GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators (3-3, 3-2 SEC) face the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (7-0, 4-0 SEC) in Jacksonville on Saturday with their season hanging in the balance.
The Gators need an upset win at EverBank Field to jumpstart their season and keep their slim hopes alive for a third straight SEC East title. A loss, meanwhile, would mean playing the rest of the season for bowl eligibility and pride.
While the Gators have won 21 of the last 27 games in the series and the last three straight — including an upset win in 2014 — Florida is expectedly the heavy underdog on Saturday.
Florida beat writers Zach Abolverdi, Jordan McPherson and Ryan Young make their predictions for how the game will unfold.
Abolverdi: Florida’s best shot may not be enough
Florida needed a bye week in the worst way coming off consecutive losses at home to LSU and Texas A&M. Players such as Tyrie Cleveland and Kadarius Toney took the time to heal, while the coaches had the opportunity to make any necessary changes with personnel and/or game-planning. And yet, any progress made on those fronts quickly became irrelevant news Monday when UF coach Jim McElwain revealed the anonymous death threats — regrettably.
McElwain tried to put it to rest Wednesday, but there’s no denying that it created another distraction for the coaches and players this week. Even if they weren’t bothered, it’s still a problem they had to deal with while No. 3 Georgia coasted through another week of practice. In a season where so much has gone wrong for the Gators, they seemingly need everything to go right for them Saturday. However, their best shot may not be enough to beat the Bulldogs.
McPherson: Georgia is the better team
Let’s just call it like it is: Georgia is the better team that will be playing in Jacksonville on Saturday. There’s virtually no debate with that.
The Gators are confident and feel like they can pull off the upset. I’m not saying that’s impossible, but it will take a lot going in Florida’s favor for that to happen.
First, the Gators need to break through a veteran Georgia defense, one that ranks third nationally and has held five opponents to less than 75 rushing yards.
Second, Feleipe Franks is going to have to air the ball out and make some plays in the passing game. He’s done it before (see: Tennessee), and a healthy Tyrie Cleveland will help, but it’s not a guarantee.
Third, Florida needs to stop Georgia’s run game and put the pressure on Jake Fromm to win the game for the Bulldogs.
That’s a lot to ask for a team that is 3-3 and hasn’t found ways to shut down teams that Georgia has demolished (i.e. Tennessee, Vanderbilt).
I think Florida stays competitive early, but the Bulldogs will pull away in the second half.
Young: Georgia is just too good, too consistent, too stacked
Strange things can happen in rivalry games, especially this one. That said, every way I look at this matchup, I come to the same conclusion. Georgia is just too good, too consistent, too stacked and Florida simply has too many issues.
While I do really like the Gators’ rushing attack and the work Malik Davis and Lamical Perine have done this season, the Bulldogs have been absolutely stifling against the run, holding five of their first seven opponents to fewer than 70 rushing yards. For a Florida team so dependent on its rushing attack, this is a bad matchup.
I think as a result the Gators have to put more than they’d prefer on quarterback Feleipe Franks, who hasn’t looked ready for the big stage this fall.In the end, I don’t think the offense can do enough to keep pace.
Georgia is a legit national championship contender while this Florida team has yet to find an identity.
I’m taking the Bulldogs, 31-10.