JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Most college football coaches make it a point to not look to far ahead on their playing schedule. That’s even more the case in the SEC conference where every Saturday is a grind. After coming off a bye week the Florida Gators have turned their focus to the Georgia Bulldogs. Jim McElwain’s has kept an eye on this rivalry from afar during his career and now he’s ready to experience this classic match-up for himself.
“I'm excited to be a part of something that carries as much history, nostalgia,” said McElwain. “This is what college football is all about. Doesn't matter what part of the country you grew up in, you knew the Florida/Georgia game was going to be a national televised game and you kind of set your calendar by it and that's a lot of fun. Looking forward to coming over that Hart Bridge and seeing what this thing looks like and having an opportunity to play in Jacksonville, it's a city that embraces it. Looking forward to it and I'm sure they've got them juiced up, which they should and probably feel pretty good where they're at, based on what we did in the last ballgame and they're going to try to take advantage of it. Should be a good time and looking forward to it."
The Gators will enter this game as the favorites. That wasn’t the case last season. Then-freshman quarterback Treon Harris made his first career start and led Florida to a surprising 38-20 win over the Bulldogs. Fast forward a year later, Harris and the Gators are just outside of a top-10 ranking and now are having to deal with higher expectations.
"You look at the historical background of Treon himself, he won a few ball games in high school,” said McElwain. “That was a pretty darn successful program he came from. The stage is not too big for him. That's the least of the worries. I'm just glad he's our quarterback and looking forward to seeing how he progresses this week."
On Saturday there will be a lot more than border-state bragging rights on the line. The winner of this game will assume control of the SEC East. A Gators win would put them on the path to their first trip to Atlanta (SEC Championship game) since 2009. Florida closes out its SEC schedule against Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Wins in both of those games would guarantee the Gators a trip to Atlanta. If Georgia wins on Saturday they would end up in Atlanta if they close out their SEC schedule with wins over Kentucky and Auburn.
“This is why you get into it,” said McElwain. “To play in games like this. You know if you're not prepared and you're scared, then this probably isn't the place for you because this is the expectation of the University of Florida. And that I mean shoot they've been playing this thing since 1915 or something I think."