It's been a rather contentious couple weeks in the Manic-Depressive Preview, uh, household. Two straight subpar performances by the Dawgs have more or less turned Depressive Doug into a basket case, to the point where he's been sending e-mails to various Vegas sportsbooks chastising them for only making Georgia a touchdown underdog because it's "giving us irrational hope that will only be cruelly stomped out in a few short hours this weekend." Manic Doug, however, remains convinced that Georgia has, in fact, seized control of this rivalry thanks to their win in Jacksonville last season, and has grown increasingly irritated with Depressive Doug's doomsaying. We couldn't even get them in the same room together to do this preview, and had them conduct it over Skype instead. The transcript follows.
Depressive Doug: Hey, where are you? I thought you were coming down to the beach house with us. We've got it for the whole week, remember?
Manic Doug: Yeah, man, don't sweat it. I'm in Ponte Vedra too, no worries.
DD: Weeeellll if you're in Ponte Vedra, why aren't you, you know, at the house?
MD: 'Cause I sort of rented the house next door.
DD: What — why would you do that?
MD: Can I be real here for a minute? You're kind of driving me crazy, bro. I just didn't think it would be a good idea for us to share the same living space for this entire week.
DD: Wow . . .
MD: No offense, of course.
DD: Yeah, no, why would I take offense at something like "You're driving me crazy and I can't even stand to be in the same house with you"? What the hell is going on here?
MD: Basically you've been moaning and groaning for three solid weeks how Georgia will very soon be back to getting its ass kicked in the Cocktail Party on an annual basis. It was bad enough you started that noise immediately, and I mean immediately, after the South Carolina game, so I had to hear it all through the bye week. But then when Georgia went out and looked crappy against Kentucky last week, it got even worse. Seriously, I thought I was going to end up either talking you off a ledge or pushing you off myself. I just thought that it'd be better for my sanity if I could kind of separate myself from that for a few days.
DD: Well look, it's not that I want Georgia to fail this weekend, you know that, but . . . how can you honestly think we have a chance after the way we looked against South Carolina? And after the way they looked against South Carolina?
MD: All the Florida-South Carolina game proved is that South Carolina just isn't that good. I mean, you hold the opposing team to 183 net yards and still end up getting blown out by 33 points, you obviously got some serious problems, man.
DD: So stipulated. So what does it say about Georgia that we got blown off the field by a team with those kinds of problems?
MD: That we had one lousy night on the road in a hostile-ass stadium. Look, South Carolina lost that game because they coughed up three fumbles deep in their own territory. Meanwhile, we've only lost five fumbles all season long. What are the chances we lose three in the first half on Saturday? Or to look at it a different way, what are the chances Florida gets that lucky two weeks in a row?
DD: If you even have to ask that question, you obviously haven't been following this rivalry all that closely over the past 20-plus years.
MD: Man, to hell with all that. All you're focusing on is that 4-18 number and you're not even paying attention to the fact that those Spurrier-era blowouts have gotten pretty rare. If recent history is any indication, this is gonna be a close game, not the kind of blowout the Gators were fortunate to get against Carolina —
DD: — but we're still gonna lose.
MD: No we're not. You know what the key is? The fact that we have a balanced offense and they don't. Their passing game is seventh from the bottom nationally in total yardage — that's worse than Auburn. Auburn!
DD: Jeff Driskel's been pretty efficient, though, which is exactly what killed us against the Gamecocks — another situation where we thought we could just load up against the run and not worry about the pass.
MD: Look, anybody can be an efficient passer when they're handed the ball in the opponent's red zone and all they have to do is flick one pass out there and they've got a touchdown. When a guy hasn't cracked 100 yards passing in more than a month, you can't convince me the passing game is gonna be a factor. I'm telling you, put eight in the box, trust the secondary to execute man-to-man, stop Driskel and fricking Michael Gillislee, and we'll be well on our way to corralling their "offense," such as it is.
DD: OK. Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that our defensive front does contain Florida's rushing attack, even though we couldn't keep from getting run all over by Kentucky in the first half last week. Let's say we actually manage to hold the Gators, oh, a touchdown below their season average in scoring, which means they put 23 points on the board. How do you suppose Georgia gets to 24?
MD: Like I said, with a balanced offense. Aaron Murray is in the zone, and the running game has to bounce back eventually from —
DD: OK, OK, stop stop stop right there. Aaron Murray was in the zone against Kentucky. And you're nuts if you think Georgia's running game is somehow predestined to bounce back against a front seven that's holding opponents under 100 yards a game on average.
MD: But look who Florida's played. Vanderbilt, who we held to three points. Kentucky, who sucks, as previously noted. LSU, who has gotten nothing from Zach Mettenberger in the passing game this season. Tennessee, who barely has a running game at all and has a bit of a head case at QB. None of those teams present both a running and a passing threat to the extent that Georgia does. You do know that, even after the debacle against the Gamecocks, we're still averaging close to 500 yards a game, right? None of the Gators' last four opponents are even averaging 400.
DD: But look at the way our offensive line has been manhandled the last couple games. It was bad enough when Carolina did it — OK, fine, they have Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor on their D-line, sucks for us. But Kentucky was gently nudging our linemen backward all night and keeping them from opening any holes for Todd Gurley or Keith Marshall.
MD: And they paid for it by giving up a new career high in passing yards to Aaron Murray. If the Gators can't do any better at forcing Murray into mistakes, then he's going to have a big day. And considering how mediocre their QB pressure has been this season, I don't think they're going to rattle a guy who's only thrown four picks all year.
DD: [sigh] So it looks like there's nothing I can do to convince you to look at this realistically.
MD: Unrealistic is thinking Florida is going to force our offense into a ton of mistakes just because they managed to do it to South Carolina. Not that I think we're going to do anything particularly nutty at first on offense — we'll probably keep things fairly conservative, feel their defense out a bit, just try to move the chains with some safe, short-to-intermediate passes and try to open things up for the running game a bit. When we do, though, I think you'll see that the Gator D isn't quite the juggernaut it's been made out to be when they don't know what's coming and can't just count on the opposing offense to fumble the ball right back into their hands on every drive. That's not to say our offense is going to run wild on them or anything — this is a rivalry game, after all, and lord knows they want revenge after blowing a lead against us and losing last year — but I think we'll ice it with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass and come away with a 28-23 win.
DD: That's a nice fairytale, but I stand by my view that there's nothing to indicate Georgia will be able to pull that off. Even if the Gators don't force us into a bunch of turnovers and run up an early lead like they did against South Carolina, they're going to be able to play ball control with a running game we're in no position to stop. We may be able to eke out a score or two in response, but not much more than that, thanks to field position — Florida's been doing a great job defending punt returns, not that our punt-return game has been working at all this season anyway. It gets to crunch time in the fourth quarter and we start pressing, and that's when the turnovers start — maybe not an interception, but perhaps a fumble, one that the Gators turn into a quick score because they've proven that they're fantastic at that. Final score, Gators 31, Bulldogs 16, in a game that really isn't even that close.
MD: Well, thanks.
DD: For what?
MD: For not making me regret my decision to keep a safe distance from you this week. Man, you're depressing.
DD: Again, what you call depressing, I simply call being realistic. Florida's looked like a national-title contender the past few weeks, whereas we look like we'd just be grateful to climb up into the Outback Bowl. There's just no scenario by which I see us winning this weekend.
MD: And thanks to your gloom and doom, our score predictions average out to a 27-22 Georgia loss. That's the first time that's happened all year. Hope you're happy.
DD: Look, that number still has us covering the spread, which I'd think would make you happy since I know you probably dumped a completely irresponsible amount of money on the Dawgs this week just like you do all the others.
MD: I did, but that's not the point — I'd be willing to lose every bet I placed if it meant a Georgia victory, by a lot or a little.
DD: That's very noble of you. Utterly meaningless, but noble.
MD: Yeah, I'd love to sit here and let you shit-talk me a while longer, but I gotta get off this call.
DD: Yeah? What's your hurry?
MD: Got some folks coming over tonight — bunch of college friends, Georgia fans I've met here and there. Gonna grill out, do some drinking, bring over some girls . . .
MD: Yeah. Should be a pretty awesome time.
[long, pregnant pause]
DD: You think I could stop by for maybe a little bit?
MD: Depends. You think you can keep from being a complete Debbie Downer and ruining everyone's evening with a lot of talk about how bad Georgia's gonna look this weekend?
[longer, pregnanter pause]
DD: Yeah, I'll, uh, see you at the game.
MD: Yup. 'S what I thought. See you then.