Here is what I’m NOT worried about for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party:
1) Can we run on Grantham? Yes, I think we can. Georgia has faced Todd Grantham on the opposing sidelines 3 times: 53 rushes for 292 yards against Louisville; 42 for 203 yards against the Bizzarro Bulldogs, and 41 attempts resulting in 189 yards in last year’s WLOCP. One could say Grantham is improving. Or not.
In their key and unlikely win against Auburn, the WarPlainTiglesmen only rushed for 124 yards (3.65 ypc). However this isn’t the same Auburn team – they don’t have a workhorse like Kerryon Johnson, so the passing game is more prevalent with NixBo. Since then, the Reptiles have surrendered 218 yards against LSU and 217 yards from the Gamecocks (only 5.05 ypc for USC, but they tried it 43 times – Bryan McLendon knew something).
Georgia, with all it’s woes over the last 4 games, is still averaging 199.5 yards per contest on the ground. I like this matchup.
2) 3rd and Lanning (see what I did there?). The Bulldogs are 15th in FBS defending 3rd downs, allowing success only 30.4% of the time. We’ve faced 102 3rd downs, which is interesting. That’s approximately around the bottom third – most FBS teams have defended 3rd downs more than Georgia. I figure that’s a combination of Georgia controlling the ball, and Georgia controlling the tempo (defensive substitutions, and the bend/don’t break philosophy).
Florida currently converts about 44% of it’s third down opportunities. But they haven’t seen the #7 total defense that Athens produces. On average, the 6 FBS teams Florida has faced rank around 48 – that’s outside the top third. And only LSU is a defense in the top 25. We should be able to handle them.
3) Kyle Trask. This kid is a great story, from his high school days behind the highly recruited D’Eriq King, to the rescuing of Florida’s season after Franks’ injury. And you have to admit he’s been successful, leading the Gators to a 7-1 record, a moral victory loss against LSU, and a top 10 ranking. But Trask for all his moxie isn’t lighting the world on fire against SEC defenses.
His 20-28 passing against Tennessee seems pretty good, but then include the two picks and it loses luster. He completed 61% of his passes against Auburn, 59% against LSU, and 63% versus the Gamecocks. The yardage and touchdowns also look pretty sweet, but the Gators are chucking it all over the yard, make no mistake. They’re averaging over 32 pass attempts by Trask alone (backups add a couple more). Stats don’t tell the story here, but this isn’t Joe Burrow we’re facing. It’s a pretty fresh face, and our SEC leading defense should be able to handle him.
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch on AM radio, so here’s what I am worried about as we look to turn the flow of the St. John’s South by Southwest:
1) Jay-Z’s comeback. More accurately, the return of Jabari Zuniga (you gotta believe his nickname is Jay-Z, right?). The redshirt senior comes back from injury to the Florida defensive line, joining Jon Greenard in making the front 7 full strength. Greenard actually leads the Gaines-villains in sacks with 4, but hasn’t been at full strength. Zuniga has 3 sacks himself, and has only played in 4 games. The Florida defense has 29 sacks in 8 games (9th nationally, and first in the SEC), which is impressive. 10 of those were in the Week Zero game against the hapless Hurricanes, but they were healthy then, and they’ll be apparently healthy Saturday.
2) Stop me if you’ve heard this before: So there was this one time, at the Landings, and we gave up over 400 yards on the ground? The 2014 Cocktail Party will always be one that sticks in my craw. There are about 20 others (I was in the full bloom of youth during the Spurrier years) but that one is recent and defies logic. How could Florida run all over us? And with Florida pulling the original Faton Bauta, sticking in Treon Harris, having a Buck Belue-like 3 of 6 passing day… WE KNEW THEY WERE GOING TO RUN THE BALL! We just could not stop them. At all.
Senior Gator running back Lamical Perine has by far the most yards on the team, however I don’t know anyone who schemes to stop him. He’s more than serviceable, but could be 2nd string on most SEC teams. He sealed the deal with an 88 yard scamper against Auburn, and that accounts for almost 20% of his season stats. Please, by all that is holy, don’t let Perine give me any more Kelvin Taylor flashbacks. I’m on enough prescribed medication as it is.
3) If a quarterback throws more than 9 times a game, will anyone be around to intercept it? Georgia future insurance pitchman Jake Fromm has only passed to the opposing team 3 times this season, all against SCAR. After an uber-efficient start to the season, with Fromm completing 77% of his passes and a 178 passer rating, the last two games saw the completion rate fall to 58% and a 98 rating. And I think most fans have an eyeball test that is, shall we say, not passing.
Florida has 12 defensive picks on the season. Gator DB Shawn Davis, He Who Sees God’s Glory And Deems It Normal, has 3 interceptions by himself. The DBU Who Is Not LSU has a stout passing defense, allowing a 116 passer rating and less than 60% completion rate on the season. If you take away the fact that Joe Burrow tossed almost 3 bills on a 21 for 24 day, they would be close to top 10 in the nation.
We have Lawrence Cager coming back and will need the experience and craftiness to get open against the Lizard secondary. If our youngsters really do have route-running and separation deficiencies, I don’t see it miraculously cured by the waters of the St. John’s.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the 97th meeting between the Bulldogs of Georgia and the Booger-eaters of Alachua County.
And as always…