GEORGIA (4-3, 2-3 SEC) vs. No. 14 FLORIDA (5-1, 3-1 SEC) at Jacksonville, Fla.
Although well rested following an open week, the highly inconsistent Bulldogs slump down to Jacksonville losers of three of their last four games, while seemingly starring at a likely 2-4 mark in the conference following their looming tussle with the Gators—a more-than-a-touchdown favorite. And, speaking of well rested, because of Hurricane Matthew postponing its game versus LSU and an open date a week ago, Florida will enter Saturday having played just once in 28 days.
Florida has an absolutely dominating defense, currently ranking first in the country in passing efficiency defense, and second in pass defense, scoring defense, and total defense. However, it should be pointed out that four of the Gators’ six opponents currently rank 98th or worse in the FBS in total offense, and the remaining two teams—Tennessee and Missouri—averaged more than 430 total yards versus Florida.
- The Georgia-Florida rivalry has been a series of upsets as the game’s underdog has pulled the upset victory roughly 40 percent of the time, including six times by Georgia when the Bulldogs were underdogs of seven points or more.
- After Georgia did not appear in a game for nearly 44 years whereby both participating teams wore their solid-colored jerseys (1970 vs. Georgia Tech), the Bulldogs and their opponent will have donned solid-colored tops for the fourth time this Saturday in Georgia’s last 27 games.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
When the Dogs Have the Ball: If the Florida defense does have a weakness, it’s being susceptible against the run when facing able rushing attacks. When their passing games struggled versus the Gators, Tennessee and Missouri turned to their ground games, and combined to average 222 rushing yards and 4.8 yards per carry. Against such a tremendous pass defense, the Bulldogs’ aerial game will most likely become grounded; therefore, Georgia’s three-headed rushing attack of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Brian Herrien must be productive—certainly more so than when the trio combined to gain just 68 yards on 31 carries in their last game in a loss to Vanderbilt.
When the Gators Have the Ball: After missing two games, Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio struggled in the Gators’ last conest against Missouri, completing less than half of his 38 passes and throwing three interceptions. He’ll face a Georgia secondary, which entered this season regarded as perhaps the team’s biggest strength, yet has maybe been more consistent than any other area for Georgia—that is, consistently sub-par at stopping the pass. Currently, the Bulldogs are yielding a passer rating of 135.3 and, during a four game stretch against Missouri, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and South Carolina, Georgia allowed a staggering 1,224 yards on 86-of-130 passing.
Special Teams: Even with, finally, the addition of a special teams coordinator, the Bulldogs have allowed a lousy 26.2 yards per kickoff return, which currently ranks as the second-highest kickoff-return average allowed by a Georgia team since the school began keeping official statistics just after World War II. On the flip side, although Florida has returned just nine kickoffs this year, spearheaded by Antonio Callaway and Lamical Perine, the Gators are averaging 25.0 yards per return including a touchdown scored by Callaway.
If you take this preview to heart, perhaps you think Georgia doesn’t have a chance against Florida—but, I actually think the Bulldogs do. For several reasons, including utilizing its ground game, I can see Georgia starting off playing its best game of the season, keeping the game close throughout, and maybe even leading for a good portion. And, in the end, the Bulldogs should fare better than the so-called experts think. However, their attempt to pull the upset will likely fall just short as the Gators escape Jacksonville with their third straight victory in the series. FLORIDA 24, GEORGIA 21.