As I promised, I’m going to break down the game 9 months before it’s played.
Must be some rivalry.
So, I’ll list the 3 key players on both teams (in order) one key matchup, an overall prediction and a score prediction.
Key Players for Georgia
1) QB Aaron Murray- some people get tired of hearing how the QB is the most important player in the game. Well, it’s true. Murray in a nutshell- he can run, he can throw, he can throw while running, he’s young and he’s experienced. In other words, Florida MUST pay attention to him at all time, kind of like everybody had to pay attention to Tebow at all times. He’s no Tebow, but he can make plays in a number of ways. Florida must force him out of the pocket, for even though he’s comfortable there, his receivers may not be, causing either an incompletion or a pick.
2) RB Isiash Crowell- this freshman running back will almost certainly see playing time against the Gators. He’s pretty fast, but he sees a hole and he’s gone. He’s got a great first step- and the rest aren’t bad either. If the Gators blitz and he gets through the line- watch out. He’s extremely dangerous in the open field. His only real weakness is that when he gets hammered to the deck, he tends to get shaken up.
3) TE Orson Charles- he catches and runs like a receiver, and while his blocking certainly isn’t awful, it’s not where an SEC tight end’s blocking abilities should be. He torched Florida in the 4th quarter last year, and the Gators must treat him like a wideout. Seriously, he’s not someone to forget about about, and Florida should seriously consider putting their #1 CB (whether that be Janoris Jenkins or Jaylen Watkins or whoever wins the job, but assume Jenkins) on him. Plus, he’s Aaron Murray’s favorite target and high school buddy.
Key Players for Florida
1) RB Jeff Demps- I don’t care who’s the QB, most likely he won’t have a load of confidence coming into this game. Either Brantley will be worried about losing his job or Driskel will worry about his first Florida-Georgia game. That won’t be a problem with Demps, who will be playing in his fourth and final Cocktail Party. As Georgia can attest to, Demps may be small, but as soon as you give him space, then start looking for your kick block team. He needs to break a long one in this game.
2) DT Sharrif Floyd- they say everything starts in the middle. Well, Sharrif Floyd has made a habit of starting games off with a pancake. For this reason, forget about gaps. The A-gap becomes a G-gap. What does G stand for? Gigantic. Because the center is usually flat on his back, allowing more defenders to break through the now gigantic A-gap. If need be, Floyd can also go left with surprising speed and bust a B or even a C gap. He wreaked havoc as a freshman and needs to do it some more against UGA in order to flush Murray out of the pocket.
3) LB Jelani Jenkins- like Floyd, the guy with Je. Jenkins on his jersey wreaked havoc as a freshman last year. The difference is, he’s usually in the second wave of blitzers, and if a hole opens up- Jenkins is through it immediately. He’s got great vision, which along with open field tackling is the most important trait in a linebacker. He’s also deceptively quick for his size. He may get some killshots on Murray, and he will be delighted to take advantage of them.
Aaron Murray vs. Florida front 7: The Gators MUST PRESSURE MURRAY. I cannot stress this enough. Murray CANNOT be allowed time to sit back in the pocket. If the blitz does its job, he won’t. Against Georgia though, the blitz is a double edged sword- if Murray dumps off a screen to Crowell or Charles, then Florida is in trouble. So Muschamp needs to be careful when he dials one up.
Georgia just hauled in a fantastic recruiting class. But it pales in comparison to the one that Florida brought home a year ago under Meyer. The class from last year has more talent, more players, and more experience than Georgia’s Dream Team. Make no mistake, though, the Bulldogs’ 2011 class is a force to be reckoned with and will soon be doing a significant percentage of the team workload.
Which is not this year.
The Gators must also dethrone the royalty, or at least keep an eye on the Kings at Georgia. They are Caleb and Tavarres and are capable of doing unexpected damage. They must also dethrone Mark Richt, currently the longest tenured coach in the SEC. Wouldn’t that be great?
Here’s how to do it (for if Richt loses this game he is almost certainly gone following the season unless this is Georgia’s only loss).
1) Disguise the blitz packages.
Make it look like a 4 man rush, only to suddenly bring a pair of linebackers on the snap to rocket through the B-gaps for an uncontested shot at Murray. As much fun as it was criticizing Addazio, the main thing lost last year was QB pressure. We all made fun of Addazio because it kept us of sound mind, but the truth was that the Gators got very little pressure on opposing QB’s. In actuality, defensive play-calling is more important than offebsive play-calling for the simple reason that if you screw up, it could mean a long touchdown.
But I’m not worried about that with Muschamp, a very good defensive play-caller. After the game, when I dig this post out, there will almost certainly be a check next to it.
2) Deflate Georgia with the huge play early.
There’s nothing like devastating an opponent early in a rivalry game. I know from experience because my high school team beat its archrival 23-14, and early in the game our d-lineman blocked a punt following a great drive. The opponent came back late- but too late. I saw the opponent’s expressions. They looked like they wanted to quit right there.
So the play-calling on offense needs to be as unpredictable as Addazio’s wasn’t. On the first play of a big drive- hell, the first offensive play of the game for Florida- flea-flicker bomb.
Why the hell not?
Even if it fails, the Bulldogs will see that Brantley (or Driskel) has the balls to just chuck it in a rivalry game like this, and they will need to keep a few guys deep just in case Charlie Weis tries again.
When I say deflate, I don’t just mean make a big play.
You guys see where I’m heading?
Maybe it’s the Gators’ turn to transform the end zone into some scene from High School Musical.
Whatever it is, the Gators MUST MUST MUST do something to take the wind out of Georgia early on, so the rest of the game is simply clean up.
3) Special Teams must be truly special
The last time the Gators blocked a kick or a punt and lost was when Ron Zook was the coach. Since Muschamp holds special teams almost as dearly as Meyer, expect him to load the punt/kick block team with speed.
Also, a big kickoff or punt return could be a vital jump start.
4) No stupid penalties
It seems stupid to put here, since it is a boilerplate part of every pre-game pep talk to not do anything stupid that will cost your team. But no rivalry gets more chippy misbehavior than this one.
Reggie Nelson is lucky the refs missed his hit on Kris Durham in 2006 or he wouldn’t just have been flagged, he’d have been arrested.
How lucky was Brandon Spikes not to get caught attempting to poke Washaun Ealey in the eyes?
Equally lucky was Nick Williams, who was miffed over getting trucked by Tim Tebow the previous year, and decided to retaliate by knocking Tebow down- a full two seconds after he handed the ball of to Jeff Demps.
Both teams need to cut it out, although if a Bulldog mugs a Gator and gets flagged, I don’t really care. But the Gators cannot afford to kill themselves with a personal foul and 15 free yards to Georgia, regardless of who has the ball.
5) Contain the deep bomb
This is always standard as well, but again, more so in a rivalry. The Gators cannot allow anybody to get loose deep. If they do, it will kill them.
I’m not sure Mark Richt really knows what to do with the talent he has. But there’s something really wrong with UGA and Jacksonville. They just don’t mesh well. Even when UGA is clearly better, Florida wins.
Look at 2002, 2005 and 2010. Does anybody really believe that Florida was the better team?
Throw all strategy out the window, and you’d all still pick Florida. And that’s what I’m going to do.
Because over the past 21 years, Florida has won 18 and lost 3. Those are numbers I’d put my money on. The strategy I listed is how Florida wins; the mere fact that Georgia suffers a hex against Florida is why.
The hex is so bad that Georgia’s screwed before they even walk on the field, as talented as they are.
Florida 41, Georgia 21.