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UGA Bulldogs vs. Florida Gators: Expert Picks and Predictions

The Rivalry

Read all of Brian’s UGA coverage here. 

The Georgia-Florida rivalry is filled with unforgettable moments. Just take two consecutive games like in 2007, when Knowshon Moreno dove over a pile of players into the end zone, which began a scripted celebration from Mark Richt’s Bulldogs. The entire team rushed the field to celebrate in the end zone. Moreno went on to contribute 188 yards and 3 touchdowns as Georgia upset Florida 42-20.

Urban Meyer responded the following year by thrashing Georgia 49-10 and calling two timeouts in the final minute of the game to make the painful loss as excruciating as possible.

More recently Kirby Smart, beat Dan Mullen’s Gators, and muttered an expletive-laden phrase that the cameras caught even if the microphones didn’t.

Simply put, these teams don’t like each other. No matter how each team’s season is going, I always feel a level of anxiety around this match up. This year, the Dawgs are the heavy favorite, but I still believe anything can happen in a rivalry. 

The Gators

Coaching

Billy Napier took over as head coach after a successful stint at Louisana-Lafayette. He started out as a GA under Dabo Swinney at Clemson for a couple of years. He worked his way to being the offensive coordinator, and found some success. After an unproductive 2010 season, Napier was let go.

He became an analyst alongside Jim McElwain at Alabama. When McElwain became the head coach at Colorado State, he hired Napier to follow him as a QB coach.

He briefly served under Jimbo Fisher at Florida State before returning to Alabama as a WR coach. After working back to a coordinator role at Arizona State, he left to took the role at ULL. In his first full season with Florida, he has led them to a 4-3 record so far. 

Season

The Gators began their year with an impressive with over Utah, but have struggled ever since.

Their other wins are a 31-28 victory over South Florida, a 52-17 thump of Eastern Washington, and a narrow 24-17 win over Missouri. Yet, they also managed to play Tennessee tight losing only by 5, coupled with at 10 point loss to LSU.

The Gators seem to lack the depth and consistency needed to find success in the SEC at the moment. Dan Mullen didn’t leave a lot behind for Napier to pick up. 

Offense

The Gators are led by QB Anthony Richardson who has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this season. Richardson got his first start last season against Georgia, which didn’t end well for him. This year, Richardson hasn’t seen a lot of development at his position. He has the talent to make every throw but lacks the execution to do so with any consistency.

His athleticism keeps him in the starting role, as he is the team’s second leading rusher on the season. Richardson was billed as the second-coming of Tim Tebow, but somehow isn’t as good of a passer and lack’s Tebow’s physicality as a runner. He can make explosive plays, like his 81-yard run against LSU. He also can completely misread defenses, and Georgia will certainly look to fool him in coverage. 

The Gators strength on offense, helped by Richardson, is their rushing attack. They average over 6 yards per carry, and three different backs share the load. Montreal Johnson Jr. leads the team in yards, yards per carry, and rushing touchdowns. Yet, Trevor Etienne is on his heels in rushing yards as well, and his YPC is also impressive. 

No one on the perimeter should scare defenses. Receiver Justin Shorter leads the team in receiving and has the speed to make explosive plays. Yet, Xzavier Henderson is Richardson’s favorite target and has the most catches. 

Defense

Florida’s slightly above average offense is not outpaced by their defense. While their front 7 has some talent, the defense gives up yards and points consistently. They give up 28 points per game with only really playing one potent offense all season.

The defense fared better against Tennessee than Alabama did, only coughing up 38 in their loss to the Vols. Safety Rashad Torrence II is their leading tackler. As a rule of thumb, you never want your last line of defense to lead your team in tackles. It’s nearly always an indication of a poor defense. 

The Dawgs

Georgia has received good and bad news this week. The bad news is that AD Mitchell and Jalen Carter are still going to be out for the time being.

I thought we would see Mitchell back by this game, especially since he played a few snaps against Auburn. That appears to have been a mistake, as he is out even longer than originally anticipated. Rumors around Carter’s return have swirled, with some speculating he has chosen to sit out for the remainder of the season to avoid any further injuries.

I can’t verify if that’s true, but returning from his MCL injury this early would be a surprise. I don’t expect him to come back during the regular season. Georgia will never reach its full potential until or if those two can get on the field again. Georgia’s offense has lacked the ability to make explosive plays, in part because it lacks the downfield threat that Mitchell brings. To make matters worse, safety Dan Jackson suffered a stress fracture in his foot and will miss the rest of the season. 

On the bright side of the injury news, Smael Mondon should be okay to go. The Dawgs may work him back in, but he’s healthy enough to make it. Receiver Ladd McConkey should be  able to continue to play through his leg injury as well. 

Ball Movement

Georgia should be able to move the ball without too much trouble against Florida’s defense. With UF’s front 7 having the ability to disrupt the passing game, Georgia may try to get the ball out quickly on screens and RPO’s to methodically move the offense down the field. If Stetson Bennett can hit Arian Smith or another receiver on a couple of deep balls this one will get ugly. 

Defensively, Georgia is facing the best rushing attack they will in the regular season. I don’t think they’ll look to sack Richardson, but will pressure him to move out of the pocket to his left. By disguising coverages and bringing pressure at the right times, the Dawgs should be able to limit Florida. However, Georgia has not had the ability to just eliminate opposing team’s rushing attacks this year like they have in years past. Florida will be able to move the ball through the ground. 

Match Up

Last year, Georgia was only up 3-0 minutes before half. Then Anthony Richardson imploded in the final 2 minutes and the Dawgs went into halftime with a 24-0 lead into half time.

So, Florida has the potential to hang with Georgia for this game, especially if Georgia turns the ball over or fails to punch it in in the red zone. However, if Georgia starts hot, look out because the spread may get covered quickly.

Florida’s key to success will be long, sustained drives on offense while keeping Georgia to field goals on defense. Richardson has to be able to make plays through the air and with his feet to trouble the Dawgs defense on Saturday. 

Georgia needs to execute at a reasonably high level and things will be just fine. Bennett and company need to take care of the football, and the offensive line needs to keep him upright long enough for him to stretch the defense with a couple of deep balls. If Georgia can run the ball effectively or find success through intermediate to long throws the offense could easily find it’s way to scoring over 40 points. 

Prediction

Georgia starts off slow coming off the bye week. Florida has some juice early but Richardson can’t make enough plays to really make the Dawgs pay. Georgia finds its rhythm, before physically punishing the Gators in the second half. Brenton Cox looks like an idiot again.

Dawgs win 38-17.

Author

  • Brian Butcher, Contributor

    Brian Butcher is Indiana-born but Georgia-raised. He knows next to nothing about sports gambling or journalism, but his unhealthy obsession with the Georgia Bulldogs compels him to write down his frenzied thoughts on the Dawgs.

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