After a turbulent week off, it’s back to work for the Gators, as they face Georgia this Saturday with dim chances of winning the East. The “noise in the system” regarding the coaching staff and the QB play is deafening, so the best thing other than getting some much-need rest for the injured players is the opportunity to focus on the playing field and the chance to ruin the season of your biggest rival.
Coach Mac gets another chance to show if he really means what he says about making changes to the offense to help them succeed – whether it’s tempo, ball distribution, or getting Feleipe Franks to play faster and make better decisions. I hope to see more of the faster-tempo, no-huddle offense used in the 1st half of the Texas A&M game throughout this one, in order to lessen the opportunities for Georgia to substitute on defense and to allow Franks easier reads. The O-Line will again have to establish a decent running game against a defense that will stack the box until Franks can prove he can move the ball through the air. Perine, Davis, and Thompson all need to run hard, break some tackles, and rip off a big run whenever available. The game plan really needs to include the RBs more in the passing game to get them in space and take some pressure off of Franks. WR Tyrie Cleveland will come back for this game but is less than 100% healthy – hopefully the staff can get a handful of effective snaps from him in order to loosen the defense. Kedarious Toney is still banged up but likely will get in for limited snaps in order to help spread the field and perhaps make a few big plays. Georgia’s defense is heavily-laden with seniors. LBs Roquan Smith, Davin Bellamy, and Lorenzo Carter lead a unit that has been one of the best in the country so far. Their front seven has been stout against the run all season and applied pressure to opposing QBs consistently. The Gator O-Line has improved each week, and has already fared well against some good fronts in LSU and Texas A&M. If they can stand firm, Georgia’s secondary is nothing special and can be exposed – if Franks and his WRs can actually execute. A lot of maybes, hopefullys, and perhaps……this is the 2017 Gator offense.
Here’s how the Gator defense can do their part to win the game. QB Jake Fromm is getting a lot of run, but is still a true freshman. Yes, he played in their game at Notre Dame and since, but his per-game passing statistics are not very impressive. Georgia’s O-Line has some youth and inexperience in the 2-deep roster, and has shown some cracks against better pass-rushing teams. The Florida D-Line has to get some pressure on him and get him off his spot – make him move in the pocket and not get comfortable. Most of his success has come on play-action throws where the defense has to respect the running game. Well, it’s time for the Gator front seven to play their best game of the season. Stay in your lanes, focus on sound tackling, and not try too hard to strip the ball out – just get the RBs down fast. The Puppies have a deep and talented RB corps led by seniors Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and how well they perform influences everything else that Georgia does on both offense and defense. Take your chances with your defensive scheme by focusing on stopping the running game and putting your DBs into one-on-one matchups, and let the chips fall where they may. Get Georgia onto 3rd down and long, and force Fromm to make plays – it’s critical to slow down the running game to get him out of his comfort zone. Make sure to cover TE Isaac Nauta tightly, even if that means having Duke Dawson move inside to do it. Terry Godwin is the lone Puppy WR that is a deep threat – take your chances by focusing on the RBs and TE and let Marco Wilson cover him all day. If Florida can get Georgia into must-pass plays, then the Gator D-Line will have a marked advantage.
This is my 38th straight Florida-Georgia game, and I have seen it all in this rivalry series. Favorites – even large ones – have gone down before, and will again. It’s difficult to tell at this point whether the staff still has the trust of the players, and how motivated the players will be given all of the drama that’s surrounded this season to date. I give the Gators a 1 in 4 shot at winning, but will this be that 1? Because of the very small margin for error given the struggles of the Gator offense to score, it will take an excellent performance in all 3 phases for 60 minutes to do it. If this year’s team had more upperclassmen leading the way and a coaching staff that wasn’t underperforming, I’d feel much more confident. But without those 2 key things, I don’t see it happening this Saturday.
Prediction: Georgia 27 Florida 13