The Florida Gators (3-3, 2-3 SEC) will take on the Georgia Bulldogs (6-1, 5-1 SEC) in less than 24 hours. The Gators and head coach Will Msuchamp come in to this game needing a win in the worst way. Not only does a win keep their razor thin hopes of getting to Atlanta alive, but it would also end a three game losing streak to Georgia and prevent a three-game losing streak this season.
Georgia will be without star running back Todd Gurley but freshman Nick Chubb has been everything and more than Georgia could have hoped for in Gurley’s absence thus far.
On paper, Georgia looks to be more talented and most prognosticators have picked the Bulldogs to run away with this game. However, the game is not played on paper, it’s played between the white lines and when Florida and Georgia meet in Jacksonville anything can happen. The past three games have all come down to the last drive, with Georgia doing just enough to win.
If the Gators are going to end that streak they’ll need to execute better than they have the past three seasons, specifically in these three areas.
1. Protect the football
Sounds simple, right?
Well, for the Gators, it was for the first two games — turning the ball over just once. Then they coughed up the ball three times in each of their next three games before outdoing even themselves with an astounding six turnovers against Missouri.
The Gators are just not good enough on offense to overcome turnovers against a team like Georgia.
Georgia comes into the game tied for first in the nation with a +13 turnover margin on the season, averaging a national high 1.86 turnovers per-game.
If Florida loses the turnover battle this Saturday, the game will get ugly, fast.
2. Make Hutson Mason beat you
A senior, Hutson Mason drew a lot of hype heading into the season. However, Georgia is throwing the ball on just over 34% of their offensive plays.
That’s not to say that Mason can’t win a game for the Bulldogs, just that he hasn’t been asked to do so yet. Georgia’s powerful running game has been so potent and dominating this season that Mason has only been asked to manage the offense, throwing passes off of play action.
Florida needs to sell out against the run, stack the box and come into this game with the mindset that Nick Chubb and the running backs are not going to beat them. If Hutson Mason can make enough plays with his arm to beat you, so be it, but it can’t be the running game.
The Gators secondary is young and they have had a ton of miscues this season. Vernon Hargreaves is playing like an All-American and Jalen Tabor is emerging as possibly the next in a long line of great cornerbacks. Keanu Neal needs to be a leader this week, making sure his guys are in the right spots and know the plays. You can’t have the kind of miscommunications that have led to huge passing plays.
The Gators secondary will be tested playing in a lot of man-to-man situations but you need to stop the run to beat Georgia and that means selling out completely to do so.
3. Get creative on offense
I still remember the shock that overwhelmed me when John Brantley dropped back and hit Andre Debose for a 65-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. Alabama wasn’t ready for it and, quite frankly, the only people who saw it coming were the players.
I would love to see Treon take a deep shot to Demarcus Robinson or Debose on the first play of the game but this coaching staff will likely want to play it safe and build the young signal caller’s confidence.
Still, it’s important to get creative on offense to combat Georgia’s odd defensive front. Georgia’s linebackers are great running sideline-to-sideline so Florida can’t get too cute running sweeps but the added dimension of Treon — who is a different kind of running quarterback than Jeff Driskel — should be used on read-options and misdirection runs.
I’d love to see a formation with Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris on the field together. Can Matt Jones or Kelvin Taylor throw a pass? I don’t know but let’s find out.
This coaching staff has been so content on playing a mediocre, conservative style of offense and it has put all of them on the chopping block. What you’ve been doing isn’t working so change it up, pull out all the stops and get creative on offense.