2011 Florida Gators Football: 3 Keys To Beating Rival Georgia This Week

John PattonContributor IOctober 27, 2011

John Brantley's return on Saturday against Georgia will be a welcome sight for the Gator offense.
John Brantley's return on Saturday against Georgia will be a welcome sight for the Gator offense.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

This is, without question, the biggest game of the year for the Florida Gators.

But let's not kid ourselves. Saturday afternoon's encounter in Jacksonville will be just as big for the Georgia Bulldogs as it will be for UF.

This one features two teams currently on opposite ends of the momentum spectrum, as Georgia has won five straight games while Florida is on a three-game skid.

Each team is also coming off a much-needed (especially for the Gators) bye week, and both clubs still have a shot to reach the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in Atlanta.

Most of the stories you will read this week will say that the Bulldogs, despite being 3-18 against UF in the last 21 meetings between the two programs, should win. And maybe they will.

However, this isn't like Alabama and Louisiana State—unwinnable games against powerhouse foes. Georgia is good, but they aren't Tide or Tiger-good.

With that said, here are three keys for Florida this weekend against their rivals to the north.


1. Keep John Brantley comfortable.

The Gators' senior quarterback stepping under center will be a welcome sight for Florida fans who have quickly realized that freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett are talented kids, but are nevertheless just kids.

And they are kids who were not ready for the likes of Alabama, LSU and defending BCS national champion Auburn.

Out with a high ankle sprain since halftime of the 38-10 loss to the Crimson Tide on Oct. 1, Brantley has never been the most nimble of athletes, and it's likely that he won't be 100 percent against the Bulldogs.

That eliminates sprint-outs and probably means we'll see a lot of three-step drops and short passes to keep Brantley upright and in the pocket. He could thrive in that scenario.


2. Slow down the Tampa Two.

Now, this doesn't refer to the Bucs' Cover 2 defense. No, it means that the Gators must keep Tampa natives Aaron Murray (Georgia's quarterback) and Orson Charles (UGA's likely All-SEC tight end) contained.

Playing in five of six games this season (he sat out the Bulldogs' 45-42 loss to South Carolina in Week 2), the 6'3", 241-pound Charles has 22 receptions for 299 yards and four touchdowns. He is well on his way to career highs in each category, and already has surpassed the mark in touchdown receptions.

Former Tampa Plant teammate Murray, a 6'1", 211-pound third-year sophomore, has completed 120-of-198 passes (60.6 percent) for 1,653 yards, with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He may not be Matthew Stafford, but Murray is a good one.

Perhaps UF should look at the game plan Mississippi State executed against the SEC's best quarterback in a 24-10 loss in Athens on Oct. 1. In that contest, Murray completed just 13-of-25 passes for 160 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.


3. Do something special on special teams.

I know, the against Auburn the joke was that it was "special" every time UF was able to merely catch the ball on punt returns. And the week before against LSU, the Gators looked bad trying to stop a fake (the only reason it wasn't a touchdown was an excessive celebration penalty).

It's time for Florida to make some things happen on special teams, much like they did early in the season.

College football's fastest player, Jeff Demps, is fully healthy for the first time in a month, according to UF coach Will Muschamp. Demps, Andre Debose and Chris Rainey (provided his punt-catching troubles were a one-time deal) are speedy return men who can bust a long one at any time.

Rainey also can get after the punter and could net a block there.

Either way, the Gators need to win the special teams battle. A big play or two could go a long way in making sure that happens.