Florida (4-3, 3-2) vs Georgia (4-3, 3-2)
Saturday, 3:30 PM EST, CBS
Line: Georgia by 2.5
Over the past two decades or so, Florida has owned the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party". From 1990 to 2010, the Gators posted a record of 18-3 against Georgia. The last two years, Georgia has started to swing the momentum of this rivalry back in their favor with two straight wins.
Georgia came into the season with Championship dreams but an early loss to Clemson and injuries to Keith Marshall, Todd Gurley, Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett and Justin-Scott Wesley have set them back. After starting 4-1 this year, Georgia has lost two straight games and is in desperate need of a victory to get back on track and keep their fading hopes of an SEC East Divisional Championship alive.
Like Georgia, Florida has been ravaged by injuries this season losing eight players to season ending injury. Also like Georgia, they have started out the season 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the conference and are in desperate need of a win. Florida has scored just 30 points over their last two games so they are also in need of finding an offense. With both of these two teams coming off of byes, I wonder what types of wrinkles they have added in?
For Florida to win: Georgia's Special Teams has been anything but special this season. Georgia has allowed big returns, had punts blocked and have allowed a TD on a fake FG. If the Gators want to win this game, they need to own this aspect of the game. On offense, Florida needs to take care of the football. In their losses to Miami and Missouri they turned the ball over a combined 8 times and in the 2012 Florida/Georgia game they turned it over 6 times! On defense, Florida needs to take away the Georgia run game and make the Bulldogs one dimensional. Two weeks ago, Vanderbilt showed that the remaining Georgia receivers have trouble getting open and if the Gators take away the run then Georgia will have a lot of trouble moving the football.
For Georgia to win: On offense, Georgia needs to get their FBs and TEs involved. With the injuries at tailback and WR, it's time for Mike Bobo to reach down in that playbook and dial up some plays for Arthur Lynch, Jay Rome and Quayvon Hicks. Georgia also needs to not shoot themselves in the foot, which they've been really good at this year. That means playing solid on special teams and not turning the ball over in their own territory (like they did in losses to Missouri and Vandy).
Key Player, Florida: Tyler Murphy. In his first two starts, Murphy completed over 70% of his passes. In his last two he has completed 55.6% (against LSU) and 51.7% (against Mizzou). He has also totaled -58 yards rushing in his last two games. Brent Pease needs to draw up a game plan (and there is a lot of film out there on how to dissect this Georgia defense with an inexperienced QB) that allows Murphy to play within himself and advance the football. With Georgia as banged up as they are, Florida doesn't need to score a ton of points they just need to control the football, sustain long drives and put points on the board.
Key Players, Georgia: Todd Gurley and Damian Swann. Gurley is averaging 112 ypg this year but hasn't played the last three games. It looks like Gurley will be in uniform this week and he will help Georgia be balanced on offense. It also gives Georgia a reliable go-to player in crunch time as the young freshman have turned the ball over in key spots the last two games. For Damian Swann, this has been a nightmare season and he's been picked on quite a bit over the last few weeks. With the Josh Harvey-Clemons status up in the air, Swann could be called upon to play the "Star" position when Georgia is in the nickel which could actually help him as it will pull him out of one-on-one coverage with WRs (where he's been toasted and roasted this season). Swann needs to make some plays early to get his confidence back, especially if JHC (one of Georgia's top defenders) is out for the game.
Key Stat: In losses, Georgia has a turnover margin of -2.00, in wins they are +0.25. In losses, Florida has a turnover margin of -1.33, in wins they are +1.25. It's cliched, but win the turnover battle and you likely win this game.