Keys to win in Jacksonville

Florida Gators wide receiver Quinton Dunbar drops a pass during the first half of the Florida/Georgia game at Jacksonville Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Jacksonville, Fla.

Matt Benson / Correspondent
Published: Friday, November 1, 2013 at 1:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 1, 2013 at 1:19 p.m.

There was a time when it looked like Florida might catch Georgia in the all-time series. The Gators pulled within eight after the 2006 win, but the teams have split the six games since then.

It’s still pretty impressive for Florida to be trailing by only eight games considering Georgia started the series by going 12-2-1 and had a later stretch where it went 15-4.

All of the games of the past in this historic series mean nothing when the teams face off Saturday in Jacksonville.

For Georgia to win and stay alive in the SEC race, the Bulldogs have to do these five things:

1. Stuff the run.

Florida is not very good when it has to throw the ball. The truth is that the Gators haven’t been very good running it in SEC play (10th in the league). Florida is at its best when it can establish the run and use play-action. If Georgia can force Florida into second-and-long and third-and-long, it will be a long day for UF.

2. Make third downs.

As good as Georgia’s offense has been this season, the Dogs have struggled on converting third downs. Their 36 percent is 13th in the conference and Florida leads the league in third-down defense.

3. Cut Gurley loose.

If Todd Gurley is 100 percent, Georgia would be smart to ride him like a horse. Florida’s rushing defense has been terrible the last two weeks, allowing 380 yards in the two losses. Gurley is the best back the Gators have faced.

4. Avoid turnovers.

Florida was beaten by turnovers last year and Georgia knows it. The worst thing the Bulldogs can do for a struggling Florida offense is to give the Gators short fields or cheap touchdowns.

5. Have a solid special teams game.

Georgia fans are irate with special teams that seem to get worse every game. Dropped snaps on punts, blocked kicks, long returns. The Bulldogs have been a mess and in what could be a close game the special teams could be the difference.

For Florida to break Georgia’s two-game winning streak and give Will Muschamp his first win ever in this series, the Gators have to do these things:

1. Score points.

That seems simple enough. But Florida’s biggest issue this season has been its inability to get the most out of trips into the other team’s territory. Georgia is 14th in the conference in scoring defense. If it doesn’t happen in this game for UF, it probably isn’t going to happen.

2. Defend the pass.

You know, like the Gators used to do. They struggled mightily at Missouri and are facing the SEC’s second-best passing attack. Florida’s talented corners have to come up big against an injury-depleted Georgia receiving corps.

3. Win special teams.

We already pointed out Georgia’s problems. Florida has been solid all year and seems to have found a go-to kicker in Frankie Velez. One huge advantage -- Georgia is last in the SEC in kickoff returns and Florida is first in kick return defense.

4. Win the turnover battle.

They have been spotty for the defense this year. Georgia is minus-5 in turnover ratio and we all know Florida’s inability to hold on to the ball cost them last year. An early gained turnover could spark the fire that has been missing for the Gators this year.

5. Ditch the wildcat in the red zone.

Florida is last in the SEC in red-zone scoring. For some reason, the Gators insist on running Trey Burton from the wildcat when they get inside the 20. Unless you have a trick play off the formation, send it packing. Try throwing the ball into the end zone instead.

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