When: 3:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday Nov. 2, 2013; CBS
Where: EverBank Field; Jacksonville, Florida
HAVE TO SEE CHANGE
For the Gators Saturday, we need to see some positive change on offense. Offensive production has sunken to a low that we haven't seen in quite a while. Sure there are a lot of injuries and multiple other excuses, but at the end of the day the production is still too low for the level of talent on the field.
Adding a big dose of freshman running back Kelvin Taylor should help and make things look better in this man's opinion. Bu the issues all start with blocking and protections in my opinion and most but not all the blame lies with the play of the offensive line. They are having issues with other players in the blocking and protection schemes as well.
Florida's receivers are maybe not the overall talent that the gators are used to fielding, but they are a very experienced bunch and have been productive this year. The gators have to find a way to get them the ball which has dropped off considerably in the last two games.
On defense, this man's opinion is that the return of Ronald Powell and Damien Jacobs up front will allow the defense to play better than they have the last two games. They still miss Dominique Easley, but with all three of them gone up front, they lost much of the flexibility that a Will Muschamp defense likes to use in his schemes.
The loss of junior defensive back Cody Riggs after one play against Missouri was also an issue both in the pass and the run game. Riggs has been a big part of the pass rush, often times blitzing from the nickel spot or coming up strong in run support. He has played pretty well this year and should help a lot with issues they had against Missouri.
Florida's linebackers have to play better although Muschamp did elude this week to the fact they were constantly getting swallowed up by linemen because the defensive linemen were exhausted and not playing assignments last week with their lack of depth. Muschamp has also said that it is likely Freshmen Joey Ivie and Jay-nard Bostwick will enter the mix now and add some depth in the trenches.
Georgia comes into the game banged up as well. They do get starting running back Todd Gurley back, but it remains a question how healthy he will be and how much he can take in terms of wear and tear on his high ankle sprain he suffered several weeks ago.
The other area of concern is at receiver where a few Bulldogs have been lost to injury including flashy Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley. They also lost running back Keith Marshall for the year, all three with ACL tears.
Others are banged up like star receiver Chris Conley, but he is expected to play. When in full gear, the Georgia offense is a two-headed beast. Quarterback Aaron Murray owns several SEC records and is in his fourth year of starting at Georgia. He drives the ship. When healthy Gurley is a beast and can be the feature of the offense if need be.
Seniors Rantavious Wooten and Rhett McGowan will start for Georgia at receiver. They have talent at the position even if some of the main guys are out. Tight end Arthur Lynch is an All-SEC candidate and can be counted on as well as a top target.
The offensive line starts three seniors and a junior and has a ton of experience. With the injuries at running back Georgia is only 7th in the conference in rushing offense, but the protection has been good and with a pass happy offense they have only allowed nine sacks in seven games, good for 5th in the conference.
Georgia's defense has been a sore spot for Dawg fans. Georgia is last in scoring defense (33.3 pts. / game) in the SEC and 11th in the SEC in pass defense (253.4 yds. / game). They are a sturdy 4th in rush defense.
The scoring stat is a bit misleading as they have had several miscues on offense and special teams that led directly to scores or short fields for the defense to try and cover.
The Bulldogs have been surprising up front with the play of their defensive linemen. Senior Garrison Smith is a quality pass rusher on the inside and also plays the run well. Junior defensive end Ray Drew has size on the outside but has been able to apply pressure as well. Freshman outside linebacker Leonard Floyd likes to rush in their 3-4 defense as well. Georgia is 5th in the conference with 19 sacks this year.
Floyd and junior linebacker Amurio Herrera are the strength of the linebackers, although the complete unit is athletic.
The issues have mostly come in the secondary and the Bulldogs have made some changes to help. Freshman Shaq Wiggins is now a starter at one cornerback spot while junior Damian Swann has been picked on himself at the other corner spot. Freshman Quincy Mauger and sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons are the starting safeties for Georgia.
Just looking at Florida trying to attack Georgia on offense, the Gators are going to have to find a passing game. The Dawgs have proven themselves stopping the run and even though Florida may feel a little better with Taylor running the ball, the weakness in the Georgia defense is in the passing game.
I like the Florida receivers as a match up here, but the issue still remains in protection of the quarterback. Georgia has a knack for the sack and that is an issue right now with the Gators. They will have to find a way to get some time for Murphy and roll him out several times to buy that time. Everyone has to do their job.
It is tough to pick Florida doing much on this side of the ball until they show they can do it.
On defense, Florida will try as they always do, to stop the run first. Gurley is as good as it gets when he is healthy, but nobody expects him to be 100%. Will the ankle injury flare up too much to be as potent as he needs to be? We shall see.
Murray is the one that can nullify the lack of a running game, but he has really struggled against Florida in the past. Murray is 27-58 for 319 yards, 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions against Will Muschamp defenses.
But, he is also 2-0, and he was responsible at the end of both games for the drives that ended up winning the games.
In the end, Muschamp and the defense have devised game plans that have beaten Georgia and the Dawgs appear to be more banged up than usual in this case. Florida is feeling better with their kickers these days, but we don't really know how well they will do in the long run. Georgia's Marshall Morgan is leading the conference in scoring and is a proven commodity. The Gators are tops in the SEC in kickoff coverage while Georgia is last. Florida is 3rd in the conference in kickoff returns while Georgia is last. Florida is 3rd in punt returns while the Dawgs are 11th.
Florida really owns most of the categories on special teams, especially if both kickers are settled and perform well. This could actually be a deciding factor in the game given the huge differences between the two units.
In the end though, it comes down to consistency and performance. The one underlying factor for myself that the Gators have to get over is the inability to move the ball and put points on the board. Because of that I am going to make the rare pick against the Gators and say Georgia wins in a low scoring affair 13-10.