So what will it take for Georgia to beat Florida on Saturday? Winning the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage? A vintage performance by Aaron Murray? The best defensive showing of the year from Todd Grantham’s much maligned unit? Avoiding the special teams disasters that seem to befall the Dawgs at least once a game this season?
While Georgia definitely needs all of these things against the Gators, there is strong evidence to suggest that the most important factor of all is a big time performance by a Bulldog running back.
When it comes to the "Cocktail Party," nearly every Georgia win in recent memory has been aided by a dominant running game. Not convinced? In support of this statement, I offer the following statistics from the Dawgs’ last few wins in the series:
1997: Robert Edwards rushed for 124 yards and four touchdowns. Georgia 37 Florida 17.
2004: Danny Ware rushed for 103 yards. Thomas Brown added 59 yards and a touchdown. Georgia 31 Florida 24.
2007: Knowshon Moreno rushed for 188 yards and three touchdowns. Georgia 42 Florida 30.
2012: Todd Gurley rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown. Georgia 17 Florida 9.
The only recent win that didn’t follow the running back gaining over 100 yards blueprint came in 2011, when the Bulldogs beat the Gators 24-20. And even then, it was Richard Samuel’s hard running and late touchdown that sealed the deal for Georgia.
Now, obviously there was more to these wins than just the strong rushing performances. There was excellent quarterback play by the likes of Mike Bobo, David Greene, and Matthew Stafford, as well as opportunistic defenses that forced turnovers and kept the Gators off balance. Still, the trend is hard to ignore. Especially when you consider the leading Georgia rushers in some recent losses in the series:
2005: Danny Ware – 71 yards.
2006: Kregg Lumpkin – 43 yards.
2008: Knowshon Moreno – 65 yards.
2009: Washaun Ealey – 70 yards
2010: Caleb King – 64 yards.
The fact that Georgia usually wins when a tailback goes for over a hundred yards makes Todd Gurley’s return all the more important. Everyone knows what a healthy Gurley can do, and if he is one hundred percent, and the offensive line can give him a little room, he could easily eclipse the 100 yard barrier; even against the stout Florida defense. In addition, a strong running game suddenly makes the Bulldog passing game much more dangerous.
Call me a homer if you will, but I think that with a healthy Gurley, Georgia wins this game.