The SEC East title is essentially on the line this week, as the Gators have an opportunity to reclaim the top spot in the East, a trip to Atlanta, and more national respect.
Even with their recent struggles on offense, I expect the Puppies to focus on using RB Deandre Swift and leaning on their solid O-Line and running game to try and wear down a suddenly soft Gator run defense. QB Jake Fromm is starting to be exposed with less receiving talent and experience around him. If the Gators can generate a pass rush (hopefully with the help of returning DEs Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga) and get him off his spot and uncomfortable in the pocket, they can possibly generate some turnovers. It is imperative to win first down and dictate the action. Hopefully, DC Todd Grantham will mix in more press coverage by the CBs and not allow Fromm easy completions and Georgia to sustain long drives. The Florida front seven has to play a lot better this week. The DTs have to be more stout at the point of attack, and the LBs have to fill the gaps smartly – way too many missed assignments the past 2 games.
Florida’s offense is what it is by now – a mediocre running game with the occasional big play, while leaning on Kyle Trask and a stud receiving corps to make plays. Hopefully, the O-Line can continue to provide Trask just enough time to go through his progressions and move the ball through the air, allowing Kyle Pitts, Van Jefferson, Trevon Grimes and co. to terrorize the Puppy secondary. I am hopeful that the solid passing game downfield will allow the RBs (mainly Lamical Perine) some room in the flats to make some plays in space, extend drives, and keep some pressure off of Trask. Dameon Pierce could be a surprise weapon as long as Florida is either tied or in the lead with his strong downhill running. Finally, the Gators need to avoid a repeat of last year’s offensive performance, where turnovers killed them any time they had gained some momentum in the game, allowing Georgia to work from some short fields and stay in front most of the game.
Both teams have solid special teams, but recently Georgia PK Rodrigo Blankenship has struggled. Florida PK Evan McPherson and P Tommy Townsend have been consistently good all season, and I hope it continues……they might be the difference this week.
This will be the 40th consecutive Florida-Georgia game for me, and it never gets old……especially with so much on the line. While Florida is in a similar position in the standings coming into this year’s game as last year, the feeling this year is much more intense. Dan Mullen has a team this year that knows it can win tough games and come from behind in the second half, unlike last year. Georgia has been talking a LOT since 2017, but underneath the surface some fear and doubt is starting to bubble up concerning both the performance of the team and also the ability of Kirby Dumb and his staff to develop talent and coach the team through tough games, instead of simply relying on a huge talent gap and opponents going through coaching transitions. I am going to stick with my preseason pick of Georgia, as they still have the advantage along the LOS……but will be very happy to be wrong.
Prediction: Georgia 27 Florida 20