There are plenty of storylines swirling around the annual showdown for SEC East supremacy in Jacksonville. Suspensions and COVID related questions for the Gators and a growing list of injuries for the Dawgs make this contest a tough one to handicap. The development on the injury front for UGA throughout the week will be crucial as most of the affected players are on the defensive side of the ball and the Gators have a high octane offense in 2020.
Ultimately each team will show up to the Cocktail Party with the players available to them and excuses won’t matter when the game is over with. The outcome will be determined by execution and the indicators for how well Georgia executed will come down to 4 statistics. Time of possession, Yards per carry, Yards per pass attempt, and turnover margin will be the areas Georgia must either succeed, and or improve upon to win their 4th straight contest against Florida.
TIME OF POSSESSION
Georgia has an extremely talented defense. The players that filled in for injured starters and key rotators are all 4 and 5-Star prospects that Georgia has great confidence in. The issue is the depth. Particularly at the defensive tackle and safety positions, Georgia will be playing guys without an abundance of experience, especially if Lewis Cine is out. All of these players are typically part of the wave of reserves that Georgia strategically runs onto the field to keep fresh and wear out opposing offenses. The amount of substituting will be much less on Saturday. To help alleviate this, Georgia must possess the ball far longer than Florida.
The Gators are not worried about sustaining drives on offense, and they won’t necessarily have a goal of winning the time of possession battle versus Georgia. However, the best defense is a good offense. With what we’ve seen from Georgia in 2020, a good version of the offense will be one that can consistently and methodically make it’s way down the field. I would not expect to see much hurry up or 5-wide from UGA Saturday. Georgia’s 15 play stretch of running plays to open the game versus Kentucky could have foreshadowed a large portion of the game plan for Florida. If Georgia is able to hold onto the ball for upwards of 35 minutes, then it will have limited the possessions for Florida and helped out the ailing, yet still salty, defense.
YARDS PER CARRY
Obviously, as mentioned with the 15 runs to start the game against Kentucky, Georgia is going to be committed to running the football. That will certainly help with the time of possession. So it’s not a matter of if, but how UGA runs the ball versus Florida. Todd Grantham’s defense averaged giving up 4.16 yards per carry in their first 3 contests against Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Texas A&M before holding down a Missouri to just 40 yards this past weekend. Should Georgia get around the 4 yard per carry mark, it’s going to be a pleasant Cocktail Party for the guys in red & black. Zamir White, Kendall Milton, James Cook, and Kenny McIntosh are averaging 4.82 yards per carry combined this season.
YARDS PER ATTEMPT
When you are able to run the ball like Georgia does, and presumably will be able to versus Florida, the playaction passing game has to count when you pull the trigger. For the most part, Georgia and Stetson Bennett IV did that against Kentucky. Granted, 13 pass attempts is not likely to be the total output against Florida, but on those 13 pass attempts against the Wildcats, Bennett IV had his highest yards per attempt number of the season at 10.07. There were explosive plays hit on passes to Darnell Washington, James Cook, and Kearis Jackson. A good sign, but there must be more on Saturday. Look for the 43 to 13 run to pass disparity to be not as steep against Florida, but still run heavy.
Georgia should throw upwards of 20 passes and when they do, they much be down the field. The Dawgs are hopeful to have George Pickens back and that will certainly add a deep threat element to the offense. Darnell Washington is a mismatch nightmare for defenses and UGA might try to turn the tables on Florida by utilizing a freakishly large, athletic tight end to rip off big gains and move the chains. Of course Kearis Jackson and Jermaine Burton are likely to see upwards of 5 targets each as well.
I’m not going to insult your intelligence as a football fan. Without question if Georgia turns the ball over against Florida and give that offense extra opportunities, then they’ll lose the game. Simply put, Georgia, namely Stetson Bennett IV, must make good decisions with the ball, the backs and receivers must protect it when carrying it and the Dawgs need to play clean. None of the other key metrics that have been laid out before will matter in the least if the ball security is not prioritized in Jacksonville.