Like many at the helm in the collegiate level, Gators coach Dan Mullen strives for a varied offense — however, he would likely acknowledge that the team’s offense production at times is contingent upon, if not directly correlated to, yards per carry from the rushing attack.
“The ability of staying balanced, we’ve done that. You look, maybe not total yards, but within play calls we try to stay pretty balanced. Because of that, you look at some of the explosive plays, our most explosive plays on the season have been in the run game. That’s kind of a tribute to staying balanced,” he said. “If we can get some explosive runs, we’ll take it. Obviously, I love consistency, but the type of team we are, if we’re going to be more (explosive), we’ll put our guys in position to do that.”
Yet, aside from being simply too plain of an explanation of a complex offensive philosophy and system, that seemingly won’t be the case Saturday.
When the Gators arrive in Jacksonville to battle Georgia in The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, Florida is preparing to air it out.
Although the Dawgs, having allowed opponents just 266.7 yards per game, possess the nation’s No. 7-ranked defense, the passing defense ranks fourth in the conference behind Kentucky as UGA is allowing on average 181 passing yards per contest this season.
While that not may seem like a sign of good fortune for the Gators, it isn’t as daunting on closer inspection.
Georgia safety J.R. Reed is the de facto leader with 34 tackles, half a sack, a forced fumble and an interception this season, and Richard Lecounte III is turning in another impressive campaign at the other safety position after leading the team in tackles last season. Striking over the top may prove to be difficult.
“I think they’re very disciplined. They don’t give up a lot of free plays on busted coverages or anything like that,” UF quarterback Kyle Trask said. “I think they play very smart, and they’re well-coached.”
After that, however, there’s a noticeable drop-off in production, and a possible area for UF to exploit.
Freshman defensive back Tyson Campbell had an impressive start to the season, yet a foot injury had sidelined him for the past month. Although Georgia coach Kirby Smart left the door open for the highly touted freshman’s return this week, there’s no guarantee he’s fully healthy by Saturday.
If Campbell can’t go, the Dawgs will continue to rely upon redshirt sophomore Eric Stokes and redshirt freshman Divaad Wilson to play significant minutes alongside D.J. Daniel in the secondary.
While those players have no shortage of potential, their playing experience pales in comparison to that of UF’s deep receiver corps.
And, considering Florida’s passing offense enters Saturday’s contest ranked No. 28 in the nation in passing yards per game — the highest of any opponent Georgia has faced this season — it appears the neutral-site showdown will give the Dawgs’ secondary its toughest test yet.
But, once again, Florida is the consensus underdog. That marks three times this season — a surprising number for a team clutching a No. 6 ranking, in control of its own destiny and chasing its first College Football Playoff.
“I’m pretty sure everybody in this room knows they’re one of the top teams in the SEC right now. They’re competing for the same thing we’re competing for. We have to be ready to execute throughout this week in practice so that we can perform extremely well come Saturday and to try to come out with a win, because they do have a really good defense,” Gators wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “Coach Mullen says all the time that these are the games you come to the University of Florida for, to play in these top-10 matchups.
“I think a lot of guys are excited to get back to work today, get back to practice, get back to the practice field, get back ready to grind for this four-week stretch we have coming up.”