In 2008 Florida scored at least 30 points in all nine games against SEC opposition, including the one it lost to Ole Miss. Its average margin of victory in those games was 30 points.
In 2009 Florida has scored 30 points against one SEC opponent, that being Kentucky. The Gators managed 23 against Tennessee, 13 against LSU, 23 against Arkansas and 29 against Mississippi State. Their average margin of victory in those five games was 13.4 points.
As silly as it sounds to say of the nation’s No. 1 team as led by the nation’s No. 1 player, Florida isn’t playing well. It was lucky to beat Arkansas in the Swamp — remember, Georgia scored 52 points against the Razorbacks on the road — and needed a phantom interception to escape Starkville with a 10-point victory. (Remember, Georgia Tech beat MSU by 11 points on the same field in a game that was only cosmetically close.)
Tim Tebow ranks 45th in the nation in total offense. By way of comparison, Joe Cox ranks 53rd. After the Mississippi State game Tebow didn’t meet the media, which was an utter shock. (He said later he wanted to spend time with MSU coach Dan Mullen, formerly Florida’s offensive coordinator, and family.) But Urban Meyer acknowledged this week: “Tim Tebow is not playing at his highest level.”
Tebow told reporters on Monday: “It’s kind of new and it is frustrating.”
Put simply, Florida is vulnerable. And looky who the Gators play this Saturday.
Georgia is coming off its most impressive game of 2009, albeit against Vanderbilt. It has had a week to rest and ready a new end-zone dance. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) When last the Bulldogs had a bye before Florida, they beat the Gators and Tebow in a performance so stunning it rankled Florida for the next calendar year.
But let’s get serious. Georgia is 4-3. It needed a last-gasp pass breakup to beat South Carolina and a last-second field goal to subdue Arizona State. It lost by 26 points — the second-worst defeat under Mark Richt, topped only by 49-10 in Jacksonville last season — to unranked Tennessee. It led Vandy only 17-10 after 40 minutes.
Some team is going to beat Florida. Georgia, sorry to say, is not that team. It doesn’t defend well enough, and it isn’t going to score many points against Charlie Strong’s inspired bunch. (Florida ranks No. 1 in the nation in total defense; Georgia ranks 70th.) The Bulldogs will play hard and keep it close for a half, and then superior forces will carry the day/night.
It’s weird. Georgia hasn’t beaten a No. 1 team since it stunned Florida 24-3 in 1985, and these Gators don’t look nearly as impregnable as those Gators did. But this isn’t a vintage Georgia team. In almost any other year it would be easy to pick the upset. Not this time.