SEC rivals collide this week amidst the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” as the no. 6 Florida Gators battle the no. 8 Georgia Bulldogs. Game time, as usual, is set for 3:30 EST on Saturday, November 2 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. The game will be televised nationally on CBS.
According to the Week 10 college football odds, the Bulldogs are 6-point favorites to win on neutral turf. The game also has an over/under of 47 points.
This game is essentially a play-in game for the SEC Championship Game. Both teams have one loss in league play, so the winner will have the inside track on winning the SEC East and playing for a conference championship. More importantly, the winner will keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive.
Thus far, the only blemish on Florida’s record is a road loss to no. 1 LSU in a game the Gators were competitive throughout. Florida also has wins over Miami, Auburn, and South Carolina on their resume. Of course, the Gators will also face tricky games against Missouri and Florida State later this month.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s only loss of the season is far more damaging to their resume, as the Bulldogs dropped a home game to South Carolina a few weeks ago. To their credit, they got back on track with a 21-0 win over Kentucky before getting last week off. However, the Bulldogs also face Missouri, Auburn, and Texas A&M down the stretch, so things don’t get much easier for them after facing Florida this week.
After Florida dominated this rivalry throughout the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century, things have moved in Georgia’s favor during the current decade. The Bulldogs have been victorious in back-to-back seasons and have won five of the last eight meetings. Oddly enough, the winning team has usually had their way in this matchup, as 2013 was the last time this game was decided by less than 14 points. That includes a 36-17 Georgia win last season when both teams also entered as top-10 teams.
Georgia has taken a lot of criticism after their loss to South Carolina, and with good reason. But I still think the Bulldogs are the best team in the SEC East and a team capable of reaching the CFP. The bye week should have served them well and helped them to get back to doing what works. In keeping with the recent trend in this series, I’ll lean toward Georgia to win by a sizable margin and cover the 6-point spread.
When the Bulldogs are at their best, they’re usually running the ball. They got away from that in the loss to South Carolina when they didn’t need to. As good as Jake Fromm is, Georgia’s chances of winning usually decline the more he has to throw the ball. Keep in mind he’s working with a lot of inexperienced receivers, making it all the important for the Bulldogs to commit to the run. I think Kirby Smart will have realized that during the bye and devise a game plan that involves running the ball down Florida’s throat.
A run-heavy team like Georgia isn’t exactly what Florida wants to see. The Gators have talented pass rushers, but their front-7 has struggled to stop the run over the past month. Even in their win over South Carolina, the Gators had to play from behind because they allowed the Gamecocks to run for over 200 yards. They also allowed LSU to have a productive running game, setting up a lethal passing attack. With D’Andre Swift averaging close to seven yards per carry and Brian Herrien proving to be a suitable backup, I think the Bulldogs will establish a steady running game and ease some of the pressure off Fromm.
The Gators, meanwhile, will probably have to lean on quarterback Kyle Trask. Running back Lamical Perine has been steady and consistent this season, but he’s not going to take 20-plus carries and put the Florida offense on his back. In fairness, Trask has been awfully impressive since taking over for the injured Feleipe Franks. However, his efforts weren’t enough against LSU despite over 300 passing yards. I also worry about the hits he’s taking behind a Florida offensive line that’s allowed him to take 13 sacks in his five starts.
Moreover, in the wake of their loss, people have forgotten how good the Georgia defense has been this year. They’ve conceded no more than 17 points this season other than the South Carolina game that went to double-overtime. Even Notre Dame, who has an established quarterback in Ian Book, couldn’t manage more than 17 points against the Bulldogs. That makes me think points will be at a premium in this game.
Ultimately, I think Georgia is more likely to have a breakout game offensively than Florida. The Bulldogs can be explosive on the ground while Fromm is able to take deep shots off play-action. While I like Trask, I’m not sure he’ll get enough support from the Florida defense or the running game against an elite opponent like Georgia. I think the Bulldogs will find some separation in the second half and have no trouble covering the 6-point spread.