SEC East’s Biggest Impact Game: Florida vs. Georgia
In 15 of the 21 SEC Championship games since 1992, Florida or Georgia has been there playing for the title. Georgia has represented the East the last two seasons, helped in part by beating Florida two years in a row despite losing to South Carolina three years in a row.
Related: 5 biggest revenge games of 2013
Georgia is feeling pretty confident after beating Florida two games in a row for the first time since the late 80s. Likewise, Will Muschamp is a combined 0-6 in the rivalry dating back to his days as a Georgia safety, but he’s vowed to end the streak this season.
Last year, both teams were so afraid to make a mistake that they combined for nine turnovers, with Georgia eventually coming out the victor because of a late 45-yard touchdown strike to Malcolm Mitchell and aided by a goal-line strip by Jarvis Jones.
One reason Jeff Driskel is smiling more is because Jones is gone. Jones killed Florida for seven sacks and three forced fumbles in the last two years.
This season, both teams are in opposite scenarios. Georgia’s offense is electric with Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and a bevy of receivers, while Florida’s offense should remain a boring, ball-controlled offense as part of Muschamp’s plan to win ugly and insulate Jeff Driskel. But Florida has the defensive edge with one of the deepest and most talented defensive lines and secondaries in the country, and Georgia replaces eight starters with a bunch of talented no-names.
In fact, these two teams couldn’t be polar opposites. Georgia has an offensive-minded coach, and the passing game feeds off the air attack from Aaron Murray. Florida has a defensive-minded Saban disciple for a head coach who wants to control tempo with the ground game. Grantham is an established defensive coordinator who runs a base 3-4 system, while DJ Durkin will be in his first year as a coordinator in a multiple system.
But what makes these two teams very different also makes them the same: physical, pounding football teams who hate each other. The winner should come out sitting pretty for the East crown.
Other impact games:
Florida at South Carolina: Depending on the outcome to Florida-Georgia, the Gators travel to South Carolina late in the season. South Carolina does have the easiest schedule of the three East powers, so the Gamecocks could be sitting pretty when Florida rolls to town. Outside of UGA, only Florida worries Carolina fans, and losing this game could result in Carolina not making it to Atlanta. This could become the premier East swing game during week 12.
South Carolina at Georgia: While I think this is the most underrated rivalry in the SEC, recent history has shown it has little bearing for who represents the East in Atlanta. In fact, Carolina has beaten the Bulldogs the last three years, but Georgia has represented the east for the last two years. Nonetheless, this is my favorite early season game that will be a hit-you-in-the-mouth type matchup. The winner gains the early SEC stranglehold.
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