The Mark Miller Report: This is THE game

It is just past mid-season. This is also known as the stretch run. But, most importantly it is time for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Sorry Mr. President, I reserve the right to call it by its correct name.

Unfortunately, this is not how ANYONE envisioned this game back in August. Most of us assumed that this game was going to have national championship implications. Instead, neither team is even ranked in the top 25. About the only way for this game to have any effect on the national championship is if Florida loses enough games to lower FSU’s strength of schedule to the point that it keeps the Seminoles out of the big game. You see, there really is a silver lining to every dark cloud.

However, this is still a huge game for both Florida and Georgia fans. As disappointed and, in some cases, disgusted as both fan bases are, nobody wants to lose the border war, especially those of us who live up here deep behind enemy lines. Life up here among the heathens can be brutal after a Georgia win in Jacksonville. Three in a row would be nearly unbearable. Right now, puppy fans are saying that this game means virtually nothing with all the injuries, but let them win Saturday and Monday they will be crowing for all they are worth. Which isn’t really much.

Last year I was concerned that perhaps Florida head coach Will Muschamp did not view the Cocktail Party with the urgency I would have liked. He kept maintaining that it was just the next game on the schedule. I can’t help but think that will not be the case this season. Muschamp has to know the wolves are gathering outside his door at night. A few more losses and the wolves will become brazen enough to be seen sniffing around his stoop in broad daylight. A win in Jacksonville would send most of the vicious canines (the wolves not the Bulldogs) slinking back into the shadows for a while.

There is certainly some question as to just how vicious the Bulldogs really are at this point. Much like the Gators, Georgia has been decimated by injuries in 2013. Even if they get Todd Gurley back for Saturday’s game, the Bulldogs have lost a lot of offensive talent to injury the first half of the season and the defense was basically pathetic even when completely healthy. I will not bother to go into the laundry list of Gator injuries. I assume that you are all quite aware of them already. Suffice it to say that neither of these two teams are anything near the squads they anticipated back in August.

So, how does Will Muschamp and his Gator team come out of Jacksonville with a much needed victory? It is simple really: block somebody. Anybody. Anybody? Georgia will let you score if you make even a token effort. I think we have established that challenging the manhood of the young men who have been manning the line is not effective. Perhaps it is time to try some new faces, burn some redshirts and find out if anyone on the roster over 280 pounds is familiar with this baffling and elusive concept of blocking. The coaching staff has stated a few times over the last two weeks that they will try to simplify what they are doing to allow players to play instead of think their way through plays. Since nobody has mistaken what the Gators were doing as Oregon’s offense I think it is safe to assume that they are talking about the blocking schemes and not the complexity of the play calling. I am all for it. Clearly there has been an issue with all of this pulling along the offensive line. Time after time, players have failed to make it to their assigned spot for their assigned block. Maybe if they just have to stand up and hit a defender there will be an occasional running lane or a whole three seconds for Tyler Murphy to find a receiver and get rid of the ball before being smothered beneath a wave of pass rushers. I have been wondering all year how opposing teams can send eleven rushers and still have everyone covered in the secondary. Upon closer look, I realized that they actually only sent four and somehow our five blockers missed all them.

I honestly believe that such minimal improvement in blocking is all it would take to beat Georgia. I simply do not think the Bulldogs are a very good team. And no, I don’t think that Florida is a very good team right now, either, but I think they can be good enough, at least for this one Saturday.

Now, obviously, the Gators have to play sound defense as well. It will be important to get Ronald Powell and Damien Jacobs back for this game. They were sorely missed against Missouri. Georgia, however, does not have the caliber of wide receivers that Missouri put on the field. The Florida secondary should be able to cover the Bulldog receivers. The key will be stopping Gurley if he is indeed ready to play in Jacksonville. One observer commented that Gurley was still limping noticeably in practice late last week. Even if he plays it remains to be seen how effective he will be with the gimpy leg.

Basically, it comes down to this. I don’t care how Muschamp has to do it as long as he finds a way to beat the hated doggies Saturday. Like most Gator fans and all Gator fans living in Georgia, I detest losing this game. To me it is not just the next game on the schedule, it is almost the ONLY game on the schedule. Go Gators.