Written By Jordy McElroy
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The Florida Gators take their shot at the No. 1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs in an SEC battle at The Swamp on Saturday. Georgia pounded its way through Kentucky with little to no trouble at all in their 30-13 rout at home. However, things could get interesting with them going on the road to face a talented Gators team coming off a loss to LSU after an offensive shootout. Nothing comes easy in this conference, and this game will be no exception for the Bulldogs.
Don’t sleep on Florida
This is the part of the story when the Gators get chomped, right?
That’s what happened to them in their 49-42 loss to LSU. Surely, a run-in with the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs would yield even more lopsided results.
I wouldn’t be so quick to sing Florida’s lullaby heading into Saturday’s clash with the Bulldogs. That offense is a well-oiled machine averaging the second-most yards in the conference (501.7). They’re able to throw a lot at teams with the combination of Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson. You know a potential headache is coming when both the starting quarterback and backup are the leading rushers on the team.
Perhaps a little razzle dazzle early from coach Dan Mullen can keep the Bulldogs on their heels. It’s either that or getting stomped on by Georgia’s whole foot.
One thing is certain: Florida can’t afford to turn the ball over.
You can rest assured Mullen has preached ball security until he was blue in the face this week. It’s an important topic for a Gators team that’s ranked second-worst in the conference in turnover margin. They’ve only come away with four takeaways on defense, while their offense has given away 12 turnovers. Guys have to step up and make big time plays to shake up the balance of power in this one.
There are also concerns on the offensive front with both Jean Delance and Ethan White working their way through injuries. Georgia is averaging 3.4 sacks per game this season, which means they’ll be looking to push the pocket and force Jones into making mistakes. The junior has thrown nearly as many interceptions as he has touchdowns. So the hounds will come early and often in this one.
Daniels on track to return
The Georgia Bulldogs could receive a huge boost on offense with the possible return of starting quarterback JT Daniels. He is reportedly practicing with no limitations after sustaining a back injury that recently kept him out of action.
It’s already hard enough facing that vaunted Georgia defense. Now, Florida might be pitted against an offense led by Daniels as well.
The Gators are piling up the yards on the ground, but I wouldn’t expect Georgia’s defensive front to even consider blinking in this game of chicken. Opposing offenses are only averaging 63.4 rushing yards per game against them this season. If Florida thinks they’re just going to line up and run through that impenetrable fortress of a defensive front, they’re definitely free to try it.
Sure, be my guest.
They’re more likely to look to strike through the air and possibly open things up. So the Bulldogs need to be ready on the backend of their defense. Of course, they don’t need me to tell them that with a unit that’s only allowed three passing touchdowns, while also snatching away eight interceptions.
And now, they could potentially have Daniels back over Stetson Bennett to do whatever they want on offense. The Gators are certainly not the team to be underestimating, but it would also be ludicrous to pretend like Georgia doesn’t hold every advantage aside from location.
Florida has the potential to make it interesting. They gave Alabama all they could handle back in September, and their victory over Tennessee is looking better by the week. But they won’t be able to run the ball effectively on Saturday, and Emory Jones is going to be forced into making those backbreaking mistakes when the pocket collapses around him.
The offensive line for the Gators has been solid this season, but they’re dealing with injuries and facing an aggressive defensive front tied for the most sacks in the conference (24). They’re also going to have problems holding up with Florida’s receivers failing to get separation down the field. These Bulldog corners play tight to their men, and they’re ball-hawks whenever opposing quarterbacks try to let it fly. They’ve already racked up eight interceptions on the season.
Georgia could also get a lift from seeing JT Daniels back in the lineup, assuming he suits up and plays on Saturday. An emotional burst is the last thing Florida wants to see from a team already averaging 38.4 points per game. The mistakes will come from the Gators, and Georgia will capitalize on them before eventually pulling away and making this one seem worse than it really is. I’m laying the points and taking the Bulldogs.
Prediction: Georgia Bulldogs (-14)
Written By Jordy McElroy , “Jordy”
Born in Germany and raised in the beautiful state of Tennessee, Jordy McElroy is a storyteller of sports, a sports betting enthusiast, and a semi-deep thinker. Being a New England Patriots fan means he’s a six-time Super Bowl winner as well, which means you’d have to be a fool to ignore his advice. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiners, Jordy’s work appeared on CNN.com, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report, USA TODAY, and BJPenn.com. There are no beaches where he comes from — just rolling hills, green valleys, and all the Sun Drop you can drink.