The World's Largest Cocktail Party- Florida vs Georgia Preview
By Murf from 5 Yard Rush
This week sees the return of one of the biggest and oldest rivalries in College Football. The “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” rolls into Jacksonville as Florida and Georgia do battle for either the 97th or the 98th time, depending on which team you follow.
The reason for the dispute? Well the University of Florida say the 1st game between Florida Agricultural College, based in Lake City, vs Georgia in October in 1904 should not count as an official meeting. Therefore, they do not put it in their school records. Because the modern day University of Florida that we know now wasn’t established by the State Legislature until 1905. However, the first game recognised by both sides took place in Jacksonville in 1915 with the Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Florida Gators 37-0. The score of the game not recognised by both sides in 1904? 52-0 to Georgia.
HISTORY OF THE WORLD'S LARGEST OUTDOOR COCKTAIL PARTY
The game has been held annually since 1926 and is arguably the biggest annual event in downtown Jacksonville. Held at TIAA Bank field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the game is the most attended every year at the stadium. 84,000 people pile into the stadium, with extra bleachers and temporary stands put up. That is around 16,200 more people than capacity for a Jacksonville Jaguars game. However, an estimated 150,000 people swarm upon the city every year purely for this game and for the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”
The name, “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” came about due to Bill Kastelz, who was a Sports Editior for The Florida Times-Union, naming it after seeing a drunk fan offer a drink to an on-duty police officer, and thus confusing the police officer. He thought he was attending a large cocktail party, and not a football game due to the amount of people outside the stadium drinking and being merry. This ended up becoming the official name for the game, until 1988, when the City of Jacksonville dropped the name due to more and more “alcohol-fueled incidents”.
OFFICIALLY REBRANDED. TRY TELLING THE FANS THAT
In 1984, the Florida fans stormed the field and wreaked havoc on the stadium, sitting and tearing down the goalposts after a 27-0 victory. The following year, Georgia fans did the same thing after a 24-3 win as a form of “revenge”. Due to the city wanting the crackdown on excessive drinking, the name was removed from the stadium and the banners.
However, the schools themselves, and the SEC, kept referring to the game as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”. But, in 2006, the schools and the SEC decided to abandon the name due to worries around alcohol abuse and having the schools represented on the national stage in a bad light. Every year, it seemed the party drew as many national headlines as the game itself. Especially during the 90s when the rivalry was particularly one-sided, with Florida winning 15 of the 17 games played between 1990 and 2006, with the majority of the games being 1 sided blowouts in the 90’s.
Since 2006, the game has just been referred to as the Florida v Georgia game officially. However, there has been attempts to call it the “War for the Oar” game as both teams are playing for the Okefenokee Oar. But unless you attend the schools now, it’s not really called that. The name “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” has always stuck with the fans and the media.
Since 2010, this game has finally become a close rivalry. Georgia dominated the 70s and 80s. Florida the 90s and the early 2000s. But since 2010, the rivalry has gone 5-4 in Georgia’s favour. Florida won this battle of the unranked teams in 2010 in Overtime 34-31 before Georgia took the next 3 games that were all won by a score or less. They were also quite low scoring games as both teams were rebuilding.
2014 saw Florida start a three game run in this fixture, by blowing out Georgia 38-20. The following year they won 27-3 and in 2016 they won 24-10. However, Georgia come into this off the back of two straight wins in this rivalry. In 2017 they won 42-7 and in 2018 they won 36-17. This stretch of games has arguably been the best in the 104 year rivalry (or 115 year if you want to park in the Georgia camp) as although there is a favourite, and they typically win, the gap between both schools is closer than it has been for years. And now, for the second straight year, both these schools are nationally relevant, and both ranked inside the top 10 of the AP Rankings.
Coming into this game, Florida are ranked 6th in the AP Rankings and Georgia 8th. However, Georgia are 6 point favourites coming into this game. Florida are 7-1 and Georgia 6-1 this season. Both teams are in the SEC East Division, so this game is effectively the division decider. The winner of this should go on to win the SEC East, as the winner will have a 1 game lead with just a couple of games to go, and the tiebreaker. They will play either LSU or Alabama for the SEC Championship in December.
Florida’s 1 loss came to LSU, the AP’s number 1 ranked team this week. They have beaten Auburn which is why they are the highest ranked 1 loss team in the country. The Gators are coming off a bye week and have been able to get players healthy for this game. Most notably, their top two pass rushers, Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard are expected to play. That would make them fully healthy on the defensive side of the ball.
However, Quarterback Feleipe Franks is out for the season. Backup Kyle Trask has been doing a great job managing the team going forward. But can he make the big plays when it counts? The strength of this team is the defense. So much so, Georgia coach Kirby Smart called Florida’s defensive front “one of the most productive” in the nation in a press conference this week. This Florida team, despite facing 2 ranked teams, as well as other divisional rivals, is ranked 12th in the nation in points allowed per game.
Georgia on the other hand were expected to run away with the SEC East and challenge for the college playoffs. However, they suffered a shocking overtime loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks three weeks ago. This team has a very strong offense with Jake Fromm at Quarterback and D’Andre Swift at Running Back. They have also kept two shutouts this year. They are the 22nd ranked offense in terms of Yards per Game. However, they are also the 7th ranked defense in terms of Yards per Game allowed. They are also 5th in the nation in average number of points allowed.
Had the Bulldogs managed to overcome the Gamecocks, they would be a top 4 team in the country right now. However, you are only as good as your record. And that loss has made the challenge of getting to the SEC Championship game all ride on this game vs the Gators.
SATURDAY, 7:30PM (GMT), JACKSONVILLE
It’s fair to say that Georgia are probably the most balanced team in the SEC outside of Alabama. They have a good balance on offense and also can make stops when they need to. However, Dan Mullen, the Florida Head Coach, has re-invigorated the Gators. He is getting them playing to the best of their ability. To take the team from being nationally irrelevant, to having a shot of the College Playoffs in their own control and back into the Top 10 is testament to just how important good coaching is at the college level.
This game will have fireworks, amazing plays, incredible NFL bound players, fun, frolics and an atmosphere unparalleled by any game you will ever watch on TV. This game will hold the international attention of every football fan worldwide. It will be the game most talked about on Saturday, and trending probably before kickoff.
So don’t miss out. The Gators, whilst underdogs, will give it everything. But this win could be the win that gives Georgia the boost to push into the College Football Playoffs. Both these teams seasons will be defined by this result, especially the team who loses. Because the team that wins, will use this as a springboard to bigger and better challenges for the remainder of the season.
Therefore, cancel your plans, grab a cocktail and join in on the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”. Because whilst it might not be the name of the game anymore, it is still observed as such. And you are invited to join in on the fun. The “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” is going global. So pick a team, pour a drink, invite some friends over, and enjoy the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”.
Feature Image Credit: Bob Self (Florida Times-Union)
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