Florida limps into Jacksonville on the heels of an ugly 2 game losing streak, coaching turmoil, player unrest, and recruiting troubles. But, “All is well!”, just like Kevin Bacon’s character said in ‘Animal House’.
A beleaguered Dan Mullen brings the Gators into this game with seemingly not enough coaching fingers to plug all of the leaks in the dike. The first issue will be how many snaps does Anthony Richardson get at QB? It’s likely he trots out Emory Jones to start……but does Mullen hope to just keep the game close enough to let Jones play most of the game? At this point in the season, it’s likely time to let AR-15 get more reps and show during the rest of 2021 if he can develop enough to be the man in 2022. But it’s Mullen, so nothing can be assumed.
The Gator O-line has to return to something at least close to it’s form earlier in the season. Florida has to have some semblance of a running game for some balance and to give either QB the chance for success throwing the ball. Injuries have been blamed by Mullen for their recent struggles, but I’m not completely buying it – the lack of elite talent is as big of an issue. And now they get the best front seven in the country for a challenge. Georgia’s D-line has been dominant all season, led by DT Jordan Davis, a sure 1st-round NFL pick. Their LB corps is fast and talented, led by Nakobe Dean and Nolan Smith. Their secondary hasn’t been challenged much. There could be opportunities for Florida’s WRs if the QBs give them some chances. This isn’t to say the Puppy secondary is bad, but the Gators have some underutilized talent at WR that needs opportunities to show what they can do. It seems when AR-15 is in the game they show out, so by default that may determine what Mullen does. I don’t expect Georgia to allow the Gator RBs over 200 yards in receiving like last season, but the RBs really need to make some explosive plays running or receiving. They have the talent – but will they get the chances to show it?
Florida’s defense was completely embarrassed at LSU, allowing almost 300 yards rushing to a poor rushing team, and now faces a Georgia offense that relies on it’s power running game and talented O-line to control the LOS and dictate the action. The Puppies have their own excellent RB rotation of Zamir White, Kendall Milton, and James Cook. If the Gators can’t at least slow this group down, it will be another long afternoon, and likely another bad loss. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has said he plans on playing both Stetson Bennett and J.T. Daniels at QB, but I believe at least part of this comment is a direct poke at Mullen and his reputation as a QB whisperer. I expect Bennett to start – he has the past month as Daniels has been nursing various injuries. Neither QB has been especially impressive throwing the ball when playing any kind of decent defense……but we’re talking Todd Grantham here, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see either of them go off, things have become so dysfunctional in Gainesville the past 1 1/2 seasons. Georgia has been plagued by injuries and lack of production from the WR position, and have had to rely more on TE Brock Bowers and slot receiver Ladd McConkey than expected. Neither target is one that the Gator secondary can’t handle…..if the scheme allows them to play aggressively. The Gator secondary has to handle it’s business, as the front seven will have it’s hands full trying to slow down the running game. I just hope the coverage is close and aggressive the entire game – they match up well athletically.
This is not the game to play it safe – the season goals are already gone, so (sadly) the team has to try and play the spoiler role. I just hope the coaching staff allows the players the opportunity to do it. Mullen is starting to really feel the heat, and I have seen no evidence that he’s willing to make any meaningful changes. Winning this game could go a long way to staunch the bleeding, of which it’s mostly been self-inflicted. I’ve seen everything in this rivalry, and the Gators could pull off the upset like they did in 2014, for example. The difference is……again……Todd Grantham, the anchor that is weighing down the entire program. Because of that alone, I don’t see Florida winning, unless they completely flip the script, get turnovers, and at least significantly slow down Georgia’s running game.
Prediction: Georgia 41 Florida 20