Florida and Georgia: The Common Opponents

Despite playing in the same division of the same conference, Florida and Georgia have played just two common opponents thus far in the season: Tennessee and LSU. That is mostly because Georgia always plays South Carolina and Vandy at the beginning of the season, while Florida always plays them at the end.

The games against those common opponents for both UF and UGA were played under different circumstances, but I am going to try to pull some insight out of them to help preview this weekend’s game.

Tennessee

The biggest difference between the games Florida and Georgia had with the Vols is that UF got them in Neyland while UGA got them in Athens. Plus, Florida faced Jonathan Crompton at quarterback instead of Nick Stephens, for whatever that’s worth. About the only other thing to mention is that Florida played Tennessee before the collapse of UT football was fully evident, while Georgia caught them reeling at 2-4.

You may recall that the Florida-Tennessee game sparked a lot of debates about the new clock rules. Both teams were intent on controlling the ball and slowing down the game, with a result that neither team reached 60 total offensive plays in the contest.

The 30-6 final score was more indicative of the pace than the way the game actually went. Florida jumped out to a 20-0 first half lead and pushed it to 27-0 before finally settling in to the 30-6 end score. However, Florida punted only once before garbage time, and the Gators had one final drive to run out the clock where they could have scored if they wanted to. If the game had been played at a normal pace with a normal amount of plays, UF could have scored a lot more.

The 26-14 final of the Georgia-Tennessee game was not really indicative of the distance between the teams, but it was indicative of the fact that the Bulldogs never fully put the Vols away until late in the fourth quarter when a field goal pushed the score to its final amount. Tennessee pulled to within six late in the third quarter, and an early fourth quarter field goal for the Bulldogs didn’t completely put the game out of reach mathematically. A nine-point lead with 14:00 to go isn’t that big in college football.

Georgia was a lot more impressive on the stat sheet, and it was Matthew Stafford’s first 300-yard passing game of his career. However penalties, dropped passes, and missed opportunities on defense kept the game from ever getting out of hand. Tennessee was never out of it far enough to lose hope, but if you watched the game you know they weren’t fully in it the whole time either.

We’ve seen two Georgia teams this year: Good Georgia, which mimics the team of the second half of 2007, and Sloppy Georgia, which mimics the team of the first half of 2007. This was definitely Sloppy Georgia.

LSU

As with Tennessee, LSU met the two teams under differing circumstances. This time it was Florida’s turn to be at home with Georgia going on the road to see the Tigers. Florida was the first team to really unmask the LSU defense, putting up 51 points, but Georgia did them one better by putting up 52 after everyone knew the Tiger D was shaky.

Florida’s defense was the big factor in allowing UF to jump out to an early lead. A tipped ball allowed Percy Harvin to score a 70-yard TD of course, a play that kind of knocked the wind out of the Tigers, but it was stuffing the run and forcing punts that made 17 first quarter points possible. Les Miles would say after the game that Florida had gone up by 17 before the Tigers could catch their breaths, indicating that the outburst effectively KO’d LSU for the rest of the game. LSU would pull to within 20-14, but a quick TD drive after that put LSU away for good.

Florida eventually gave up 321 yards in the game and held LSU to 3.1 yards per rush. The Tigers’ third touchdown came after a fumble on a passing play that really shouldn’t have been called given the Gators’ 41-14 fourth quarter lead at the time. This one easily could have been 54-14 or worse.

I didn’t get to see much of the Georgia-LSU game I must confess. After the Florida-Kentucky game I went to a friend’s house to watch more games and, me living in Charlotte and all, the house was full of Hokies watching VT-FSU. I did see a bits of it, and it seemed like every time I flipped over to it, Georgia had the ball and was driving.

I trust the DawgSports review of the game, because the folks over there do a great job of covering the “Classic City Canines” as they are wont to call them. Their major concern of the game was some missed tackles, and that bears out in the box score.

LSU put up 497 yards of offense and averaged 4.6 yards per rush. Many of those yards came after the game was already decided (take your pick - either when UGA went up 38-17 in the third or 45-24 in the fourth), just like many of the Tigers’ 38 points did. Still, it was not as dominating of a defensive performance by Georgia as Florida had against LSU. At the same time this one was a road game for Georgia, whereas Florida got LSU in front of what was by nearly every account the rowdiest Swamp atmosphere in a while.

Nevertheless, this was an appearance by Good Georgia.

Conclusion

Florida definitely had the better showing against Tennessee, and the performances by the two teams against LSU are basically equal (though I’d give Florida a slight edge). The differing circumstances keep the comparisons from being exact, but at least with these two opponents, the Gators have had more success. Georgia, to its credit, has had the good sense to lose to a currently undefeated team rather than a currently .500 team.

The game this Saturday is a completely different animal. There will be no Tigers or Vols in sight (though the random Miami Guy will probably be there). It will just be Bulldogs and Gators, and there’s more coming on that matter later this week.

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