Time will tell, but this is a talented Georgia team and even without the distractions and the disastrous loss last week, this was going to be a tough game for the Gators. Here is a look at some personnel match-ups.
Florida defensive front vs. the UGA offensive line
Split Tackle #72 Daniel Inman 6-7, 312, So.
Split Guard #70 Nick Jones 6-3, 288, So.
Center #50 Russ Tanner 6-4, 295, Jr.
Tight Guard #74 Max Jean-Gilles 6-4, 341, Jr.
Tight Tackle #66 Dennis Roland 6-9, 314, Jr.
Tight End #81 Leonard Pope 6-7, 253, So.
Coming into this season I wasn't sold on the offensive line of UGA. Yes they returned all their starters from a year ago, but they were miserable last year. I think most of their offensive woes early in the season can be attributed to the offensive line this year. I also think they are really starting to improve as they are gaining more of the experience they so desperately needed. In the last three weeks they have gone from seventh to fourth in total offense in the SEC because the line is buying more time for David Greene and DJ Shockley and they are opening holes up that weren't there earlier for their plethora of backs.
This is a huge group compared to most of the teams the Gators have matched up with lately. They aren't movers like the Gator offensive line, but their size makes them very effective pass blockers. They like to power block and don't want to get out in open spaces blocking the defense.
The Gator defensive front took a beating last week as the paltry Mississippi State offense ran over and through them. This has grown into a bad habit for the Gator defense, although last week seemed to be the worst yet. The Gators are not getting sterling play out of their defensive tackles, something that has been necessary this season for the defense to play well. The defensive ends as a group haven't produced either, but that was almost expected in the early part of the season. Jeremy Mincey is the lone exception. Although his sack numbers don't show it, he has been productive and maintains a high intensity throughout the game. The linebackers have been taking a beating by fans, but they continue being the guys making the tackles. Certainly they have had their miscues, but the front four has to take most of the blame.
Analysis: It is going to be tough for this maligned unit of Gators to step up against a very talented team. The unit is capable and does show flashes, but the consistency to play within the frame of the system continues to bite them.
Florida secondary vs UGA skill positions:
QB #14 David Greene 6-3, 227, Sr.
QB #7 DJ Shockley 6-1, 208, Jr.
TB #20 Thomas Brown 5-8, 185, Fr.
TB #28 Danny Ware 6-1, 212, Fr.
FB #41 Jeremy Thomas 5-11, 250, Sr.
TE #81 Leonard Pope 6-7, 253, So.
WR #82 Fred Gibson 6-4, 202, Sr.
WR #1 Reggie Brown 6-1, 197, Sr.
WR #4 Sean Bailey 6-1, 173, So.
It all starts with Greene. He is the catalyst for the Bulldogs offense and the brains behind it. He is a smart player that rarely makes the game losing mistakes. He is trying to become the all time winningest quarterback in NCAA history. He has a good but not great arm, and he beats you with his head. All of these accolades and he still has one bridge to cross, he has never beaten the Florida Gators. This must be steadfast in his mind. Shockley brings his own set of tools to the table. We are all familiar with his interception to Guss Scott for a touchdown and most Gators want him in the game. He has completed over 59% of his passes, but only has one touchdown on 27 pass attempts. Where he can really hurt you is on the ground. He has a 7.1 yard per carry average. The running quarterback has been the biggest Achilles heel for most of the season for the Gator defense.
Brown and Ware are both averaging more than 5 yards per rush attempt. A lot of this they have done on their own. The running lanes are coming easier these days, but earlier they were having to scramble in the backfield to make something happen. Both have great wheels. Brown is definitely more of the scat back while Ware can run around or through the defender.
Georgia has run a lot of three receiver sets this year and when they do, Sean Bailey will line up in the slot. They are very dangerous as a group. Gibson and Brown have always had tremendous ability, but have decided to wait until this year to put it together and be a consistent receiving duo. They have a combined for nine touchdowns and over 1100 yards. Both of them along with tight end Pope average more than 16 yards per catch. Pope only has eight receptions on the year but seems to have big play capability.
The secondary and linebackers have their work cut out for them covering a very athletic bunch of skill players. This will probably be the second best group they face after Tennessee at every position except UGA has a tremendous boost at quarterback over the youthful Volunteers. The linebackers must drop well into their zone coverage and the defensive backs must continue to play tougher like they have shown through the season. The Gators have a real problem with the bootleg quarterbacks this year and this doesn't seem to be a problem in this case. The bootleg intermediate routes have been a killer. The Bulldogs attack the outside with their receivers. And the middle with their backs and tight ends. This plays a little better in the hands of the Gator defense.
Analysis: I like the match-up scheme wise as the UGA attacks the outside and doesn't use their quarterback in motion very much. Still, the Gators have to show everybody something when it comes to playing defense.
Florida offensive line vs. MSU defensive front
DE #58 Will Thompson 6-3, 257, Sr.
DT #97 Kedric Golston 6-4, 282, Jr.
NG #92 Gerald Anderson 6-2, 313, Jr.
DE #47 David Pollack 6-3, 261, Sr.
Sam #53 Derrick White 6-2, 247. Jr.
Mike #33 Odell Thurman 6-1, 235, Jr.
Will #42 Danny Verdun-Wheeler 6-2, 239, So.
It all starts with the big guys in the middle. Golston and Anderson are two monsters that take up a lot of space and plug up the middle nicely. Georgia has the #6 defense in the country and #20 against the run. They actually take up space more than they make plays, but they do more than an adequate job of that so the linebackers and safeties clean up on the tackles.
The best position on the team is probably the defensive ends and starters David Pollack and Will Thompson. Both Gator recruits at one time, Pollack and Thompson absolutely get after the ball carrier and especially opposing quarterbacks. An all-American last year Pollack has benefited greatly by the pass rush of Thompson. Although only 1 sack, Thompson adds eight quarterback pressures. Pollack is the man though. The eternal motor, he has six sacks and 23 quarterback pressures on the season. The tackle numbers aren't great by the defensive line, but the certainly push everything inside for the linebackers and safeties to make plays.
Thurman has missed 3 games this season and is already third on the team in total tackles. His 8.5 tackles per game is far and away the best on the team. He is already second in tackles for loss, only behind Pollack. Verdun-Wheeler and White are solid but not spectacular linebackers. All of Georgia's linebackers can run really well.
The Florida offensive line continues to be the soundest unit on the team. The veteran group plays with emotion and consistency game in and game out. They have allowed only 7 sacks on the season and are set to have the best mark in that category since Emmit Smith was the offense in the late 80's. The Gators are rushing the ball at a clip of 4.7 yards per attempt. Although the Gators are 7th in the league in rushing offense, the per carry average is tied for 2nd.
Analysis: I think the match up here is closer than it looks on paper. The Gators have a formidable offensive line. The Bulldogs counter with maybe the best pure pass rusher in the country. The Bulldogs also stack the box and apply even more pressure on the front.
SLIGHT EDGE: GEORGIA
Florida skill positions vs UGA secondary
SC #2 DeMario Minter 6-0, 193, Jr.
FS #10 Thomas Davis 6-1, 230, Jr.
Rov #17 Greg Blue 6-2, 215, Jr.
WC #23 Tim Jennings 5-8, 173, Jr.
Georgia possesses more team speed on defense than any other team the Gators Will face this year. Thomas Davis is a beast at free safety. He will play in the box and will take your head off when the receiver comes over the middle. He may actually be a better player than Pollack. Davis possesses unreal speed and get to the ball in a hurry. He also has one of the only two interceptions on the year for the Dogs. He leads the team in tackles and averages eight tackles a game. Blue is second on the team in tackles and also plays in the box a lot. The Dogs like to crowd the line of scrimmage and force teams to try and throw. The corners are fast, but not exceptional. Jennings is undersized and can be taken advantage of because of that.
The Gators wide receiver corps has been gaining experience and making more and more big plays. The emergence of Chad Jackson and his 23.6 yards per catch along with the big play capabilities of Bubba Caldwell and Dallas Baker, should make the defense of Georgia back off, even if just a little. Chris Leak is Chris Leak, he has had a good season, yet due to the way the season has gone it is perceived as sub par. Ciatrick Fason is second in the conference in rushing yards per game and averaging 5.7 yards per carry and almost three receptions per game.
Analysis: I think this is the match up that the Gators have to exploit the most. The small corners and the fact that the safeties play tight in the box, should allow the Gators to throw down field. If the protection is there I see that happening.
Mark Richt and staff are coming off of back to back SEC East titles. The Gators shared the title with them last year, but lost due to the tiebreaker. Ron Zook and staff have never lost to the Bulldogs of Georgia.
The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is one of the best venues in all of sport. The game day atmosphere and the split crowd is second to none. The Bulldogs are still in the hunt for the SEC East and need the win to stay that way. They are dog tired of losing to the Gators and the 13 of 14 streak has to weigh on their minds. The Gators are reeling from a miserable performance that just forced their coach to be fired. The bad pub;icity and constant press harassment has to be the worst of distractions.