If the World-Wide Leader in sports is right about anything, it's that the theme of this year is the number of unranked blue-bloods. Three quarters of the way through the 2010 regular season and the nation's traditional powers are nowhere to be found in the latest BCS rankings. No Texas or Southern California. No Michigan or Penn State. And no Georgia or Florida. The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, a game which traditionally has SEC championship implications at a minimum, has been reduced to a
Clash of the Titans battle between two teams barely vying for legitimacy in their own divisions, while trying to overcome their own demons.
On Freud's Couch
The Florida Gators are struggling with one of the worst cases of Separation Anxiety of any team in major conference football. They completely lack an offensive identity, having lost one of the greatest college football players of all-time and the outstanding offensive coordinator that put said player in the position to be great. On the surface, the Gator Offense does not look like a complete train wreck. The jorted ones average 27.5 points per game. But most of that has come against teams with even or losing records, where they pick up 37.6 points per game. In games against teams with winning records, the Gators are a mediocre 1-3, averaging only 20 offensive points per game. If a team has ever missed a player and offensive coordinator more than the Florida Gators miss Tim Tebow and Dan Mullen, I am yet to see it. Florida goes into Jacksonville this weekend in search of a new offensive identity, against a team it has dominated for the better part of 20 years.
The Georgia Bulldogs are not without their own offensive inadequacies. The Dawgs average 31.5 points per game, which is significantly better than the Gator offense, but much of that is a result of the Dawgs racking up an absurd 42 points per game against teams with even or losing records (with a 4-1 record in those games). They suffer a significant drop off against teams above .500. In three games against teams with winning records, the Red and Black are 0-3, averaging a woeful 14 points per game. The Canines suffer from a severe inferiority complex when matched against the better teams of the league. Embattled Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo continues to demonstrate a unique ability to rack up points on bottom feeders while falling asleep for significant periods of games against quality opponents. Georgia goes into Jacksonville this weekend in search of its first quality win of the 2010 season, against a team that has owned it the past two decades.
As much as these head-case teams have struggled at times on the offensive side of the ball, they have both been equally strong in preventing their respective opponents from putting points on the board. The Florida Gators, on average, are allowing the other team to score 18.7 points per game. In regards to that number, there is not a real drop off in defensive production against quality teams. Against teams with winning records, the Gators are allowing (a ridiculously low) 22 points per game, compared to (an even more ridiculously low) 14.3 points per game against inferior teams. To be fair, the Gators do compare favorably to the Dawgs in these categories...but only by fractions. The revamped Georgia defense only allows 19.1 points per game, four-tenths of a point more than the Gators for those of you counting. Grantham's boys give up slightly more points against winning teams than do the Gators, but 24 points per game is still a reasonable product. And the Dawgs also sport a two point differential with the Gators in regards to points allowed against teams below .500, with the Canines checking in at 16.2 points per game. Expect both teams to rely heavily on stout defensive efforts in Saturday's showdown.
Dawgnation should be cautious about expecting a victory against the Gators. Although the Dawgs opened as a three point favorite, one only needs to read between the statistical lines to discover a plethora of reasons for worry. The first thing that should stick out is that the Dawgs are yet to win against a team that currently has a winning percentage above .500. Second is that even though Florida is nearly a perfect statistical match with Georgia, the Gators have compiled said stats against a slightly tougher slate of opponents to date. Alabama/LSU/Mississippi State is, without question, a tougher slate of opponents than South Carolina/Arkansas/Mississippi State. Moreover, Florida defeated its out of conference automatic-qualifier (South Florida), while Georgia lost to its own (Colorado). If you really want to get into the minutiae, Florida's cupcake to date was a stronger opponent than Georgia's cupcake.
Of course, if you are an eternal optimist, you have a few things of your own on which to hedge your bets. For one, the Dawgs are roaring into Jacksonville riding a three-game SEC winning streak, in which they have averaged 42.7 points per game. The Gators on the other hand, are limping into Jacksonville, riding a three-game losing streak in which they have only been able to come up with 42 points TOTAL. Second, this will be the second game of the season in which Georgia has the superior offensive coordinator. If the game becomes a shootout, having Mike Bobo calling plays over Steve Addazio could be the deciding factor. Third, the Dawgs have the advantages at the skill positions. Aaron Murray is better than the combined efforts of John Brantley and Trey Burton. A.J. Green and Chris Durham are better than Chris Rainey and Deonte Thompson. Orson Charles or Aaron White outclass Jordan Reed. Both teams are fairly even at running back. Fourth, the Dawgs have a clear advantage in the special teams department: With Drew Butler and Brandon Boykin in mid-season form and one of the best place kickers in the country in Blair Walsh. There is no reason why this talented Bulldog team should lose this game.
Back to Freud's Couch
But the fact is, Georgia probably will lose on Saturday. And it will have nothing to do with talent or play-calling. Remember the title of this post. Georgia is the team with the inferiority complex. And that complex stems from a two-decade span in which the Bulldogs have gone to Jacksonville and won only three times. The last of those victories came in 2007, and only a few players on Georgia's current roster were in the arena the last time Georgia beat the Gators. If Athenians are to come back to the peach state with a 5-4 record, they will have to get over the mental block that is the Florida Gators. Until the Bulldogs (from the coaching staff down) can look across the sidelines without being intimidated, this series is not going to turn back around to Georgia's favor. Maybe Saturday is the start of that turnaround. Maybe it is just another let down.
I see Florida winning this game, after trailing nearly the entire game. They'll put together some late drive, trailing by four points in the fourth quarter. Our defense will give on a 3rd and 8. Then we will give up a big play for a touchdown on 1st and 10. The Gators will go up by three with three minutes left. And the Georgia offense will go three and out. I hope I am wrong. Florida 30, Georgia 27. God, I hope I'm wrong.