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Florida's head coach Dan Mullen smiles with his players during in the first half of an NCAA college football game against South Carolina, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Columbia, SC. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

Gators Put Their Dreams on the Line Against Georgia

The No. 6 Gators taking on the No. 8 Georgia Bulldogs puts Florida in prime position for success. After talk of being “slept on” early in the season, Florida is now gaining traction on a national level. However, the team cares more about that -6.5 in Las Vegas.

Being the underdogs against the Dawgs motivates the Gators to go even harder in Jacksonville. Georgia took the last two games. Florida is determined not to let it happen again.

What Does This Mean?

A win over the Dawgs could catapult Florida into “the conversation.” A win would put the Gators in the SEC East driver’s seat: another chance to beat LSU or Alabama is always good.

Falling to UGA last season killed the momentum against Missouri, giving the team its third loss of the season. After that, something clicked in Gainesville.

Since that Missouri loss, the Gators are 11-1, with their only loss coming against the nation’s current top-ranked team.

Injuries piled and the “next man up” mentality seemed more real than ever. However, the team persevered and, more importantly, kept winning.

The only thing Florida hasn’t enjoyed under Dan Mullen is a win over its most bitter rival. Taking what they came for would give a whole new meaning to the Gators’ Gator Standard.

Georgia

It won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination. But, a win over Georgia is do-able.

Without a wheelhouse of elite receivers on deck, Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm has struggled. He’s scored just one touchdown against teams in the AP Top 25. His passes seem to get shorter and shorter. Besides the fact that this inflates his completion percentage (70.7%), it shows that Coach Kirby Smart doesn’t trust him to throw deep.

Florida’s defense is one of the nation’s best. One can infer that Fromm may have a couple of unexpected deep throws Saturday, but for the most part, the Dawgs will likely rely on the run.

D’Andre Swift is an elite running back. With nearly 100 yards per game, the shifty junior breaks an insane amount of tackles and dismantles rock solid defenses into swiss cheese. His vision is unmatched, and he can contort his large body into mouse-sized holes to make a play. Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham agrees.

Unfortunately for the Gators, their run defense is lacking. Linebackers David Reese and Ventrell Miller can turn men into pancakes. Florida’s well-documented “rotating safety” group can defend the run, but its members seem to miss multiple tackles per game. Pairing that with an elite tackle breaker like Swift does not bode well for the Gators. Reese and Miller must zero in to limit the run and force Fromm to pass. A 9:3 TD-INT ratio means the interception-hungry Gators could feast.

Florida

As far as the defense, the Bulldogs are vastly underrated. 10.6 points allowed per game is a good statistic in the FCS… in the SEC, the statistic is absurd.

Georgia tops the conference in both passing and rushing yards allowed. In the nation, the team is top five on the ground and top 20 through the air.

Dawgs head coach Kirby Smart says his defense has found its identity in stopping the run.

Florida’s running back group is fine. Lamical Perine had a wonderful 88-yard run against Auburn.

However, he has not made the splash many were hoping for and expecting after his performance as RB2 last season. Malik Davis seems gun shy — back-to-back years of season-ending injuries will do that to a guy. Sophomore Dameon Pierce probably gets the job done best out of the three.

The Georgia native could make a bigger impact than Gators fans think Saturday. And of course, Emory Jones has wheels.

Jones also has an arm. With every week that passes, the redshirt freshman looks more and more ready to lead the Gators where they want to be.

This may be a hot take, but I think Jones throws for two touchdowns Saturday. Everyone knows he can run. Georgia’s top-tier rushing defense is probably sick of watching film on him running. Expecting Jones and Trask to pass arguably killed the momentum against LSU. On that third-and-one call, Trask subbed in for Jones making it obvious that the former was going to throw, turning the play into a pick. Giving Jones throwing time will likely throw Georgia off as much as it helps the young quarterback.

Injury Report

Cornerback CJ Henderson will finally get his Georgia game. Last season, a back injury took him out of the game. With Henderson likely preparing to enter the NFL Draft, what better way to showcase his first-round-caliber talent in a top-ten matchup rivalry game that’s front page to college football fans?

The defensive line will arguably get the biggest boost on Saturday. Jabari Zuniga’s redshirt senior campaign has unfortunately been marred by injury. The talented pass rusher is a “go” against Georgia and with the rest of Florida’s schedule being… not so great, Zuniga has an important opportunity to impress those at the next level.

Midseason All-America pick Jonathan Greenard will also take the field after being out due to injury. The Georgia native is taking the past two losses personally. Expect a big game.

Finally, Kadarius Toney is back for the first time since the beginning of the season. According to fellow receiver Van Jefferson, Toney is already back to his wildcat ways.

Florida-Georgia is likely to be the best it’s been in years. A win will solidify the Gators as serious in the college football world. A loss will likely show that the team is not quite there. And that’s not something Florida wants to hear.

About Olivia Granaiola

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