Rain or Shine; Gators’ in a must win position against Georgia
We are only a week away until we kickoff to the world’s largest cocktail party in Jacksonville between two teams who are hungry to take over the SEC East.
This year’s matchup against the Gators and Bulldogs might set up to be the College Football Playoff knockout game between a pair of one-loss teams. While Florida’s lone loss was to No. 2 LSU in Death Valley, it was a much more appealing loss compared to Georgia falling to South Carolina in Athen’s. Keep in mind that both teams realize what’s at stake next Saturday. Not just bragging rights between the two, but an opportunity to play for the SEC Championship and a spot in the top 4 to play in the college playoffs. The first set of the College Football Playoff rankings are set to be published on Nov. 4, the Tuesday after the showdown in Jacksonville.
So what’s it going to take in order for Dan Mullen and his Gators’ to come out with a win over Georgia next weekend? Well, let’s break it down and go over some key points.
Getting players back healthy
Injuries on both sides of the ball have obviously been the Gators biggest woe all season long. Even though we’ve had to manage to fill a larger gap on defense with the absence of Zuniga and Greenard, Florida’s offense hasn’t forgotten about Kadarius Toney, who hasn’t played since the UT-Martin game back on September 7. Two weeks prior, Toney accounted for a 66-yard reception that assisted the Gators to a 24-20 win over Miami. Even if Toney is cleared to return against Georgia, I don’t see him getting very many touches from Trask. Possibly serving more of a decoy role that could shake things up with Georgia’s defense.
If Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard return completely healthy by next weekend, I see Florida’s defense stirring up some trouble on the ends for Fromm and the Georgia offense. While both Zuniga and Greenard haven’t played healthy together since the 29-21 win over Kentucky, they both bring a huge challenge to the Gators pass-rush defense. Zuniga and Greenard have 10.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks combined. The extra week of rest will also be in favor of cornerback CJ Henderson, who has not played his best football after aggrivating his ankle which caused him to miss three games before returning against Auburn on October 5. Henderson has given up at least one catch of 40 plus yards in three straight games.
Gators’ defense needs to take a stand
There have been several games so far where teams have beat up the middle of the Gators defense. Dating back to the LSU game, Florida allowed the Tigers to average 9.2 yards per run. Joe Burrow was almost completely perfect passing the ball, accounting for 293 yards and three touchdowns. It was clear as day that he outsmarted Florida’s defense throughout the game. Without having Zuniga and Greenard, Burrow had way too much time in the pocket and connected with his receivers 21 times. Even during the South Carolina game, the defense gave up way too many explosive plays during important situations. One of the biggest plays South Carolina made was actually on the second play of the drive, a flea-flicker to Bryan Edwards for 41 yards that led to a Gamecocks touchdown. But that touchdown should have been prevented if Florida’s defense didn’t go offsides the very next play after forcing a fumble for a 7 yard loss.
Now Florida is about to face a team who has the top running game in the SEC and one of the strongest offensive lines in the nation, alongside a playmaker named D’Andre Swift. Swift is an absolute animal. If the Gators’ give up big gaps in the middle and allow Swift to break free around the corners, they’ll find themselves into some trouble. Swift had a monster night in the sloppy game against Kentucky, carrying the ball 21 times for 179 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Now I tell you what, besides their ground game Georgia’s offense has not impressed me a whole lot. With young receivers in the mix you haven’t seen Fromm throw the ball down field as Georgia fans would like to see. As far as the Kentucky game, Im not really sold on Georgia’s lack of performance. Despite the wet playing conditions, Fromm only attempted 12 passes. But if Florida comes in next Saturday, stays discipline on defense and executes, look for the Gators defense to give Fromm and Georgia’s offense some trouble. Let’s hope this extra weeks of rest recharges Todd Grantham’s defense.
Florida’s offense needs to respond early
Junior quarterback Kyle Trask has been the leader on offense since taking over for injured Felipe Franks in the Kentucky game. Seven weeks later, Trask has been the head honcho on offense. If I weren’t a Florida fan, I would have never guessed that Trask was a backup quarterback. Enrolling at the University of Florida with no prior starts as a quarterback in high school and now playing for one of the biggest schools in the country, Kyle Trask has shown true development and has proved that he could be an elite college football quarterback. Trask has completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 1,391 yards, 14 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. Trask and the Gators’ offense started the South Carolina game out sluggish, but rallied with a strong fourth quarter that led the Gators’ to a 38-27 win that is keeping their SEC Championship hopes alive.
With Kadarius Toney expected to return for the Georgia game, it could really shake things up with Kirby Smart’s defense. Not that I expect a bunch of touches from Toney, but with Florida having numerous amount of playmakers on the receiving end, it could disrupt Georgia on defense, allowing Florida to make big plays downfield. And that’s the beauty about Florida’s depth. They don’t have to rely on just one guy to make plays. To have seven or eight guys that can go out there, catch the ball and make plays is huge. Kyle Pitts, Freddie Swain, and Van Jefferson all combine for 1,061 passing yards and 11 touchdowns.
But scoring early is going to be the key ingredient for the Gators in this game. Although Dan Mullen and his Gators are known for being a fourth quarter team, you cannot wait until the second half to show up and play against this Georgia team. Especially with Florida’s defense that has been exposed in multiple contests without their top two pass rushers Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard. Georgia has seen a rough two weeks prior to their bye week and if Florida can jump on the board early and score some points, I believe our defense will do enough to stop Fromm and D’Andre Swift from having breakout performances.
Even though Georgia is a 5.5 point favorite, it will be a high-heated battle between both teams that can go either way. Let’s just hope that Dan Mullen and the Gators’ can make an early statement!