Georgia football: Bulldogs need more than just a win against Florida

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Georgia football fans are understandably pleased with the No. 3 Bulldogs, but they are also understandably concerned about the upcoming game with Florida.

The Georgia football program has taken some huge steps in 2017. The 7-0, No. 3 ranked Bulldogs have accomplished a lot of goals on their way to the much bigger goal of some trophy case hardware.

The Bulldogs beat what appears to be a very good Notre Dame team, on the road. They shut down what is (maybe?) a very good Mississippi State offense. They went on the road to Knoxville and exorcised some demons in shutting out the Volunteers. They even overcame their first “trap” game of the season, taking care of 98-pound weakling Missouri.

But reach into the bag of clichés for a moment, and pull out this gem:

You can only win one game at a time, and we want to be 1-0 this week.

That’s the message Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was sending out as his Bulldogs prepare for the second biggest rivalry game of the year (and the only one which matters in terms of the SEC), the annual Cocktail Party against Florida in Jacksonville.

For starters, the Gators have won three straight games against Georgia, and at least two of those Florida teams should have been beaten handily by the Dawgs. But this has always been a bit of a streaky series, and recent history dictates that three straight is enough.

But that’s why they call it a rivalry.

The roles are a little reversed this time, with Georgia well on their way to an SEC East crown, and the 3-3 Gators scuffling just to make a bowl game worth reserving tickets for mom. Florida has nothing to lose, and a win over Georgia could salvage at least a little dignity to their season.

That’s what makes this Florida team just as dangerous as some of the Steve Spurrier coached teams who wiped the floor with the Bulldogs back in the 1990s.

The Gators have already heard the talk of their demise coupled with Georgia’s rise, and the response has been a bit on the testy side.

(Note to Josh Hammond – Georgia won’t be number two until AFTER the Cocktail Party).

The Bulldogs have made believers of the coaches and the sportswriters, who both have them ranked 3rd in the nation behind Alabama and Penn State. But the feeling around the nation is still a wait-and-see, almost “show me” attitude about the Dawgs. A loss to the Gators would certainly send Georgia tumbling down the rankings.

That’s why the Bulldogs must do more than just win the game.

The boys from Athens will be facing the best defensive front they’ve seen since Week 2 against Notre Dame, and Florida’s fast secondary will certainly pose some new challenges to freshman quarterback Jake Fromm.

It’s as simple as this; Georgia needs to come out and play the same type of game they did against Tennessee. They need to dominate from the opening series and never let the Gators in the game at all. By halftime, Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson should be trading recipes on the air just to pass the time.

A close win over the Gators would almost be as bad as a loss. Not because Georgia would lose ground in the meaningless polls (which is entirely possible), but because on Halloween, the first College Football Playoff rankings are to be announced, and a struggle against the struggling would be a ding in Georgia’s resumé.

Next: Ghosts Of Cocktail Parties Past

This is Georgia’s chance to not only vanquish a rival, but to seriously begin the lockdown of a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. The Dawgs need to win, and win big – something they haven’t done against Florida since the 44-0 blanking of the Gators in 1982.