Thu, 09 Dec 2021

No. 1 Georgia has sights set on rival Florida

Field Level Media
26 Oct 2021, 04:40 GMT+10

No. 1 Georgia will look to solidify the top spot in the College Football Playoff rankings and take a step toward a spot in the Southeastern Conference title game with a victory over Florida on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Bulldogs (7-0, 5-0 SEC) opened as a two-touchdown favorite over the Gators (4-3, 2-3). However, Florida ended Georgia's three-game winning streak in the series with a 44-28 victory in November 2020 that ultimately ended the Bulldogs' string of three straight SEC East division titles.

Even though both teams were idle last week, Georgia and Florida enter their annual showdown heading in opposite directions. The Bulldogs have been dominant, outscoring their seven opponents -- including four who were ranked -- 269-46, culminating with their 30-13 win over then-No. 11 Kentucky on Oct. 16.

The play of Georgia's defense has emerged as one of the biggest storylines of the season nationally.

The Bulldogs have given up a national-best 6.6 points per game, nearly eight points fewer than Michigan, which ranks second at 14.3 points per game. Georgia also ranks first nationally in total defense (208.3 ypg) and first downs allowed (84), in addition to ranking second in rushing defense (63.4 ypg) and passing defense (144.9 ypg).

Meantime, Florida is coming off a 49-42 loss against LSU on Oct. 16. The Tigers rushed for 321 yards on 45 attempts, an average of more than seven yards a carry. LSU amassed 454 yards of total offense against the Gators, who lost for the third time in their past five games since opening 2-0.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart and Florida coach Dan Mullen haven't announced who will start at quarterback for their respective teams.

Georgia's Stetson Bennett has been terrific filling in for JT Daniels, who has been sidelined with a strained oblique. Bennett has started the past three games and has played in the past six. He's gone 57-of-82 passing for 996 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. He's also had 19 carries for 148 yards.

"It all depends on where JT is, and where Stetson is, and what gives us the best chance to win," Smart said Monday. "I don't feel we have a chemistry issue with either quarterback. I don't think our offensive players pay attention to who is back there."

Zamir White (83 carries, 400 yards, 7 TDs) and James Cook (47 carries, 296 yards, 2 TDs) will power the ground game, regardless of who is under center.

True freshman tight end Brock Bowers - who leads the Bulldogs in receptions (25), yards (416) and receiving touchdowns (6) -- and redshirt freshman receiver Ladd McConkey, who has 17 catches for 295 yards and two scores, have emerged as the team's top receivers.

The Gators' question at quarterback stems from their season-opening starter, junior Emory Jones, being inconsistent. Jones started in the 49-42 loss to LSU, but he was pulled in favor of freshman Anthony Richardson, who led the Gators into the end zone on four straight possessions in the second half. However, they both threw two interceptions.

Jones has gone 119-for-176 for 1,305 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He's also rushed for a team-high 494 yards to go along with two touchdowns.

Richardson has gone 21-for-37 passing for 392 yards with five scores and three interceptions. He's the team's second-leading rusher, having run for 348 yards on just 28 carries -- an average of more than a dozen yards per attempt -- to go along with three touchdowns.

"I'm never going to get into the strategy of what we're going to do in the games," Mullen said. "I haven't set the script yet from what we'll call from the first play of the game. I imagine as long as everyone is healthy, we'll play both quarterbacks during the course of the game."

Jacob Copeland (23 catches, 423 yards, 4 TDs) and Justin Shorter (19 catches, 229 yards, 2 TDs) have emerged as the Gators' top receivers.

--Field Level Media

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