Georgia football: It's finally Florida Week. We have questions ... and answers
Fall has arrived here in the South. The leaves are turning and the weather’s getting cooler, so that could only mean one thing: The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Or, the Georgia-Florida game for short.
Sure, Jacksonville is 360 miles from Athens vs. a mere 70 from Gainesville, but it just feels like it’s not Georgia-Florida if it’s not in Jacksonville. It was played on each school’s campus in 1994 and 1995 when TIAA Bank Field was being built, but for a game that had been played in Florida’s most populous city since the 1930s, it just wasn’t … well … the same. (The forecast for Saturday? Gorgeous. Partly cloudy skies and 77 degrees.)
You know who’s not a fan of the game being played in Jacksonville every year, though? Kirby Smart. In some respects, he’s right about losing a recruiting weekend. But Georgia-Florida in Jacksonville is like peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, Chick-fil-A and sweet tea. They just go together.
That being said, as much as been made by Dawgs fans about it being an easier trip for Gators fans, it’s been a pretty even series this decade. It’s probably not surprising, then, that the longest winning streak by either team is 7, set by Georgia from 1904-1927 and again from 1941-1948, but matched by the Steve Spurrier-coached Florida teams from 1990-1996.
And while the past 5 games have seen double-digit win margins, there have been some close wins and losses for the Dawgs this decade.
In 2010, Georgia lost in overtime on a field goal. The Dawgs needed a 4th-quarter touchdown to topple Florida the next year, then forced 6 Gators turnovers in 2012 to knock Will Muschamp’s No. 2-ranked squad from the ranks of the unbeaten. It nearly coughed up a 20-point 3rd quarter lead in 2013 before holding on to win during a bumpy 8-5 campaign that saw it ranked as high as 6th. Despite the Gators winning in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the Dawgs have won the last 2 meetings by a wide margin.
Just like 2018, a great deal is on the line for both programs Saturday.
Last year both were in the top 10 and looking to boost their SEC East and College Football Playoff chances. This year, with both having lost a game already? Same situation, with no margin for error. A win will equal a huge boost for the tail end of the season for Georgia, as it has a tougher remaining schedule than Florida with a trip to Auburn highlighting November.
It’s a bit tough to get a read on the exact trajectory this game will take, but it might hinge on these 4 questions:
Will Jake Fromm be forced into mistakes by Florida’s pass rush and secondary?
Florida has 29 sacks, tied for 6th in FBS. Its 12 interceptions are tied for 3rd in the country. Despite throwing just 3 interceptions, all against South Carolina, while being sacked just 4 times, we’ve seen what Fromm is like when hurried and under duress. This might be the stiffest test Georgia’s offensive line faces all season until it plays against Auburn.
Can Georgia attack on Kyle Trask, who has struggled with ball security, the way Auburn did?
Trask has been sacked 13 times this season and fumbled 5 times, losing 3. A consistent pass rush might be a key in neutralizing a quarterback who has thrown 2 or more touchdowns in each of his past 5 games and been picked off just 4 times this season.
Will this be a big game for the Dawgs’ running back duo of D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien?
Florida has held teams to an average of 128 yards rushing through 8 games. But it gave up 218 to LSU on just 24 carries and allowed 217 on 40 carries to South Carolina.
Part of how Florida’s run defense will look Saturday will rely on the health of Jonathan Greenard, but players like Jabari Zuniga and Jeremiah Moon can easily pick up the slack.
Georgia has rushed for 189 yards and 292 yards, respectively in its past 2 wins over Florida. Combined, the Dawgs ran for 5 TDs.
How well the Dawgs can run the ball will be a key factor.
How will Dawgs’ passing game stack up against Florida’s secondary?
One name to note for Saturday is CJ Henderson, who leads Florida with 9 pass deflections.
Fromm threw for 240 yards and 3 TDs against Florida last year. He barely had to lift his right arm in the 2017 victory.
If Fromm wants to work the ball downfield, he might have little success getting it to the receiver Henderson’s matched up against. If he wants to work it toward the middle of the field, he’ll have to contend with a unit that’s among the best nationally in interceptions.
Welcome to Florida week. Those questions and more will be answered Saturday.