Georgia football: The rivalry down in Jacksonville is the best all time

Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Kearis Jackson (10) catches a touchdown pass in the end zone during the annual Florida Georgia rivalry game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Fla. October 30, 2021.Flagi 103021 Florida Georgia Fb 31
Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Kearis Jackson (10) catches a touchdown pass in the end zone during the annual Florida Georgia rivalry game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Fla. October 30, 2021.Flagi 103021 Florida Georgia Fb 31 /

Arguably, the Georgia football matchup against Florida in Jacksonville is the best rivalry game in all of sports. Why? Well, it is one of only a handful of rivalry clashes played on a completely neutral venue and always has been. It is also a game between these two bitter rivalries for well over 100 years.

Georgia-Florida is as classic a game as you will find on a college football schedule, and we love it. But let’s go back in time to understand a bit about the history of this great game.

Well, depending on who you speak to, the first game these arch-rivals played was in 1904, but not if you are a Gator. Georgia faced up to the Florida Agricultural College in 1904 in Macon in the very first pairing between the two. Although Macon was a neutral site, the Bulldogs won 52-0. The confusion as to whether this was the first game comes down to the University of Florida in Gainesville not being founded until a few years later.

Let’s look back at the history of Georgia football and its rivalry against the Gators.

Both sides recognized the first matchup in 1915 when the Gators moved to Gainesville. This game was the first time in Jacksonville, and it didn’t end well for Florida as the Bulldogs won  37-0. Georgia dominated the series in the early years.

What makes this game special is its neutral venue in Jacksonville, which isn’t quite central between Athens and Gainesville, but it’s an ideal and somewhat equitable city to hold this game. As the rivalry game has grown over the years, so has the spectacle, with many more fans making the trip than have tickets. The tailgating has become legendary, making the fixture a must not miss visit on the college football schedule.

The reputation for hard drinking and partying during the build-up to the game that happens over many days grew to legendary status. While the game no longer uses the monicker, in the 1950’s it got nicknamed the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. However, by the 1980s, the levels of arrests associated with tailgating had rapidly increased, and the celebrations appeared to be getting out of hand.

By 2006 both schools and the SEC looked to distance themselves from the Cocktail party theme, which to this day has meant that the rivalry has no name other than the Georgia-Florida game. However, even though the two schools distanced themselves, the fans still call it the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and still take that week to enjoy the Golden Isles.

Such is the clamor for top tailgating sites near TIAA Bank stadium that hardcore fans have started occupying their spots since Monday this week. More than 100,000 people are anticipated in and around the stadium, with not everyone having a ticket for the 80,000-capacity TIAA Bank stadium.

Some are just happy to be near the main event. Visitors to the area for the game are estimated to bring in around $33 million on the weekend of this game to the Golden Isles, the First Coast, and South Georgia areas. For some towns, this week is the most profitable of the year, even during their busy tourist seasons.

Georgia football is on top of the series

This rivalry is built on streaks and has been since the beginning. While Georgia dominated the series in the early years, it is fair to say that the games have swung back and forth as schools have asserted themselves. And it is fair to say that this rivalry has played some classic, memorable games.

The game has been played yearly since 1915, except for 1943, when World War II stopped sporting activities. To date, Georgia leads the series 54-44-2. At least that is how the Dawgs see it — Flordia believes Georiga leads the series 53-44-2.

This matchup between two SEC East foes has produced some classic college football memories over the years. So many that it is impossible to choose the best ones. However,  I have selected a couple of iconic Georgia football performances from throughout the years in Jacksonville. A repeat of these scorelines will be very welcome on Saturday for Georgia fans.

Invariably when fans remember great plays or classic victories, they recall the unforgettable calls made by tv or radio announcers. In 1980, the Dawgs’ victory over a then-unbeaten Florida team, who were 7-0 at the time, is now remembered as the “Run, Lindsay, run” game.

With Georgia down 21-20 with less than a minute to play, the odds of the Dawgs winning seemed absurdly low. The ball was on the Georgia 7-yard line, with the offense facing a third and long. The outcome looked bleak. However, when quarterback Buck Belue threw the ball to wide receiver Lindsay Scott on the Dawgs’ 25-yard line — it gave Georgia hope. What happened next was the stuff of legend and best left to announcer Larry Munson to describe,

In 2012, the Gators came into the rivalry matchup with a 7-0 record and ranked No. 2 in the nation, while Georgia was No.10 in the polls. The game turned into one of the most classic games in the history of the game. Again, the last-ditch nature of the outcome of the game made it so memorable.

With seven minutes remaining, quarterback Aaron Murray found Malcolm Mitchell, who scored a 45-yard touchdown giving the Dawgs a 17-9 lead. With two minutes remaining, Gators’ quarterback Jeff Driskel found Jordan Reed, who was on his way into the end zone for a touchdown until Georgia’s Jarvis Jones came from nowhere to knock the ball free. The Dawgs recovered the loose ball in the end zone, winning one of the rivalry’s most exciting games, 17-9.

The future of the Georgia-Florida rivalry in Jacksonville

With both teams giving up a home game on alternate seasons, the topic of moving the game from a neutral venue back to campus seems to be permanently a hot topic of debate.

Not only does each team give up home field advantage, but the home team also gives up valuable recruiting opportunities whereby Georgia and Florida can invite potential recruits to campus ahead of the game. While both teams can provide recruits tickets to the game, they cannot have any contact with them.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart argues that Georgia and Florida are missing out on recruiting visits on campus. Smart argues that Georgia loses out against Alabama and Auburn when the Iron Bowl is on a home-and-home schedule. Those guys can still host recruits to their biggest rivalry game, while Georgia can only provide tickets.

The game’s contract is currently through 2023, with an option to extend in Jacksonville for a further two years. This week both schools issued a joint statement about the future of the fixture. Whether this rivalry game continues to be played in Jacksonville, it is still one of the most incredible matchups in college sports.

Related Story. Georgia football odds and prediction for the Florida game. light

There is much on the line for both teams this year. Smart’s Georgia continues to contend for another SEC and possibly national championship title. Gators’ head coach Billy Napier’s rebut and resurgent Florida looks to continue building momentum, which will feed their confidence and look for a solid finish to the season. We hope for another classic to underscore that this is the best rivalry game in football. Bar none.