1 Win the Run Game – When you think of Georgia’s great wins over Florida, there are so many fond memories of brilliant performances by legendary tailbacks. Just last year, Sony Michel carved up the Gators for 137 yards on six, yes six carries. Georgia is going to have to dictate with the running game to beat Florida, and the Bulldogs must slow down the Gators rushing attack. Kirby Smart’s top concern for Jacksonville is likely Georgia’s run defense. Missouri averaged 4.6 yards per attempt against Georgia, Vanderbilt 4.8, and LSU a whopping 5.4 in Baton Rouge. Injuries have hit the Bulldogs on both lines of scrimmage, but Georgia still has enough to go toe to toe with the other elite teams in the league. Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will attempt to dial up that run defense that gave up 2.7 yards per carry against South Carolina and 2.6 against Tennessee.
2 Pressure the Passer – One of the highlights of Georgia’s 42-7 rout of Florida was a dominant defensive performance highlighted by five quarterback sacks and a strip and fumble scooped up by J.R. Reed for a touchdown. The Bulldogs did a great job pressuring Felipe Franks, and will have to dial it up again. Dan Mullen has helped develop Frank’s into a very good signal caller. In the Gators comeback win at Vanderbilt, Franks threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns on 19 of 29 passing. He gets more confident every time out. The Dogs must dial up the heat and make Frank’s uncomfortable. Which could also lead to ….
3 Win the Turnover Battle – This is kind of the “well, duh” key that could cover every football game since the creation of the sport. And in a setting like Jacksonville where the emotions are always on tilt, a turnover can turn the game and the crowd. An early interception by Dominick Sanders led to the Bulldogs second touchdown and a 14-0 lead. The Reed fumble recovery touchdown delivered the knockout blow, as the Bulldogs lead ballooned to 35-0 in the third quarter. Last time out at LSU, turnovers doomed the Dogs. Turnovers, and …
4 Dominate the Kicking – Georgia’s kicking game has been outstanding this season and it was great last year en route to the SEC championship. But in Baton Rouge, nothing went right on special teams. During Florida’s dominating run against Georgia that started with the arrival of Steve Spurrier as the Gators coach, there is a long list of horrific special teams gaffes that make Bulldogs fans grimace and shake. Fake field goals, fake punts, kickoff returns for touchdowns, missed field goals from Georgia. Those Special Teams Disasters simply won’t do Saturday. The winds blow funny off the St. John’s, a return to form for the kicking game is a must for Smart’s Dogs.
5 Manage the Energy – This is such a unique game, with the stadium split in half and two of the most rabid fan bases in all of college football. There is always noise and energy in the stadium, no matter the situation. Playing with, as my legendary Bulldogs radio/podcast co-host Kevin Butler says, “controlled fury” is the key. Getting too jacked up, talking smack, a late hit, the things that can draw a 15-yard penalty, those types of penalties can be game-changers.