Each week, Gator Country will stop to recap all of the news and notes from the week leading up to the game. Today we recap everything that has happened leading up to Florida’s game Saturday against Georgia.
We provide you with an overview of all the Gators news stories we’ve published in the past week with links to each, as well as three key questions, a look inside the enemy camp and more.
|Florida vs. Georgia – Oct. 28, 2011|
|Coming off three straight losses, Florida will face another test against a Georgia team that smells the blood in the water. The Bulldogs have only won three of the past 21 games against the Gators, and they’ll be looking to notch another win in the series this Saturday.
Despite Florida’s recent dominance in the series, the Florida-Georgia rivalry is still bitter as ever, with a defining moment in each of the past few games dating back to Georgia dancing in the end zone in 2007. The atmosphere at the Florida-Georgia rivalry is nearly unparalleled in college football.
This game has perhaps some special meaning as some of Florida’s players want Will Muschamp to beat his alma mater, having been on the losing side of the Florida-Georgia rivalry four times as a player in the early ‘90s.
Muschamp has tried to convince his players that the Georgia game has no special meaning for him, but it’s clear there’s something a little extra in the air this weekend.
Following three straight losses, two of which starting quarterback John Brantley missed entirely, the Gators expect Brantley to play against the Bulldogs. He had the bye week to recover and he spent some time throwing before returning to practice this week.
Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was surprised by Brantley’s progress coming back from his ankle injury, and he said the senior was able to do much more than he expected. With the senior back, the rest of the team is looking to rally around Brantley.
Muschamp is expecting the entire team to get a big psychological boost from his return, so the offensive line must protect Brantley and keep him healthy. The line has been inconsistent, and getting more consistent on offense is an area the entire team focused on in the bye week. There were one or two distractions during the bye week with Robert Clark and Gerald Christian transfers. However, as a whole, the Gators are much healthier after a bye week, which is a good sign for what had become a banged-up offense.
Defensively, the Gators will get sophomore defensive end and buck player Ronald Powell back from injury. While Powell is not expected to start, he will be able to provide Florida with a little more depth up front defensively.
The defensive line maintained gaps much better against Auburn after it was a real issue against Alabama and LSU, and that helped the defense to control the run a little better. Still, there is a long way to go for the defense to get back where it needs to be.
Defensive tackle Jaye Howard said the defense is looking for its swagger after the team was punched in the mouth in the past three games. He hasn’t seen the confidence the team needs to play with up front since the Kentucky game, though the improved performance against Auburn was encouraging.
Part of the problem for the defense has been the inability to get off blocks to create a pass rush and tackling well in the running game. Florida focused on fundamentals in the bye week, and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said he thinks some of those issues have been cleaned up.
The Gators spent more time tackling, in particular, which will be a key point of emphasis against a Georgia running game that features impressive true freshman Isaiah Crowell.
|Three Key Questions|
|1. How healthy will John Brantley really be? At this point it’s safe to say Brantley will be playing against Georgia, but how much he will be limited by his ankle injury is anyone’s guess.
Florida has clearly made it a goal this week to keep him on his feet in the pocket, and the Gators will likely utilize a very short passing game to make sure he can get the ball out quickly and avoid taking many shots against a Georgia defensive line that has some quality pass rushers.
However, if his ankle isn’t 100 percent and he takes a few good licks from the Bulldogs, it could severely affect the Florida offense. His continued health throughout the game will be one of the most important factors.
|2. Will the Gators be able to generate some sort of rushing attack? Florida has really struggled to run the ball the past three weeks, and with Brantley coming back, Georgia is likely to send a ton of pressure if the Gators can’t get anything established.
The Gators have gotten their best production in the running game recently from going to the Wildcat package, so expect to see that even more against the Bulldogs. Florida may also try to get Mike Gillislee more touches, though that was supposed to be the plan against Auburn, too.
In any case, the Gators have to get some kind of rushing attack going. If the offensive line can’t establish some sort of running game up front, it’ll be a long day for Florida regardless of who plays quarterback.
|3. Can the Florida defense put together another impressive performance? The Gators won’t be playing a team like Alabama or LSU, but Georgia is still probably a little better on offense than Auburn.
The Bulldogs have one of the league’s better passers in Aaron Murray, a big threat at tight end in Orson Charles and a very talented running back in Crowell. Charles could be a guy that gives Florida some trouble, as the Gators have struggled against good tight ends this season.
In any case, the game is likely to come down to the battles on the lines of scrimmage. Georgia boasts a talented offensive line with three seniors, so Florida will have its hands full trying to keep the running game in check while generating enough of a pass rush to keep Murray uncomfortable.
|Eying the Enemy|
|After losing two games to start the season, head coach Mark Richt’s job was in serious jeopardy. It still is, and he probably can’t afford to lose another game to Florida, which will add some serious intensity to this weekend’s game.
Another guy who will be looking for redemption against Florida is quarterback Aaron Murray. Murray had a nightmare of a game last year against the Gators and will be looking to rebound to lead the Bulldogs to a win.
Murray won’t have his full complement of players in the passing game, though, as wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell is doubtful for the Florida game.
On the defensive side of the ball, a handful of players can’t wait to step out on the field. Defensive tackle John Jenkins will be experiencing his first Florida-Georgia game, after choosing Georgia over Florida as a JUCO prospect a year ago. Linebacker Alex Ogletree is also extremely excited to face the Gators again.
Two guys who won’t be suiting up right away for the Bulldogs are Kwame Geathers and Shawn Williams, who are suspended for the first half after their parts in a fight against Vanderbilt.
Despite the fact that Georgia appears to be coming in as the much hotter team right now, Georgia coach Mark Richt said if the roles were reversed, the teams may be in opposite positions, with Florida entering the game as the hot team. Florida’s past three opponents have been extremely tough, and Richt doesn’t feel like the results are a good indicator of Florida’s ability.
|What We Think|
|With a game against one of Florida’s most hated rivals, our staff took the opportunity to weigh in on the matchup and other weekend contests throughout the week.
Adam Pincus took a close look at Georgai, previewing some of the things the Bulldogs do well and some key statistics heading into Saturday’s game.
Sean also looked at each Top 25 game for the weekend.
|Kickoff Time – 3:30 p.m. ET|
|TV – CBS|
|Radio – GRN | Sirius 91 | XM 91|