#9 Florida vs #7 Georgia Preview

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As we officially enter Georgia hate week, it’s time to preview the biggest game of the season. I’m going into detail in multiple ways to prepare the fans the best I can for a game Florida is expected to lose, as Georgia is favored by 7.5 over Florida, on top of FPI giving Georgia a 69.8% chance of beating the Gators.

Basic statistical comparison

Florida Georgia
Total O/YPG 408.3 ypg – 67th 461.9 ypg – 27th
Passing O/YPG 211.0 ypg – 91st 235.6 ypg – 65th
Rushing O/YPG 197.29 ypg – 39th 226.29 ypg – 22nd
Scoring O/PPG 34.4 – 35th 39 ppg – 18th
Time of Possession 81st 56th
Yards Per Play 6.23 – 35th 7.14 – 7th
Scoring Margin +17.86 – 16th +22.71 – 7th
Passing TDs 16 – 25th 15 – 34th
Rushing TDs 10 – 91st 16 – 33rd
Rushing Avg 5.10 ypc – 31st 5.78 ypc – 12th
Pass Comp % 58.0% – 85th 67.6% – 14th
QB Rating 146.74 – 41st 168.16 – 7th
RZ Scoring % 89.66% – 26th 89.29 – 27th
3rd down conv % 41.38 – 50th 45.68 – 21st
Sacks allowed 9 – 20th 12 – 39th
Scoring D/PPG 16.6 – 15th 16.3 – 13th
Rush D/ YPG 163.14 – 73rd 136.29 – 40th
Pass D/ YPG 160.1 – 6th 174.3 – 14th
Total D/ YPG 323.3 – 22nd 310.6 – 17th
Rush AVG allowed 4.15 YPC – 68th 4.17 YPC – 70th
QB Rating allowed 99.82 – 7th 106.14 – 14th
Pass Comp allowed 50.0% – 6th 57.5% – 48th
Yards Per Play allowed 4.83 – 23rd 4.76 – 21st
Sacks 21 – 23rd 9 – 117th
Penalties 8 per game – 111th 6.3 per game – 58th
Turnover margin +9 – 7th +2 – 43rd
Opp 3rd down conv 34.91% – 40th 30.30% – 15th
Opp RZ scoring % 78.57% – 43rd 84.21% – 75th
Punt returns 14.40 avg – 22nd 17.00 avg – 11th
Kick returns 15.13 avg – 124th 22.50 avg – 43rd
Opponent punt returns 7.86 avg – 69th 6.00 avg – 45th
Opponent kick returns 20.11 avg – 54th 22.25 avg – 93rd

Advanced metric comparison

Florida Georgia
S&P Overall 14 5
S&P Offense 32 6
S&P Defense 19 24
S&P ST 9 13
FEI 8 5
F/*+ 10 5
RSOS 13 20
OFEI 42 4
DFEI 14 21
SFEI 9 4

Note, for an explanation of these statistics:

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/fplus
https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ncaa
https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/fei
https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ncaaol

A look at Georgia

I decided to take a look at two of Georgia’s games against the top 2 teams they have played this season per S&P, LSU, and Missouri.

A look at UGAs offense

Jumping right into it, Fromm tends to catch a lot of flak for making extremely simple passes, a criticism from Florida fans that can at times seem contradictory considering that almost Floridas entire passing game is based on the perimeter screen game. Georgia’s passing game isn’t complex, it isn’t creative, it’s flat out simple.

Georgia’s version of asking Franks to throw the screen game is the quick passing game in regards to short hitch routes, like below, or slants.

Georgia’s offense is not based on the run as heavily as it was last year, I figured that Chaney would show more trust in Fromm this season, but Holyfield and Swift are both excellent backs, one of the reasons UGAs O is not as dangerous as a year ago is because UGA runs the ball less. Through 7 games a year ago, UGA ran the ball 343 times vs 274 times this season through 7 games.

Fromm is still 2nd in the SEC in completion percentage and QB rating, so it’s not as if Chaney’s trust in Fromm is misplaced, but Fromm’s deep ball looks shakier this year.

Now, these aren’t all of his deep balls, he’s hit on a number of them this year, but in these 2 games I reviewed, his deep ball accuracy wasn’t there on contested throws.

Fromm isn’t bad at reading defenses, but the reality is, he doesn’t tend to go through his progressions. I don’t necessarily want to say that the entire passing game for Georgia is a one read system, but I don’t think you would be in the wrong to label it that. Here is one example of how Fromm has his decision made up pre-snap despite fine coverage on the slant route.

Again, this doesn’t make Fromm a bad QB, he runs their offense fine, one bad game vs LSU doesn’t deem a benching, despite seemingly the entire Georgia fan base wanting him benched for a true freshman QB. Fromm is money on back shoulder throws, which is one of those odd things to see his issues with the deep ball in these games but seeing his back shoulder throw is fun to watch, rival or not. There is one drop in here, the throw was fine.

We have an excellent pass defense from a statistical point of view, and the tape agrees that we have locked down the passing offenses Florida has played. But Florida has not been tested by a QB of Fromms talent level yet. Henderson and Gardner-Johnson are both reliable cover guys but I still think it’s a question whether they can consistently defend against Fromms back shoulder throws.

Georgia’s WRs are a unit I can see giving Florida’s secondary an issue. One of the issues you get with UGAs simple quick passing game is that it makes it tough to defend their route running ability. Here the slot WR runs the DB out of his shoes and gets wide open.

There are other examples of this that I didn’t GIF. What you tend to see are corners playing 7-10 yards off Georgia’s wideouts and they’ll run a 7-yard hitch that pushes the corner off enough to make the throw easy for Fromm. Eventually, you will see corners sneak up to eliminate the hitch and slants and something like the above will happen. That or someone like Riley will run what looks to be another 7-yard hitch, he’ll dip and flash the hitch and turn around and run a go route, getting past the secondary for a wide-open target for Fromm to hit (or overthrow as shown in some of the GIFs above).

LSU played a lot of zone vs UGA to eliminate the short stuff and to keep the deep stuff in front of them. When they did play man, they had success doing so because Greedy Williams is a future 1st round lockdown corner who wouldn’t let the man he was covering beat him.

Now, moving into the running game, Chaney not sticking with Swift and Holyfield more is an odd thing, because these 2 guys are amazing to watch run the ball. UGAs running scheme is a simple power running scheme. You very rarely see an OG pull to lead the way for an outside zone run for instance. When you watch Florida’s offense operate in the run game the scheme is completely different, you will see 2 linemen, or 1 lineman and a TE pull constantly. Georgia, IIRC, has the biggest OL in the SEC, they’re the 2nd most talented unit behind Alabamas, Kirby’s philosophy is “we are bigger than you, we are more talented than you, our line will punish your line and you can’t stop us” and more often than not, he’s right.

The biggest reason Georgia’s run game is so dangerous? Swift and Holyfield both have an incredible jump cut that creates a lot of extra yards for that offense.

This is a big concern I have for Florida’s defense. I believe that we have the best defensive line that Georgias has faced all season, but as I have gone over in prior Twitter reviews, as good as Reese and Joseph have been at points this year, they still have issues running themselves into bad spots. Grantham likes to use a one safety look with the 2nd safety as a run support, box safety. One of the issues that became visible vs Vanderbilt was how often our safeties and corners get out position vs the run.

When you watch tape of plays where Georgia can’t get a run play going, it’s because everyone did their job. The DL held their ground vs bigger UGA linemen, the linebackers and defensive backs are pressing the edge and forcing Swift/Holyfield to run it up the gut, like these two plays show. You see the DBs take away that outside cut and the linebackers stay in their gap and don’t get blocked out of the play. Run is dead.

Florida can run with a variety of looks on its defensive line. There is enough size that Grantham can run with 3 guys over 300 pounds with 2 of Zuniga/Polite/Jefferson standing up. One look that’s given some lines issues is by putting Jefferson right over the center, and despite me banging the drum about CeCe having a down year this year, he’s done pretty well at being a handful for interior linemen to block. He just hasn’t been able to translate that into much production.

So I don’t think it’s impossible that Florida can defend Georgia’s run game, but I don’t think it’s likely. I would far easier project Georgia hitting 200 yards rushing before I predict Florida keeps them to under 100.

Sticking with the offense, Georgia is NOT creative. This is not a surprise to me as Chaney is an above average coordinator on his absolute best day. And maybe the lack of creativity by Georgia is a Kirby decision, but the next two GIFs are an example of the most creative plays Georgia ran in these two games. I’m not sure there exists a world in 2018, with the creativity you see out of so many offenses, where a WR end around is deemed creative, but this is what Georgia brings to the table from a trickery point of view.

A look at Georgia’s defense

It’s not a surprise that Georgia’s defense has taken a step back this year, the amount they lost a year ago to graduation and to the NFL was similar to what Florida lost from 2006 to 2007. Georgia is still solid on D, as the numbers show, they still have plenty of speed, as the numbers show, but they aren’t remotely as dangerous as they were a year ago, and a big reason for that is they don’t have a linebacker on roster who is in the same zip code of accomplishing what Roquan Smith did on a snap to snap basis for their defense last year.

Georgia’s run D is their weak spot, 40th in rush defense and 70th in yards per carry allowed. What this tells me off the bat is Georgia’s run defense would be noticeably worse if Georgia wasn’t routinely playing ahead of their opponent by such a large margin that it required their opponent to go into a pass only game plan to try and get back into the game.

Georgia’s run defense looks pretty weak in the middle. You can see the speed on wide outside zone runs as UGA does a pretty good job of stringing plays out and keeping those outside zone runs to a short gain. But I looked at about 1 1/2 quarters of the Vanderbilt game before deciding to stick to only breaking down 2 games and the runs up the ‘a gap’ were there for Vanderbilt just like you see below for Missouri and LSU.

One thing I noticed watching Georgia’s defense is how well they play runs that go wide out of the shotgun. Vanderbilt had some success running wide when taking snaps from under center. LSU had two big runs I will show below that came late in the 4th when I think Georgias defense was tiring. Earlier in the game, LSU was having some issues going wide, Missouri had issues going wide as well. UGA is young on D, but the speed is still there.

But late in the 4th, LSU lined up in a run-heavy look under center and was able to pop off two big runs on a tired defense.

One thing I was looking for was how Georgia played the short stuff, and while there isn’t a lot of stuff on tape in these 2 games that I could compare to Florida’s passing offense that relies heavily on short stuff to show you that offenses can move the ball at will like that, Missouri did move the ball on one of their TD drives by moving the ball how you would expect Florida to move the ball, with the short passing game. LSU ran a few WR screens that I thought were well blocked but the ball carrier shows poor vision, as the last GIF here shows I think, looks to me like he can get the first if he bounces the run to the outside versus inside towards the linebacker.

Georgia doesn’t have a good pass rush. While I believe that sacks are an extremely overused number in regards to discussing the kind of productivity a line or player has, the tape agrees. Georgia is fine at producing pressure when they bring 5 or more, which isn’t unique at all, most defenses will have more success bringing 5 or more. But when Georgia sticks with its base pass rush, more often than not, the QB has time to throw. Ledbetter and Clark seem to be the only two guys that flash on tape for them on the DL but it’s not really an impressive kind of flash. The only way I’ve seen Georgia produce any kind of pressure without getting exotic with blitz packages is by stunting up front.

Florida absolutely brings the better pass rushing unit to this game in Zuniga and Polite. Georgia has no one like Zuniga or Polite, and this is Florida’s best pass blocking unit since Meyer was at Florida. The combo of Taylor and Ivey being solid in pass pro over the last several games and even Johnson playing better at RG playing a unit that ranks as one of the worst pass rushing units in CFB says that, on tape, Florida should have time to run their passing offense.

Another thing that stuck out to me about Georgia’s front 7, looks like Florida might have some success with a Franks read option or two. Maybe Kirby didn’t expect for Burrow or Lock to pull and he caught them by surprise, Franks usually keeps on 2 or 3 read option plays a game so the tendency is there for Georgia to prepare for, but it still stuck out to me how poorly UGA played the read option vs two QBs who aren’t really overly athletic guys.

Georgia’s secondary is good but not great. Baker is a really good corner, arguably the best in the SEC and he only got beat once vs LSU that I recall, LSU spent quite a lot of time targetting freshman Tyson Campbell. He gave up a number of catches and got burned quite a bit. Not only did Campbell get burned, but there was a handful of plays LSU WRs got behind Georgia safeties. Replace Burrow with a league average QB (Burrow is 13th in the SEC in completion percentage) and it’s possible and probable that LSU puts up 40+ on Georgia, their secondary was not good vs LSU and routinely found themselves way out of position.

How does Florida beat Georgia?

In the off-season, I was so pessimistic about Florida’s roster that I gave Florida single-digit percentage odds to win this game. I was not expecting this staff to make the amount of difference they have made this fast. While I still think lowly of Franks as a QB, he’s limited his mistakes to about half of what he did a year ago, the offensive line is no longer a dumpster fire, the defense is in much better hands with Grantham (which I did see happening), the special teams coverage units have improved and despite losing a good kicker and arguably the best punter in program history, there has been minimal drop in terms of punting average and frankly the freshman kicker is a better officiating crew away from being perfect on place kicking for the year.

So here we are in the middle of October and this game is very winnable compared to how many a pessimist viewed this game after the Kentucky loss. You will even find an increase in Georgia fans who are more worried about Florida than they were when the Mullen hire was originally announced.

Georgia opened this game as 7.5 point favorites and ESPNs FPI gave Georgia a 69.8% odds of winning this game, both the line and the FPI odds are ones I agree with now, which as someone who thought Florida had a 5% chance of winning this game in July, that’s improvement in confidence.

When Florida is on offense

I haven’t seen anything to indicate that Florida can’t continue running their offense the way they have run it in all but the LSU game (we threw 1 or 2 screens in that game?). Mullen is far more creative than any play caller Georgia has seen this season, and with a bye week to add more to the offense, Georgia is likely going to see a number of looks that you would of had to go back to Mississippi State to see. The biggest thing I noticed added in the Vanderbilt game was the introduction of using 2 running backs in the backfield next to Franks in the shotgun, it gave Vanderbilt fits, you hope it does the same to a better Georgia defense.

Georgia doesn’t have a pass rush, statistically speaking it’s the worst pass rush Florida has seen outside of Charleston Southern, and that’s not to say that their pass rush won’t come alive vs Florida, but South Carolina is tied with Florida in sacks allowed and Missouri has allowed one less sack than Florida has, so Florida isn’t exactly bringing an otherworldly OL to the table that Georgia hasn’t seen on the year. If you think Georgia’s pass rush grew in the bye week, I could argue that our pass protection schemes have gotten better in the bye week as well. Going off the tape and numbers I think Florida matches up well with Georgia up front.

Looking at the way teams have run on Georgia, you could see this being a game that has the potential to shape up how Florida approached the Georgia game in 2014 (6 passes, 60 rushing attempts). While I don’t see Mullen calling less than 10 pass plays, a run-heavy approach wouldn’t be a bad plan, and while technically all of our games have a run-heavy approach, I’m talking more than usual (we average 38 attempts a game), so bumping the runs up to 45ish wouldn’t surprise me, nothing about the stats or the tape indicates to me that Georgia is going to completely shut down Floridas run game.

My concern on offense still completely revolves around Franks. He’s still not good enough to win games on his own. If Georgia shuts the running game down and can control or eliminate the perimeter screen game, I see an easy win for Georgia. The odds that Franks is beating Georgia by sitting in the pocket and having to complete passes over the middle of the field are probably slim to none.

While beating LSU was fun, that game provided Georgia with as much a recipe for making life difficult on Franks as the LSU game gave Florida a recipe for beating Georgia. That was statistically Franks worst game in terms of comp % and QB rating, and the reason why? Florida couldn’t run their screen game vs LSU. When you force Franks to throw over the middle of the field, or you dare him to beat you deep, you are putting Floridas offense in a really ugly place because Franks touch is not ideal, specifically on deep balls. Franks is a QB who can complete all of 3 plays with any kind of consistency: WR screen, slant, comeback. Every other route in the route tree is a route Franks either can’t complete at all or probably completes less than 50% of his attempts on those routes. So while Franks is better than a year ago, he’s still extremely limited, limited to the point that it wouldn’t take me by surprise if Georgia sells out against the run and dares Franks to beat them with his arm. But I expect a lot of trickery by Mullen to move the ball through the air, that and focusing on targetting freshman corner Campbell quite a bit.

When Florida is on defense

Floridas defense is the most dependable, trustworthy unit on the team. And despite saying this, the defense is why I believe Florida loses this game. Vanderbilts RB1 (Ke’Shawn Vaughn) had 7 rushes for 56 yards before getting hurt. As I re-watched the Vanderbilt game I saw Joseph and Reese out of position quite a bit (prior to Joseph being kicked out of the game). Yes, Joseph had the game of his life vs LSU, but LSU doesn’t have a Holyfield or a Swift running the ball. It’s a lot easier to tackle Brossete an Edwards-Helaire in the open field then it is to tackle Swift and Holyfield.

Defensively, it requires almost an absolutely perfect game from Florida to win this game. I’m not buying into Georgia being shown to be a pretender because of one bad game at one of the hardest places to win a game after convincingly beating everyone else on their schedule. I fully expect a rebound game from Fromm, I kind of expect for Kirby to force Chaney to dial in and run the ball more than they throw it, and that running game is my concern. I don’t have much faith that this defense can keep those jump cuts at a minimum. In almost every game this season it has taken Grantham and the front seven 2 to 3 drives to figure out what the other team is doing in the running game, Vanderbilt and LSU both scored quickly, MSU put up 6 in their first two drives, you can’t get away with that vs Georgia. Swift and Holyfield are so good that if the defense doesn’t dial in right away, you could see Georgia score on their first few drives before the defense figures out what is going on and while this Florida team has shown amazing mentality and fight in answering when things get ugly, no one on Florida’s schedule has the talent Georgia does, you don’t want to spend this game playing catchup because it took the staff and defense 2-4 drives to figure out how to contain Georgia’s offense.

Now continuing on, Polite and Zuniga are the only two consistent pass rushers on Floridas roster, CeCe has had a world of issues getting to the QB, and the hurries aren’t really there for him so it’s not like CeCe has a bunch of “almost got him” to lean on, and no one else on the defensive line is a realistic threat of producing a pass rush vs this huge Georgia offensive line, I say this because Polite and Zuniga were non-existent vs Vanderbilt. For Florida to win this game, not only does the defensive line need to play out of this world in the run game, with the linebackers staying in their gaps and getting help from the corners and safeties in forcing Georgia runners to have to run into the teeth of our defense, Polite, Zuniga and CeCe HAVE to play lights out. You have to get Fromm out of his comfort zone.

And if you can’t get to Fromm? Then we’re looking at the secondary needing to play lights out vs that dangerous back shoulder throw that Fromm seems incapable of throwing poorly at times. And speaking of our secondary, Georgia’s wide receivers are really good. Speedy, agile, elusive guys who are really good route runners who do a good job of selling corners on one route and burning them deep with another. My biggest fear in terms of these guys is not getting burned deep by them after they spend a couple drives having Fromm complete short slant and hitch routes. The stop and go has been there for Georgia quite a lot and our corners and safeties need to be on their A game.

But, I saved arguably our best weapon for the last part of this defensive part. Jim Chaney and Georgia’s simplistic power scheme. Chaney is likely not going to outplay call Todd Grantham. Grantham is a much better coordinator than Chaney is. As someone who lives in Atlanta and has talked to many a Georgia fans, whenever you bring up Chaney’s creativity the conversation usually leads to huffing and puffing and criticisms of how bad Chaney is at dialing up a trick play. Not that it requires trick plays to win this game, but Florida’s defense is fast and ultra-aggressive and one of the best ways to make a defense pay for coming at you with 6 or 7 guys is to get creative. Chaney’s creativity revolves almost entirely around end arounds and a random WR pass or a flea flicker. Chaney lacks the creativity that you see in so many offenses in college football now. You give Georgia an offensive mind like Lincoln Riley and I would be MUCH more pessimistic on Florida’s chances in this game. Chaney is a coordinator who, despite after Georgia running backs averaging a first down almost every touch on one drive vs LSU, that the first run play that only went for a yard, Chaney went pass-pass and Georgia ended up settling for a FG because he suddenly stopped trusting a huge offensive line and two elite level running backs.

There is a lot of this in Chaney’s play calling, the moment a run play fails, Chaney has a tendency to immediately lean on Fromm for the offensive production. Chaney could be Florida’s best weapon in this game if Florida’s defense can force a stop at or behind the line of scrimmage and immediately force Chaney into skittish, irrational play calling.

Prediction

Georgia: 33
Florida: 23

Ultimately, I think Georgia approaches 200 yards of rushing, I think this is the first game that really mimics what Georgia did a year ago on offense, with Fromm not being the focal point of the offense like he’s been a lot this season. I view Kirby as an elite defensive mind who I expect to clean up some of the secondary breakdowns that happened vs LSU. If both running games are equally strong, which is a possibility with how weak Georgia is up the middle and how Florida linebackers tend to find themselves out of position, the tiebreaker for me would be Fromm. Fromm can make more throws than Franks can and at the end of the day, I don’t see Florida shutting down Georgias passing AND running game, which on a neutral site is what I think may have to happen for Florida to win this game.

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