Georgia-Florida preview: Dogs 3-17 in past 20 meetings but favored in this one
(Note: Please join the conversation on Jeff Schultz’s live blog during the game.)
Georgia vs. Florida at a glance:
- 1. Two unranked teams streaking in different directions. For the first time since 1979 –- the year before Herschel Walker showed up in Athens — Georgia and Florida will meet with neither team ranked in the national polls. And yet, in this crazy SEC East season, the winner of the game between the Bulldogs (4-4, 3-3 SEC) and Gators (4-3, 2-3) will remain in contention for a berth in the SEC title game. Georgia is 3-17 vs. the Gators in the past two decades and 2-7 under coach Mark Richt, so Bulldog Nation descends on Jacksonville with wariness, despite the Dogs bringing a three-game winning streak and the Gators a three-game losing streak into the game.
- 2. Washaun Ealey’s status. Ealey had a career game last week, running 28 times for 157 yards and a UGA-record five touchdowns at Kentucky. But, typical of how things have gone with Georgia’s running backs this season, he injured his right knee (sprained MCL) in the fourth quarter. He has been limited in practice this week, and although Richt has said he expects the knee to improve by game time and Ealey to play, the situation bears watching. Caleb King’s return from a two-game suspension could be well-timed.
- 3. Watch the turnovers. In the past two Georgia-Florida games, the Bulldogs committed eight turnovers (four in each game) and the Gators none. That helps explain why Florida won those games by a combined score of 90-27. This season, the Bulldogs are plus-7 in turnover margin, a drastic improvement from last year’s minus-16. And on its current three-game winning streak, Georgia has won the turnover battle by a combined 9-1, the one turnover being a ricochet of an onside kick by Kentucky. The Bulldogs cannot afford a turnover relapse in Jacksonville.
A Georgia win would …
- Force the Bulldogs to pull for Arkansas to beat South Carolina on Nov. 6 and Florida to beat South Carolina on Nov. 13, because Gamecocks losses in those games could send Georgia to the SEC title game.
- Be the Bulldogs’ fourth consecutive SEC victory, which would be their longest single-season SEC win streak since 2007.
A Florida win would …
- Put the Gators in position to clinch the SEC East title by beating Vanderbilt on Nov. 6 and South Carolina on Nov. 13.
- End the Gators’ longest regular-season losing streak since 1988 at three games.
Keep an eye on …
- For Florida: Junior running back Jeff Demps, who won the 2010 NCAA championship in the 100-meter dash with a blazing time of 9.96 seconds, has been slowed by a sprained foot since the third game of the season. But he benefited from an open date last week and is expected to be at or near 100 percent. He has averaged 7.3 yards per touch as a running back in his career, tied for No. 1 in the nation among active RBs with at least 250 touches. In addition, Demps has averaged 32.5 yards on eight kickoff returns this season.
- For Georgia: Wide receiver A.J. Green almost surely will have to make some big plays for the Bulldogs to win. In the game’s most compelling individual matchup, he figures to be primarily defended by Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins, perhaps the SEC’s best corner other than LSU’s Patrick Peterson.
The numbers game
- 14-4: Florida’s all-time record vs. Georgia when the Gators have a bye week before the game, as they did again this time.
- 117.9: Florida quarterback John Brantley’s pass efficiency rating, which ranks 10th among SEC starting quarterbacks and well behind Murray’s 157.
- 42.2: Third-down conversion percentage by Georgia opponents this season, the highest against any defense in the SEC.
- Last meeting: Florida won 41-17 last year as Georgia threw four interceptions and committed nine penalties for 87 yards.
- Series record: Georgia leads 47-39-2, including 40-37-1 in Jacksonville.
The bottom line
Despite the Gators’ recent domination of the Dogs, Vegas has Georgia as a 2 1/2-point favorite. Proving, if nothing else, that a three-game winning streak is more attractive than a three-game losing streak.
Please join the conversation on Jeff Schultz’s live blog during the game.