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SEC FOOTBALL FOCUS: Death threats don’t stop Florida from dishing out ‘Cocktail Party’ smack talk

October 25, 2017 GMT

Aren’t fans supposed to support their teams — not want them killed? Aren’t cocktail parties supposed to be friendly?

At least in Gainesville, Florida, the mood ahead of Saturday’s matchup between the Gators and No. 3 Georgia — “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” — has been anything but.

According to a report from the Miami Herald, Florida coach Jim McElwain said death threats have been made against members of his program when asked whether the coaching staff deserves more credit. Keep in mind, the Gators have lost back-to-back games by less than three points and have allowed the SEC East-leading Bulldogs to seemingly run away with the division.

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“There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger, and yet, it’s freedom to show it,” McElwain said Monday to the Miami Herald. “The hard part is, obviously, when the threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought up out there, and yet I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally.”

SEC football has an uncanny ability to turn grown men into tree poisoners, inspire racist hate mail targeting Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and prompt mid-game flyovers from planes pulling a banner to remind Tennessee’s Butch Jones that his mom still love him.

Now death threats? It’s cringeworthy, but it almost feels like a natural evolution of the angry fan.

McElwain said he wasn’t shocked by what he had experienced, but it’s surprising he wouldn’t go further into the allegations. He declined to say whether he personally had received threats after bringing the matter up — to a group of reporters no less.

“Here’s the one thing,” he said. “You’re in the business, that’s all part of it. When it’s directed toward your players, when it’s directed to families, wives, that kind of thing ... and yet at the same time they know what they signed up for as well. That’s part of the business.”

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Regardless, Florida fans who think that’s acceptable behavior should be: a) Caught and b) Sentenced to an eternity of Vanderbilt fandom. Commodores fans, like other fanbases of teams frequently found at the bottom of conference standings, have endured much worse football, and do you hear about them making death threats? No. Nashville, Tennessee, is too fun of a city to let a losing season get to people’s heads like that.

In the face of these threats, though, UF players don’t seem fazed.

“We don’t care,” sophomore safety Chauncey Gardner said. “We’re playing football.”

Maybe it’s frustration boiling over from hearing of threats made against members of their team, maybe it’s Georgia being favored by 14½ points — the largest betting margin over Florida for the Bulldogs since 1985 — but members of McElwain’s team have given Kirby Smart’s top-five team plenty of bulletin board material heading the rivalry game.

“They might be the No. 3 team, but they can’t beat Florida,” Gators sophomore receiver Josh Hammond said.

On Georgia freshman Jake Fromm, who’s leading the conference with a quarterback rating of 170.4, Gardner had this to say: “He’s throwing simple passes. I get it. Anybody can throw a slant.

Fans, learn from the players you love to watch. Let’s have less death threats and more good old fashioned rivalry hate, OK?

Conference standings (Overall record, SEC record)

Eastern Division

No. 3 Georgia (7-0, 4-0)

Florida (3-3, 3-2)

South Carolina (5-2, 3-2)

Kentucky (5-2, 2-2)

Tennessee (3-4, 0-4)

Vanderbilt (3-4, 0-4)

Missouri (2-5, 0-4)

Western Division

No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0)

No. 19 Auburn (6-2, 4-1)

No. 23 LSU (6-2, 3-1)

Texas A&M (5-2, 3-1)

Mississippi State (5-2, 2-2)

Mississippi (3-4, 1-3)

Arkansas (2-5, 0-4)

Looking ahead

Arkansas at Mississippi (11 a.m., SEC Network)

No. 3 Georgia vs. Florida* (2:30 p.m., CBS)

Vanderbilt at South Carolina (3 p.m., SEC Network)

Missouri at Connecticut (5:30 p.m. CBS Sports Network)

Mississippi State at Texas A&M (6:15 p.m., ESPN)

Tennessee at Kentucky (6:30 p.m., SEC Network)

*Game played at a neutral site (EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida)

Trending

Up: Waffle House.

ESPN’s Dave Wilson spent college football Saturdays in Auburn, Alabama, and Athens, Georgia, to chronicle the longstanding love affair between the SEC and all things smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped, topped and country (yes, that’s the exact order they appear on the menu ) in an article — “Is This Heaven? No, it’s a Waffle House” — published last week. A brief excerpt: ”‘The syrup,’ she says, ‘gets in your veins.’”

Give it a read. It’s beautiful.

Down: Kentucky.

Things looked bleak in The Bluegrass State after a fourth-quarter collapse against Florida, but Saturday’s 45-7 loss at the hands of Mississippi State was a backbreaker.

A 5-2 record might look nice for the Wildcats heading into the final weekend in October, Stoops and his team have done just enough to claw out wins (or poke them out of J’Mon Moore’s hands) against Missouri, Southern Mississippi, Eastern Kentucky, South Carolina and Eastern Michigan. The 38-point blowout in Starkville, Mississippi, comes as a surprise only because Kentucky had kept all of its previous games within 10 points and had an extra week to prepare coming off of its bye.

It cannot be overstated how ugly of a loss that was. Dependable QB Stephen Johnson doubled his interception total on the season with two picks; standout running back Benny Snell Jr. had just 18 yards.

Even worse, senior receiver Blake Bone posted a Snapchat video with this as its caption: “I feel like if we threw the rock, we would be un******* stoppable.”

“We’ll get it corrected,” Stoops said Monday, “very easy fix.”

Whatever’s going on in the locker room needs to be fixed before the Wildcats host Tennessee. The Volunteers once held a 25-year winning streak over the Kentucky and have won five straight matchups in the series. The Wildcats are favorited by 6, but with it being a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ Jones is ousted from Tennessee, it would appear the Volunteers have nothing to lose, and will want to cling to one of the few positives the program has going for it — dominance over Kentucky.

Tweet of the week

@ReddittCFB wins this week’s award for documenting the latest — and possibly greatest — development in the ever-growing brand that is the ‘Fire Butch Jones’ movement: festive deserts with orange and white frosting found at a Food Lion in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Just in time for the Volunteers’ 45-7 loss at No. 1 Alabama.

Spotted at a Chattanooga-area grocery store (h/t /u/Fox06WRX): https://t.co/L6MrqeRLIVpic.twitter.com/Cg8kVpnUrb — RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) October 19, 2017

″ ... meanwhile back in Knoxville #FireButch,” read a $6.99 cookie cake.

“F-I-R-E H-I-M!!” exclaimed dozen cupcakes.

Supervising editor is Ron Davis.

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