Are the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs really 22-point favorites against the Florida Gators?
Florida starting quarterback Anthony Richardson was caught by surprise on Monday when told the Gators entered this week 22-point underdogs against No. 1 Georgia.
“We've pretty much been the underdog all season,” Richardson said. “A lot of people have been counting us out, doubting us. But that just comes with the territory.”
The Gators (4-3, 1-3 SEC) will go into their annual rivalry game against the Bulldogs on Saturday in Jacksonville (3:30 p.m., CBS) needing to show improvement just to make a game of it in the fourth quarter.
Defending national champion Georgia (7-0, 4-0 SEC) has won its first seven games by an average margin of 32.6 points, with the lone scare coming in a 26-22 win at Missouri on Oct. 1.
The 22 points mark the largest betting spread in the series since 2001 when UF was favored by 19 points.
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Georgia coach Kirby Smart, in his seventh season, has stacked his roster with top five national recruiting classes to build a program that was able to reload after losing 15 players to the NFL Draft last year, including nine in the first three rounds.
First-year Florida coach Billy Napier understands the talent gap between the two schools.
“There's work to be done in a lot of different areas when you're trying to put together a football team,” Napier said. “But personnel is part of that. I think we all understand the value of acquiring really good players. And then having a culture and a development plan, once they do arrive.”
Bye week progress
Napier said the bye week was spent adjusting in all phases, the most pressing of which is a defense that ranks second to last in the nation on third down. The Gators have allowed opponents to convert at a 52.58 percent clip on third-down conversions.
“Statistically there are a lot of areas where we need to improve,” Napier said. “I don't know what you want me to answer to that, but we're right in the middle of it. There's nobody that's ignoring the problem.
“I think we've got a group of people that really care about doing their job better, and that's what they're going to try to do.”
Florida defensive lineman Tyreak Sapp said fixing the third-down woes comes down to generating a better pass rush.
“We can affect the quarterback more, just be more precise in our rushes,” Sapp said.
Florida will face an AP No. 1 team for the 18th time in school history and the third time in its last two seasons. The last win for the Gators against an AP No. 1 team came against Alabama in the 2008 SEC title game.
“We view it as a great opportunity, a big opportunity because we know it's a game that we're going to all have to come together as a team and execute on all phases of the game,” Sapp said.
Offensive lineman O'Cyrus Torrence returns to practice
On the injury front, Napier said starting right guard O’Cyrus Torrence, a preseason All-American and arguably UF’s most talented player, returned to full practice on Monday. Torrence sat out UF’s last game on Oct. 15 against LSU with an undisclosed injury. The bye week allowed other players to continue to make progress and heal as well
“We'll benefit from it, for sure,” Napier said.
Florida’s three losses this season have come by an average by 8.3 points. In two of the losses, the Gators trialed by three scores against LSU and Tennessee but rallied back in the fourth quarter to make things close.
“We're just a few plays away,” Sapp said. “We feel like we're so close, we just feel like there's something there we're missing and there's a reason we can't break that barrier.
"I feel like we are going to figure it out this week.”