These are the nagging little reasons my heart doesn’t want to listen to my head tell it why the spread for the Cocktail Party is reasonable:
Out of 14 opportunities, Florida has three wins in program history in the series when the Bulldogs were ranked and the Gators were unranked. First it was a 31-19 win in 1986 under Galen Hall. Then it was a 20-13 win in 2002 under Ron Zook.
And then there was 2014. The unranked Gators were 3-3 on the season, getting ready to face the then-No. 8 Bulldogs in Will Muschamp’s final season.
The season already seemed over. Just two weeks earlier, as the Gators walked out of The Swamp following a 42-13 homecoming loss to Missouri, chants of “Fire Muschamp” echoed through the stadium.
But when the Gators made their way over the Hart Bridge and into Everbank Field in Jacksonville, a team with a seemingly newfound life surfaced. Florida rushed for 418 yards, scored 31 unanswered points at one point in the game and walked away with a 38-20 victory that brought morale back to the team if only for a couple weeks.
That’s the type of echoing statement the Gators hope to make on Saturday.
Okay, it hasn’t happened too often, but when it has, it’s left skid marks on my psyche that still haven’t faded away.
If Notre Dame was a great win that’s turned out to mean much more in the aftermath than it seemed to at the time and Tennessee was the game that convinced me Georgia was embarked upon a special season, Florida has the potential to be the moment when culture change went from talk to reality.
On paper, the Dawgs should roll Saturday. But the intangibles favor Florida purely on history. It’s well past time for some demons to be exorcised. My head and heart are hoping Kirby Smart is just the coach to do that.