The Florida Gators go into today’s game with Georgia as huge favorites. It’s been quite some time since the two teams met under the conditions they are meeting. The Gators, coming off a loss to Auburn, have had a chance to lick their wounds. Georgia has had a rough three games, losing two and a close one with a bad Mississippi State team. Here are five things that will mean victory for UF.
The Gators come into the game controlling their own destiny in the SEC East for the right to represent the Eastern division in the SEC Championship game. If the Gators win their last three conference games, they will be playing in Atlanta. That makes this game and the rest on the schedule huge ones.
Clearly the Gators are the better team, but this is Georgia. Georgia used to hold a distinct advantage in attitude between the two teams. That attitude has waned since 1990 when Steve Spurrier arrived to coach the Gators. Even since he left, the Gators have managed to win three of four games. Still, the Gators have to know that the Bulldogs will bring their game faces for this game. They have a huge chip on their shoulder and seek redemption from prior losses.
The Gators need to just play their game and if they can do the following, they win decisively.
Objective I: Get After the Young Quarterback.
True freshman Matt Stafford will be taking the reigns of the Georgia offense on Saturday. The kid has a ton of potential, but as any freshman, he has a lot to learn. The Gators come into the game tied for third in sacks in the conference and second in pass efficiency defense. They should be more than the young Stafford can handle on the day.
On the year Stafford is completing 54% of his passes and has three touchdowns with seven interceptions.
Objective II: Attack the Defense.
It is pretty amazing how middle of the road Georgia’s defense has become this year. While a quick look at the standings has them second in the league in total defense, one has to take in account the offenses they were playing against. Of the eight teams the Bulldogs played this year, one Western Kentucky is a Division 1-AA team and the offenses of five others are ranked 86th or lower nationally (UAB 86, Vanderbilt 90, Colorado 110, Miss. State 111, Ole Miss 112). They have played some really bad offensive teams. The one top 20 offense they faced lit them up for 51 points at home.
The Gators don’t need to try and see what the Dogs are giving them. They need to go out and take it.
Objective III: Protect Chris Leak.
If there is any position on the field that the Gators should be concerned about, it is the defensive ends at Georgia. Both Charles Johnson and Quentin Moses may be their top two players on the entire team. They will apply pressure, but the Gators just have to find ways to deal with it.
The Gators have been very successful at rolling Chris Leak out of the pocket, and they actually have been pretty good at protecting him in the pocket. They will have to do both Saturday against these two big time rushers.
Objective IV: Win the Turnover Battle.
Both teams are having a bad year in terms of turnover margin. Both have 14 takeaways, while the Gators have 15 turnovers and the Bulldogs have 17.
The Bulldogs are going to have enough issues with the Florida defense that if the Gators can keep from giving them extra possessions, the Gators should have enough of a steady offense to prevail.
Objective V: Win the Punting Battle.
I am actually borrowing this from Larry Vettel—the Bulldogs are exceptional in returning punts. They rank second in the league at 17.4 yards per return and more than double the Gators output (7.3).
A good punt return can really swap field position and in a big rivalry game with so much on the line, that could be the big impetus to win or lose the game.