In The Trenches: Can Florida Stop Matthew Stafford?

Ben SpicerCorrespondent IOctober 29, 2008

The No. 17 Florida Gators' pass defense, led by Ahmad Black and Major Wright, has yet to be tested this season in a sense. That will change this Saturday.

The Gators, who square off with the Georgia Bulldogs, are facing their first real test at the quarterback position all year as they are matched up with Georgia's Matthew Stafford, who has 12 touchdowns and almost 2,000 passing yards on the season.

While Stafford looks, feels and expects a big day through the air, Florida has other ideas. The Gators are playing a more aggressive pass defense, as they've already intercepted 10 passes on the year, which is just one shy from their total last year.

The key factor for Florida, however, might not necessarily be related to the defensive backs, but on how much pressure the Gators can send in Stafford's direction. The Gators are currently tied for at no. 54 in the nation in sacks on the season with 13, but with a young Bulldog line, that should change.

Young indeed, the Bulldog offensive line is. With two sophomores and three freshman protecting Stafford, it might be a field day for the Florida pass rush. Georgia has allowed 13 sacks on the season, which is tied for the 13th most in the NCAA.

If Stafford is under pressure constantly, look for playmakers such as Ahmad Black, a sophomore safety who leads the Gators with three interceptions on the season, and Brandon Spikes, a middle linebacker, to disrupt the passing game and put this rivalry on the shoulders of Georgia runningback, Knowshon Moreno.

I'm projecting at least three sacks and an interception from Stafford in this contest. Florida's pass defense is extremely underrated, and I'm predicting that many will give them the respect they deserve after a performance like this—one they are certainly capable of doing.

They had a big game against Kentucky, although they didn't force a lot of turnovers.

Florida got to the quarterback once, and also had an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Ahmad Black. However, one thing that spoke to me was their awareness on the field.

So often, you'd have players knocking the ball away, hitting players before and directly after they caught the football, and playing intelligent and disciplined coverage—a major difference from last season's secondary play.

The Gators could have the Bulldogs indeed "playing into their hands," with a speedy core of defensive backs and linebackers, and a creative pass rush heading Stafford's direction.