(UPDATE II BELOW)
It’s Georgia-Florida week. Here’s a novel idea: How about a Georgia-Florida blog?
Here are five headlines you never could have imagined going into this week:
♦ 1. “It’s all Urban Meyer’s Fault!”
Last week we told you about the website that is calling for Urban Meyer’s firing. This is almost that unbelievable. Some fans apparently are now blaming Meyer for Cam Newton transferring following his arrest and suspension for the stolen laptop episode. This is happening, of course, because Newton is now a Heisman Trophy candidate at Auburn, the Tigers are undefeated, the Gators have lost three straight, they rank 89th in the nation in total offense and it turns out John Brantley isn’t better than Tim Tebow after all (go figure). But this whole thing is silly. Newton was buried on the Florida depth chart (behind at least Tebow and Brantley) in 2008, plus he carried the stigma of the arrest. Florida had just won another national championship. Newton’s departure was to be expected. But as for Meyer, I really would like to see a copy of his discipline guidelines. Is buying a stolen laptop worse than a player texting a death threat to a former girlfriend? Speaking of which . . .
♦ 2. “Chris Rainey May Play!” (Shocking, I know.)
From the moment the Gators’ receiver was suspended indefinitely, didn’t you sort of figure that the “indefinite” period would end this week? For the record, Meyer has only partially reinstated wide receiver Chris Rainey following the player’s arrest for aggravating stalking (he eventually pleaded down to a misdemeanor) He hasn’t said yet if Rainey will play this week, only that he is eligible to return. Anybody buying this? Given the struggles of the Florida offense, it would be stunning if he is not on the field. Meyer has caught a lot of heat for this. At least 31 Florida players have been arrested since 2005. There’s also the high-profile issue of violence against women. But two things trump heat in sports: Talent and desperate coaches. (See: Houston Nutt and Jeremiah Masoli.) It would be shocking if Rainey didn’t play.
♦ 3. “Dogs Can Win East With 4-4 Record”
After conferring with Tim Tucker, I’m almost certain this is correct. There are two ways for Georgia to win the SEC East: 1) Outright, which means the Dogs would have to beat Florida and Auburn and hope South Carolina loses to Florida and Arkansas; or 2) If Georgia, South Carolina and Florida finish in a three-way tie. In that scenario, the teams would be 4-4 because they couldn’t be 5-3. (This assumes a South Carolina win over Tennessee.) In this scenario, Georgia would beat Florida but lose to Auburn. The first tiebreaker, games against each other, wouldn’t break the tie (each would be 1-1). The second tiebreaker, games within the division, would eliminate South Carolina. The Gamecocks would be 3-2, the Dogs and Gators would each be 4-1. Georgia then would get the edge on Florida for winning the head-to-head meeting. Here’s the bottom line: South Carolina still is in control in SEC East.
♦ 4. “It’s the ‘Others Receiving Votes’ Bowl”
As Mr. Tucker points out in his blog, this is the first time the Dogs and Gators both will be unranked entering the game since 1979. (Florida received two votes in this week’s AP poll, Georgia none.) But here’s what you may not know: That non-ranking could be great foreshadowing! In 1979, Georgia (4-4) destroyed Florida (0-6-1) by a score of 33-10. The Dogs went on to finish 6-5 under Vince Dooley, the Gators 0-10-1 under Charley Pell. The following season, Dooley’s Dogs went 12-0 and won the national championship. So the way I figure it, if Georgia wins this game, it goes undefeated next season. (Coming soon: winning lottery numbers.)
♦ 5. “Georgia favored. Wait. What?”
Spoke to my pal Todd Fuhrman, Race and Sportsbook analyst at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Georgia is a three-point favorite, despite the fact Florida has won17 of the last 20 meetings since 1990. (Georgia’s wins: 1997, 2004, 2007). Odds are set by perceptions. The past often feeds into those perceptions. But Fuhrman said: “Going as far back as the Colorado game, when A.J. Green came back, Georgia looks look like a completely different football team,” Fuhrman said. “The perception is that Georgia is playing its best football and going in the right direction while Florida is going in the wrong direction, even with them having a week off.”
UPDATE II (CORRECTION): According to Fuhrman, Georgia actually was favored by 1 point in 2003 and the 2002 game was “pick ‘em.” Earlier, he noted the Dogs were favored over Florida by 6½ in 2004. That was the last year they had been favored over the Gators before this week.
So does that have you feeling confident — or not so much?