To-do list for Florida to have success vs. Georgia

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Florida defensive end Jabari Zuniga (92) chases down Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm as the referee throws a penalty flag on Georgia for holding during the fourth quarter of the Oct. 27 game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [Bob Self/GateHouse Florida]

Anyone breaking down the Florida schedule in the preseason probably would have listed the Georgia game as a high probability of a loss for the Gators. The perception back then was that UGA was simply a better football team and would run away from UF and everyone else in the SEC East.

Well, that perception has been changed by the reality of the season.

Georgia, coming off two consecutive subpar performances, including a home loss to South Carolina two weeks ago, suddenly doesn’t look like the clear-cut king of the East at the moment.

Florida, sitting at 7-1 and ranked ahead of Georgia in the polls, is now viewed as a legitimate contender in the division race. The Gators just beat the team that beat Georgia, and they did it on the road, in a hostile environment, scoring 38 points and winning by 11.

So, as the HBC would say, the Gators have got a chance Saturday in Jacksonville.

Their chances of pulling out a victory will be enhanced if they can do the following three things:

Follow the USC blueprint

The Gamecocks came up with a plan to beat the Bulldogs, and they followed it to near perfection. First, they slowed down UGA’s powerful and potent running game and put the Bulldogs in a lot of obvious passing situations, putting the game in the hands of quarterback Jake Fromm. Then they brought steady pressure on Fromm, forcing him out of his comfort zone — and forcing him into making critical mistakes, including a pick-six late in the first half that set the tone for the rest of the game.

Uncharacteristically, Fromm ended up throwing 52 passes (way over his average for a game), three that were intercepted. And the Georgia offense, missing its usual balance, sputtered and stalled, scoring only 17 points.

The Gators need to follow the USC blueprint.

UF’s defense, which has been gashed on the ground at times in the past two games, is not going to stuff D’Andre Swift and the UGA rushing attack. But the Gators need to limit Swift’s explosive plays to one or two and slow down the overall ground game, putting the Bulldogs in obvious passing situations and forcing Fromm to beat them with his arm.

In the past two games with Georgia, both losses, the Bulldogs had success on the ground and took all the pressure off Fromm, who combined to throw only 31 passes. The Gators have to be strong enough against the run to force Fromm to throw more passes than he ideally would want to. If his total goes beyond 30, it enhances UF’s chances because Florida’s secondary appears to have a considerable edge against a UGA receiver group that has struggled to get open and make plays.

Protect Trask, don’t give up on the run

The big guys up front have not been able to generate much push in the running game, but they’ve been solid in pass protection. The line needs to keep Trask on his feet Saturday and give him enough time to go through his progressions and find the open receiver. If Trask is adequately protected, Florida’s talented receivers, including tight end Kyle Pitts, will have a chance to make a bunch of plays and keep the chains moving — and the UGA offense on the bench.

And the Gators need to stick to the running game even if it’s not there in the first half, or even the first three-plus quarters. That approach eventually paid off with long touchdown runs (88 and 75 yards) in the second half in the victories over Auburn and South Carolina.

So, throughout the game, keep the ground game activated — and maybe something will eventually pop. Just the threat of that could take some of the pressure off Trask and the passing game.

Take care of the football

This is a must. In the past two games in the rivalry, both one-sided UGA wins, the Bulldogs were big winners in the turnover margin battle, going a combined plus-four.

The Gators killed any chance they had of sticking with the Bulldogs last year with three turnovers — two fumbles and an interception — to Georgia’s none. In the past two losses, UF committed five turnovers to UGA’s one.

In a contest like this, the team that wins the turnover battle usually wins the game.

The Gators have been pretty good taking care of the ball this season and are plus-3 in turnover margin. They have to be better than just pretty good Saturday. They may need to be perfect.


Up next

Who: No. 6 Florida (7-1, 4-1 SEC) vs. No. 8 Georgia (6-1, 3-1)

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville

TV: CBS

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

13 COMMENTS

  1. Personally, I don’t think USC had much of a “blueprint” for Georgia, other to hope, wish, and pray that Georgia didn’t show up for the game. And, that’s exactly what happened — Georgia didn’t show up and South Carolina failed to lose the game. Not sure I’d want to follow the same plan, but of course that is up for debate as there are actually people on this planet who ascribe brilliance to Will Muschamp.

  2. ”In the past two losses (to the ugly UGA Dawgs), UF committed five turnovers to UGA’s one.” And that was the difference. But now it’s a new game, a new era, a new day on Saturday Nov. 2nd, 2019. And the Dawgs ain’t so ”self-assured.” I can actually smell the UGA fear (and it isn’t the St. Johns River!). In fact, all good Gators can smell Dawgs! Go Gators! Chomp-chomp! Just win baby!

  3. Agree with Gator-6 that it may not have been USC’s plan but stuffing the run and making Fromm uncomfortable sounds like the right plan to win. I believe the key to this will be a healthy Zuniga and Grenard – without them the job becomes much more difficult.

  4. Last years game was closer than the score would indicate. It was a 6 point game most of the 3rd quarter when Florida held Georgia to a field goal after holding them 7 times within the 10 yard line before Georgia kicked a FG to go up by 9. Florida quickly kicked a 4th quarter FG to narrow it to 6 again up until a little over 8 minutes remaining. My point is that even with the anemic offensive showing of last year Florida held their own. Florida must hold Georgia to less than 38% on third downs so that their offense has enough opportunities with the ball and limit their turnovers to no more than 2 and they will win.

    • Good insights into the last season’s Gator loss to UGA PVSurfer. Most people look at the final score of that game and assume it was a rout when, in fact, it was pretty close for 3+ quarters.

      The Gators’ anemic passing game just made it impossible to run on UGA’s stout front 7. Eventually, the Gator D wore out and Fromm found his TE running free in the secondary most of the 4th quarter. THAT broke the game open.

      The Gators enter Saturday’s game with a vastly improved passing game and a D that has been great when all hands are on deck, which they may get.

      So, it’s fair to expect a much different outcome.

      GO GATORS!!!

  5. Georgia has a fairly good team, especially on the ground. If Gators force Fromm to the air, it’s a toss-up between Fromm and the Gator secondary with the Gator DB having the edge. Fromm is not the horrible QB some would have you believe. He does not have great receivers, but he is not a terrible QB.
    The battle: coaching, turnovers and the running game of both teams. Either Georgia wins easily, or Gators win by 4 to 6. The return of Drummond, Zuniga and Toney will be interesting to watch.

  6. I would actually disagree Gator-6. Muschamp is known for his defense, as we well know. The goal for most defenses is to stop the run and make a QB beat you with his arm so , since SC did that I think it safe to assume that was their plan. As we saw SC does have a good defense, we were just better on passing and had more in the tank in the 4th qtr. Ga indeed did show up for that game, they just showed what happens to Ga this year when you stop their run. They kept the wrong QB, or its their receivers, or a bit of both.
    UF wins this game, I have no doubt. With Greenard, Zuniga and Toney back Ga wont know what hit them. At full complement UF is as good as LSU!

    • That’s a good point, Daz — but my view of the game in this instance told me that even with a defensive minded coach such as Muschamp, there was no way that South Carolina’s defense was better than Georgia’s offense. As it turned out, at least in my mind, Georgia screwed the pooch too many times to win, a matter of head space and timing vs sheer talent, and South Carolina simply failed to lose the game like they should have. Like man, it was like karma or something dude!