This year's Florida-Georgia game is shaping up to be a game for the ages—a midseason BCS bowl game, if you will.
Last year, the Bulldogs reversed a trend and thoroughly whipped the Gators from the opening kickoff. Add in their pre-planned celebration, and the rivalry went up a notch in terms of hatred. It's bordering on Ohio State-Michigan hatred.
That said, if the Gators want to win this year's game, here's what they need to do.
When the Gators Are on Offense
Spread the Ball Around
The Gators have a seemingly endless supply of playmakers at every skill position, and when they get the ball to all of them, they win ballgames. However, when they rely too much on Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin, the points seem to disappear just as fast the rest of their playmakers do.
The offense is called the spread option for a reason: Spread the ball around to all of your options. Narrow-minded play calling will not get the job done against a national title contender like Georgia.
Too often in last season's game, the offensive line just stood around and watched Georgia roll up six sacks and pressure Tebow all game long. The Gator O-Line looked like turnstiles against both Georgia and Michigan. They need to improve this season.
Also, whenever a Gator player had the ball in the open field, the WRs would stand and watch. Downfield blocking was a major key to the Gators' title run in '06, and it was sorely missed last season.
Empty the Playbook
Would it kill Dan Mullen to call a trick play once in a while? No, not just the WR reverse pitch he calls about 10 times a game. You never know—it just might catch a defense off guard and lead to a touchdown. Go figure.
Run the Football
After three seasons of a mediocre running game, the Gators suddenly have a ton of game-breaking running backs to complement Tebow. None of those are named Percy Harvin.
Chris Rainey, Emmanuel Moody, Brandon James, and Mon Williams will mix in well with established runners Kestahn Moore and Tebow. Provided they can take care of the football, and Urban Meyer doesn't abandon the running game if a fumble does occur, the Gators will be in great shape.
When the Gators Are on Defense
Pressure Matthew Stafford
In last season's matchup, the Gators sacked Matthew Stafford one time and pressured him once. In the only instance where he faced real pressure from the Gator defense, he threw the ball off his back foot, resulting in a pick-six for Florida. The rest of the game, he was able to stand back in the pocket and be effective against the soft Gator D, throwing for three TDs.
In the 2006 matchup, Stafford was sacked four times and picked off twice. No surprise—Georgia lost.
Punish Georgia's WRs Early
There is no question that Gator safety Major Wright is a punishing hitter. His four forced fumbles last season either kept the Gators in the game (Auburn) or kept momentum on the Gator sidelines (South Carolina).
None of this occurred against Georgia. Mohamed Massaquoi and Mikey Henderson both caught long touchdowns against the Gators last year without the fear of getting drilled by a safety defending over the top.
Here are some examples of what needs to happen.
2005: Early in the second quarter, with Georgia down by 14, Joe Tereshinski hit Massaquoi with what looked like a TD pass to bring them within seven—but Reggie Nelson drilled Massaquoi when the ball arrived, forcing Georgia to settle for a field goal. Georgia lost by four points.
2006: Reggie Nelson jacks up Kenneth Harris away from the play, setting the tone for Georgia WRs coming across the middle. Later in the game, Massaquoi develops alligator arms and falls down on a slant route. Reggie Nelson stands over him and taunts him.
Major Wright needs to fill this enforcer role and make Georgia's WRs think twice about catching the ball.
Contain Knowshon Moreno and Caleb King
Moreno absolutely shredded the Gators D last year, and that can't happen again. Now add highly touted redshirt freshman Caleb King, and you have not one but two homerun threats at tailback. The early season work against Javarris James of Miami and Arian Foster of Tennessee should have the defense ready to face the Georgia running game.