Can Florida run the Cocktail Party?
The Florida Gators still have an outside shot of winning the SEC East for a third consecutive season. “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” is one of the two biggest remaining challenges for the Georgia Bulldogs; if the Gators can pull off an upset then the Bulldogs lose a second contest, perhaps Nov. 11 at Auburn, the Gators would hold the tiebreaker and have a chance to win the division again.
Florida’s hopes on Saturday largely revolve around doing something that no one else has really managed: Run the ball effectively on Georgia’s defensive front.
Georgia has already faced an offense with a vaguely similar style and scheme as Florida when they shut out the Tennessee Volunteers. The Gators run a much smarter and more diverse offense with much better constraint from their passing game, but UF and UT share similar tactics for running.
Both teams like to use tight ends to help clear out defensive ends on both their zone and gap schemes, though Florida is better at throwing on the perimeter when teams send help to the edge. The best runs for the Gators this season have been “duo”:
and their power/counter runs:
On duo, they get multiple double teams from using the TEs and just push their opponent off the line of scrimmage while the back finds a crease based on how linebackers try to plug holes.
But doing this against the Dawgs’ 3-4 defense, with their defensive line and outside linebackers controlling the line of scrimmage while Roquan Smith runs wild, is another matter. Georgia stuffed Notre Dame, another good running team which loves to get backs going behind tight end blocks.
Much like the defenses that Georgia head coach Kirby Smart coordinated for Nick Saban at Alabama, the Bulldogs don’t let teams hit the edge like Davis does on the clips above. The Bulldogs play their LBs out wide or use defensive backs to prevent that exact kind of leveraging from taking place.
Georgia wasn’t letting this ball go anywhere other than straight ahead into their sturdy line. The play-side DE takes up a tackle and a TE, leaving the other TE for the OLB — nothing doing for the Vols.
Moving the point of attack
Florida has to run well enough to move the chains; they won’t hold up trying to throw down the field against the Dawgs’ pass-rush and coverage. They could try to make this a straightforward challenge of Georgia’s ability to hold up to big Gators right tackle Jawaan Taylor (6 feet 5, 340 pounds) and Florida’s straight-ahead, bruising runs. But if Notre Dame wasn’t finding daylight that way…
It’s probably unwise for Florida to assume it can do significantly better. Instead the Gators might look to beat Georgia to the perimeter with some of their supplementary run game concepts. For instance, G-lead:
Instead of a guard pulling to kick out a DE or lead downhill, the play side guard loops around down blocks by the RT and TE to beat the defense to the edge and handle whomever he finds there first. Another example is their crack sweep play:
A TE motions to the perimeter but then cracks inside to take out the DE while the left tackle loops wide to lead on a sweep play.
The Gators have a diverse run game designed to give them answers for multiple opposing fronts. If they can move the point of attack successfully — and avoid running at Georgia’s best run defenders and letting the Dawgs fly downhill to the ball — then they can try their normal tricks of playing things close and hoping to come out ahead in the fourth quarter.
If Georgia shuts down Florida’s running game then nothing else will matter. They might as well turn out the lights early because “The Cocktail Party” will be over before it begins.