5 bold predictions for Florida vs. Georgia
No matter what you call it, Georgia and Florida’s annual meeting in Jacksonville is one of college football’s best rivalries. There have been some incredible games between these two teams, and there is always the potential that another classic is right around the corner.
Florida enters Saturday’s matchup in first place in the SEC East, while Kirby Smart is looking for a victory in his first Cocktail Party as Georgia’s head coach. We’ve already taken a look at how these teams match up on paper, so now it’s time to make some bold predictions.
1. Jacob Eason will have his best game as a Georgia Bulldog: This is an extremely bold prediction coming out of the gate, but that’s why they are called BOLD predictions. Since taking over as the Bulldogs’ starter in Week 2, Eason has shown flashes of his great potential but has struggled to play well in all phases of the game.
It really can’t be overstated how hard it is to start at quarterback in the SEC as a true freshman. Eason has been learning on the fly since the beginning of the season, but the bye week offered Georgia’s quarterback his first true chance to reflect and improve. It’s very likely that Jim Chaney spent a lot of time last week going over film with Eason to help him correct mistakes and learn from the first half of the season.
Florida’s secondary is talented enough to make even the best quarterbacks look ordinary, and it’s entirely likely that Eason struggles mightily on Saturday. But there’s still a chance that Georgia puts together a strong game plan for Eason, and he comes out of the bye refocused and ready to execute.
2. Freshman Tyrie Cleveland will be Florida’s best receiver: This is a name few people outside of Florida will recognize, but the freshman receiver is not to be taken lightly. Cleveland was rated a four-star receiver and the No. 2 player at his position in the Class of 2016 by the 247Sports Composite, and he’s starting to find his groove.
After not playing in the Gators’ first three games, Cleveland has 6 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown in the team’s past three games. Against Missouri, Cleveland caught 3 balls for 79 yards and a score, and it’s entirely possible that he will have another strong outing against Georgia.
Although Antonio Callaway and Brandon Powell are the team’s leading wide receivers, neither have the size advantage that Cleveland does. The Bulldogs’ cornerbacks have struggled against taller receivers, and Florida’s 6-foot-2 freshman could be the best option in this one.
3. Georgia will match or surpass its best single-game sack total: Florida is among the best in the country at protecting the quarterback, allowing only six sacks this season. Meanwhile, Georgia has only 14 sacks this season, which is near the college football average.
Kirby Smart has made it a point to say that he wants to get the Bulldogs’ pass rush headed in the right direction. It’s already seen decent improvement as Georgia has 10 sacks over the past three games, but it wouldn’t be shocking if the coaching staff lit a fire under this unit during the bye.
Many of Georgia’s sacks this season have come from linebackers, and junior Lorenzo Carter has four sacks to lead the team. The Bulldogs may send several looks at Florida’s offensive line in an attempt to get a free rusher at Luke Del Rio.
4. Florida outgains Georgia on the ground: The strength of the Bulldogs’ offense lies in its running game, and with players like Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, the ability is there to have a big outing on the ground. However, holding them back is an inconsistent offensive line that struggled mightily against Vanderbilt, which held Georgia to only 75 yards on the ground.
Florida, which is No. 23 in rush defense, is much better than Vanderbilt against the run and is the toughest defense that Georgia’s offensive line has faced. There are some troubling injuries in the front seven for Florida, but the defense should still be able to win the battle at the line of scrimmage.
The Gators’ rushing attack is nothing to write home about, either, and Georgia’s defense has been solid against the run recently. Still, the Bulldogs’ offensive line problems could hamper the running game if they haven’t been fixed.
5. Luke Del Rio throws more interceptions than touchdowns: Coming off of a performance against Missouri in which he threw three interceptions and only one touchdown, Luke Del Rio might have more of the same against Georgia.
The Bulldogs have 8 interceptions this season, only two less than Florida. Although Georgia’s secondary has struggled to hold opposing offenses in check, it has done a good job at creating turnovers. Six Georgia defensive backs have interceptions this season, and there will be some chances to get more on Saturday.
If Georgia is able to make Del Rio throw the ball to beat them, the secondary can make him pay. Without a noticeable size advantage at wide receiver, Bulldogs defenders should have a better chance while the ball is in the air, and that’s not good news for Florida.