1. Archive

Title bid recharges UF-Georgia feud

Every year, Steve Spurrier holds a history lesson on the border war between Florida and Georgia, just a subtle reminder to his players of the anguish Bulldogs have caused Gators through the years.

This season, it's not necessary.

The 1997 Gators have incentive all their own. No. 6 Florida and No. 14 Georgia are tied for first in the SEC's Eastern Division, and losing today will ruin one team's chance of winning the SEC title.

Just like old times.

"There's certainly a lot on the line this year," said Spurrier, who lost an SEC title in 1966, his senior season as Florida's quarterback, because of a loss to the Bulldogs.

"They had beaten us so many, many times when the Gators were shooting for a conference championship. It doesn't bother us, because we can't do anything about those years. We can just hopefully remember. There's plenty of motivation."

The Florida-Georgia game is unique to college football, a rivalry dating to the early part of the century. With the exception of two on-campus games in 1994-95, the game has been played in neutral-site Jacksonville since 1933. Half the stadium fills with Florida fans, half with Georgia fans.

Historically, Georgia won all the biggies. But since Spurrier returned to coach his alma mater in 1990, Florida has beaten Georgia seven straight times, often by embarrassing margins.

Last year's 47-7 rout was hardly worthy of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, as evidenced by the half-empty stands in the second half at Alltel Stadium. A Florida win today would set a series record for consecutive wins.

Longtime Gators fans won't feel much sympathy, though. As Spurrier is quick to point out, Georgia leads the series 43-29-2. The Bulldogs say it's 44-29-2 in their favor in a rivalry so bitter the two schools can't agree on how many times they have played.

Florida fans never will forget the infamous 93-yard pass from Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott that snatched victory from the Gators in 1980. Just don't expect today's Gator players to remember.

"I've heard the Buck Belue thing a few times on the radio, where the guy fell through his chair?" said senior backup quarterback Noah Brindise, aware of the play only because a Gainesville radio station has been replaying Georgia broadcaster Larry Munson's emotional call. "Is he still doing that?"

Freshman fullback Rod Frazier had no idea he was in for a quiz when he strode into a room of reporters this week, or he might have brushed up.

Who is Lindsay Scott?

"I have no idea," Frazier said.

Buck Belue?

"Never heard of him."

Herschel Walker?

"Well, yeah, I know who he is."

Truth be known, today's Gators think of Georgia as nothing more than a November rout.

For several years, that's all the Bulldogs have been. In the 1990s, Florida has outscored Georgia 293-108. Over the past three years, the Gators' victory margin is nearly 37 points.

But this year could be different.

"The rivalry had lessened over time, but it's turning back into a rivalry simply because things are building up to make it a rivalry," Florida defensive end Thaddeus Bullard said.

"Both teams are 6-1, on top of the SEC East and both ranked nationally. We both have great fan support, so I think the fans are going to make it a great rivalry again."

Georgia is much improved from last year's 5-6 team, largely because the Bulldogs are growing more comfortable in second-year coach Jim Donnan's offensive system.

The Bulldogs are playing nearly error-free football, their only loss to Top 10 Tennessee.

In other words, Georgia could do seri-ous harm to the Gators' SEC-title aspirations _ again.

Still, the modern-day Gators are not nearly as concerned with avenging the pain of years past as they are with making sure history doesn't repeat itself.

"This is the 1990s," Florida linebacker Keith Kelsey said. "That was 10 years ago. We look at them all the same now. It's a big game because it determines whether we can go to the SEC championship."

Up next:Correction