Jacksonville, FL (SportsNetwork.com) – The ninth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs
attempt to continue their hot streak on Saturday afternoon when they meet up
with the Florida Gators on a neutral site at EverBank Field in an SEC Eastern
Florida’s season got off to a promising start with its only loss in its first
four games coming on the road at Alabama, but since then it has dropped two
straight, both at home, to fall to 3-3 (2-3 SEC). The Gators’ most recent bout
was their most embarrassing yet, as they fell to Missouri on Oct. 18 in their
homecoming game, 42-13.
“It’s one of the great rivalries in college football,” Florida head coach Will
Muschamp said of the Florida/Georgia matchup. “To be in a stadium that’s split
50/50, and the importance of the game to both universities is very
special…We need to get a win, that’s the first thing.”
Since dropping a 38-35 decision to South Carolina on Sept. 13, Georgia has
crept up the ranks with five consecutive victories, most recently taking down
a pair of difficult road tilts at Missouri (34-0) and Arkansas (45-32). The
Bulldogs are now 6-1 overall, and at 4-1 in the SEC, they are a half-game up
on Missouri (3-1) in the SEC East with every other team sitting with at least
“They’re always dangerous to me, that’s for sure,” Georgia head coach Mark
Richt said of Florida. “They’re a fine program, and we have a lot of respect
Georgia leads the storied all-time series, 49-40-2, which includes wins in
three straight meetings.
Florida’s offense (28.7 ppg, 368.0 ypg) has regressed significantly since a
hot start, as it has put up just 17.8 ppg over the last four games, resulting
in a quarterback change.
Jeff Driskel’s struggles (.530 completion percentage, 928 yards, six TDs, 10
INTs) have finally caught up to him, forcing Muschamp to begin the Treon
Harris era earlier than expected. In limited action, the freshman has
completed 12-of-18 passes for 263 yards, three touchdowns and a pick while
adding 51 yards and another score on the ground.
“When you have 15 turnovers in four games, it’s a struggle to get anything
going offensively,” Muschamp said. “I’m excited for (Harris) and what he’s
going to be able to do. (He’s) a guy that has a knack for making plays.”
Harris’ top target in the passing game will be Demarco Robinson, who leads the
team in receptions (34), yards (524) and touchdowns (four). No one else has
more than 122 receiving yards.
Muschamp has hinted at leaning more heavily on the run moving forward. Matt
Jones is the featured back with 88 carries for 424 yards and three touchdowns,
while Kelvin Taylor (44 carries, 200 yards, two TDs) is also worked in.
The Gators’ defense has helped bail out the poor offense on several occasions
this season by allowing just 25.5 ppg and 317.3 ypg while forcing 16 turnovers
in just six games. The 42 points allowed their last time out was misleading
since Missouri scored two defensive touchdowns and two special teams
Antonio Morrison has racked up a team-best 52 tackles to go with 4.5 TFL, a
sack and an interception. Other defensive standouts include Dante Fowler, Jr.
(34 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 10 QB hurries, FF) and Keanu Neal (33
tackles, three INTs, FF).
Georgia’s offense (43.4 ppg, 437.1 ypg) has been outstanding this season and
has continued to roll even in the absence of its stud running back.
Todd Gurley (773 yards, eight TDs) has missed the last two games as he serves
a suspension for his role in profiting off his likeness against NCAA rules.
The university has appealed to the NCAA for Gurley’s reinstatement, but his
status for this matchup is up in the air.
“We don’t know what to expect,” Richt said of the Gurley situation. “We’re
going to keep practicing hard and preparing for the game. We’ll just wait and
Nick Chubb has filled Gurley’s shoes nicely in the backfield. After a 202-
yard, three-touchdown performance against Arkansas, Chubb sits with 569 yards
and five touchdowns.
Hutson Mason isn’t asked to do much for the run-first team – he’s thrown for
less than 150 ypg – but he’s been very efficient in completing 69.2 percent of
his passes with 10 touchdowns to just three picks.
Michael Bennett (22 receptions, 231 yards, four TDs) and Chris Conley (19
receptions, 336 yards, three TDs) lead a modest receiving corps.
The Bulldogs have performed outstandingly on the defense side of the ball,
allowing just 20.0 ppg and 320.6 ypg with 17 takeaways.
The unit’s best playmakers are at linebacker, with Amarlo Herrera (57 tackles,
6.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks), Ramik Wilson (55 tackles, 5.5 TFL, sack) and Jordan
Jenkins (38 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, FF) all in the midst of strong
campaigns. Damian Swann has been active in the turnover battle with three
interceptions and two forced fumbles. Quincy Mauger also has three picks.