Weekend Preview: Why Georgia Bulldogs Must Win Saturday vs. Gators

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Weekend Preview: Why Georgia Bulldogs Must Win Saturday vs. Gators

Perhaps the biggest game of the season for the Dawgs comes Saturday when they take on the Florida Gators in Jacksonville. 

Georgia has been labeled as "the" team in control of the SEC East division. They are tied atop the East with South Carolina, and while South Carolina does own a tie-breaker over Georgia, many believe the Gamecocks will not remain unscathed throughout their remaining schedule like the Bulldogs.

Standing in Georgia's way, however, is an opponent they're far too familiar with. The Florida Gators have had somewhat of a disappointing year, but recent history shows they've dominated the Bulldogs.

The Gators are 8-2 in the last 10 years, but the Bulldogs hope to start a new decade of success against Florida on Saturday.

While they aren't eliminated completely, it appears the Gators will be on the outside of the division looking in at the end of the year, something Georgia fans everywhere love to hear. But that doesn't mean they can't have a say in who will win the Eastern division.

Florida still has both Georgia and South Carolina remaining on their schedule and it appears as though the winner of the SEC East will have to beat the Gators to claim their crown. Which is why this Saturday is a must win for Georgia.

Florida starting quarterback John Brantley, who was injured in the first half of the beating they took from the Alabama Crimson Tide, has had his eye set on this week's game as his return date. 

So far, all signs point to him being ready to go Saturday. It could be the shot in the arm the Gators have been looking for as they come into the Georgia game trying to avoid their fourth-straight loss.

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Georgia is looking at just the opposite as they are currently riding a five-game winning streak into Jacksonville. 

Sophomore signal-caller Aaron Murray is starting to become the quarterback Bulldog fans thought he would be. Murray's last game at Vanderbilt saw him have a career day as he threw for 326 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Though Murray is young, it's no surprise he leads the SEC in touchdowns with 16. Murray's success against Vanderbilt came without freshman sensation Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell was injured in the game at Tennessee and his status for this weekend's game isn't looking good.

“He didn’t do well yesterday," Coach Mark Richt told the media Tuesday in Athens. "He practiced for about five minutes.” 

Mitchell, despite missing a game and a half, still leads the Dawgs in receptions and yards. If he isn't able to play against Florida it will be a significant loss to their offense.

Murray will be joined in the backfield by freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell. Like Murray, Crowell has shown that despite his age he can perform at a high level. He ranks fourth in the SEC in rushing with 608 yards on 128 carries.

Keys to Success:

Florida must stop the run if they want to have a chance in this game.

During their current three-game skid the Gators defensively are giving up 206.3 rushing yards a game. They've had to face three teams that all rank in the top 35 in FBS rushing yards per game. But the Bulldogs, who will feature Richard Samuel along with Crowell, are no slouch either averaging just under 165 yards a game. 

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Georgia must do the same. 

Statistically the Gators haven't had success running the ball without Brantley at quarterback. Teams have been able to focus on stopping the run and backup quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel have struggled mightily throwing the ball. With Brantley back, Florida will be able to return to their balanced offense.

Prediction:

This is a Georgia team that needs a statement win and this is the perfect game to get it. 

Even with Brantley back I don't know how convinced I am that Florida can bounce back from three-straight losses and squeeze out a win as they did last year. They'll come out slow, but their offense will figure things out as the game goes along.

Although Mitchell may be out, I still think Murray has the tools around him to make big plays to win the game. Crowell and Samuel will be a major problem for the Gator defense as the Bulldogs come out on top in what I predict will be an instant-classic.

Georgia 27, Florida 21

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