FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2018, file photo, Florida head coach Dan Mullen, center, runs onto the field with his players before an NCAA college football game against Charleston Southern, in Gainesville, Fla. With Mullen leading the way and calling the plays, No. 9 Florida has made more offensive improvements in the last nine months than it did in the previous nine years. The biggest strides have come in the last seven weeks, all since losing to Kentucky for the first time since 1986. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Florida-Georgia Preview: Dan Mullen’s Turn Around Puts Florida in a Good Position to Face Georgia

The No. 9 Florida Gators are coming off a bye week and are ready to face the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville for the much anticipated annual Florida-Georgia game. Both Florida and Georgia are coming into the game with an overall record of 6-1, and both losses were to SEC teams.

Saturday’s matchup will be the sixth time both teams enter into the competition in the top 10 of the AP poll. Historically, Florida leads 3-2 when both teams are ranked in the top 10.

The Gators will also make its 38th appearance on College GameDay, the third highest national total. This is also GameDay’s fourth trip to the Florida-Georgia competition– the Gators have won the last three times GameDay was in Jacksonville.

“It’s a great rivalry in a great setting, so it should be fun,” Florida head coach Dan Mullen said.

Florida’s Rise Under Dan Mullen

When Gator football head coach Dan Mullen came to the program, fans were just hoping he would turn around a subpar four-win season. Now, the Gators are No. 9 in the AP top 25 poll– Florida’s highest ranking since Nov. 15, 2015, when the Gators were ranked No. 8– and sitting at the top of the SEC East. Out of the 21 first-year FBS head coaches, Mullen is the only one to defeat a top-five team (LSU).

Feleipe Franks’ Improvement

Fans have seen Feleipe Franks grow into a stronger and more versatile quarterback this year compared to his performance last season. Franks has thrown at least two touchdowns in six of his last eight matchups.  Franks also ranks tied for 23rd nationally with 15 touchdown passes (six more than he had last season). Even more impressive, Franks has the highest single-season total by a Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow in 2009 who threw 21. With statistical signs of improvement, many are hoping he plays well on Saturday. Mullen said the quarterback’s performance is a key factor for a team’s success in a game.

Coach Mullen has spent this season adjusting to Franks’ strengths rather than forcing him to do certain plays. With this approach, Franks has had more opportunities to play well and be successful as a quarterback.

“It’s the coach’s responsibility to put your players in positions to do things well, especially in the quarterback position” (Dan Mullen).

Mullen says as the season continues, he has seen Franks’ confidence increase as they continue to build their relationship and trust in each other.

Florida’s Pressure in the Red Zone

The Gators are one of the best in the country at holding opponents to field goals when they enter the red zone– something Dan Mullen underscores to his team.

Last month in Starkville, Mississippi State entered the matchup ranked sixth in the nation in red-zone touchdown percentage (scoring 13 touchdowns in 15 red-zone trips). During the game, the Gators held the Bulldogs to two field goals in the red zone. In addition, the Gators are ranked 10th in FBS with a 42.9 percent opponent red-zone touchdown percentage.

Spotlight On Florida’s Pass Rush

The Gators have 12 sacks and 23 tackles for loss in the last three games. Jachai Polite and Jabari Zuniga have been a powerhouse for the Gators.

They have combined for 17 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks this year.  Polite is ranked fourth (7) and Zuniga is ranked ninth (4.5)  among SEC players in total sacks. In addition, Polite is tied for 11th among all FBS players in total sacks.

Game Details

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. Live coverage starts at 11:30 on ESPN 98.1 FM/ 850 AM.

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