26-2 lead and an active three-game winning streak.

Florida State’s Mike Norvell is well aware that anything can happen in the world of college football, and that his team is far from unbeatable. Any coach on the planet is well aware of what this game means to either of these programs.

FSU has already taken out Miami, and in a humiliating fashion. Now, the Gators are gearing up for a prime-time showdown against the hot-handed Seminoles.

From the looks of things, Norvell has Florida State on the right track. They’re playing week to week hammering potential bowl teams like they’re Cumberland College.

The Seminoles’ first-team defense has only given up one touchdown in a month, and their offense puts up yards and points like it’s 1993. But losing to this rivalry is different; and there is a sour taste in the losing team’s mouth

Forget that it’s Year 1 under Billy Napier, who was tasked not only to replenish UF’s thin roster, but also with rebuilding the entire culture Dan Mullen left behind, let’s not talk about the new “Gator standard” on and off the field.

Florida has one regular-season game to play under their new head coach, and best of all- it’s at their bitter rival Florida State on Black Friday.

Make no mistake, this game matters immensely to the Gators. It’s the rare game that impacts recruiting directly (especially in state); the last thing Florida wants to do is lose convincingly and allow FSU to sell their program as on the rise and the top option in the state.

After embarrassing Miami, could you convince a recruit toward Miami over Florida State?

Win, and Napier cools the heat of his defeats (almost instantly) and gives the Gators a bit of juice heading into the final stretch of recruiting.

Lose, and, well, the Gators are 6-6, off to a low-tier bowl game, and paying lip service to the importance of bowl practices while keeping one foot, if not both feet, on the recruiting trail for a top-level SEC program.

It won’t be played on Saturday, but it’ll be special like always, no matter the final score.

My prediction: Billy Napier will be the first Florida coach not to beat a single rival in a season since 1979. FSU 42   Florida 20

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