When: Saturday, October 29, 2016
Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Odds: The Gators are currently 7.5-point favorites, via OddsShark.
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party commences this Saturday as the Florida Gators (5-1, 3-1) meet the Georgia Bulldogs (4-3, 2-3) in a pivotal SEC East matchup.
These two bitter rivals enter this weekend’s game in much different places. Florida looks to maintain its lead on the SEC East, while the ‘Dawgs just look to stay ahead of of football luminaries Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
Luke Del Rio will be under center for the Gators, but does it really matter? UF typically wins games with outstanding defense, and that is the case again in 2016. The Gators rank No. 2 nationally in total defense, with opponents averaging just 252 yards per game. The Gators are No. 22 versus the run and No. 1 in pass-efficiency defense. Opposing teams have just 797 total yards passing against Florida in 2016. Opponents have just four touchdowns passes this season, while the Gators have 10 interceptions.
On offense, Del Rio has done just enough. He was good through the first three weeks before an injury sidelined him. In his return two weeks ago, Del Rio completed just 18 of 38 passes and was picked off three times.
Freshman sensation Jacob Eason leads the ‘Dawgs and it’s been and up-and-down for the rookie. While he’s had some big moments like the game-winning drive at Missouri or his play against Tennessee, he’s had his share of struggles, too.
Georgia will live or die by its running game. The Bulldogs have a pair of studs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, but it feels like UGA’s running game hasn’t clicked all season with the exception of its win over South Carolina. In the embarrassing home loss to Vandy two weeks ago, Chubb rushed for just 40 yards on 16 carries.
UGA’s offensive line is atrocious. That group will have its hands full against the Gators’ front seven.
Defensively, Georgia is solid. Not spectacular, just solid. The ‘Dawgs rank No. 17 against the run. Opponents are lighting up Georgia through the air, as the Bulldogs are 77th nationally against the pass. UGA has forced 15 turnovers and sacked opposing quarterbacks 14 times.
So, what happens?
Rivalries can go either way. In 2016, Florida is the better team. The Gators are much better on the defensive side of the ball and the teams are about even offensively. Eason is the better quarterback, but who has confidence that Georgia’s offense can move the ball against UF’s stingy defense?
This game will be close, as Chubb and Michel will keep Georgia in it on offense. The yards won’t be easily attained as the Gators will make life difficult for Eason and the UGA’s much-maligned offensive line.
Del Rio will make just enough plays on offense and the Gators will force a pair of turnovers in this one to pull away midway through the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Florida 24, Georgia 16