Guys…..Florida is going to win the SEC East this weekend.
I have read a few Florida vs Georgia game previews, including one written by our very own Jackieblogs. Their take on the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, is largely that Georgia is going to wax Florida. Well, I am here to tell you folks – that is not going to happen.
Florida has been a dumpster fire since 2009, and nobody can deny that. No Florida fan will deny that. However, this is not 2010-2017. This is 2018, and Dan Mullen has done an absolutely masterful job at bringing this program back from the dead in just year one. He was the best coaching hire of the off-season bar none. Florida’s improvement in the offensive efficiency department, should get Dan Mullen some votes for coach of the year alone.
So lets take a look at this season’s Florida vs Georgia match up, and see why I believe that Florida will win this game Saturday in Jacksonville.
Turnovers – Florida Strength, Georgia Weakness
Florida has been killing it in the turnover department. They have led the nation for most of the year in turnover margin, and currently sit at 8th in the nation in that stat category. By comparison, Georgia is ranked 40th on that category.
Florida is currently ranked 5th in nation in turnovers created, where Georgia ranks a lackluster 74th in the nation in turnovers created.
Georgia is having trouble creating pressure on the QB this year as well. Where Florida is ranked 14th in the nation in sack %, Georgia is ranked a pathetic 107th in the nation. Georgia is ranked 108th in the country with 1.5 sacks per game, where Florida is ranked 24th with 3.0 a game, and is currently averaging 4.0 sacks per game over the past three games.
Florida’s ability to create turnovers, and also create pressure on the QB is huge advantage for the Gators in this game. Jefferson, Zuniga, Clayton, Polite, and others on Florida’s D Line are absolutely electric. Georgia’s seemingly anemic pass rush and inability to create turnovers, could mean that the inconsistent Franks can have some time back in the pocket to make the throws he needs to make in this game. Franks has struggled throughout his career under pressure, but can sling the ball with the best of them in the country, when he is allotted time to make his read and get rid of the ball on time.
Florida Must Limit Georgia in the 3rd Qt
Florida currently ranks top 15 in the country in both 2nd and 4th quarter defense. Florida ranks inside the top 30 in 1st quarter defense. However, Florida seems to struggle in the 3rd quarter, where it currently ranks 55th in the nation in 3rd quarter defense.
On the contrary, Georgia is one of the best 3rd quarter teams in the country, coming in ranked 2nd in the nation in 3rd quarter scoring. Florida, however, seems to struggle mightily in the 3rd quarter, ranking an abysmal 117th in the nation in 3rd quarter scoring.
Accompany Florida’s struggles with 3rd quarter scoring and defense, and Georgia’s exceptional offensive play in 3rd quarters this season, I would say this weekends 3rd quarter may be the most important stretch of the game for Florida. If Florida is going to win this game, and essentially win the SEC East, as I think Kentucky will drop another game, then they will have to turn this 3rd quarter trend around.
If Florida can make it into the 4th quarter in solid shape, they will be in great position to win this game. Georgia is currently giving up a full TD more a game in 4th quarters than Florida, over the last three games.
Both Teams Come in with a Solid Run Game
Georgia is coming into this game ranked a solid 28th in rushing per game. Florida is ranked an equally solid 36th in the country in rushing per game. When considering that many teams that rank higher in rushing, are triple option and run heavy teams, those 28 and 36 rankings are better than the number suggests – especially considering their competition they’ve already faced.
Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine, and Dameon Pierce head Florida’s backfield. All three RB’s are averaging over 5 ypc, with Pierce averaging an amazing 8.4 ypc on 35 attempts, and Scarlett and Perine both averaging 5.4 ypc on 70 and 69 attempts respectively. All three have the ability to bust the big play, and put their team on their back in any given game. QB Feleipe Franks has 125 yards on the season, and has been known to pick up first downs with his legs all year. Not a prolific runner, but a gritty runner nonetheless. Five different players have scored rushing TDs this year for the Gators.
Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift head Georgia’s backfield. Like Florida, both are averaging over 5 ypc, with Holyfield averaging 7.5 ypc on 65 attempts, and Swift averaging 5.1 ypc on 71 attempts. Georgia also have a few guys that are contributing late in blowouts, such as Brian Herrien and James Cook, who are running the ball effectively. Unlike Florida with Franks, Fromm is far from a running threat. They do have Justin Fields, however, who was the #1 QB recruit in the country. Fields has been brought in on running plays throughout the season, and has 3 TDs on the year. I expect to see him throughout the game.
Both run defenses are not very spectacular statistically against the run. Florida is ranked 56th in the nation in ypc allowed at 4.1 ypc. They are staying at that average over the past three games at 4.1 ypc. Georgia is ranked 69th in the nation in ypc allowed, at 4.3 ypc. Over the last three games, it has been even worse, at 4.6 ypc.
Florida, however, has played Mississippi State, who is ranked 13th in the nation in rushing yards, and Florida held them to 104 for the game. On the flip side, Benny Snell trucked Florida for 175 yards, as the nations 16th ranked rushing team gashed Florida for 303 yards. That Kentucky game has skewed the stats negatively for Florida, as they drastically held MSU under their season average, and also held LSU under their season average of 190 yards as well.
Georgia has not played anyone inside the top 35 in rushing so far this season. Florida seems to be more battle tested. I do not see Georgia with the edge here. I believe this is a toss-up, and the tested Florida run defense will make the difference in this game.
Florida has the Edge in the Passing Game
You read that right. I believe Florida has the edge in the passing game, and I am here to tell you why!
Florida currently ranks 25th in offensive efficiency this year. This will be the first time it ranks inside the top 50 since Tebow-led Florida ranked 4th. This is even more remarkable, considering Florida ranks just 71st in total offense (yards per game). Despite being ranked just 71st in total offense, they are incredibly ranked 37th in scoring. That is a big disparity in total offense and total scoring. Florida has been so good at creating short fields for its offense, that it has skewed Florida’s offensive numbers to seem more piss poor than they really are.
One of the major reasons for the drastic improvement in offensive efficiency, is the development of Franks at QB under Dan Mullen. In under one years time, Mullen has developed Franks into possibly the worst QB in a power 5 conference, to a fairly efficient QB ranked 23rd in the country in TD passes with 15. Accompany that with only 5 interceptions and a QBR 32 points higher than last year, and you have a serviceable QB ready to lead his team.
Franks has accuracy issues that still plague his play, but so far this season, they have only resulted in the 5 turnovers mentioned above. He will have to continue to improve on that, but as mentioned above, Georgia lacks something that usually gives Franks fits – a pass rush. Georgia’s lack of creating pressure and getting sacks, mixed with its inability to create turnovers, is a good thing for Franks. When Franks has time in the pocket, he will be able to make plays. Franks matches up better with Georgia than he did against LSU.
Van Jefferson and Freddy Swain are the two big playmakers this season, who have made the most impact. Tyrie Cleveland and Toney are big play threats as well. I believe this receiving core is every bit as talented as Georgia’s.
As both teams will surely rely on their run game, I believe that Franks will be able to make enough plays to win Florida this game.
Franks counterpart is Jake Fromm. I do not see a massive difference in Fromm from Franks. Fromm is more accurate than Franks without a doubt, but he does not have the arm strength or the gritty running ability that Franks has. Fromm struggled mightily against LSU, and I believe the Florida defense may end up forcing Fromm to give up more time to Fields than in previous games this season.
Florida’s ability to create pressure and get to Fromm will be the major difference. Fromm and Franks have almost identical numbers outside of completion %, so I see the ability to sack Fromm and create turnovers by the Florida defense as the difference here. That is what gives Florida that edge in the passing game.
Additional Thoughts and Prediction
Mullen has changed the culture at Florida. I mean he REALLY changed it. Florida fell apart late in games over the better part of the last decade. However, Mullen has this team digging deep and willing themselves to victory. They are 4th in the nation in 4th quarter scoring, and the games against Mississippi State, LSU, and Vanderbilt show that tenacity that Mullen is installing in this program.
I believe with that toughness and culture change, accompanied with the ability to create turnovers and sack Fromm, that Florida will win this game Saturday. I believe that Florida will essentially lock up the SEC East, and will earn its right to get lobotomized by Alabama in Atlanta. This will be a low scoring, run heavy affair.
Prediction: Florida 23 Georgia 21