Georgia football: 5 things that concern me as Florida awaits after the bye week
Welcome to the open week, Georgia Bulldogs fans. For the 2nd time this season, Dawgs supporters will get to kick back and relax this Saturday and simply enjoy watching other teams play while not having to worry about their own team.
After the open week, though, it’s back to work for Georgia, with a date looming that has been circled on the calendar since it was announced. And while it might not really be called The World’s Largest Cocktail Party anymore, Georgia-Florida in Jacksonville is still Georgia-Florida.
This year’s edition might serve as a College Football Playoff knockout game between a pair of 1-loss teams. Florida’s loss, to No. 2 LSU in Death Valley on Oct. 12, is immensely more attractive than the Bulldogs’ defeat against South Carolina that same day, but bear in mind that the Gators’ chances of getting to the SEC Championship Game will be slim to none with 2 conference losses. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs know what they need to do in hopes that running the table and winning the conference championship is enough to get them a spot among the top 4 teams. (Oh, by the way, the first set of Playoff rankings are released on Nov. 5, the Tuesday after the Cocktail Party.)
Here are 5 points in particular that have me a bit concerned about this matchup for Georgia:
The offense still has some questions that need answering
I can spend hours on this. But I do want to provide one caveat from Saturday: The weather, as Kirby Smart and Jake Fromm mentioned, made it tough to throw the ball the way Fromm wanted to. While it’s not impossible to throw the ball in the rain, it’s extremely difficult.
Now, it’s impossible to tell what the weather will be like in Jacksonville on Nov. 2, but assuming it’s a clear, perfect, 70-degree day, the Bulldogs will need to reconcile some of their offensive struggles. I’d still like to see Smart and offensive coordinator James Coley open up the playbook and be a little more aggressive, letting Fromm take a few more risks downfield while continuing to properly use D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien to draw the defense into the box and open up opportunities for the pass.
Florida has given up just over 195 yards through the air and 128 yards on the ground. If Georgia can’t work past that, it’s a recipe for a loss.
The Bulldogs’ knack for starting games slowly
I know that you can’t take much from the Bulldogs’ slow start against Kentucky. I have to admit that even I was a bit harsh on them during the first half, and the fans, for their part, certainly were.
We’ll throw that out the window because the weather was miserable. However, Georgia must do what it can to set the tone early and put Florida on its heels from the get-go. While Georgia has gotten away with slow starts at various points this season, it finally caught up to the Dawgs against South Carolina. If it’s not careful, it might suffer the same fate against the Gators.
Florida’s defensive stars
Gators edge rusher Jonathan Greenard, along with defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga, missed Saturday’s game against South Carolina. And the open week probably couldn’t have come at a better time for them as they now have that much longer to rehab and be ready to go against Georgia.
Without Greenard and Zuniga, who have 10.5 tackles for a loss and 7.0 sacks between them, the Bulldogs’ chances of winning become a little better. But this defense is more than those 2 players. Defensive end Jeremiah Moon has 6.5 TFLs and has gotten to the quarterback 3 times, while the Gators as a team have a conference-best 29 sacks. Safety Shawn Davis is a ballhawk who has 3 interceptions; Florida is 2nd in the country with 12. CJ Henderson will be tough to throw the ball against as he’s one of the best cover cornerbacks in America. David Reese already has 66 tackles, more than any player in the league.
That means a stiff test for Georgia’s offensive line against Florida’s defensive front. We’ve seen what happens when Fromm is heavily pressured; Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham (whom Georgia fans know very well) will call for plenty of blitzes while stacking the box to keep Swift and Herrien’s production down.
The numbers will say that the Dawgs committed just 4 penalties for 33 yards against Kentucky on Saturday. But sometimes the timing of penalties hurts more than the number of penalties made.
Fortunately, Georgia’s penalties didn’t hurt as much. But we’ve seen this team be undisciplined at the wrong moments. I’m worried that the magnitude of the game and the physical tone it will take might cause some players to be baited into making an extra, ill-timed tackle or make a jump off the line before they’re supposed to.
Penalties, or rather how to prevent committing them in a big game like this one, will surely be mentioned leading up to the Dawgs’ return to the field.
Can the Dawgs’ secondary take away targets from Kyle Trask?
Kentucky’s passing game posed no threat.
The level of difficulty goes up quite a bit with Kyle Trask behind center. Not only has Trask stepped in and capably filled the shoes of the injured Feleipe Franks, but he has a full suite of receiving options at his disposal that he can get the ball to. His accuracy has been a key part of his game: He has thrown 14 touchdowns versus just 4 interceptions while completing 64% of his passes.
Florida has a stable of talented wideouts who can stretch the field, turn slants into points and win contested jump balls.
The key to stopping it is getting after Trask.
Trask been known to cough the ball up when pressured as he’s lost it 5 times, but when given time to pick out his various targets, he’s a legitimate weapon from the pocket.