Florida Week: Hale's Look at the Game

JACKSONVILLE - David Hale's look at Georgia's game with Florida.

PASSING: Matthew Stafford has made huge strides since his last showdown with Florida, and he'll easily be the best quarterback the Gators have faced so far this season. Stafford is completing nearly 62 percent of his passes and has thrown 12 touchdowns and just five interceptions. The Bulldogs' passing attack has improved since last season as well, with freshman A.J. Green becoming one of the league's top playmakers, leading the SEC in receiving yards by a wide margin. Florida's aerial attack is one of the nation's best, however, led by Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow and receiver Percy Harvin, who has accounted for nine touchdowns this season. The difference for the two teams, however, may be Georgia's porous pass defense, which ranks 11th in the SEC. EDGE: Florida.

RUSHING: Last year's game against Florida proved to be Knowshon Moreno's coming out party. In just his second career start, he carried the ball 33 times for a career-high 188 yards, including eight rushes on Georgia's opening drive of the game that ended in a 1-yard Moreno touchdown. This season, Moreno is just hitting his stride, and he has tallied 335 yards and two touchdowns in his past two games. In the last meeting between these two teams, Tebow was the Gators' primary rusher, but this time he has plenty of weapons around him. Tebow is just one of four Gators with at least 200 yards on the ground this season, including freshman running back Jeffrey Demps, who is averaging almost 12 yards per carry on the season. Chris Rainey and Harvin are also dangerous with the ball in their hands. EDGE: Georgia.

DEFENSE: Until last week, Georgia had built a reputation for being nearly impossible to run against. LSU, however, managed to tally nearly three times as many yards as the Bulldogs had been allowing prior to the game. Still, Georgia ranks sixth in the country against the run and will no doubt be keeping a close eye on Tebow. The Bulldogs' passing defense, however, is a concern. Georgia is allowing more than 220 yards per game through the air, more than 50 yards per game more than the Gators. Last week, Florida held Kentucky to just three points and 127 passing yards. EDGE: Florida.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Georgia's special teams have improved the past few weeks, led by Blair Walsh, who booted his second field goal of more than 50 yards a week ago, and punter Brian Mimbs, who averaged more than 50 yards per kick last week. For the season, Georgia leads the SEC in punting, but the task gets a lot tougher against the Gators. Florida blocked two kicks against Kentucky last week, and returner Brandon James is one of the nation's best. The Gators average more than 20 yards per punt return – fifth best in the country. EDGE: Florida.

ONE TO WATCH: Matthew Stafford. It's hard to pick one player to focus on in this game that features more than a dozen big playmakers. The Gators have a bevy of speedy weapons on offense and a star in linebacker Brandon Spikes. Georgia, meanwhile, has the conference's best running back and a breakout wide receiver in Green, along with its own defensive dynamos. In the end, however, the game will likely come down to which quarterback plays better, and while Tebow has tons of hype and a Heisman trophy on his resume, Stafford may be the more dangerous passer at the moment. He has topped 240 yards passing in four of his past five games and has thrown a touchdown in each.

HALE'S TAKE: It's a funny thing about this game. Each year, it seems to be the biggest one on Georgia's schedule, but rarely has it had this kind of significance. Both teams have been consistent winners in the SEC East, but this is just the fifth time in history both teams have come into the game sporting a top-10 ranking. For as much is riding on the outcome of this showdown – likely a berth in the SEC title game and a shot at a national title – the Bulldogs' past three division titles came in seasons when they lost to Florida. The last two times Georgia beat the Gators, it didn't win the East. That won't be the case this time, and both teams know this will easily be their biggest game of the year. Add the extra spice of last year's antics and some leftover animosity between players and coaches, and you've got the recipe for what could be the SEC's best offering of the season.


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