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Ten Games That Will Shape the SEC: No. 3 -- Georgia vs. Florida (Jacksonville)

The Game: The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, Georgia Bulldogs vs. Florida Gators, Oct. 31

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. We'll likely know one way or the other by Halloween; only the Auburn game and a tilt with Kentucky will remain on the league schedule by the time the Dawgs leave Jacksonville.

Where It Falls on Georgia's Schedule: After Georgia's schedule turns easier, and between a bye beforehand and a home game against Tennessee Tech afterward. There will be no mental excuse for the Dawgs should they lose this one; they have plenty of incentive to focus. 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.

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. The Commodores and the Gamecocks are the only SEC opponents left for Florida when this game is over, meaning pretty clear sailing. The schedule leading up to Georgia isn't exactly a meat grinder: vs. Charleston Southern, vs. Troy, vs. Tennessee, at Kentucky, bye, at LSU, vs. Arkansas and at Mississippi State.

What Happened This Past Season: Florida made the once-championship-favorite Dawgs pay for the 2007 Riot by the River, taking a 14-3 into halftime and then reeling off five straight TDs to make the margin 49-3. Georgia got one garbage score to make it a slightly more respectable 49-10 margin, to which Urban Meyer responded by calling three timeouts near the end of the game to tell Mark Richt, "Message Received. Answered." A forgotten fact about the game is that Georgia actually outgained Florida 398-373. But four turnovers, including three interceptions by Matthew Stafford, made the yardage totals moot.

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.

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. I won't really give them credit for doing that in the passing game last year -- Tebow only threw for 154 yards, but he also only attempted 13 passes for an average of 11.8 yards. You might give them a little more credit for stopping him on the ground, but not much; the Dawgs held him to 3.3 ypc on 12 rushes, but that includes TDs of 2, 1 and 8 yards. Still, his longest rush of the day was 9. 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.

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.

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. 4 -- LSU at Ole Miss
No. 5 -- Florida at LSU
No. 6 -- LSU at Georgia
No. 7 -- South Carolina at Georgia
No. 8 -- Tennessee at Florida
No. 9 -- Auburn at Tennesee
No. 10 -- Kentucky at Vanderbilt