Final thoughts on the Cocktail Party
The World’s Largest Cocktail Party is here, and in case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s a big one.
For the second year in a row, we’ve got a battle of top-10 teams. As it should be. A division title is up for grabs (basically) and there are huge, huge long-term implications for both coaches.
So without further ado, here’s a brain dump of the things on my mind ahead of this game:
1. That line threw me for a loop
I thought it’d be a pick ’em. I realize that Georgia dominated this matchup each of the last 2 years. I also realize that Florida has looked like the better team this year. So no, I didn’t think it was going to be Georgia -6.5. And the fact that it hasn’t crept down closer to a pick ’em surprises me.
After all, Florida has been the team that’s looked like a top-10 squad every week that Kyle Trask has been the starter. The Gators return Jabari Zuniga, Jon Greenard and Kadarius Toney (more on them later) to a team that’ll face its third top-10 foe in the last month. Maybe I’m crazy. I just thought at this point, Florida would get a bit more love than that.
2. What does the path for a Georgia win look like?
That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out all week. Is it Jake Fromm doing what he did last year and catching fire in the second quarter? Or is it D’Andre Swift cutting lose for a pair of long touchdown runs? I don’t know. What I feel is unlikely is Georgia methodically breaking off chunks of yardage and imposing its will at the line of scrimmage, despite the stellar offensive line.
Maybe it’s a strip sack of Kyle Trask that sets up good field position in a key spot late in the game? That doesn’t seem that far-fetched, I suppose. It just seems like Florida’s path to victory is a bit easier to picture. Fromm gets pressured, receivers can’t get open, Florida benefits from great field position and wins a hard-fought game.
It might have to be a more unconventional route for Georgia to follow if it wants to come out of Jacksonville with a win.
3. The battle of players returning from injury should be critical
Georgia is hopeful to return Lawrence Cager and Tyson Campbell, both of whom would immediately be thrust into major roles if they can return. Florida is expected to return the aforementioned Greenard, Zuniga and Toney. What we don’t know is who among that group is going to look most like themselves. If Toney, who hasn’t played since Week 2, can explode and take hits like we’re used to seeing him do, that’s obviously huge.
Kadarius Toney showcases the importance of context when looking at statistics & how PFF Grades do just that.
His 66-yard ‘TD reception’ is actually caught 70 yards from the EZ, meaning he’s working for more yards than the box score will ever show.
The PFF Grades will, however. pic.twitter.com/xVq6fhRL7D
— Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam) August 25, 2019
But I think the status of Cager might actually be most important of anyone who takes the field for Georgia. He and Fromm were really starting to develop a rapport before he went down a few weeks ago. His absence has been huge. Speaking of that …
4. Can a Georgia player do what Jeremiah Holloman did last year?
Remember when Holloman caught several back-shoulder throws and had his coming out party against the Gators?
— FanSided College (@FanSidedU) October 27, 2018
He was special that day. Unfortunately for Georgia, he was dismissed from the team this offseason and it’s been a struggle to find someone with his skill set. As I said, Cager showed flashes of being that guy. But in a game like this in which we expect Florida to bring pressure, Fromm needs to have someone who he can trust to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage and throw those back-shoulder balls. That might be the only way for him to have an open window downfield.
5. Dan Mullen with a backup QB vs. James Coley with Jake Fromm should be … telling
I wrote earlier in the week that I thought Coley would be fired at season’s end if it’s more of the same from the Georgia offense in a losing effort on Saturday. Part of that is based on Mullen. It would be an awful, awful look for Coley if he had a front-row seat to watch Mullen, with a backup quarterback, carve up Georgia’s top-5 defense while Georgia struggled to move the ball with the likes of Fromm, Swift and that oversized offensive line. If Coley looks like Mullen is calling a significantly better game than he is with both teams coming off a bye, I’m not sure what would make Georgia think he’s the guy long term.
But on the flip side, if Coley does make those adjustments and it suddenly looks like the Georgia offense is keeping a defense on its heels, what a fantastic way for him to get back on track. That’ll be much easier said than done.
6. Maybe Todd Grantham actually won’t send as much pressure
Grantham, when he’s had a healthy Greenard, actually hasn’t blitzed like we’re used to seeing. Heading into this game last year, all the talk was about Fromm’s third down struggles and how “Third and Grantham” was going to make for a long day. All Fromm did was deliver one of the best games of his career and lead Georgia to a 3-score victory. Maybe that’s in the back of Grantham’s mind.
And maybe, the thought could be he doesn’t want a veteran quarterback to know that he’s got an open receiver on a blitz when it’s been such a struggle for the Georgia wideouts to get separation. Fromm reacting on instincts could actually be what gets the Dawgs’ offense going. That’s the last thing Grantham wants to do. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see more 4-man rushes from Florida than we saw last year.
7. I’m going against my preseason prediction
I predicted Georgia to beat Florida in the preseason.
But wait, there’s more!
I predicted Georgia to win the national championship in the preseason.
Call it hedging if you want, but I’m going against that call. I can’t, based on what we’ve seen the last month, pick Georgia to beat Florida in this matchup. Vegas might know something I don’t, but my eyes tell me that Florida is the more complete team right now. Watching Georgia struggle to move the ball against inferior competition terrified me. Of course there’s a chance that Kirby Smart’s squad figures it out and essentially has the turning point it did last year, but I’d rather put my chips on Mullen right now.
Florida seems to make us say on a weekly basis, “wow, that was pretty impressive.” I feel like we haven’t said that about Georgia all year. Sure, the bar was higher for the Dawgs coming into the season, but we’ve now had enough of a sample size to see how these teams match up.