Mock me if you want for this, but I’m firmly convinced that the biggest deal about Saturday’s win is that Mark Richt has finally pushed the Georgia-Florida series into a new era. Sure, it may have taken him twelve years and four Gator coaches to get ‘er done, but when it comes to this, late is definitely better than never.
I had hoped the 2007 win was the harbinger of change, but it turned out to be a mirage. This time, it feels like there’s far more meat on the bones. Here’s why:
- The math. For the first time since Steve Spurrier set foot in Gainesville, the Dawgs have won two games in a row. It’s almost impossible to underestimate the significance of that. A single win here or there can be chalked up to random fate; two suggests at worst that the programs are on level footing. So does the fact that the teams are even over the last six meetings.
- The manner of victory. It’s the second straight year that Georgia controlled the fourth quarter. Maybe that didn’t mean so much in 2011 when the Gators were banged up and trying to find their footing, but this season, we were told second-half dominance was a Gator strength. The Dawgs took their best shot and gave it right back. That’s how you plant the seed of doubt.
- The fan base psychology. If you haven’t done so already, go read some of the Gator message boards. It will sound awfully familiar. I don’t think it will be hard to guess the number one topic Muschamp will be addressing this offseason at meetings with the fans.
I agree with Michael Elkon that Florida’s recent dominance in this series wasn’t all about Georgia’s psyche. There have been a number of seasons over the past two decades when the Gators clearly had the superior team. But there have also been a few when they didn’t and still walked out with the win. Plenty of folks expected 2012 to be one of those. That didn’t happen and Georgia’s world has changed a bit as a result.