Predictions of how the 2010 Georgia-Florida game will turn out seem to be falling into two categories.
On the one hand, you have those folks like the Vegas oddsmakers who look at how the teams have performed to date and figure the rebounding Dogs, who’ve been clicking offensively the past three weeks, have an edge over the stumbling Gators.
On the other hand, you have prognostications that basically boil down to this: The Dogs will choke and Florida will win because Florida usually wins. Typical of this school of thought is erstwhile AJC-er Terence Moore, who declared on WSB-TV’s “Sports Zone Sunday” that because of the fallout from the infamous end zone dance of 2007 the Dogs will never ever beat the Gators again as long as Urban Meyer is coach.
While Moore’s stance hardly ranks as reasoned analysis, there’s no question Florida has tended to feed off its dominance in the series over the past two decades while the Dogs often press too hard in this game.
But will that Jacksonville mojo really be a factor for the Gators this year? After all, this is sort of an unprecedented match-up of a pair of unranked teams that both have lost to Mississippi State and both count a win over Kentucky as their biggest victory to date. That’s uncharted territory for the Gators.
One thing seems clear: Mark Richt’s Dogs need to continue their recent trend of stopping their opponent from scoring on its first drive and getting the first points. When Georgia has scored first this year, it has won; when it hasn’t, it has lost. And the same applies to Georgia-Florida games in recent years. Fortunately for the Dogs, Florida has been extremely slow out of the gate this season.
The Gators have the best defense that the Dogs will have faced so far, but Florida hasn’t been very effective defending the run, and that’s been Georgia’s strong suit the past few weeks. Washaun Ealey’s “tweaked” knee could be a factor, though, as could some rust from two weeks off for Caleb King. But Georgia has the better quarterback in Aaron Murray and the best receiver in A.J. Green. The Gators do have a terrific secondary, but I don’t think Green will be denied in any one-on-one battle, and if he’s double-teamed, Georgia has other options.
On defense, the Dogs have given up a lot of yards through the air, though the Gator passing game hasn’t been very effective so far this season. And the Dogs have had trouble with mobile quarterbacks, which might make Florida backup Trey Burton in the Wildcat a potential problem. But barring a miracle transformation from Meyer’s bye-week “modifications,” Florida’s offense looks pretty ordinary, even with a gimpy Jeff Demps and stalker boy Chris Rainey returning.
Special teams appear pretty even. Both teams have fine punters; Georgia ought to have an edge in placekicking, since the Gators’ Caleb Sturgis won’t be able to play, but that depends on whether the Dogs’ Blair Walsh can shake off a few recent misses.
So, yeah, there are a lot of question marks hanging over this game. But Florida looks vulnerable for a change and the Dogs aren’t going to come into Jacksonville as intimidated as they have the past couple of years. Turnovers are always big in this series and Georgia has been looking good in that regard recently while the Gators have had problems holding on to the ball. And I think dual-threat Murray will be the big difference.
Bottom line is that Georgia has the momentum and the more dangerous offense this year, which should be enough to overcome any lingering Jacksonville jitters.
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