What now appears right and wrong about our preseason look at a critical game.
What's at Stake: The SEC East. From the perspective of the preseason, Georgia looks like the only even halfway serious threat to Florida's division supremacy. If the Dawgs can get through the rest of the conference slate with only one loss among the most challenging games -- vs. South Carolina, at Arkansas, vs. LSU, at Tennessee, the rivalry showdown vs. Auburn -- then the East could very well be decided by this game.
Well. There's a few things that should be mentioned here. "Georgia looks like the only even halfway serious threat to Florida's division supremacy"? I think we can jot that one down under "wrong." Not because Georgia isn't one of the best-positioned teams to take the SEC East from the Gators -- only the Dawgs and South Carolina have a shot at things even if everyone but Vanderbilt is technically alive -- but because "halfway serious" seems to have been a bit of an overstatement. There really isn't anyone whose chances to win the division don't rest on some impropable twist of fate. Georgia needs the least improbable of these, but the Gators are still in good shape.
Where It Falls on Georgia's Schedule: ... It might be that impressive to say Florida is far and away the most difficult game of the last half of Georgia's season, until you consider the margin: at Vanderbilt, vs. Florida, vs. Tennessee Tech, vs. Auburn, vs. Kentucky, at Georgia Tech -- there might three bowl teams in that stretch.
Again, a prediction that doesn't look very good at this point. There are likely four bowl teams in that stretch, though Tennessee Tech is obviously not bowl-bound and Vanderbilt has no real chance at it. How was I supposed to know Chris Todd would actually play like a quarterback for the first half of the season?
Where It Falls on Florida's Schedule: Right after the always scary journey to Starkville, where the Gators haven't played well in years, and before a home game against Vanderbilt.
Give me some credit for pointing out the troubles in Starkville, though that game wasn't much worse than some other Gator scares this year.
What Will Decide the Game This Year: The number of points scored. Georgia's only hope in this game is to have a relatively low-scoring contest decided by a key possession or two. It's doubtful that the Dawgs offense will be able to keep up with Florida if the points start getting into the high 30s.
It's doubtful that the points will start getting into the high 30s unless the old Florida returns. Actually, it now looks like defense will win the game for whomever emerges from this showdown alive; neither offense has looked good for weeks, unless you want to count Georgia's easy win at Vanderbilt.
Georgia Will Probably Win If ... SWINE FLU strikes Tim Tebow and John Brantley. Or if the Dawgs can find some other way to contain the Golden Tebow. ... Really, anything that keeps Florida from scoring 21 points in a single quarter -- as the Gators did in last year's third quarter -- can't hurt.
Again -- ugh. "Anything that keeps Florida from scoring 21 points in a single quarter" could end up being the Florida offense. And containing Tebow this season seems like less than a monumental task, although as one of the team's most used offensive players this year, he might easily be the key to the Gators' hopes to win the game. By the way, where is John Brantley? You could be forgiven if you thought that Florida has moved him to a secure and undisclosed location; he has 30 attempts on the year and hasn't been seen in a game since Sept. 26 at Kentucky.
Florida Will Probably Win If ... The offensive line can keep Tebow standing up. Georgia's front seven is good enough, and Florida's offensive line was just unsettled enough in the preseason, that there's a chance the Dawgs can get some pressure on Tebow. If Florida can keep that from happening, it'll likely be a grim day for Georgia.
Yes and no. Obviously, Florida needs to get good protection for Tebow; that was one of the major problems agianst Arkansas and, to a lesser extent, Mississippi State. But even that seems unlikely to cause "a grim day for Georgia" unless Florida has done some major work on its offense in the past week.
Conclusion: I still can't find much of a reason to believe Florida will lose this game. Sure, there might be a crucial turnover or another upset-inducing mistake that ends with the Dawgs winning the game, but I'd be surprised if Meyer and Tebow let things stay that close. It's possible that the season goes so easily up until now that the Gators become complacent and end up losing this one. But I don't think that's very likely. Florida in a comfortable win, if not in a rout.
No need to change the prediction of a Florida victory, but the idea of "a comfortable win, if not ... a rout" also seems a little overblown at this point. The Gators haven't routed any SEC team outside of Kentucky. Why should we believe that's going to change now?