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(Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

Smart, Georgia look to bounce back against Florida

The Georgia Bulldogs are in Jacksonville, Florida, this week for a neutral-site game against the Florida Gators.

On top of the fact that this is a rivalry game, Saturday’s matchup could determine who ultimately ends up winning the SEC East. Both the No. 7 Bulldogs and the No. 9 Gators currently have a 4-1 record in the SEC and a 6-1 overall record.

Georgia is coming off a 36-16 road loss against LSU, but they had a bye last weekend to prepare for Florida. Head coach Kirby Smart talked about a few factors that will help his team beat UF for the second straight year:

Prioritizing the running game

Since 2006, the team that won the Florida-Georgia game had the rushing advantage over the loser. In last year’s 42-7 win, the Bulldogs, powered by the tandem of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, outrushed the Gators 292-183.

Smart is hoping to receive that same type of production from his backfield again, which now features Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift. The third-year coach spoke to the media on Wednesday about the importance of outrushing the Gators in this rivalry game:

It’s a small sample size, but Georgia has outgained their opponents on the ground by an average of 149 yards per game in their four SEC wins. In their only loss this season, they were outrushed by LSU 275-113.

Getting off to a fast start

Against the Tigers, the Bulldogs could not generate any offense in the first half.  The team had just 114 total yards, along with five punts and a fumble in the red zone.

The biggest key to Georgia’s victory last year over Florida was how quickly they opened up the floodgates. They had three touchdowns in their first three possessions and held a 21-0 lead over the Gators by halftime.

Smart said his squad has done well in the second half this year, but would like to see them take command early offensively:

An interesting element of this game to keep an eye out for will be whether or not Justin Fields takes the field at any point. The true freshman, who has appeared in five games this season, could potentially get some playing time if starting quarterback Jake Fromm struggles once again.

Facing Mullen once again

For the second time in two years, Smart will be taking the field opposite of head coach Dan Mullen. Last year, Georgia beat the No. 17 Mississippi State Bulldogs 31-3.

While speaking to reporters, Smart had high praise for what Mullen can do as a play-caller offensively. He cited his ability to stretch the field and allow his quarterbacks to throw simple passes as some of his greatest strengths:

With Smart being a defensive mind and Mullen calling plays on the other side of the football, one of the biggest matchups to focus on will be the chess match between these two on the sidelines.

Game notes:

  • CBS will have coverage of Saturday’s game, which is scheduled to kickoff at 3:30 p.m.
  • Running back D’Andre Swift (ankle) is probable for the game, while defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt is questionable. Defensive tackle DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle is out.
  • Since the year 2000, Florida has won 12 of the 18 times they have played Georgia.

 

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