Florida vs. Georgia Preview

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I don’t believe I am overstating the importance of this game by saying it’s the most important game for Florida football since at least the 2012 game against Georgia. That game had huge implications as well but with Muschamp, the optimism was misplaced or lacking at the level you see with Florida fans right now because of how much better of a coach Mullen is. Very few Florida fans had faith in 2012’s offense; many fans have faith in Florida’s offense right now.

On top of the confidence in the team and the elevated level of play from the entire team, Florida has not been great on the recruiting trail, with Florida State and Miami looking like they will both struggle to make a bowl game, Florida has a lot that can go their way. Win out, go 11-1, win the east, win the state with wins over FSU and UM, maybe pull off a shocker in Atlanta and you can now turn the heads of juniors for next year’s recruiting class. Florida loses this game to a Georgia team running a high school offense and a defense that hasn’t been tested? It will be very easy for other schools to just point at Florida and say “pretenders”.

Georgia Offense vs. Florida Defense

I believe that this is the biggest matchup for Florida. As I went over in my statistical breakdown of Florida up to the bye week, Grantham is not a bad defensive coordinator, but last year Florida went through a month period where the defense was not good and struggled to get anyone off the field. We have now seen this in two consecutive games for Florida as they have allowed 42 and 27 to LSU and USC, those are the two highest-scoring outputs Florida has allowed on the season.

I get it, Zuniga and Greenard have been out, and the defense has been hurting because of it. I don’t know how much of a difference those two being healthy make in those two games. LSU’s offense is quick in getting the ball out so I think they could counter the pass rush to a certain extent, and Carolina ran a lot of dive plays which would have negated Zuniga and Greenard’s ability as run defenders from the edge position.

Georgia’s offense is very bland, very generic, and lacks creativity. Probably more so than a year ago under Chaney which is saying something because Georgia’s offense a year ago used WR end around as the bulk of their creativity.

Offense vs Defense Statistical Comparisons

Georgia Offense Florida Defense
Category Stat Ranking Stat Ranking
Points Per Game 36.0 24th 15.8 12th
Rush Yards Per Game 236.86 16th 124.13 31st
Yards Per Carry 6.07 5th 3.79 44th
Pass Yards Per Game 234.4 62nd 195.4 33rd
QB Rating 154.07 27th 116.09 24th
Completion Percentage 71.0% 6th 59.0% 56th
Total Yards Per Game 471.3 21st 319.5 25th
Yards Per Play 6.97 11th 5.16 43rd
Sacks Allowed Vs Sacks 4 Allowed 1st 29 sacks 8th
3rd Down Conversion % 43.04% 38th 34.91% 41st
4th Down Conversion % 33.33% 118th 12.50% 2nd
Red Zone Scoring % 96.67% 5th 57.14% 2nd

As I will point out further down in this piece, Fromm and the Georgia offense haven’t exactly been tested. Georgia has played no one that is in the top 25 rushing or scoring defense. They have played two teams in the top 25 in passing defense, and Fromm was 29 of 38 for 222 yards and 1 TD vs those two teams. The efficiency is fine, as it usually is for Fromm, but the yardage and TDs are way low, rain or not (also, the rain excuse is weak because the rain didn’t really start coming down hard until halftime).

When you look at Georgia’s basic statistical output and rankings, on the surface it seems silly to criticize them so much. But Georgia hasn’t reached these numbers the same way Florida has reached theirs. They run a simple run-heavy scheme that asks Fromm to make simple throws to wide-open receivers and Georgia knows they have more talent than you. They know they have a better offensive line and running backs than your defense can handle. 

In terms of rushing numbers, Georgia has only played two defenses that one could consider above average, South Carolina and Tennessee, ranking 48th and 51st respectively. Georgia ran for 238 vs Tennessee (5.80 yards per carry) and 173 yards vs South Carolina (4.02 yards per carry).  Georgia has the best offensive line in the country and ranks 16th in rushing offense so it’s not a surprise that their run game saw no noticeable drop off vs the top two run defenses on their schedule.

Florida’s defense ranks 12th in scoring defense, 25th in total defense, 31st in rushing defense and 33rd in passing defense. That equates to Florida’s defense being the toughest test Georgia has seen in three of four categories (Florida ranks third in passing D). I expect Florida’s defense to slow down Georgia’s rushing attack some, but it’s the one area I still believe Georgia has the biggest advantage in terms of their offense vs Florida’s defense in this game. I haven’t been a big fan of Wilson and Henderson’s play this year considering the hype around them, but it’s hard to be too upset with the outcome considering Florida is 3rd in interceptions with 12 and 23rd in passes defended.

What The Film Shows

In terms of Georgia’s offense vs Florida’s defense, Georgia being young and inexperienced at wide receiver has finally given teams an easier way to defend Georgia. For years, I and many other people have been screaming to just walk your corners up and press Georgia’s wide receivers. Stop giving them free releases off the line of scrimmage and letting them collect YAC after short, simple throws by Fromm. In Fromm’s freshman and sophomore season, he had Hardman, Godwin, Ridley as the three primary go-to options who were speedy, top-end route runners who teams feared to get physical with, out of fear of getting beat deep.

South Carolina and Kentucky both were more than happy to come up and press Georgia’s wide receivers, Carolina more than Kentucky, and it resulted in throwing off Georgia’s passing game and flustering Fromm to the point he was indecisive. Not all of his turnovers in the Sourh Carolina game were on him, one came off of a dropped pass, but I don’t think it’s any surprise that Georgia has never won a football game where Fromm has thrown 30+ passes. For years there has been the idea that Fromm is elite, but in year three it seems obvious he is a prototypical game manager who needs things made easy for him to thrive.

When Georgia is moving the ball, they are moving the ball because a team is playing off their WRs, giving them a large cushion to allow them to run simple short routes that Fromm is comfortable throwing. Fromm still has the confidence in himself to throw at WR’s who are blanketed, he’s very comfortable throwing to the sideline, primarily on back-shoulder throws, but unlike in the past, Georgia doesn’t have WR’s who can consistently create separation right now.

It is safe to say that Marco Wilson and CJ Henderson are the best outside corners Georgia has seen all year and very well may see all year, and because of this I expect Georgia’s offense to pick on Trey Dean as much as they can, he is the weakest link of all the starting corners and he may arguably be worse as a true cover corner than both the freshman in Hill and Elam. Fromm should also have plenty of time to throw the ball because despite getting Zuniga and Greenard back, I don’t expect Florida to rack up but 1, 2 sacks tops in this game and even 2 feels like an optimistic projection for Florida’s sack total when playing the most talented offensive line in college football.

In terms of the rushing game? This is the area I’m concerned about the most for Florida’s defense. South Carolina totaled 217 yards vs Florida on the ground, now 40-50 yards of this was in garbage time, but the number is what the number is. South Carolina has struggled to run the ball vs FBS defenses this season only totaling 200 yards once all season (vs Kentucky) prior to the Florida game. Florida is weak in the middle. They don’t have the physicality and toughness at DT for any of them to consistently fight off blocks and make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Florida’s linebackers are a lot weaker than Florida fans want to admit. When Reese is on in this part of the game, he’s a really good linebacker, but I find Reese plays best when he is playing inside. Lately, he’s played outside, often lining up over the tight end with Ventrell Miller playing inside and Miller can’t cut it as an inside linebacker. He’s slow in reacting, doesn’t fight off blocks well and takes wildly inaccurate angles to the RB. Speaking of poor angles, Florida rotates their safeties, which means when Davis and Stewart are on the field, the run defense will probably be fine, but when Stiner and Taylor are on the field, look for an increase in missed tackles and poor angles allowing major jump cut lanes appearing for Swift. It won’t take me by surprise if Georgia uses a lot of jet-motion pre-snap to get Stiner and Taylor out of position when they rotate in, because both of them will bite on that movement.

Georgia Defense vs. Florida Offense

Georgia’s defense is great, and as I said in my film review, they may very well be elite. But I hesitate to give them an elite label because the average scoring offense Georgia has played is 80th. The best offense they have played is Notre Dame, 29th in scoring offense, but Notre Dame put up 118 points on New Mexico and Bowling Green, defenses that rank 125th and 129th in the country in scoring defense, meanwhile putting up 31 points on the top two defenses they played in Michigan and Georgia.

Defense vs Offense Statistical Comparisons

Georgia Defense Florida Offense
Category Stat Ranking Stat Ranking
Points Per Game 10.6 5th 32.5 45th
Rush Yards Per Game 85.71 5th 142.38 90th
Yards Per Carry 3.02 13th 4.30 75th
Pass Yards Per Game 181.0 17th 277.3 28th
QB Rating 105.68 9th 157.79 19th
Completion Percentage 55.8% 27th 68.6% 13th
Total Yards Per Game 266.7 7th 419.6 52nd
Yards Per Play 4.32 9th 6.26 35th
Sacks vs Sacks Allowed 16 72nd 16 72nd
3rd Down Conversion % 30.39% 15th 44.33% 30th
4th Down Conversion % 27.27% 10th 56.25% 52nd
Red Zone Scoring % 58.33% 3rd 82.35% 76th

There will probably be several Georgia fans who get upset I refuse to buy into Georgia’s defense as an elite unit. If they continue to play how they have been playing vs Florida and win this game, I will be happy to change my tune on them. When the scoring offenses you have played rank 118th, 114th, 97th, 77th, 45th, and 29th, forgive me for not buying in.

Florida’s offense is not world-beaters from a production standpoint, but it feels like it is, because prior to Dan Mullen showing up, Florida has dealt with an incompetent offense since 2010. Florida hasn’t seen passing numbers like this since Rex Grossman was the QB. The biggest thing holding Florida back is a running game, where Florida sits at 90th in the country. If Florida had the same running game as a year ago (213 YPG), Florida would rank 13th in total offense vs. 52nd and the scoring would likely be a couple of ticks higher.

Florida can’t run on anyone, not reliably. During the off-season, I thought Florida’s pass blocking would be far worse than it is and the running game would be far better than it is, but it’s been swapped. Even though the sacks allowed number isn’t great, they are much more comfortable in pass protection. And strangely enough, Florida is tied for first in the country with runs of over 70 yards. But that is not a reliable, consistent way to run the ball. Without those long runs, there is a good chance that Florida’s yards per carry are sitting under 4. Georgia has talent on the defensive line and speed in the linebacker group, so I don’t expect Florida to crack 100 yards in this game without another fluke big run being responsible for it.

Georgia is not a good pass-rushing team, the film and the numbers agree here. They had 12 sacks in their first three-game and are only averaging one sack a game over their last four games. Florida’s offensive line is a good game for the Georgia front seven to get back into a rhythm against if they will do it.

Last, on the statistical front, Florida turns the ball over A LOT. Florida has turned the ball over 15 times, which ranks 107th in the country. It is arguably the second reason that Florida’s offense has not hit the potential they could this year.

What The Film Shows

It’s difficult to say this without coming off on the wrong foot, but the Florida offense is better with Trask at the helm. You don’t want to root for an injury, but despite the big downgrade in arm strength from Franks to Trask, the offense runs better now. The decision making of Trask is much better than Franks, the ball is out quicker and Trask is comfortable hitting easy throws to move the offense.

The worst Trask has looked on the season was in the first half against South Carolina, I don’t blame the weather here too much because his decision making was the biggest obstacle early in that game. Once Florida came out of halftime, Trask looked like a different QB.

If you’re curious why I’m ok with Trask thriving off simple throws but criticize Fromm? Simple. Fromm is in year three as a starter, he’s never missed a game (IIRC), Trask is starting his 6th game as a college QB, not ignoring the fact that Trask barely got significant playing time in high school. Trask has also proven that he’s already more reliable on deeper throws, especially into the middle of the field, an area of the field that Fromm, for reasons I will never know, seems to shy or scare away from. There is such a significant difference in playing time and development between the two that one QB who primarily is comfortable throwing 3-yard hitch routes and one who is early in his development in getting playing time, I’m fine if Florida has to dink and dunk defenses to win.

Coming off a bye week, I think it’s a good time for Florida to start Gouraige at RG over Bleich.  The right side of Florida’s offensive line is still the weakness, primarily because Delance has barely made any noticeable strides as a pass blocker at tackle. Thankfully, Florida has played several pass rushes that are better than Georgia, specifically Auburn and Miami, who both rank in the top 25 in sacks. So despite there likely being more talent on Georgia’s defensive line, it hasn’t translated to anything of value once the schedule got tougher for Georgia. When Georgia is putting pressure on QBs, I’ve noticed it usually comes on 2nd down when Georgia is using a run blitz. If they want to get to Trask, I expect a lot of stunts directed at the right side of Florida’s line.

To give a short note on the running backs on film, Perine has picked it up lately, after struggling for most of the year, I believe it was the Towson game that resulted in Perine getting benched for poor, timid running. Pierce is arguably the best runner on the team right now despite him being the RB2, but Perine is still a guy that Georgia has to respect, because despite him having a hugely underwhelming season on film and in the numbers, he’s still a talented college back who only needs one play to turn a game.

Florida has a big advantage in the WR vs secondary category. Getting Toney back may be a huge boost for Florida, but if he has some game rust, it’s fine. Florida arguably has the best WR depth in the country, while Alabama and Clemson are top-heavy with NFL talent, Florida will beat you because if they go four wide with Pitts at TE, you’re dealing with two slot receivers for Florida who would start for most teams in the country. Pitts is arguably the best tight end in the country, he can motion out wide to get a mismatch with a corner and he’s too fast for most linebackers to handle without safety help, and if you’re asking for safety help on Pitts, you’re leaving someone like Swain or Copeland in the slot with a one-on-one matchup they will probably win.

Toney definitely adds a different element to Florida’s offense because of his ability to do what he did in the Miami game, but if there is one concern I have with Toney? It’s that his vision and trust in the blocking scheme has a tendency to kill plays and lose yards. While many people believe Toney puts Florida over in this game, I am fine with him not seeing the field much and continuing to trust in Copeland’s development as a route runner.

The final point I want to hit on here in terms of film is the big advantage I believe Florida has in coaching. Mullen nearly coached circles around Smart a year ago and if Florida had a reliable QB like Trask starting, Florida opens up that game immediately with a touchdown, Franks severely overthrew a walk-in TD and routinely was just awful on the day. If Florida’s offense is on and Trask has time to throw the ball, I don’t think Georgia has the offense to play keep up with Florida and I know many Georgia fans who deep down know this much to be a fact. As a Florida fan in Atlanta, I have been told a dozen times how scared Georgia fans are of Florida with Trask. If Franks was playing, I think even many Florida fans would just flat out predict a Georgia win.

Statistical Strength Comparisons

Another way I like to look at the numbers is to take the four major statistical categories (scoring, rushing, passing, total) on offense and defense and average out the teams Florida and Georgia have played against, that way you can get a sense of which team has played the easier or more difficult schedule of the two vs relying on strength of schedule metrics we don’t know the math of.

UGA O vs. Scoring D: 119, 111, 29, 57, 66, 31 = 68.8
UGA O vs. Rush D: 117, 108, 48, 51, 81, 80 = 80.8
UGA O vs. Pass D: 101, 120, 24, 108, 61, 16 = 71.6
UGA O vs. Total D: 114, 128, 46, 42, 49, 77 = 76
UF O vs. Scoring D: 21, 31, 57, 66, 14, 22 = 35.1
UF O vs. Rush D: 48, 51, 81, 16, 12, 17 = 37.5
UF O vs. Pass D: 108, 61, 16, 32, 81, 60 = 59.6
UF O vs. Total D: 15, 24, 36, 42, 49, 77 = 40.5
UGA D vs Scoring O: 118, 45, 29, 114, 77, 97 = 80
UGA D vs Rush O: 108, 101, 63, 48, 35, 92 = 74.5
UGA D vs Pass O: 92, 21, 54, 77, 118, 87 = 74.8
UGA D vs Total O: 112, 47, 62, 69, 101, 103 = 82.3
UF D vs Scoring O: 85, 4, 33, 114, 77, 97 = 68.3
UF D vs Rush O: 113, 76, 20, 48, 35, 92 = 64
UF D vs Pass O: 36, 2, 107, 77, 118, 87= 71.1
UF D vs Total O: 84, 57, 3, 69, 101, 103 = 69.5

But if you want to look at who has the tougher strength of schedule?

Sagarin has Florida at 26, Georgia at 62.

Team Rankings has Florida at 6, Georgia at 30.

Sadly, there aren’t many reliable strength of schedule numbers that I have found that are kept up to date. But I think the consistent theme here is that Florida is more battle-tested and multiple numbers show this to be the case.

Prediction

At last, the prediction you care so much about.

Florida: 26
Georgia: 20

This is an uncomfortable thing for me to write because all off-season I had my confidence level on Georgia winning this game at 90%, but with how Georgia has looked vs Notre Dame, South Carolina and Kentucky, on top of the confidence Trask is gaining and Florida just being a huge upgrade in coaching and talent compared to the rest of Georgia’s schedule? I’ve done quite an about-face on Florida’s chances in this game. It won’t shock me if Georgia wins this game, they have Florida badly outmatched in talent but I don’t believe their coaching is on Florida’s level and on paper if South Carolina and Kentucky can fluster Georgia that much in Athens, what do you think Florida can do on a neutral field?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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