By: James Johnson @J_1010xl
One of the biggest SEC rivalries, if not the biggest SEC rivalry, is among us. This Saturday at Everbank Field, the No. 2 ranked Florida Gators will take the field against the No. 10 ranked Georgia Bulldogs, and the stakes couldn't be higher. A victory here means the Gators clinch the division, and a win for Georgia puts them in a position to win the division, leaving Auburn and Ole Miss as their two remaining division opponents. As a fan of the Dawgs, I will say that as of this moment, Florida is the better team. Their strength is their defense, which is currently ranked fourth in terms of opponent points against holding their opponents to an average of 12.1 points a game. Though they don’t necessarily have a standout player on this defensive unit, they work well together which, to me, is why they are one of the best defenses in college. As is the case with all top tier defenses, much of their defensive success is owed to the front 7. They are anchored up front by senior Omar Hunter and two junior defensive linemen in Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley, who together account for 10 tackles for loss. I would expect them to make it very difficult for Georgia to run the ball as they've done early this season. Behind Florida's rugged defensive line is an LB I believe may be the best in the country. Senior LB Jon Bostic currently leads the team in sacks with 3. Lerente McCray, who plays both DE and LB, isn't far behind Bostic in terms of sacks with 2 for the season so far. Not to mention Jelani Jenkins who was high on draft boards coming into the year. He's had to battle some injuries this year but was very effective in his return against South Carolina. He currently has 9 total tackles (2 for loss) and a sack on the season. The Gators have been making progress on offense as the season has gone on as well. Jeff Driskel has slowly made progress throughout the season so far. Senior speedster Mike Gillislee has done his part as well to help Driskel carry this team offensively. He currently has 652 yards and 7 td's for the season and, simply put, is the bread and butter of this unit. TE Jordan Reed has come up as of late, and currently leads the team in receiving with 281 yards on the season and three td's. He and Driskel seem to really have good chemistry in the red-zone. For the Gators, the game plan is simple: replicate last week’s performance and they should come out victors of this matchup. In their blowout matchup against South Carolina, the Gators key statistic to me was the 4 turnovers they caused. Those turnovers put their offense in a position where they really didn't have to do much considering Florida's only 29 yards of offense and two first downs by halftime, yet they had a 21-6 lead.
Heading into this game, Georgia fans might be a little iffy on their chances. However, I say they have a good chance to upset the Gators. It's key that they don't play pat-a-cake with the ball as South Carolina did against Florida last week. If you take away the self-inflicted damage the Gamecocks brought upon themselves, the score is a lot closer than you think. If Georgia takes care of the ball the score should be pretty close throughout the game. Also, note that they have experience over Florida on their side. They have a QB in Aaron Murray who has seen this stage before and come out victorious. Alongside Murray is Senior WR Tavarres King who has also been successful against Florida. It's key that Murray and King lead their younger offensive (and defensive) teammates, show poise, and help them understand exactly what this rivalry matchup means. If Murray continues his play from last week and connects with King (as they've done well this year), it will also help the two young ultra-talented freshmen duo Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall do what they do best against the stingy Florida defense. The longer Georgia can pound the ball against this defense, the more tiresome they'll become, which is easier said than done. As for Georgia's defensive unit, let’s just say they need some work. They're coming off of a game in which they gave up 206 rushing yards to a Kentucky team who hasn't been good. As a result, Georgia's last game was a lot closer than one would think, ending with a 29-24 victory over the Wildcats. Though the Dawgs were without its two best defensive players, OLB Jarvis Jones and DE Abry Jones, it was alarming to see Kentucky come away with 24 points in their last game. Georgia can’t afford to let Gillislee run all over them as Kentucky did if they are to win Saturday. Luckily for them it looks like they will get their defensive leader in Jarvis Jones back for Saturday's game against the Gators. Jones did return to practice Monday and “looked pretty good,” according to head coach Mark Richt. Abry Jones however doesn't look to be ready to return this week. Senior Cornelius Washington, who has been rather impressive this year, looks to be the option to replace Jones. Just as Murray and King will have to lead a young offense in this game, Jones and Washington as seniors will need to do the same for their young defensive teammates if Georgia is to win this game. One player that certainly knows that Georgia's defense will need to step it up is starting strong safety Shawn Williams, who recently called his defensive teamates out for their poor play labeling them as “soft”. Though Williams could've chosen a better setting and a better choice of words, he has a point. This unit was one of the better defenses in the country last season and didn't lose many of its starters to the NFL. William’s remarks seem to have lit a fire under a few of his teamates, as it should. At the same time, they understand where Williams was coming from and understand that he was just trying to motivate them as a unit. With that said, defensively their plan should be to shut down Mike Gillislee. If they can do so, they would then force Jeff Driskel to pass the ball, whom Florida has taken the conservative role with. As for the score, I think it will be a close one. One that will be settled by a field goal or a TD. Tune in to my twitter page (@J_1010xl) as I'll reveal my prediction for the game Saturday before kickoff.
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