Today's storylines: UF vs. Georgia
Published: Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 1:18 a.m.
'Dogs looking to streak
The Gators pretty much owned the Bulldogs over most of the past two decades. Now, they suddenly find themselves trying to avoid a three-game losing streak in the rivalry. Georgia has won two in a row and can be the first UGA team to win three in a row since 1987-89. And Aaron Murray has a chance to become the first 'Dog quarterback since Buck Belue in 1979-81 to beat the Gators three games in a row. Speaking of streaks, UF coach Will Muschamp has never been on the winning side in the rivalry. He was 0-4 as a Georgia player and now is 0-2 as Florida's head coach. He said earlier in the week that he treats this just like any other game, but you have to wonder if his former school has gotten into his head.
Holding on to the ball
There's no mystery why the Gators have lost two in a row to the Bulldogs. Turnovers. UF turned the ball over a whopping six times in last year's 17-9 loss. The final turnover came late in the fourth quarter when tight end Jordan Reed fumbled inside the Georgia 5-yard line. Two years ago, it was a similar story. The Gators lost two crucial fumbles in a 24-20 loss. At one point, Florida led 17-3 in that game, but could not hold the lead — or hold onto the football. Obviously, the Gators know they have to take care of the football today or they'll likely lose their third in a row in the rivalry.
UF looking for an offensive spark
During the bye week, the Gators did not exactly overhaul their offense in an attempt to get it moving. They just tweaked it a little bit, according to the players and coaches. So, schematically, the offense probably won't look much different than it has all season. But there have been some changes in personnel. True freshman Kelvin Taylor will start at tailback, 6-foot-8, 361-pound junior college transfer Trenton Brown will start at right tackle and Tyler Moore, who has started five games at right tackle, becomes the starter at left tackle, where he replaces the injured D.J. Humphries, who sprained his knee in practice Monday. Taylor is the one newcomer most likely to provide a spark. He's UF's most natural runner and is coming off a breakout performance against Missouri, where he rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease admitted earlier this week that Taylor should have gotten the ball more in that loss.
Gurley good to go?
Georgia coach Mark Richt said earlier in the week that star tailback Todd Gurley will play in today's game after missing the past two games with a high ankle sprain. Some, however, are wondering how effective Gurley will be with an injury that can take four or five weeks (or sometimes longer) to completely heal (like it did with UF quarterback John Brantley in 2011). The Gators are expecting to see Gurley today. If he struggles with the ankle, true freshman J.J. Green will be called upon for the bulk of the carries. Behind Green is another freshman, Brendan Douglas.
Going into the season, this year's Florida-Georgia game had the potential to be a big one. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 5 in the preseason, coming up just five yards short of playing for a BCS title in 2012. The Gators were ranked No. 10 after their season was derailed by a loss to the Bulldogs. Injuries to key players have left both teams in similar situations. UF will need big efforts from its reserves to break UGA's two-game winning streak.
Georgia QB Aaron Murray has a chance to beat the Gators three straight times today. While Murray is 2-1 against UF, his numbers haven't been pretty. In 2010, he turned the ball over four times in a 34-31 overtime loss. He won his next attempt 24-20, but only completed 15 of 34 passes and had an interception and was sacked three times. Last year, he threw for 150 yards with three interceptions in an ugly 17-9 win.
Will to win
Florida's coaching staff has been feeling some heat from fans after consecutive losses to LSU and Missouri. A key win over rival Georgia would do a lot to quiet the critics. Will Muschamp is 0-2 as a coach against his alma mater — something fans are not used to seeing. Previous coaches Steve Spurrier (11-1), Ron Zook (2-1) and Urban Meyer (5-1) all had winning records against Georgia.
In a season where Florida's offense has left much to be desired, wide receiver Solomon Patton has provided some of the biggest moments. Today's date has been marked on his calendar since suffering a broken left arm on a tackle by safety Shawn Williams in last year's game. Patton came back even better with 28 catches for 426 yards and four touchdowns through the first seven games. The Gators will need big plays from receivers Patton, Quinton Dunbar (pictured above) and Trey Burton today to beat Georgia.
TODAY'S GAME QUESTIONS
1. Coming out of the bye week, will there be any noticeable changes in the Florida offense?
2. The Gators were gutted in the running game in the back-to-back losses to LSU and Missouri. How will the run defense hold up against Todd Gurley?
3. Like it has done so often over the past few years, will the UF offense make a struggling opposing defense suddenly look good?
4. Despite his success in the SEC, UGA quarterback Aaron Murray has had problems with the UF defense. Will that trend continue today?
5. Can the Gators take care of the football and make the most of their trips into the red zone?
Check Gatorsports.com after the game for Andreu's Answers.