It's been 31 years since Georgia and Florida meet on the gridiron and neither team was unranked. These teams seem to be meeting on different paths. Georgia started off the season 1-4 committing mistakes and turnovers at the worst possible time in every game. Since then Georgia has reeled off 3 straight dominant victories and appears to have found itself. Florida started off the season shaky but was able to navigate it's was to 4-0 before dropping consecutive games to LSU, Bama and Mississippi State managing only single digits in two of the losses. Florida comes off a bye and has re-vamped the offense and will get two offensive play-makers back (Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey). Can Florida right their ship or will they continue to fade as Georgia comes on strong? Here are my keys to the game.
GET OFF TO A FAST START
The team that scores first has a big advantage. Florida has a bruised ego and they need something to go right early in this game to get them thinking they are back. Georgia is on a roll but when it comes to Florida they always have doubt in the back of their mind. If Georgia comes out firing like they have in their last 3 games it could give them the confidence and momentum they need to carry them to victory.
WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE
After ranking 118th last year in Turnover Margin, Georgia appears to have turned a corner this year and is ranked 17th Nationally. In the 4 games Georgia has lost it has lost the turnover battle by a total of 3 turnovers. In the games they've won they are +10. Over the past three weeks Georgia has been taking other teams mistakes and turning them into points. In Florida's 4 wins they are +8 in turnover and in their 3 losses they combined to post a -6. Looking at those numbers I think it's pretty easy to say that the team that wins the turnover battle will win this game.
MAKE SPECIAL TEAMS SPECIAL
Florida leads the SEC in KO return yardage but Georgia leads the league in least amount of yards allowed. Both teams have returned a KO for a TD this year. The big news might be that Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis will not play in Saturday's game. In his absence Chaz Henry has gone 0 for 3 in the last 2 games. Florida is only 4 of 9 on FGs this year. Georgia is 2nd in the SEC at 82.4% on FGs but Blair Walsh has struggled in the last couple of games missing a kick against Vandy and one against Kentucky. The team that makes the least amount of mistakes in the Special Teams game has a huge advantage in this game.
ESTABLISH A RUNNING GAME
John Brantley has struggled a lot more than expected this year at Florida. A lot of fans just expected Urban to plug in Brantley and he would continue right where Tebow left off. In two of it's three losses this year Florida was held to under 100 yards rushing and were held to under 3 yards per carry. With the off-week Florida looks to plug in Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey and get their ground game going. In 3 of Georgia's losses it's Defensive Line has gotten controlled and time of possession has been used against the Dawgs. Despite these 3 losses Georgia somehow leads the SEC in Rushing Defense. Over the last 3 games Kentucky rushed for the most yards against Georgia posting a meager 70 yards. Since Georgia re-vamped their offensive line a few weeks ago they are getting better blocking up front and the runners are responding. Last week, Washaun Ealey tied a Georgia record by running for 5 TDs against Kentucky. Ealey is a little banged up but says he's ready to go and he will be joined by Caleb King who is back from suspension after being arrested for not paying a speeding ticket. Look for Georgia to try and establish the run and for Aaron Murray to look for A.J. Green and Kris Durham on play-action and look for Florida to look to the run game for big plays. The team that finds the run and stuffs the run should stand tall at the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
As a Georgia fan it's hard to ignore Florida's dominance over Georgia in the last 20 years. Georgia has the momentum on their side as they have dominated their opponents during their 3 game winning streak and have a large amount of confidence on their side coming into this game. I think this game comes down to who comes out of the gate quicker. If Florida puts two touchdowns up quickly then Georgia will start to push and will turn the ball over. If Georgia can come out and establish the run and Aaron Murray can find his receivers and make plays with his feet then it could be a long day for Urban Meyer and Florida. I like Georgia in this game, especially because Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong are coaching elsewhere. Despite the records in this game this Saturday should be one to watch.
Prediction: Georgia 31 Florida 20