Florida (3-3) at Georgia (6-1) Nov. 1, 3:30, CBS
Here’s The Deal: Last week, the Dead Coach Walking situation was in Michigan, with Brady Hoke getting one shot to totally change around the fortunes and the inevitability with a showdown against rival Michigan State. That didn’t end so well. This week, it’s Florida’s Will Muschamp who’s in the spotlight with a one-shot-to-change-narrative game against a Georgia team that appears destined for Atlanta and the SEC title game.
The one massive difference between Michigan and Florida is possibility. Michigan had and has no shot at coming up with anything special, but the Gators have shown glimpses. The offense might be awful, but the defense has upside. While The Swamp is half empty view might see a Florida team that probably should’ve lost to Kentucky and Tennessee on the way to a 1-5 season and a certain coaching change, the stadium is half full thought might be that the LSU team that just beat Ole Miss came this close to being knocked off in a 30-27 thriller. And then came the classically weird game against Missouri, with the D allowing just 119 yards in the 42-13 loss.
But one win over Georgia, again, changes everything.
While the world is gushing over the SEC West, and rightly so, Georgia is on a five-game winning streak and controls its own destiny. Florida, at Kentucky, Auburn – get through the next three weeks, and the hard part is over until the SEC championship. The offense has been rolling, the defense has dialed it up a few notches, and this is starting to look like a sneaky-dangerous threat to not only get in the College Football Playoff, but do some real damage. The team is getting stronger and it’s improving, but first it has to get by a desperate Florida team with nothing really to lose.
The Bulldogs have won the last three gatherings without any cocktails served in a rivalry that goes all the way back to a 52-0 Georgia win in 1904. Things could be worse for Florida – Georgia won the first five games in the series 182-0 and started out 7-0 winning by a total score of 242-9.
Why Florida Might Win: For all of the good things Georgia has done so far, it hasn’t faced a killer run defense since ripping apart Clemson in the opener. That’s not to say the Bulldog offensive line can’t generate a push like it did against the Tigers, or Arkansas, for a ground game that hasn’t been under 200 yards yet this year with three touchdown runs in every game but one, but it’s about to run into a rest and jacked up Gator D. Florida has the front four to get into the backfield on a regular basis and get to Nick Chubb before he can get going. That one game Georgia didn’t run for two touchdowns? The loss to South Carolina. Florida allowed 223 yards and a score on the ground to an Alabama offense that got into a groove, but LSU is the only team to come up with more than one rushing touchdown and only the Tide averaged more than four yards per carry. It’s going to be on the Georgia passing game to win, and outside of the near-miss against Kentucky and the debacle against Alabama, Florida’s secondary has been terrific. However …
Why Georgia Might Win: Hutson Mason and the Georgia passing game might feed off of the running game, but it’s been improving. They’re not making mistakes and they’re taking advantage of teams doing everything possible to stop Chubb. The passing attack won’t have to do too much if the Georgia D does its job. Florida’s offense hasn’t just been bad, it’s been weird. There’s no downfield passing game, the quarterbacks have failed to hit 50% of their throws in three of the last four games, and there’s been just three touchdown passes and ten picks over the span. Florida has to run to win, but Georgia’s defense has been swarming just as much and even better than Florida’s, failing to allow anyone to run for more than 200 yards this year and giving up just three yards per try.
Who To Watch Out For: It just wasn’t working. It wasn’t all Jeff Driskel’s fault, but after being a tough, resourceful baller in 2012, and missing most of last year hurt, the Gator quarterback couldn’t seem to put it together to make the offense go this year. Treon Harris, past the off-the-field controversy after leading the team to a comeback win over Tennessee, is about to step in to try to provide a spark. He’s not going to bomb away for 300 yards, and there won’t be a two quarterback system, so the pressure is on to just not screw up and to take the opportunities that are there. If this works and he’s great, it’ll be the right change at the perfect time. If he struggles and offense gets stuffed again, then the last gasp attempt to save the season won’t work. He completed 8-of-12 passes for 98 yards and a score with a pick against Missouri, and ran for 26 yards and a touchdown, and now he’s the X factor.
What’s Going To Happen: Florida’s defense will rise up and come up with a tremendous game, and Harris will do just enough to keep it interesting, but it won’t be enough. The Bulldogs will be +2 – at least – in turnover margin and will slip on by with a nasty, tough win.
Prediction: Georgia 23 … Florida 20
Line: Georgia -13 o/u: 51.5
Must Watch Factor: 5: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown – 1: Mike Tyson Mysteries … 3.5
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Florida (3-3) at Georgia (6-1) Nov. 1, 3:30, CBS