By SEAN DOYLE
CFRT SEC Contributor
Game of the Week
Florida vs. Georgia
For the first time in 31 years, both teams will show up unranked in the national polls.
So why is this the game of the week?
For the same reasons so many fans watch NASCAR, for the wrecks and the fights in the pits.
Who will be involved in a fiery crash after this match-up?
Will it be the Gators, on a 3 game losing streak for the first time ever under Urban Meyer?
Will the Bulldogs be able to finish them off by sending Florida crashing into the proverbial retaining wall, launching them literally spiraling out of control and into oblivion with a (gasp) fourth loss in a row?
Or, will Georgia coach Mark Richt’s finally, fine-tuned hot rod get a cut tire on the last lap and watch as Urban Meyer’s Gators chug on past signaling time outs on the way to the checkered flag?
Well, this is racin’…err…football in the South.
|Former Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes was caught on camera gouging at the eyes of Georgia runningback Washuan Ealy in last year's game.|
Things can get ugly and passions run deep.
It doesn’t matter what the records are, or who has the better playing team.
These two teams historically throw out all the stops in this annual border war named “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”
|Following their first score against Florida in 2007, the entire Georgia bench cleared to take part in the touchdown celebration in the end zone. The act summoned two unsportsmanlike penalties and added to the intensity of the annual rivalry.|
The Bulldogs come in on a three-game winning streak after dropping four out the first five games this season.
They have outscored their last three opponents 128-45, with 38 points coming off turnovers.
In Georgia’s four losses, they didn’t score a single point off a turnover.
It seems the Bulldogs’ new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is a big reason for the turnaround and has Georgia doing something they haven’t been able to do in the past – create turnovers.
Mike Bobo, the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator, has been able to take advantage.
He has an improved running game with Washaun Ealy, who ran for 157 yards and five TDs against the Kentucky last week.
And the return of A.J. Green, off his earlier suspension, is showing why he may be the best college receiver come draft day.
|The Bulldogs' All-Conference receiver A.J. Green|
All of this seems to be making it easier for freshman quarterback Aaron Murray to be a productive playmaker developing confidence.
Although, Georgia’s defense is a big reason for the ‘Dogs turnaround.
It is a new scheme and the learning process is ongoing.
At times, the Bulldogs’ secondary looks lost.
Kentucky reeled off scoring drives of 66, 79 and 59 yards, outgaining Georgia 423 to 290 yards, including the 353 passing yards the Bulldogs gave up.
These are numbers that bode well for a struggling Gator offense trying to find an identity.
Florida runs a pretty tight-lipped ship nowadays.
The Gators have had two weeks off to heal up and find an offense.
Meyer has repeatedly announced they are doing some significant tweaks to their offense.
But no specifics on what they are going to unveil against the Bulldogs, and the players are buying into it, not saying what it is that may be changing.
I would expect a few more designed plays to enhance Florida QB John Brantley’s passing skills will make it into the playbook, but no real obvious scheme overhaul.
What is coming out of the Gators’ camp is a concentrated focus on execution.
However, don’t expect the Florida to all of the sudden turn into Steve Spurrier’s “Fun & Gun”, that just isn’t in Meyer’s DNA.
He is a run first, spread option coach.
I would expect to see back-up QB (among his many positions) Trey Burton’s playbook expanded and have more of an integral part of this offense.
And, after losing so many players from last year, you could tell there were some team unity issues among the veterans and incoming recruits.
This extra week of practice will help these guys pull together.
|After suffering with an ankle injury for the past four weeks, the Gators' speedy runningback Jeff Demps should be 100-percent healthy, if not close to it.|
After losing their top two returning offensive weapons left from last year – Jeff Demps slowed by a bad foot and Chris Rainey with some ‘texting ‘ issues – it is easy to understand the Chinese fire drill going on.
But Demps has been able to rest his foot and should be able to contribute this week.
Rainey has been a boost just getting back on the team, and should not only provide some plays himself, but also be a mentor to the dynamic Andre Debose.
The first two series by each team should be able to tell us what kind of game to expect and possibly the rest of each team’s seasons.
During Georgia’s current winning streak, they have not allowed a TD on the opening drive.
Conversely, on their four losses, their opponents all scored on the opening drives.
The winner of this game is still in the hunt for the SEC East, if South Carolina falters.
Florida actually controls their own destiny with an upcoming game with South Carolina at home, whereas Georgia needs outside help after losing the head to head with the Gamecocks earlier this year.
Richt proved he can turn his program around, but can he sustain it?
The answer to that will determine the remainder of Florida’s season.
A loss means the Gators will continue to slog through this “Urban mire,” but a win will signal the start of an “Urban renewal” for the Gator Nation.
Other SEC Match-Ups
|Arkansas QB Ryan Mallet|
Vanderbilt at No.19 Arkansas
Lightning strikes twice, causing two game delays and Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett left the game with a game-ending injury for the second week in a row last week against Ole Miss. Mallet should be fine for the game against Vandy, as well as a healthy running game to compliment the best passer in the league. All of which spells trouble for the ‘Dores.
Kentucky at No.21 Mississippi State
Kentucky finds themselves playing a Bulldogs team for the second week in a row. Kentucky put up a lot of offensive numbers against Georgia last week, but couldn’t recover from turnovers and providing Georgia with great field position. They have to correct the fundamentals for all of their firepower to translate into wins. Mississippi State would like to stay in the Top-25 for more than two weeks, and will stay on Head Coach Dan Mullen’s plan to grind it out and bulldoze the opposing defense. Look for a frustrated ‘Cats team to try and force the tempo resulting in more mistakes.
|Ole Miss QB Jeremiah Masoli|
No.1 Auburn at Ole Miss
Auburn comes in as the No.1 team in the BCS, all the more reason to be concerned if you are a Tiger. In the last three weeks the then No.1 teams – Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma – were knocked off. Auburn’s last two road games were too tight for comfort, winning each by just three points. And, Auburn’s last trip to Oxford resulted in a loss in 2008. But Auburn brings in the 10th ranked offense in the nation against the 10th ranked defense in the SEC. And, Auburn’s QB Cam Newton is looking to have another spectacular day on the ground after Ole Miss gave up 176 yards to Arkansas’ Nile Davis last week. But if Ole Miss QB Jeremiah Masoli has another career-best game like he did against Arkansas (327 yards/ three TDs), combined with Auburn’s pass defense – ranked at 101st in the country – this could be a shootout! Tight score, but a lot of offense on both sides and a lot of points.
|South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier regularly took verbal shots at SEC East opponent Tennessee during his days as Florida's coach, one of which being : "You can't spell Citrus Bowl without UT."|
Tennessee at No.20 South Carolina
Last week Tennessee hung with Alabama in the first half and Taureen Poole was the first player to rush over 100 yards against the Tide since 2007. But the Vol’s didn’t have much else going for them in the second half. Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks are 5-2 and have the SEC East title within their reach if they can keep from allowing their focus to wander. Spurrier has that focus aimed at finishing the season strong. The Gamecocks are a combined 4-11 in their final five games of the regular season over the past three years. And after the letdown in Lexington, the team knows they need to put teams away and steamroll the opposition. As if they would need more reason to despise the coach, Spurrier always has a little extra venom for Tennessee. Don’t look for him to call off the dogs if he gets a good lead – the ‘Ol Ball Coach is back and I can’t wait for the sound bytes!
South Carolina, 38-13.