The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is something that is very unique in college football. Annual neutral site games are a rarity. It is truly a sight to behold. Regrettably, I won’t be making the trek down. Getting down to the Golden Isles, seeing old friends you haven’t seen since the last year’s game, and reliving your youthful college days for a weekend is a blast. The game falling on actual Halloween and a two year old is keeping me at home. I’ll look forward to getting back down soon.
I did a personal ranking of the best SEC rivalry games a few years ago, and ranked the WLOCP in at #3, behind LSU-Alabama and the Iron Bowl.
Georgia (in)famously lost 3/infinity at one point, but to Mark Richt’s credit (and Will Muschamp’s discredit), Georgia won 3 in a row in the Cocktail Party. Though Coach Richt is still a meager 5-9 in this rivalry, and is 5-6 in the last 11. the narrative of Georgia losing so much in the 1990s is finally gone the way of the Dodo.
This rivalry is not built on a quest for championships. Only three times-and I am counting this Saturday but only loosely- in Mark Richt’s tenure has the Cocktail Party directly decided the winner of the SEC East, or rather I should say the team that would control its own destiny. Sure, Florida has played the role of spoiler (2014), or Georgia needed to win the game to survive and advance (2011) to keep its Division hopes alive.
In 2008, Georgia got whipped by Alabama, Florida lost to Ole Miss, and both teams came in with one loss with the Florida game as the deciding game for control. In 2012, Florida was undefeated (and had actually helped UGA out by beating Carolina), Georgia lost badly to the aforementioned South Carolina and pulled out a gutsy win to be in the driver’s seat.
And finally, this Saturday. Georgia comes in with two conference losses. Florida comes in with just one. If Georgia wins, they still have to get past Auburn and Kentucky, while Florida just has Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Even losing this game, Florida has an easier path to Atlanta, but would require scoreboard watching.
And while I publicly have jumped on the anti-Richt bandwagon, I am not going to cheer against the Dawgs or hope we lose for the sake of making change easier. If we win, I’ll be as happy as anyone!
This is different than the recent LSU-Alabama games or the Tennessee-Florida games of the 1990s and early 2000s. When LSU and Alabama play, the division and National Championships are on the line. The Tennessee-Florida game was the de facto SEC East Division Championship game for many years.
The Georgia-Florida game hasn’t had championship implications for both teams many times recently. Yet it is still a heated rivalry game. Why?
I hate Florida.
We as a collective Bulldog Nation hates Florida.
Florida hates Georgia.
This game is built on a foundation of pure hatred. I’ve said before that hate is a strong emotion, and it is something we shouldn’t hold in our hearts.
But I make an exception for the Gators.
This rivalry is about more than championships.
It is about hate. Pure and simple.