Marc Daniels: A Must Win For Florida

Capital One Orange Bowl - Virginia v Florida

Gators and Bulldogs rarely agree on anything. As Florida and Georgia renew their rivalry in Jacksonville this weekend, they can't even agree on how many times the game has been played. Florida says it's 97. Georgia believes the game has been played 98.

But whether it's the 98th or 99th meeting, this one truly is a must win for Florida. 

Now, when I say must win, it doesn't mean Dan Mullen's job is on the line. It doesn't mean Florida is about to be relegated to Conference USA if they lose.

But a loss to Georgia would a fourth consecutive setback in the series and it would have a ripple effect in many ways.

Dan Mullen came to Florida to restore the pride, tradition and performance of a program that for years was competing for a spot in Atlanta. But Kirby Smart's arrival has meant the Bulldogs have become one of the top programs in the country. Smart has recruited well and that has been seen in the on-field performance, including games against the Gators were line play has shown a stronger side to the team across the state line. Georgia has taken control of the series, made the college football playoff and appeared in a championship game. Florida is 0-3 in their last three SEC title game appearances and has not won the title since 2008.

A loss Saturday in Jacksonville would be a second loss for the Gators and end any hopes of the playoffs and likely end hopes of winning the SEC East. But another loss means Kirby Smart's edge over Florida grows even more. It's just like when Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer dominated the series. 

Mullen has done a great job in building Florida back up. Despite his odd comments about "filling the swamp", "not being able to practice on Election Day" and "just trying to get my players off the field"- Mullen has Florida in the top 10 with an offense that can score with the best teams in the country and a Heisman candidate in quarterback Kyle Trask.

But a loss Saturday just feels like another lost season. A fourth consecutive loss to Georgia just feels like the Bulldogs would be separating themselves from Florida. A setback would drop Florida into that second tier of the SEC- where Florida should not be.

A win on Saturday doesn't mean Florida has passed Georgia on a national perception level. But a win leaves the Gators in the playoff race, control of the SEC East and might lead to a victory or two on the recruiting trail.

Saturday, in the 98th or 99th version of this game, it just feels like Florida has to get over a Georgia hump- something Dan Mullen has yet to do...

Notes: We have been following the number of holding penalties called in the NFL and believe it is the biggest reason why scoring is up. One can conclude that blocking this year is SO MUCH better than last year and that's why holding calls are down. Or one can believe the league wants fewer holding penalties called so we can get more offense and the belief is more scoring means better TV ratings at a time the league is talking with its media partners about a new deal worth billions and billions. After 8 weeks of games in 2019, there were 409 flags for offensive holding. Through 8 weeks in 2020, there have been 211 calls for offensive holding. In regards to defensive pass interference, this season there have been 111 called through 8 weeks. After 8 weeks last season, 152 pass interference calls have been made against the defense. So, no one holds on the offensive line and everyone commits pass interference in 2020...The NBA is expected to vote on the start of the 2020-21 season. Commissioner Adam Silver wants a pre-Christmas start because of prime TV slots and says the difference in starting around the holiday verses waiting until the third week of January is worth between $500M-$1B. But the decision comes down to what LeBron wants to do. If James believes the time off is not enough, he likely takes games off and that means he would not be playing for some of those prime TV slots. My guess is that is something Silver will live with. I think owners vote and players approve a pre-Christmas start. James plays on Christmas Day but might take off half of the Lakers' early season schedule...With no NBA or NHL games in November, it marks the first time since 1946 the month will have no regular season games in those sports...

Final thought: Orange, purple and silver have no words in the English language that rhyme with it 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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