Georgia faithful have some bad memories of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, and not just from the hangovers they’ve suffered the next day.
There was 2002, when an unbeaten Bulldogs squad went to Jacksonville and lost 20-13 to rival Florida. Then there was 2005, when another undefeated Georgia team fell to the Gators 14-10. Then there was 2008, when Matt Stafford and Georgia were blitzed 49-10 by Tim Tebow and Florida, and 2020, when a fifth-ranked Bulldogs team was blown out 44-28.
It goes on and on. The neutral field in Jacksonville has been a house of horrors for some very good Georgia teams that have had their seasons derailed by the Gators.
A top-10 Bulldogs squad has come away from this rivalry game with a loss eight times since 1992, according to data at Sports Reference. Which is why the past two seasons feel like such an aberration: the eventual national champion Bulldogs have handled Florida by 27 and 22 points respectively, covering as a 14-point favorite in 2021 and falling just short as a 23.5-point favorite last year.
Saturday, a Georgia team ranked No. 1 and on a 24-game winning streak returns to Jacksonville, where the Bulldogs opened as a 14.5-point favorite over the Gators. Georgia will be without its best player, tight end Brock Bowers, who on Oct. 16 had surgery for a high ankle sprain suffered two days earlier against Vanderbilt.
Brock Bowers leaves the game looking frustrated with an ankle injury 😬— Odds Shark (@OddsShark) October 14, 2023
The Bulldogs didn’t cover in that game, winning by 17 as 32.5-point road favorites. They’ve still covered just once all season against FBS opponents, in a 38-point home throttling of Kentucky as 15-point favorites.
Georgia has been a vexing proposition to sports bettors all season, a situation that’s even more complicated this week with Bowers out and the Bulldogs headed for a place where they don’t always play well.
And then toss into that mix a mini-resurgence by Florida, which has won two straight both outright and against the spread: by 24 at home over 18.5-point underdog Vanderbilt, and then by two as a 2-point underdog at South Carolina, where the Gators rallied from 10 down in the final nine minutes to win.
Of course, Vandy and South Carolina (a combined 1-8 in SEC play) are hardly Georgia. And yet, chew on this along with your Bloody Mary: there have been seven Cocktail Party games since 2002 in which only Georgia has been ranked, which will be the case again Saturday. The Bulldogs are 5-2 outright in those contests, according to Sports Reference, with the average margin being 10 points.
Toss into that equation a 2023 Georgia team which struggles to blow out opponents—remember that seven-point victory at Auburn?—and all signs point to another closer-than-expected matchup in Jacksonville.
Hogs, Bulldogs Go Way UNDER
The Bulldogs and Razorbacks didn’t just finish UNDER the total of 50.5—they went way, way, way UNDER, combining for a mere 10 points in Mississippi State’s 7-3 victory. Playing as a seven-point road underdog, the Bulldogs covered for the first time this season, becoming the last SEC team to notch a victory against the spread.
Iowa returned a punt for a TD while down 12-10 vs Minnesota with 1:20 left in the 4th quarter— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 22, 2023
After a review, the refs ruled the returner signaled a 'fair catch' and the touchdown did not count. Iowa lost the game. pic.twitter.com/SJFZ5WGjWY
The game produced the lowest final score in an SEC contest since Auburn beat Mississippi State 3-2 in 2008. Arkansas, which went UNDER the total for a third straight game and has now lost six straight outright, fired offensive coordinator Dan Enos the following day.
LSU’s OVER Streak Survives
On the other end of the spectrum there’s LSU, which romped past overmatched Army 62-0 this past Saturday to go OVER the total for the seventh time this season in as many games against FBS competition—but just barely.
The total for the game was 58, and the finish was a white-knuckle affair for totals bettors. The Tigers led 55-0 with 2:33 left, when they forced an Army punt and took possession for what turned out to be the final time.
Take a knee? Forget it.
LSU went 70 yards in just three plays, the final one a 67-yard touchdown burst by true freshman running back Trey Holly that put the Tigers OVER the total with 40 seconds left.
🚨OOF, THAT'S TOUGH🚨— ClutchPoints Betting (@CPBetting) October 22, 2023
Trey Holly ruins Under 60.5 with his late TD as LSU shuts down Army 😵
Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels threw for three more touchdowns against Army, giving him 25 passing TDs for the season, at least 10 more than any other SEC quarterback.
And on the same weekend where USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye likely played themselves out of the Heisman Trophy race, Daniels’ odds improved to +340—behind only J.J. McCarthy of Michigan (+240) and Michael Penix Jr. of Washington (+320).
LSU has an off week before next week’s showdown at Alabama, where the Tigers’ OVER streak will surely be tested by a very good Crimson Tide defense. Early indications have the Tigers as a 7- to 7.5-point underdog in Tuscaloosa. Alabama also has this week off.
Player Prop Watch
A few SEC players to watch this week for potential prop bets, should they be made available:
SEC Pick 3 For Week 9
As always, here's another SEC betting three pack for you to enjoy!
Texas A&M -14 vs. South Carolina
South Carolina is in a spiral, losing three straight both overall and against the spread, this past week by 22 as a 7-point underdog at Missouri.
The Gamecocks are making the two longest trips in the SEC in back-to-back weeks, and now face a Texas A&M team coming off a bye. Granted, the Aggies are offensively challenged, but the Gamecocks are dreadful on defense—they allowed Missouri 220 rushing yards one week after giving up 423 to Florida through the air.
It all shapes up as a bounce-back opportunity for Texas A&M after consecutive losses to Alabama and Tennessee.
Mississippi State at Auburn UNDER 43.5
One week after the 7-3 Hogs-Bulldogs classic, another offensive matchup (in the primary definition sense) raises its head in the SEC.
Mississippi State’s quarterback situation is uncertain, given that starter Will Rogers missed the Arkansas game with a shoulder injury. Auburn’s 187 points scored is the second-lowest total in the SEC (behind South Carolina) so far this season.
The Tigers haven’t scored more than 21 points in a game against a power-conference opponent this season. It will be ugly—just take the UNDER, and look away.
Tennessee -3.5 at Kentucky
Something’s got to give when the Vols and Wildcats clash in the commonwealth.
Tennessee emerges from the haze of cigar smoke which settled over its second-half meltdown at Alabama, while Kentucky has been humbled in two straight losses to dynamic opposing offenses.
Tennessee owns this series, having won nine of 11 outright, and is a more complete team that the shell-shocked second-half version we saw in Tuscaloosa.
Meanwhile, the ground-and-pound Wildcats are starting to show serious weaknesses against opponents that can put the ball in the air.