When Georgia lost to Vanderbilt two weekends ago, most fans thought the chances of the Dawgs winning a third straight SEC Eastern Division championship were over. Naturally, UGA was given new life this past Saturday when Missouri choked away a 17-point fourth quarter lead to South Carolina. The Dawgs sit one game behind Mizzou in the loss column, but they’ve still got a chance to re-claim the division title as the Tigers have to travel to Ole Miss and then face Texas A&M to finish the season. However, none of that matters if Georgia doesn't win the rest of its SEC games.
In the past three years, these teams have combined to commit 53 penalties and 17 turnovers in this game. There were five turnovers in 2010, three turnovers in 2011, and nine turnovers last season! I feel like this ends up on national television each year because people can’t turn away from watching a trainwreck. The winner on Saturday will likely be the more disciplined squad. This involves protecting the football and not committing stupid mistakes, such as dead-ball fouls. It starts with which coaching staff has its team more prepared to execute this weekend.
For Georgia, this also revolves around special teams. I’ve been complaining about the special teams for the past three years, so I have nothing else to say about it. I’d complain about the special teams coach, but there isn’t one. Whatever.
2. Todd Gurley’s Health
Injuries are a part of the season for every team, but Georgia fans can’t help but wonder if the first part of this year would have worked out differently with a healthy Todd Gurley. Many regard Gurley as the best running back in the country, and he makes such a difference for the offense in the red zone and short yardage situations. All reports indicate Gurley is healthy enough to play this Saturday, and he should give the Dawgs a huge lift. Hopefully his ankle injury won’t limit him and he can play at full strength. If he’s anywhere near 100%, the Florida defense will have a difficult time stopping him.
3. Who will handle the pressure better?
Any number of people will be under tremendous pressure on Saturday. Will Muschamp is under the gun because Florida fans are starting to question whether his style of play is sustainable for the Gators. Todd Grantham is under pressure because the Dawgs haven’t stopped anyone this season and Florida’s offense has been nothing short of disastrous. And despite his play in big games this season, Aaron Murray has always been criticized for his performances against Florida. Who will rise to the occasion and overcome the pressure?
4. Which coach will be more aggressive?
One of the biggest complaints by Florida fans is that the Florida offense refuses to be aggressive. Instead, Will Muschamp often uses a very conservative offense and relies on his strong defense. On the other side of the ball, Georgia fans have been criticizing Mark Richt and Mike Bobo’s playcalling for years. The numbers indicate otherwise, but Bulldog fans regularly question Georgia’s use of tight ends or formations based on particular situations.
In a game where so many starters are injured, which coach will take more risks and chances? Who’s not afraid to throw the ball down field or possibly use a trick special teams play? Those types of things will be huge momentum shifts for either team.
5. Who will view the injuries as an opportunity?
Florida and Georgia regularly bring in Top 10 recruiting classes. Both teams have been decimated by injuries, but there’s still talent on both sidelines. It may not be experienced talent, but talent nonetheless. Which one of these talented newcomers will make the most of the opportunity Saturday? Who will prove why he was a 5-star prospect coming out of high school? Who will handle the intensity of playing in one of the SEC’s biggest rivalries. Both teams need new guys to step up.