History runs deep in the Florida-Georgia rivalry, as both Mark Richt and Urban Meyer are well aware.
Yes, Florida has won 15 of the last 18, an amazing run of dominance.
As Richt points out, though, Georgia has an overwhelming edge (46-37) in the overall series. Perhaps he mentions that because he is 2-5 against the Gators, but regardless, history is always fun to look at—and this year is no different.
Because this game is usually played the last weekend in October, it seems odd to see it slated for Nov. 1.
Since the turn of the century, only two games in this series have taken place in November—and the Bulldogs did not fare well in either of those games.
In 2002, Richt’s second year at the helm, a higher ranked and unbeaten Bulldog team came into the Jacksonville showdown as clear favorites.
But despite having a better overall team—the best Richt-coached team ever, in my opinion—Georgia came out on the losing side of this November affair, dashing their hopes of playing for the national championship.
It would be the Bulldogs’ only loss of the season.
The following year, in another November game, even Ron Zook got in on the act, ushering in a young Gator team—featuring Chris Leak as a freshman quarterback—and beating heavily favored Georgia once again.
Georgia finished 11-3 and number seven in the country.
While the Bulldogs do not enter this year’s game as heavy favorites, they do seem to be facing the same pressure they endured for the previous November matchups—especially after last year’s end zone shenanigans.
Unless Georgia wins this Saturday, no one will remember last year’s “breakthrough” game, and it will be seen as nothing more than a short-term gimmick to squeeze out a victory over a rival that has dominated the Georgia program over the last two decades.
A Georgia win, however, would clearly establish bragging rights for the Bulldogs—and would make Stafford, Moreno, and Co. the first class to win back-to-back games against Florida since the 1988-1989 seasons.
For the Georgia freshmen, namely star receiver A.J. Green, it would mean a clean slate—and never knowing what it feels like to lose to Florida.
For all intents and purposes, a win would be the proverbial monkey off the back for Georgia.
Easier said than done, however.
A look at the stat sheet indicates that beating a peaking Florida team will be a tall task indeed. It’s tough to find a weakness in Florida’s numbers—or their recent, dominating victories.
Florida leads the SEC in scoring offense and scoring defense, racking up 42 a game while limiting opponents to 11.9 a game.
Florida is second in rushing offense and third in rushing defense. The Gators are also number one in both pass efficiency and pass defense efficiency, and they are first in third down efficiency, converting on nearly 46 percent of their attempts.
They are eerily close to being mistake-free, as well, holding a plus-10 turnover margin, good for (surprise) number one in the SEC.
Perhaps most importantly, the Gators simply own the red zone—number one in red zone offense (20 touchdowns and eight field goals in 29 attempts, and no turnovers) and number two in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score on only 61 percent of their attempts.
Special teams are just as good: Florida is second in both kickoff and punt return averages, have given up only 40 punt return yards in seven games, have not missed a field goal yet, and are a threat to block a punt or return it for a touchdown at any time.
That said, it’s not like Georgia is struggling either. Coming off a huge road win over LSU, the Bulldog offense looks as tough as ever.
In the SEC, the Bulldogs are second to Florida in points per game, posting over 34 per contest while allowing a surprising 20.2 per game.
Stafford and Moreno make up the most balanced tandem of the conference, as Stafford is number one in passing yards per game and Moreno number one in rushing yards per game. Combined, the two give Georgia the most yards overall per game.
The Bulldogs—like the Gators—also do very well on third down, converting 45 percent of the time.
On defense, meanwhile, Georgia stuffs the run, allowing only 77 yards per game on the ground, but the area of concern—and clearly the biggest weakness of the team—is the pass defense, which ranks 11th in the SEC.
The Dawgs are plus-three on turnover ratio and have scored 27 touchdowns on 31 attempts in the red zone, but have thrown two red zone interceptions.
Georgia is also a threat on special teams. They edge Florida in punt return average, have allowed only 92 punt return yards in eight games, and are a solid 12-17 on field goals (including a handful of long attempts, as opposed to Florida’s shorter attempts).
Interestingly enough, Florida and Georgia are the most highly penalized teams in the SEC. With all the adrenaline and emotion expected when these two meet, penalties might just play a big role for two teams that simply don’t show discipline week in and week out.
Overall, these two teams are stacked with talent, big wins, and stats to boot. It looks like this is the game most thought it would be before the season started.
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