Georgia Bulldogs vs. Florida Gators: Complete Game Preview
The Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators are both outsiders looking in at the SEC East race, but with plenty left to be decided, this rivalry game will once again bear significance thanks to its divisional implications.
Here’s what you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Nov. 2
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Place: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network
Spread: Georgia by 2.5, via 5Dimes
Georgia Keys to Victory
The Bulldogs will not be completely healthy this Saturday, but they could very well be more healthy. If the Dawgs can get offensive weapons Todd Gurley and Michael Bennett back, then Aaron Murray's offense may once again resemble the high-powered attack that averaged 40 points per game against the likes of Clemson, South Carolina and LSU.
Defensively, the Dawgs need freshman safety Tray Matthews roaming the secondary and making plays. And although less likely, Josh Harvey-Clemons' return could help Georgia's efforts in stopping the run as he sneaks up from his safety spot.
Under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, Georgia's defense has been able to bend without breaking. Unfortunately that tendency has been lost this year. A leading cause of this defense's struggles is an inability to force turnovers. The Dawgs defense must capitalize on a mediocre Florida offense that is very turnover prone. The Gators have turned the ball over 13 times in just seven games. Georgia must force this issue.
Offensively, Georgia must limit turnovers. In the last three matchups with the Gators, Georgia has turned the ball over a total of eight times. Georgia can not afford a multi-turnover outing on Saturday with so many weapons still out.
Florida Keys to Victory
The Line of Scrimmage
The common denominator between Georgia's first two losses of the season (Clemson and Missouri) was the opposition's dominance in the trenches. If Florida can control the line on offense and open up running lanes, Georgia will over-commit to stacking the box and further expose its young defensive backs to single coverage.
Defensively, Florida needs to get to Murray. Clemson did it, and the Tigers were able to force two turnovers from the senior quarterback. Missouri also pressured him and forced him into three turnovers.
Georgia's poor special teams play has led to an average of 10 points per game scored by opposition. That's a very nice cushion for a team that struggles to score points. Florida ranks No. 103 in the nation in scoring offense, but it should be able to find some relief courtesy of a Georgia special teams unit that is so mind-numbingly poor it has inspired its own parody Twitter account.
Players to Watch for Georgia
Murray has struggled individually against Florida, but he has somehow managed to lead the Dawgs to two consecutive wins over the Gators. That may sound insignificant, but prior to the 2011 and 2012 wins, the Bulldogs had not won back-to-back matchups with Florida since 1988-1989.
Murray will need to have a big game for Georgia to win this matchup. A three-turnover game is unacceptable. He must manufacture long-scoring drives against an impressive Florida defense, and he must do so consistently.
Wiggins has emerged as an instinctive playmaker in Georgia's secondary. He's a true freshman and certainly struggles with positioning at times, but his nose for the ball has served the Dawgs defense well over the past few weeks. Georgia needs to force turnovers in this game, and right now he seems like the most likely candidate for such momentum-swinging plays.
The last three games in this series have been decided by an average of five points per contest, and neither team has managed to score more than 24 points in either of the last two games. Accordingly, one can expect a close game with points coming at a premium. Morgan will be called upon to make big kicks, and those kicks may make the difference in the game.
Players to Watch for Florida
Gators fans were clamoring for something more than Jeff Driskel could offer, but one would be hard pressed to make a compelling case for his replacement, Tyler Murphy. Despite success early in the season, Murphy has thrown for just 6.7 yards per attempt (12th in the SEC) en route to posting a 130.4 passer rating (10th in the conference).
It's hard to blame the entirety of Florida's offensive struggles on Murphy (or Driskel for that matter) but improved quarterback play needs to serve as a catalyst in this ball game.
A freshman cornerback, Hargreaves has already accounted for three interceptions and 10 passes defensed. Hargreaves will be instrumental in neutralizing Murray's already limited weapons, and he will be licking his chops given Murray's affinity for turnovers against the Bulldogs.
What They Are Saying
Mark Richt on Chris Conley and Tray Matthews
Will Muschamp on the Impotance of the Rivalry
Florida's head coach, who played collegiately at Georgia, summed up the games importance telling David Jones of USA Today, "Being here at the University of Florida and understanding the importance of this game to us and our people, we need to get a win."
Todd Gurley's Return
Both teams come into this game banged up and further out of the division race than they'd like to be, but the season is not over for either squad. Accordingly, this game could very well mark the turning point for either of these teams as they strive to salvage the season.
Georgia holds a decisive edge at the game's most important position—quarterback. And, Georgia's weaker unit—its defense—should match favorably with Florida's mediocre attack on offense. The decision won't be decisive, but Georgia will win by three to seven points.
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