Updated: Nov 10
Florida (3-1) enters this Saturday with an opportunity to take control of the SEC East. Sounds like a broken record right? For the last two years, the winner (Georgia) of this game has gone on to the SEC Championship game. Is this the year that Dan Mullen gets over the hump and finally beats his division rival Kirby Smart?
This game should begin in the trenches. In the past ten meetings, the team that runs the ball the best has typically won the game. We can all remember Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones running all over Georgia under previous head coach Jim McElwain. Unfortunately, we can also remember the successes of De'Andre Swift, Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and some of the other great Georgia running backs against some stout Florida defenses.
This game might figure to be an anomaly, as Florida brings one of the most prolific passing offenses in school history, while Georgia brings one of the worst passing offenses in the SEC and a quarterback who threw 13 passes the previous week against Kentucky. This year’s renewal of “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” pits two teams with vastly different gameplans against each other.
Senior quarterback Kyle Trask is coming off a week where he broke the SEC record for the most passing touchdowns in his team’s first 4 SEC games with 18 TDs. Florida has been passing the ball at a rate Florida fans have seen sparingly. Think Rex Grossman or Danny Wuerffel.
Georgia fields one of its best defensive units in recent memory, although injuries have piled up over the past week. Senior safety and possible first-rounder Richard LeCounte is dealing with injuries from a motor accident from this past weekend. Junior defensive tackle Jordan Davis is questionable for saturday with an elbow injury, while safety Lewis Cine, and linebackers Quay Walker and Monty Rice are all listed as probable for saturday.
Georgia has brought in a top-three recruiting class for the past three years so if any program is prepared to deal with a bevy of injuries on the defensive side of the ball, it’s Georgia. The question is whether Kirby Smart will have the answers for UF’s offensive playmakers. Junior tight end Kyle Pitts and senior wideout Kadarius Toney have been nightmares for opposing SEC defenses all season. With LeCounte out, Georgia will likely force linebackers on Kyle Pitts, which has been a death sentence for defenses the past two seasons.
In the UF offense vs. UGA defense matchup, I like Florida’s offense. We’ve seen that in college football, a great offense typically beats a great defense. This is most recently seen in Georgia’s previous Top-10 matchup against Alabama. Mac Jones threw for 417 yards and 4 TDs, while Najee Harris ran for 152 yards and a TD on 32 carries. Dynamic receiver Devonta Smith caught 11 balls for 167 yards and 2 TDs.
Florida doesn’t boast the same caliber of playmakers on the outside as Alabama. However, Pitts, Toney, and sometimes Trevon Grimes all provide headaches themselves. Kyle Trask hasn’t been known to take a ton of deep shots. But, he does complete passes over 20+ yards with insane accuracy. With a depleted UGA defense, expect Florida to try and take some deep shots throughout the game and take the top off of the UGA defense.
The X-factor to the Florida offense however will be its run game. Even though Mac Jones threw for 400+ yards, Najee Harris played a big part in some key Alabama drives. Alabama was able to run the ball towards the end of the game with Najee Harris to sustain drives. Dameon Pierce isn’t near the talent of Najee Harris, but Pierce has consistently led SEC running backs in broken tackles. If the offensive line can find a way to open some holes for Pierce and company, expect Florida to take control of the game in the 3rd quarter with long, sustained drives.
Florida’s defense stepped up in a big way last week against Mizzou, giving the fan base a sense of hope for a game on Saturday that features a very one-dimensional offense. Florida held Mizzou quarterback Connor Bazelak to 208 yards passing on 40 attempts. Bellcow running back Larry Rountree III was held to just 36 yards after a breakout performance against Kentucky.
It isn’t clear who will be back for the Gators on defense. However, some young players stepped up last week and will be counted on against Georgia. We saw Tre'vez Johnson and Rashad Torrence play some big snaps in the secondary and played very well for two true freshman. Cornerback Jaydon Hill also played well as the starting outside corner and might be in line to start again on the outside this week, even with the return of Marco Wilson.
Florida will look to stack the box this week against UGA with Stetson Bennett as QB1. Bennett looked serviceable in the beginning of the season, but when teams forced Bennett to make plays, we saw more batted balls and some questionable throws ever since. Running back Zamir White will be the key to their offense on Saturday, as he was the key to an underwhelming 14-3 win against Kentucky last week.
Look for Florida to play press man coverage on the outside with a loaded box to keep the Georgia running game in check. With Zachary Carter out for the first half of the game, some shifts on the defensive line will be in order. It’ll be interesting to see how Florida decides to start the game on Saturday in the trenches, but if Florida can find a way to contain the Georgia run game, Florida will be in line to clinch its first win against Georgia in four years.
I predict a 35-27 UF victory in a dominating fashion. Look for Kyle Trask to play a clean game on Saturday and continue his success this season taking care of the ball and finding his playmakers. I don’t expect Georgia to lay down and allow Florida to throw the football all over them. Georgia will make some plays on defense to keep it a real nail-biting game, but I just don’t see Georgia’s offense being able to consistently move the ball against a fully loaded box. Georgia has the athletes, but quarterback play will come back to bite them against a riled up UF defense.
Photo Credit: Jordan Herald/@JordanHerald5/UF Football