Florida Gators (4-3, 3-4 ATS) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (4-4, 4-4 ATS), Week 9,
Saturday October 30th, 3:30PM Eastern Everbank Field Jacksonville, F.L.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: UF +3/GA -3
Over/Under Total: OFF
The Florida Gators have suffered 3 straight losses for the first time in the Urban Meyer era and they are desperately in need to right the ship to keep their chances at an SEC Championship appearance alive. Florida had the past week over to resolve some of their issues and prepare for this week’s huge rivalry showcase against the Georgia Bulldogs at the Annual Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, F.L. The Georgia Bulldogs on the other hand have had nearly an exact opposite start to the season. The Bulldogs lost their first 4 of 5 games of the season, but since that point they have been one of the hottest teams in the SEC blowing out 3 straight conference opponents. The Bulldogs also still have an outside shot at an SEC Championship appearance, but their focus will be trying to hand the Gators their 4th straight loss for the first time in over 20 years.
Earlier this season the Bulldogs were struggling heavily on the offensive side of the ball. Not only was star WR A.J Green suspended for the first 4 games, but QB Aaron Murray was adjusting to the college level. However, lately the Bulldogs offense has exploded posting at least 40 points in each of their last 3 games. Murray has completed 68% passing during that stretch with 4 touchdowns and 0 picks. Also, WR A.J. Green has posted 365 yards and 4 touchdowns in his 4 games since his return. Not only has the passing game found rhythm, but running back Washaun Ealey has erupted for 280 yards in his last two games which has resulted in the entire offense firing on all cylinders for the most part. The question now facing the Georgia offense is can they keep rhythm against the talented Florida defense?
So far this season the Gators have been dynamic on the defensive side of the ball despite the offensive troubles. Florida ranks 14th in total defense allowing just 297 yards per game and have also held opponents to just 18 points per game. The strength of the Gators defense is in their secondary and they definitely have the talent to give the Georgia pass offense a difficult time if they can keep A.J Green under control. The biggest obstacle for the Gators defense has been stopping the run thus far in conference play. In their last 3 outings to Alabama, LSU, and Mississippi State; the Gators have allowed at least 160 yards per game in all 3 of those contests. Florida must come out with intensity to shut down the Bulldogs running game since they have ran the ball so well over the last few weeks.
On offense, Florida struggles have been for the most part all season. The Gators were held to 7 points or less in two of their last 3 losses. The offense ranks a miserable 89th in the nation averaging just 389 yards per game which is simply a shock considering Florida has been one of the top offenses in College Football over the last two decades. However, this year that has not been the case. Running back Jeffery Demps is one of the most electric runners in the SEC with the ability to break any play for a touchdown. Demps has just 450 yards on the season but has averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Tailbacks Mike Gillislee and Emmanuel Moody are also strong runners despite being held to low totals this year. However, the reason behind that is because defenses have loaded the box to stop the run which so far has worked against the Gators.
QB John Brantley did not have any experience entering the season and defenses have really forced him into passing situations over the past few weeks. Brantley has not posted any huge offensive numbers, but with the added pressure from a slow running game the Gators quarterback has really struggled over the last few weeks. Brantley did not throw a single interception in his first 3 games, but has thrown 5 in his last 4 outings. Brantley has also completed 62% passing on the season. While the completion percentage is not terrible, the big play threat has been non-existent. Expect Georgia to load the box to stop the run again this week, until Florida proves they can strike through the air.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think these two teams are going in opposite directions. Florida struggles are getting bigger each week and Georgia is looking better each week. Expect that to continue. Take Georgia to cover the short line.