Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Cocktail Party Preview

"I'm going to go out there and play my heart out." -A.J. Green

Since I will begin the trip to J'ville in the next few hours (stopping in World Famous Statesboro, Ga tonight) I figured I would give a game preview for those that are going or those that are watching on the television.

Before we begin we must look at the history of this great rivalry that is known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”. Despite the wishes of The University of Georgia, the University of Florida, or the SEC, the name is a perfect description of what takes place during the final week of October each fall on the banks of the Saint Johns River. But where did the name get its start?

Bill Kastelz began working for the Florida Times-Union as a sports writer in 1947. While covering the annual Georgia-Florida match up in Jacksonville during the 50's, he witnessed an intoxicated fan offer a cocktail to another person just outside of the Gator Bowl. It was not shocking that the drunk fan would offer another person a drink, the interesting circumstance that Kastelz observed was the fact that the person being offered a cocktail was a uniformed police officer. Kastelz would go onto describe the scene as The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and the name has withstood the test of time.

As we begin looking at this game one has to wonder if UGA has ever played Florida while Florida was the #1 ranked team in the country and the answer is yes. In 1985 UGA entered the game 6-1-1 losing to Alabama in the first week of the season and tying the Vanderbilt Commodores three weeks later. Florida entered the game ranked #1 and the Gators’ quarterback, Kerwin Bell, was considered a Heisman candidate.

The best thing about the game, besides the final score, was that Georgia dominated it from beginning to end. Despite Bell throwing for more than 400 yards, the Gators could only muster a field goal. The Dogs sacked Bell five times and Steve Boswell had a fumble recovery that ended a 91-yard Gators drive in the fourth quarter. When old-time Dawgs wistfully discuss the heyday of Georgia defenses, that’s what they’re talking about.

When looking at this years game the key question becomes can Georgia, with its 90th ranked passing defense, stop the Gators and their 80th ranked passing offense. The 80th passing offense is one spot behind Ohio University and three spots behind South Florida. Before any Dawg fan gets excited by that statistic they still must remember that this same UGA defense allowed Stephen Garcia of South Carolina, Ryan Mallett of Arkansas and Johnathan Crompton of Tennessee to throw for at least 300 yards already this season.While Mallett may make the better professional prospect, I think it is safe to say none of these quarterbacks are in the same class as Florida Quarterback Tim Tebow.

However, let’s compare UGA Quarterback Joe Cox's performance against the Razorbacks to Mr. Tebow's performance. Mr. Cox threw for a whopping 375 yards and five TDs against the 111th nationally ranked Arkansas pass defense. However, these results were a little bit different when that same Arkansas defense played the Florida Gators, the Gators threw for just 255 yards and one TD pass. Now you are asking yourself, what does all of this mean? I think it means one of these two things.  I think that Tebow is better than the Crompton, Mallett, Garcia trio and the Dawgs couldn't stop them so using that logic, Georgia won't stop Tebow.

But if you looked at this game with some rosecolored glasses you could say Georgia's D is better than Arkansas' D, and Arkansas did stop Tebow. So using that logic, Mr. Tebow is in for a long day against the Dawgs. I think I have said all of this to say “who the hell knows” what will happen on Saturday on the banks of the St. John's River and that fact alone is cause for encouragement for the Dawgs. 

While worrying about the defense has caused me to wake up with nightmares this week, thinking about the UGA offense has caused me not to fall back asleep. Georgia has never lost to the Gators when scoring 26 or more points. Thus the question easily becomes “how can the Dawgs get to 26 points?”. Remember this is the same offense that could not get into the red zone against Tennessee and while that defense is well coached, they have no where near the overall talent that the Florida defense posseses.

Paul Westerdawg of the GeorgiaSportsBlog reminded me earlier this week of the game that I think is one of UGA Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo's better called games.  The game was in 2007 and the opponent was the Cowboys of Oklahoma State. Here is what Paul said about that game 2 plus years ago when we half of the offensive line was starting for the first time:
Offensive Line Inexperience: The game plan by Bobo was brilliant. Use screens, flares, slants and quick outs to keep the defensive line off our young pups up front. After re-watching the game on DVR, I noticed a few plays where the entire OSU defensive front four stood straight up, took a step back and looked around for a screen. Only to see Stafford throw it behind them on a down field route. There were some moments of confusion and what appeared to be missed assignments up front, but overall...great effort and communication.

We need to run bubble screens, middle screens, swing passes to RBs, FB screens, rocket screen, tunnel screens, you name it, we need to run it. Hopefully, then that will open up the down field passes to Mr. Green and even more importantly the running game.

There are three things coaches can not game plan before any football game; 1. Turnovers 2. Penalties 3. Injuries and these three things usually are the biggest factor if a team wins or loses. Thus can UGA win the turnover battle? Somehow, someway we will have to because we have yet to win it this season. Furthermore, can the stupid penalties not happened? They have been taking place for three years so maybe a miracle happens on Saturday.

We will close with a note for all the degenerates. The spread for this game is 16 points and Georgia is 4-12 against the spread in their last 16 games, while Florida is 20-7 against the spread in their last 27 games. Despite that fact I think the Dawgs cover the 16 and if Mr. Tebow turns it over a couple of times it could be a memorable Saturday on the banks of the St. Johns.

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