Georgia vs. Florida Preview: Defense Wins the Game for the Dawgs
I’m in a bit of a bind here as
millions thousands hundreds a few people stumble over to DudeYouCrazy.net looking for insight into this weekend’s Georgia/Florida game. If I lay out an argument for Georgia winning the game then I come off as a blind homer, even though I’ve bet against the Bulldogs before and I’ve typically been correct when doing so. On the other hand I really can’t build an argument for Georgia losing without stepping on everyone in the nation’s toes because frankly all of those arguments have been laid out thousands of times.
So, what’s a Dude to do? I’m going to explore the effect a loss to Florida would have on Georgia football and then I’m going to talk about how Georgia can win the game. I’ll conclude by disclosing which scenario I expect to play out. And you the reader will have to stick around to see if the title of this article was a big spoiler or a tease.
What Happens if Georgia Loses?
If Georgia loses this game the proverbial wheels come off the UGA bus that would have taken them to Atlanta in December. This will feel like an absolute nightmare scenario for Georgia fans due in no small part to these presiding factors:
- A loss to Florida always sucks.
- A loss that eliminates you from SEC East contention always sucks.
- All the bad “Losing to Good Teams” stats will still relevant and they’ll get piled onto by yet another loss.
- Georgia will have lost two games despite having a really easy layup of a schedule.
All of this will culminate with the vocal minority calling for Richt’s head (and maybe even his soul). The arguments above will all be valid, but they will not be put into any semblance of context. And, by context I mean things like the following:
- If Richt wasn’t fired after a losing season, or after following that losing season with two consecutive losses he’s not going to be fired in the middle (or after) his second consecutive 10-win season.
- Georgia will have just suffered a defeat to the team that the computers (and by then a lot of voters) believe to be the best in the nation. When you’re the best, you’re not supposed to lose.
- The over/under set be Las Vegas for Georgia was 9.5 wins. That line didn’t really move during the preseason. By winning 10 games Georgia would hit the over. The fact that the line didn’t move tells you just how hard it is to win 10 games in the SEC – even with a relatively soft schedule. Las Vegas isn’t in the business of losing money, a stable line implies equal action.
A loss will be devastating to the bigger, fancier goals of this season: division championship, run at SEC championship, BCS Bowl. And, it would certainly further cement Richt’s legacy as a coach who struggles to win the big game. But it would not ruin the program, end his career or otherwise have a prolonged negative effect – except for the ones created by fans.
I’m not making an excuse (and I think that will become abundantly clear as you keep reading), but a loss to the 2nd best team in the country isn’t anything to fire people over.
Can Georgia Win the Game?
Absolutely, unequivocally yes. To hear a large portion of the media and fans (both Florida and Georgia alike) the Gators have already won this game. The Gators’ résumé is better than Georgia’s – that much is undeniable – but from my very own biased standpoint people seem to selectively remember the great stuff Florida has done this year (and there has been a lot more than I’d like to admit) while forgetting some low points. Conversely, every negative related to the Bulldogs seems to be highlighted.
People seem to forget that this Florida team was tied with Bowling Green State University at “The Swamp” in the middle of the third quarter, opened the fourth quarter leading by only three and won by a final score of 27-14. Florida has improved and answered a lot of questions (especially on offense) since that time, but Bowling Green lost to Toledo by an almost identical score (30-15) three weeks later and followed that up with a 37 point lost to Virginia Tech.
Florida had a back-and-forth game with Tennessee (much like Georgia did) for three quarters before finally putting the Vols comfortably away. Similarly, the Gators were clinging to a 24-17 lead against Vanderbilt (you know, the team that lost to Georgia by a zillion points) with 2:30 left in the ball game. Those games are never referenced in a context outside of “those Gators sure are resilient late in games.” The story should be: how the hell was Vandy playing the Gators close…ever?
Florida certainly beat a good LSU team, but as I’ve said all year (even dating back to the preseason), I’m not sure that this is a great LSU team. The Tigers struggled to beat the worst team in the conference (Auburn) 12-10 and gave up 22 points to Towson the next week. Florida scored 14 points against LSU, a number that has been equaled or matched by North Texas, Idaho, Towson, South Carolina and Texas A&M. The Gators defense showed up in a big way by limiting LSU to 6 points, but LSU’s offense kind of sucks. In conference play Zach Mettsdkfewrberger and company are only averaging 16 points per game.
The Gators absolutely slapped the hell out of South Carolina last week, and I’m eternally grateful for that. But, if that game is played 10 more times you won’t find another score that lopsided and I think you’d find some that the Cocks won. In the same right if Georgia and South Carolina played 10 times you wouldn’t find the Cocks winning another one by 28 points. All the credit in the world goes to Florida for that win. They made huge play after huge play and finished off the Gamecocks the exact same way the Gamecocks finished off Georgia. But neither of those games is representative of who the three teams involved really are on a week-to-week basis. Florida looked much better than the norm, Georgia looked much worse, and somehow South Carolina managed to cover both ends of the spectrum.
On the Georgia side of things the Carolina loss is relied upon far too heavily as an “insight” into Georgia football. That was not Georgia football. This week the Doggy Downers are pissed about a bad showing at Kentucky, but if I was playing and I had Florida the next week you can just about guarantee you wouldn’t get my best game against Kentucky the week before. I think we should ignore that outing as well, I’m sure doing my best to!
Strengths on Strengths
Florida’s defense is undeniably stout and the strength of their football team. As I discussed earlier this week the Gators are holding opponents to a lot less than they typically average against BCS conference opposition. But, the Dawgs are also scoring a lot more than most opponents allow. This game will feature strength on strength as Aaron Murray and company go against the talented Gator defense.
Frankly, I think Florida’s defense is phenomenal, but it doesn’t necessarily scare me. I think Georgia has the weapons (even with out Michael Bennett) to move the ball against anybody in the country when in a position to play within their scheme and when they don’t shoot themselves in the foot (two conditions that weren’t met in South Carolina a few weeks ago). And if Murray can limit risky passes/bad decisions, I think the Dawgs can have some success against Florida.
Weakness on Weakness
What I like about this game is the matchup of Georgia’s defense on Florida’s offense. You’re smoking whatever the Honey Badger gave you if you think Georgia has lived up to its potential on the defensive side of the ball this season. I think you’re equally high if you don’t expect an improvement over the last stretch of the season. And maybe I’m also stoned, but I think the change could in fact (as Shawn Williams so forcefully implied) be factor of culture moreso than skill/capability. And if that is the case, the change could come quickly and it could come tomorrow.
Conversely Florida’s offense is not that impressive to me. If Mike Gillislee is so great why is he averaging a mere 4.7 yards per carry and why didn’t he receive more than 145 carries during his first three years in Gainesville? I’d welcome an answer from Gator fans.
The media is trying to make Jeff Driskel out to be a poor man’s Tim Tebow. In his defense, he hasn’t pushed that comparison and neither have Florida fans. Nonetheless, the truth of the matter is Jeff Driskel is closer to a poor man’s Connor Shaw than he is a poor man’s Tebow. He’s just not that good. Maybe he’s a dual-threat in theory, but when you’re only threatening to account for 179 yards of total offense per game, nobody is concerned with how many weapons you possess.
Florida’s offense ranks fifth…in the state of Florida. At 350.4 yards per game the Gators trail Florida International (392), South Florida (399), UCF (400), Miami (415) and Florida State (520). Their offense is the 24th worst in the nation. And as underperforming as Georgia’s defense has been, it still ranks in the top 50 in yards allowed.
Georgia Can Win
If you give Florida the edge on defense against Georgia’s offense (which I don’t know is necessarily a given) and the edge on Special Teams (which is undeniable), you’re still left with a terrible Gator offense taking on what has been an average defense and what could be an elite defense – potentially at the flip of a switch. The much-maligned Georgia defense can win this game for the Bulldogs.
Picking My Scenario
I wouldn’t be DudeYouCrazy if I didn’t do something a little bit crazy every once in a while. But, you wouldn’t keep reading if I was consistently wrong. I’m taking Georgia to win this football game (something I wouldn’t have done as recently as Tuesday) with a stellar defensive performance, and I’m hoping I’m not wrong – this week more than ever.
That’s all I got/