It’s Georgia-Florida week, and this all feels a bit too familiar...
- We just played Kentucky, and everyone is befuddled with the offensive game plan.
- There are serious questions about what is happening at quarterback. Stetson Bennett has started to turn into an interception machine after starting the season hot against Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee, and now we are wondering if something is broken in him.
- Florida is coming to Jacksonville hot, and the Gators are tearing up defenses with an aerial assault that has all the talking heads salivating.
- It isn’t even 9:00 AM on Monday of Georgia-Florida week and I’ve already heard two television analysts pick the Gators to beat the Dawgs.
You might not remember it that well now, but these issues are very similar to what Bulldog Nation was talking about heading into the Cocktail Party last year. The Bulldogs had just come off of the slop in the rain against Kentucky. Jake Fromm threw eight passes that day, and they resulted in a whopping 35 yards. Stetson Bennett’s nine completions on thirteen attempts for 131 yards looks like a passing revolution in comparison.
Florida was rolling into the game with Kyle Trask under center after losing Felipe Franks to an injury in the second week of the season. Bulldogs, Gators and talking heads everywhere just didn’t see a way that Georgia could beat Florida.
We all know what happened next, as the Dawgs beat the Gators with a mix of ball control and strong defense.
I know these are different teams, but my point is that this is college football, and nothing is ever really as good or bad as it seems to be.
One thing that is different this year is the number of injuries that the Dawgs are dealing with. George Pickens and Kenny McIntosh stayed back in Athens for the Kentucky game last week as they both deal with lingering injuries. I would expect to see both of them against the Gators. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that Georgia racked up a ton of injuries against the Wildcats. Jordan Davis injured his elbow and was seen in a sling. Fellow defensive tackle Julian Rochester hurt his knee, and linebacker Quay Walker got a stinger in the second half. Walker was filling in for Monty Rice, who has had a lingering foot sprain. Defensive back Tyrique Stevenson went off with an unknown injury of some kind on the game’s second to last drive, and his secondary mate free safety Lewis Cine hurt his ankle and was limping badly on the sidelines afterwards.
To make matters worse, Richard LeCounte, Cine’s compliment at strong safety, was injured in a motorcycle accident upon returning to Athens on Saturday night. Football is really not important when we are talking about an accident like the one LeCounte was in, but he is out for “a few weeks” after suffering a concussion and some injuries to his ribs. We here at DawgSports are sending prayers to LeCounte and his family, and are extremely grateful that the accident wasn’t worse.
Now, about this football game that’s coming up on Saturday night. I want to get a few things out of the way early in the week.
- Florida is not Alabama. I have already seen people on Twitter comparing the two teams and the success they have had in the passing game this year. A lot of folks have decided that because Alabama passes the ball a lot and Florida passes the ball a lot that the result of the Georgia-Florida game is going to be the same as the Georgia-Alabama game.
That isn’t how this works. First of all, how many players on the Gators offense do you think would start at Alabama? If you ask me, the only one would be Kyle Pitts.
Georgia lost to Alabama because of three second-half turnovers, but those turnovers happened because Alabama’s wide-receivers strained Georgia’s defense and forced the Dawgs to keep up. Pitts is a phenomenal player, but there are no Jaylen Waddle’s or DeVonta Smith’s on the Florida roster. The Bulldogs have great corners, and they aren’t likely to get burned deep like they did against Waddle, Smith and Auburn’s speedy Anthony Schwartz.
The way Florida gets their passing yards is different than Alabama. Kyle Trask has only attempted 19 passes that are 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage this year. He has thrown it more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage 41 times. In comparison, Mac Jones has thrown 78 passes beyond 10 yards and 32 beyond 20. Nobody in College Football right now strains a secondary like Mac Jones. In fact, 71% of the Gators receiving yards on the year have come on yards after the catch. Georgia is a good tackling football team. It will be interesting to see what Dan Lanning and Kirby Smart dial up to try and stop Florida.
Oh, and Florida’s running game ain’t Alabama’s by a long shot. The Gators have been better so far this year on the ground, but even Georgia’s reserve defensive tackles will cause problems for Florida up front. Yes, Kentucky had a long drive on the ground Saturday, but Kentucky’s offensive line is one of the best in the SEC, and it was the first sustained action that Jalen Carter and Devonta Wyatt had seen as the two main guys up front. They fixed their gap assignments after that drive, and did a good job with the inside rush for the rest of the game. You don’t replace a Jordan Davis, but Georgia has plenty of young talent on the defensive line that can get a push against Florida’s interior lineman.
2. The run has been established. Georgia had their best rushing day of the season on Saturday, and they put together a 62% success rate while doing so. As a reminder, the terms of success in college football are 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down. The 62% success rate on Saturday was impressive, and when you account for garbage time when the Dawgs basically shuttered the offense. They were probably closer to a 70% success rate on the ground. That will win just about any SEC football game.
That number dipped down to 40% against Tennessee after being up around 56% against Auburn. Against Alabama the Dawgs again ran for a 56% success rate, but they passed on first down a lot. Being in 3rd-and-long has been Georgia’s bugaboo for the fIrst half of the season. Saturday was the first time this year when Georgia often had a choice to pass or throw on third down. Offensive coordinators sleep better at night when that is the case.
Kirby Smart knows he doesn’t want to get into a shootout against Florida with Stetson Bennett under center. Georgia will have to pass more to win this coming Saturday, but the recipe against Florida under Smart has been to pound the ball and cut possessions. This team can do that.
3. Todd Monken is good at this y’all. Last year when we saw Georgia rely on the run we often saw uncreative blocking schemes and very little variety in the running game. It’s hard to bust big runs in the SEC when you’re relying on your whole line to go and win their matchup on every down, even when you have three NFL draft picks on that line.
Georgia’s running schemes have been creative, and their passing schemes have been too. On every interception he has thrown this year, Stetson Bennett has had a wide-receiver open somewhere else on the field. Granted, that is terrifying, but it’s also coachable. We will see if Bennett protects the pigskin better this week, but in the meantime you can count on him having open targets when Georgia does throw.
Lawerence Cager’s long touchdown catch to make the game 24-10 against the Gators last year was Georgia’s first pass over 15 yards in SEC play. Fromm simply did not have primary receivers open. This year Georgia has 19 receptions of 15+ yards through five games of an all-SEC schedule.
That should tell us that Todd Monken is doing a great job designing and calling plays. They aren’t getting executed properly at all times, but Bennett is what we’ve got for now. Either way, if you’re blaming Todd Monken for the problems with this offense you are missing the mark.
What does this mean for Saturday? Florida’s secondary has been a disaster all season, and Stetson Bennett will have opportunities to make big plays.
Now that we have that covered, let’s talk about the other big variable for Saturday.
If you missed the kerfuffle: pic.twitter.com/P5GmLlXlmW— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) November 1, 2020
Dan Mullen said he ran onto the field because he was “trying to defuse the situation.” Normally people who are defusing situations don’t have to be pulled away from situations by their assistants, but you’ll have to take his word for it.
If we’re being real here, the fight probably doesn’t happen at all if Dan Mullen doesn’t run onto the field and start screaming at Mizzou players and coaches. Anyone with half a brain can see this clearly, but the SEC office might not possess half a brain.
Either way, there could be suspensions for Gator players and potentially even coaches coming down the pipe, which is certainly something to keep an eye on this week.
Before we go, you might be wondering what the guys in the desert think of this game.
Georgia opened up a five-point favorite yesterday, which is about the margin that the Crimson Tide was favored by against the Bulldogs a few weeks back. It will be interesting to see how that spread moves throughout the week, but it is telling that the Dawgs are favorites over the Gators.
A lot of folks seem to be talking like Georgia doesn't have a chance on Saturday, and the Bulldogs will certainly have to play well to win, but somebody must know something. Maybe they’re counting on Kirby Smart’s streak of 13 straight games of holding Dan Mullen teams under 20 points to continue.
Only time will tell, but all of that air-conditioning ain’t in the desert for nothing, y’all.
Until later... GO DAWGS!