Florida vs. Georgia: Breaking Down the Top 5 Matchups in SEC Showdown
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It's no secret that Florida and Georgia don't like each other too much, and with the added importance of the SEC East title on the line, Saturday should be a fantastic showdown between the SEC East's two best squads.
Although the Gators have dominated the matchup over the past decade, the Bulldogs left Jacksonville with a 24-20 victory last year.
However, Florida is one of the hottest teams in the country and looks determined to avenge last year's narrow defeat.
Both squads feature a bevy of NFL talent, including a number of impact defenders.
Georgia's front seven hasn't played up to its potential, but it features one of the best pass-rushers in the nation in outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Handling the speedy rusher will be among Florida's list of priorities as the offensive line tries to keep Jeff Driskel upright.
Defensively, the Gators must put pressure on Georgia's talented signal-caller Aaron Murray, who could be destined for the NFL after this season.
In what should be a physical battle of two SEC juggernauts, let's take a look at five individual matchups to keep an eye on in Saturday's showdown.
Xavier Nixon (LT) & Chaz Green (RT) vs. Jarvis Jones (OLB)
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Much like South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones can ruin your day.
The 6'3", 241-pound 'backer is a tremendously explosive pass-rusher who has given Florida's offensive tackles fits in the past.
Jones dominated the Gators' offensive line last year, recording an eye-popping four sacks and a forced fumble.
A future first-round pick, Jones has missed two games due to an ankle injury, but he will be back on Saturday.
Offensive tackles Xavier Nixon and Chaz Green—who check in at 6'6", 314 pounds and 6'5", 310 pounds, respectively—will need to use their length and athleticism to stifle Jones at the point of attack and keep him far away from Jeff Driskel.
If not, it'll be a long day for Florida and a short one for Driskel.
Jonotthan Harrison (C) vs. John Jenkins (NT)
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There simply aren't many human beings the size of Georgia's nose tackle John Jenkins.
Then again, maybe he isn't human.
Tipping the scales at an astounding 6'3", 358 pounds, Jenkins doesn't just absorb blocks and eat up space—he makes plays.
Despite playing the nose tackle position, the Connecticut native is seventh on the team in tackles (26) and has produced seven quarterback hurries.
Because Florida loves to run the ball, it'll be imperative for center Jonotthan Harrison to get some push on the much larger Jenkins.
Harrison weighs just 299 pounds, so he'll need to make use of his athleticism, hand usage and leverage to get movement on the mammoth nose tackle.
Mike Gillislee (RB) vs. Alec Ogletree (ILB)
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Although his production has dropped off in recent weeks, Mike Gillislee still remains the Gators' most important offensive weapon.
The 5'11", 209-pound senior has been limited to just 104 rushing yards during his last two outings, but he still checks in at No. 4 in the SEC with 652 yards on the ground.
Gillislee's strengths include his vision, patience and ability to bounce it outside when necessary.
Georgia ranks just No. 72 in the nation in run defense, surrendering about 168 yards per game.
If the Dawgs hope to keep Florida's No. 25 rushing attack in check, inside linebacker Alec Ogletree will have to bring his A-game.
The 6'3", 232-pound junior missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, but has returned with a vengeance, registering 33 tackles in just three games.
Ogletree will have to get off blocks and utilize his 4.55 speed to try and stifle Gillislee.
Lerentee McCray (Buck Linebacker) vs. Kenarious Gates (LT)
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No one will ever confuse Lerentee McCray for Jarvis Jones, but Florida's Buck linebacker is quite an accomplished pass-rusher in his own right.
Though his production doesn't match Jones', McCray, a 6'3", 249-pound senior from Ocala, Fla., is a standout playmaker on Florida's talented defense.
Lining up on both the left and right sides of the defense, McCray uses his blend of speed, quickness and flexibility to make plays in the backfield.
This week he has a tasty matchup against left tackle Kenarious Gates.
A converted guard, Gates has left tackle size at 6'5", 318 pounds, but he struggled with the athleticism of South Carolina phenom Jadeveon Clowney.
If Florida plans on shutting down quarterback Aaron Murray, McCray will have to win his one-on-one matchup with Gates and put consistent pressure on Georgia's talented signal-caller.
Jon Bostic (MLB) vs. Todd Gurley (RB) & Keith Marshall (RB)
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When Isiah Crowell left the program, many thought Georgia's rushing attack had walked out the door.
Boy were they wrong.
Led by freshmen phenoms Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, the Bulldogs possess one of the SEC's best rushing attacks.
Thanks to their speedy pair of freshmen, the Dawgs are No. 2 in the SEC in yards per carry (5.3) and rushing touchdowns (20).
It will be tough sledding for Gurley and Marshall as Florida boasts a tough, physical run defense.
Anchored by middle linebacker Jon Bostic, the Gators check in at No. 10 in the country in surrendering just 97.29 yards per game on the ground.
Bostic has improved at shedding blocks and being physical in the hole as a senior and will be responsible for punishing Georgia's ball-carriers.
If Florida hopes to leave Jacksonville with a win and the SEC East title this year, it will have to continue playing stellar defense in Saturday's showdown against Georgia.