Dogs’ key to beating Gators: QB, defense or something else?

Urban Meyer was more relaxed before last year's Georgia game than he will be Saturday.

Urban Meyer was more relaxed before last year's Georgia game than he will be Saturday.

ATHENS — Just arrived in Happy Town, where the football team has won three straight, the basketball team is considered a conference dark horse and the outside of Stegeman Coliseum is almost completely encircled by glass panels. (OK. Still looks like an old barn with a new shine. But not bad.)

It’s Mark Richt news conference day and I’m planning on writing something about Georgia-Florida later. The focus will be on what I believe is the key to not only this game but the key to affirming that the Bulldogs really are headed in the right direction this season and beyond.

What is biggest key for Georgia in Florida game?

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The answer is . . . well, you’ll just have to wait. I know. I’m such a tease.

If you haven’t heard, the Dogs actually are favored in this game for the first time since 2004, according to Todd Fuhrman of the Caesars Place Race and Sportsbook in Las Vegas. That year, they were 6½ point favorites and won (and covered) 31-24.

This year Georgia is favored by three. Sounds strange, doesn’t it, given that the Dogs have lost 17 of the last 20 meetings and the last two by a combined score of 90-27? But a winning streak (even over the soft competition of Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky) has altered some perceptions in Athens and, maybe more importantly, the Gators are a train wreck. They’ve lost three straight regular season games for the first time since 1988 and coach Urban Meyer’s vaunted offense is ranked 89th in the nation.

So here’s the question of the day, until I post the column later: What is the biggest key to beating Florida? I’ve put up a poll, but here are the choices. You can only pick one.

♦ QUARTERBACK: Aaron Murray (12 touchdowns, three interceptions, 1,766 yards) has been great for Georgia. John Brantley (six touchdowns, five interceptions, 1,266 yards) has been mediocre for the Florida. Is it as simple as Murray outplaying Brantley?

♦ RUNNING GAME: The formerly suspended Washaun Ealey, starting the last two games for the suspended Caleb King, rushed for 280 yards and six touchdowns against Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Florida has struggled to run the ball. Is it as simple as the Dogs controlling the ball with the running game and winning?

♦ DEFENSE: What to think? Florida is struggling (they scored seven points in a loss to Mississippi State and six in a loss at Alabama) and there’s no question Georgia has made some progress. But how worrisome is it that Kentucky rolled up 31 points and 423 yards (353 passing) last week? Clearly there are still some holes.

♦ SPECIAL TEAMS: Rivalry games often turn on freakish plays like a long return or a blocked punt.

♦ TURNOVERS: See special teams.

So those are your choices. I know which way I’m going. Until then, what do you think? I’ll check back shortly.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

351 comments Add your comment

SouthGaDawg

October 26th, 2010
11:10 am

Calibre Lake Dawg

October 26th, 2010
11:11 am

UGA gets it done this weekend. Rainey or not

Mr. Holmes

October 26th, 2010
11:14 am

Running game. Keep that UF defense on the field and get it tired. Hopefully build up a lead of a touchdown or two and make Brantley have to beat you with his arm in the 2nd half.

reebok

October 26th, 2010
11:21 am

running game. but florida’s had 2 weeks to prepare, so advantage gators.

DAWGSBREATH

October 26th, 2010
11:24 am

Dawgs win this game 17-13.

Ree Roe

October 26th, 2010
11:25 am

The key will be AJ Green. He is the best player on the field & will be the determining factor in this game. I am cautiously optimistic that our defense can force some turnovers or not give up big chunks of yardage based on how UF has played, but seeing as this is a HUGE rivalry game and in effect an elimination game in the SEC East, I’m thinking we get UF’s best shot. It will come down to who can make more plays & #8 in the red & black will lead UGA to victory

24-20 UGA

-REEligious Roe!!!

balismith

October 26th, 2010
11:25 am

would love to see the dogs beat the gators …hope it happens…..defense is the key…keep them gators off the field and do not turn the ball over to the reptiles

Long Gator

October 26th, 2010
11:29 am

UGA fans are the most delusional in the USA!

We will stomp you puppies just like we always do.
Because you beat the powerhouses UT, Vandy, and KY you think
you are now so wonderful. IDIOTS>

Be ready for the beatdown again.

Vain Jangling

October 26th, 2010
11:33 am

I’m expecting a last-minute end-around pass by our big tight end, Richard Appleby, to the speedy wideout Gene Washington . . . Wait . . . What? . . . That was in 1975? . . . Sorry. My bad. . . Well, my other choice would be steady quarterback play on the part of young Mr. Murray.

Bryan G.

October 26th, 2010
11:36 am

The key is what UGA’s attitude is. We always play tight and not to lose down there (with 2007 the lone exception). If they can go down there and be confident and take care of business, UGA should come away with a win.

Edawg71

October 26th, 2010
11:36 am

Long Gator, none of this really matters anyway. Urban will never be happy again since he lost his one true love to the Broncos. No more tears to share or hugs to embrace. Love lost, never to be rekindled again.

Hold on to the ball

October 26th, 2010
11:37 am

Turnovers have been key for UGA. Win the turnover battle you win the game. It’s a rivalry game and previous games this season don’t mean much. HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL

outkasted

October 26th, 2010
11:39 am

QB gots to spread the ball around Green, Durham, King, Brown, Wooten, Charles, White, hell even Figgins, Chapas, King and Ealey and he has to make a play or two with his feet……..

J Clay

October 26th, 2010
11:40 am

Jeff – I think you have missed the most important factor for this game and should consider adding to the poll: getting over the metal block against the Gators…it’s all between the ears at this point. As another reader pointed out – it’s playing to win and not playing like you’re scared to lose (again)

Bob Didier Caught Here

October 26th, 2010
11:41 am

Hey Long Gator,

What was the score of that MSU game again? Right now I think Vandy and SC would give you guys a run! Delusional?? Your coach decides that a psycho like Chris Rainey deserves to be reinstated??

Laughing out loud

October 26th, 2010
11:42 am

Edawg71, kind of like Vince losing his lover to the Jersey Generals?

Laughing out loud

October 26th, 2010
11:43 am

Yea Bob Didier how close did you cum to beating MSU? We missed a field goal with our punter kicking it.

Ricky Bobby

October 26th, 2010
11:43 am

The key to the game will be how UGA handles the new looks Urban throws their way after the bye week. He did in 2005 and he will do again this year- UGA needs to be prepared to see something they haven’t seen on film. They will get Urban’s best shot so they need to be ready for anything.

Evansdawg

October 26th, 2010
11:44 am

The running game. If its hitting on all cylinders, Georgia should control the clock, and control the score board.

Laughing out loud

October 26th, 2010
11:44 am

Is Hershel coming out of the closet this saturday?

Tater Salad

October 26th, 2010
11:45 am

Since we both suck so bad, can’t we agree that talking smack is a little silly? My bad team is better than your bad team, blah, blah, blah…

JIMV

October 26th, 2010
11:46 am

Defense is the key. We almost gave the win away last week, but their coach gave us a TD early with the awful decision to go for it on 4th down, and that proved big. Our defense was terrible in the 4th quarter.

RxDawg

October 26th, 2010
11:47 am

I say running game. If you look at UGA’s up and down offensive year, it all came down to running the ball. If we can’t run, our offense sputters and it’s that simple.

Defense is massively important, but our defense has been a lot more stable than our offense. Also, Florida has a pretty good D-line and so I say if we can have success running the football that is the key to a win in Jacksonvile.

Now you have perfect football analogy from Rx free of charge.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Florida Gators, Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: Dogs’ key to beating Gators: QB, defense or something else? http://bit.ly/dui7CE [...]

McDawg

October 26th, 2010
11:51 am

i don’t think the off week this year is a big deal with the way the teams are playing i would rather not have an off week

QB is going to be huge can’t give up any INTs and for once i think our team speed matches up w/ UFs

need to get in Pouncey’s head early-blitz right off the bat over center

DawginLex

October 26th, 2010
11:51 am

Us Dawgs are delusional if we think florida/Meyer won’t come up with something to score points. They will run more spread option to try and take advantage of Demps and Rainey’s speed and hide Brantley’s ability. Burton will play a lot at QB IMO.

UGA has to push the gas pedal and never let up. No conservative play calling this week. Full guns. We must score 35 or more to win this game. This will be the most exciting and high scoring UGA/Fla game in quite sometime.

McDawg

October 26th, 2010
11:52 am

tell both Boykin and Smith to wrap up the ball on kick and punt returns-Boykin carries it like a loaf of bread

German Shepherd Dawg

October 26th, 2010
11:53 am

Hey Laughing Boy,

Having met Mr. Walker personally, I’d suggest you keep that type of comment to yourself.

First, it isn’t funny. Second, knowing he married a UGA girl, I’d say he swings the other way. Third, have you seen what he can do in MMA? Dude, he could snap you in half like a twig.

German Shepherd Dawg

October 26th, 2010
11:54 am

Tater,

The proper protocol is to say “My team sucks less than yours.”

bruce mac

October 26th, 2010
11:54 am

Hey Long Gator, and who have the Gators beaten? Wow, a list of power houses there as well. Both teams are average and that is the truth. You certainly fall into the delusional classification if you think the Gators are a good team.

Edawg71

October 26th, 2010
11:54 am

Long Gator seems angry.

jack bull

October 26th, 2010
11:56 am

i say pass defense. CUM has said they have made some modifications to the offense, which i think he’s meaning to say, “they obviously have a hard time covering people, it seems they just cover a small area while staring into the backfield and WR’s are able to be wide open, therefore, we will line up in the shot-gun and throw the ball.”…i’m betting Brantley has his “break-out game” by throwing for 350+ yds..question is, do we win with that happening…I’m still trying to decide..

dawgfacedboy

October 26th, 2010
11:57 am

Defense- since AJ has come back our offense has been nearly unstoppable. Look at the Colorado game, x amount of series he’s on the field produced 400+ yds of offense, x amount of series he wasn’t on the field (hammy problem) produced -19 yds of offense. Having AJ on the field opens up the running game. There is no more excuses for them not being able to run the ball.

Defense has to play better. Houston and Boykin can’t do it all.

Long Gator's ex-wife

October 26th, 2010
11:57 am

He will always be short gator in my book. That’s why I left him.

Dawg Gonnit

October 26th, 2010
11:58 am

The team with less turnovers will win, period.

Hankie Aron

October 26th, 2010
11:59 am

I think for the UGA players that witnessed the last 2 beatdowns or last year’s beatdown, they are looking for revenge and redemption. More importantly, for Mark Richt, win and I believe all doubt is gone that they are truly headed in the right direction

Eddie Merckx

October 26th, 2010
11:59 am

Tater Salad- I completely agree. As a UGA fan I’m not making any bold statements. Gun shy I guess…

DawginLex

October 26th, 2010
11:59 am

This is the week(again) where Grantham earns his paycheck. I still think it will be 35-31 or something like that.

Maybe a late Rainey fumble will seal the deal?

MURPHY

October 26th, 2010
11:59 am

Its all mental with the Dawgs. If we can have success in the first half like the last 3 weeks we will win in dominating fashion.We do not handle adversity well at all in Jax. We must believe we can win.

Long Gator's Tranny Lover

October 26th, 2010
12:00 pm

You ain’t lyin

Sports Review

October 26th, 2010
12:00 pm

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

30-24

October 26th, 2010
12:02 pm

Just haven’t seen it yet, but the dorks need to be reminded
60-39-5

Dazed and Confused

October 26th, 2010
12:05 pm

The Dogs put points on the board and come on strong. But, in the 4th quarter, they start dancin’ and hi-fivin’, and Ealey fumbles. Florida pulls out a last-minute win. Richt says that his team played well, and he is proud.

richham

October 26th, 2010
12:10 pm

Third and long defense. That will be the entire key to the game.

Dawg Gonnit

October 26th, 2010
12:10 pm

How we handle an early mistake or an early big play by the Gators will tell the tale. If they get in the Dawgs’ heads ( like they usually do in J’ville) we are in trouble. The mentally tougher team will win.

MURPHY

October 26th, 2010
12:11 pm

BoBo cannot let up if we get a lead.He must keep our offense rolling and scoring points. Its a must to keep pressure on the Gator offense to score,this will yield turnovers!!!

bigcalidawg

October 26th, 2010
12:12 pm

I agree with McDawg. They have lost 3 straight, then go into a bye.

We have won 3 straight, no need for a bye, just keep the thang rollin.

And yes, agreed that the running game is key. Our O-Line is finally playing well and Justin kinda took over that game last week. If he comes out with that same fire like last week, it’s over, Brantley is gonna look like an astronomer.

I say the key is PLAYING WITH FIRE

Delusional dawg fans

October 26th, 2010
12:14 pm

FL 34
UGA 10

dean

October 26th, 2010
12:14 pm

GA by 11.

Let it be written. Let it be done.

bacardidawg

October 26th, 2010
12:14 pm

http://pricezack.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/who-is-ready-for-a-cocktail-party/ this is a great preview for the uga vs fla game. its a good read if you are a uga fan