Recent history has shown that if the University of Florida is struggling and needs a win, Georgia is the ultimate slump buster.
Florida and Georgia renew their storied rivalry in Jacksonville Saturday and even with Florida's three game losing streak, it's still a pivotal game. For once, the Gators are in the role of the spoiler, with the team sitting two games back in the race for the SEC East crown and their hopes on life support. Meanwhile, Georgia's certainly in the thick of it, just a game behind South Carolina.
A loss would cripple Georgia's chances, who lost to South Carolina earlier in the season.
After struggling through this disappointing season, Florida would love nothing better than to spoil the party for the Dawgs.
Let's take a look at the matchup.
He's Baaaaaack. After three terrible weeks of struggling offense with two true freshman at quarterback, Senior John Brantley returns to guide the Gators' offense.
Brantley didn't light the world on fire when he was in there, 66 of 102 for 942 yards, 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions but he certainly gave the offense the balance they sorely needed.
The return of Brantley is music to the ears of Sophomore Andre Debose, who has been coming on of late with back-to-back games with 65-yard TD receptions against Alabama and LSU. He has 9 catches for 233 yards on the season, averaging 25.9 yards per catch, the highest in the SEC and 6th in the nation among players with 5-or-more catches.
Running Back Chris Rainey remains Florida's top receiver with 18 receptions.
Georgia's pass defense has come on in the last few weeks, especially the pass rush. Georgia has registered 13 sacks in the last four games and are led by OLB Jarvis Jones' four. The Bulldogs are also third in the SEC in interceptions with 11, led by Bacarri Rambo's 5.
Florida's Running Game vs. Georgia's Run Defense
The strength of the Florida offense is in their running game. Stop the run and you stop Florida. Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps (when healthy) have terrorized defenses this season - of Florida's 59 explosive plays on offense, 42 have come in the running game.
Rainey is one of two players in the country to lead his team in rushing (500 yds, 2 TD) and (275 yds, 2 TD). Florida's running backs have rushed for 1,246 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry with 12 touchdowns.
Georgia counters with a stingy run defense. During their 5 game winning streak, the Bulldogs have held opponents to just 66.4 yards rushing. Middle linebacker Mike Gillard leads Georgia with 44 tackles while OLB Javaris Jones leads the team with 10 tackles for loss.
Georgia Bulldogs' Passing Game vs. Florida Gators' Pass Defense
The Bulldogs have a solid quarterback in the making in Sophomore and Tampa native Aaron Murray. Murray is already fourth on Georgia's career touchdown list with 40 touchdowns. On the season, he's 122 of 198 for 1653 yards, 16 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He's thrown touchdowns to eight different receivers this season.
Georgia's top target has been freshman Malcolm Mitchell, whose nabbed 25 receptions for 438 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mitchell won't play due to a hamstring injury he suffered a couple weeks ago. Next up is Orson Charles, who 299 yards on 22 receptions and 4 touchdowns this season.
Florida’s pass defense is third in the SEC and is sixth in the country, allowing 168.4 yards per game and have limited 5 of their 7 opponents to under 200 yards passing. The Gators have registered 9 sacks in their last five games and are led by linebacker James Bostic (3).
The Gators have just 4 interceptions on the season, led by safety Matt Elam's 2.
Georgia Running Game vs. Florida Run Defense
Georgia's running game is buoyed by freshman Isiah Crowell, who's rushed for 608 yards and 4 touchdowns for the Bulldogs. Crowell has registered three hundred yard rushing games and is back after being limited against Vandy with a wrist injury.
Linebacker James Bostic leads the Gators with 56 tackles (26 unassisted). Dominique Easely leads the team in tackles for loss with 6.5. Opponents have rushed for 845 yards on 245 attempts (3.4 avg.) against UF. After being among the top ten for much of the season, Florida has dipped to 32nd in the nation against the run.
Florida Kicker Caleb Sturgis is 15-for-16 (.938) on field-goal attempts. He holds the national lead in field goals made and is tied for third in kicking points (64). Kyle Christy replaced David Lerner as Florida's punter against Auburn. He punted seven times and averaged 46.1 yards per kick, with four inside of the Tigers’ 20-yard line, three longer than 50 yards and two that were fair caught.
Solomon Patton and Andre Dubose are the leading kick returners for Florida, both are averaging 24.1 yds a return. Dubose was 2010's National Returner of the Year and he has one return for a touchdown this season. Chris Rainey has been Florida' top punt returner but struggled with fumbles in the Auburn game.
Georgia's kicker Blair Walsh is having a down senior season after being one of the top kickers in the nation. Walsh is just 12 of 20 with a long of 56. Punter Drew Butler remains one of the elite punters in the nation and his career 46.1 punting average is tops in SEC history.
Brandon Boykin remains one of the most dangerous returners in the country with a 23.0 average. Boykin is the only player in SEC history to record three plays of kind that went for 100 or more yards.
Mark Richt is in his 11th year at Georgia, sporting a 101-36 record. Under Richt, Georgia has 3 SEC East division titles and 2 SEC Championships.
Will Muschamp is in his first season at Florida, he's 4-3. After growing up in Gainesville, Muschamp played for Georgia.
By the Numbers
- Georgia leads the all-time series 46-40-2 (Georgia claims it has 47 wins, citing a game played in 1904 as the first meeting of the schools. Florida says it did not start playing varsity football until 1906).
- Florida has won 8 of the last 10 and 18 of the 21 meetings.
- This is Florida's fourth consecutive game against a ranked opponent, something that's only happened twice in Florida history (1971 and 2001)
- Georgia is 12-4 under Mark Richt after a bye week.
- Georgia is 3-3 facing the Gators after a bye week. They're 1-1 under Richt.
- Florida is 15-4 when facing Georgia after a bye week.
- Florida is 12th in the conference in turnover margin at -7 and the Gators have not forced any turnovers during their three-game slide.
- Richt is 2-8 against Florida
Outlook: If ever there was a year that the stars have aligned for Mark Richt to beat the daylights out of Florida this is the year. The Gators are in transition under the new regime of Will Muschamp and are far from the team that has dominated the Dawgs in recent memory.
Despite a sparkling record, two SEC Championships and three division titles. Richt has come under heat. A lot of it has to do with his inability to beat the Gators. This series used to be flipped, with a Florida win over Georgia a nearly laughable thought.
Since Steve Spurrier arrived on campus, making beating Georgia his number one priority, the Gators have been nearly flawless in the series.
Some Florida fans began to even take this game for granted as an automatic W.
Georgia is a solid team, competing for a division championship. Florida has a lot more questions than answers right now.
Prediction: Georgia 24, Florida 17