Where: Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.
When: 3:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Florida won, 41-17, in 2009.
Georgia should be able to run the ball against Florida's struggling line, but it remains a mystery who will do that running. Washaun Ealey's knee limited him in practice all week. Caleb King is back, but has a two-game suspension left him rusty? QB Aaron Murray has been solid all season, but this is his first Georgia-Florida game, so all eyes will be on how he handles the atmosphere. One thing is certain: A.J. Green will be targeted a lot, especially against an average Gator secondary.
Urban Meyer promised changes on offense during the bye week. He came back listing four areas that had to improve: Turnovers, big running plays, passing efficiency and red zone performance. So basically everything except blocking. Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps return, so that could help the big plays. But the Gators will have to be able to pass effectively, and that means QB John Brantley will have to pick up his game.
Justin Houston has 8.5 sacks this season, but Florida has only allowed 10 all season. So watch to see whether he's able to get around the edge. Given the Gators' offensive struggles, one sack, or just a good pressure, could derail a possession. The Bulldogs' have the league's top-ranked run defense, but it will be tested more around the edges. This will be a big game for safeties Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams.
Safety Ahmad Black is Florida's leading tackler, which tells you what you need to know about the Gators' run defense. Last year the Gators held 10 of their 14 opponents under 100 yards; This year they've only held three of seven. But Florida has the SEC's second-ranked pass defense, and in Black and Janoris Jenkins the Gators have some playmakers.
Georgia kicker Blair Walsh, who was announced as a semifinalist for the Groza award on Friday, has been struggling lately. But he remains a potent kicking tandem with punter Drew Butler. The return of Branden Smith should help the punt return unit, which was doing fine anyway. Brandon Boykin is one kick return touchdown away from setting an SEC record. And Georgia's kickoff coverage remains ranked first in the SEC.
But Florida's kick coverage ranks second. It also leads the league in punting and kick returns. Jeff Demps could be very dangerous on punt returns. All that said, Florida was handed a big loss this week when place-kicker Caleb Sturgis was ruled out of the game after aggravating a back injury. Punter Chas Henry has been struggling trying to fill in.
Georgia players and coaches can say that every year is different and the team's problems in Jacksonville are the past. But everyone knows the history, so head coach Mark Richt has to get his team past that.
Meyer had a week off to revamp his offense, which has to help. But offensive coordinator Steve Addazio has been under fire. And the defense appears to miss Charlie Strong, now the head coach at Louisville.
Georgia WR A.J. Green vs. Florida CB Janoris Jenkins (and company). Jenkins is a veteran, with 51 career starts, so he may get a lot more single coverage than other cornerbacks who have faced Green. Plus, Florida's coaches have probably seen how the increased attention on Green has elevated the rest of the Georgia offense.
Florida's lack of big plays vs. Georgia's propensity to give them up: Well, something has to give here, right? Look for the Gators to try a few deep, play-action passes to Deonte Thompson. They will also try their hardest to get the ball in space to Rainey and Demps. So it's up to Georgia to be ready for it, and not bite on play-action – as it has a lot this season.
Prediction: Florida 30, Georgia 27
- Seth Emerson