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Georgia Football

Final Feelings: Must-Read Before Georgia-Gators

November 5, 2020
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Matt’s Final Feelings

Alright, ya’ll.  it’s Georgia/Florida week. 

It’s usually one of the biggest weekends of the year. Halloween parties the entire week. Lots of alcohol consumption on the beach. It’s one of the largest parties in the world. 

But this year is a little different. Thanks a lot, Covid. The atmosphere won’t be the same, but the Gator fans will still be rocking jots and missing teeth if you see them around.

The last two years we saw the Bulldogs end Florida’s season. It’s the worst nightmare possible for Gator fans. They HATE losing to Georgia, and when it happens, they know their season is over. As someone who shot the game last year in the Florida section of the stadium, it was a magical sight that I’ll never forget. So many Gator tears….

This year we’ve got another top-10 matchup in Jacksonville. Like every other year, the college football world will be focused on this game. No other game matter when the Dawgs take on the Gators. 

This is Florida’s Super Bowl. They need to win this game badly, or you’ll see drunk Gator fans trying to jump off the nearest bridge. 

If Dan Mullen is going to FINALLY beat Kirby Smart. This is the year to do it. Georgia’s defense is banged up, George Pickens isn’t 100%, and let’s be real, Georgia’s QB is Stetson Bennett. The ghost of Jake Fromm will give Florida fans nightmares for years to come, but this year they won’t see him. 

But Stetson Bennett doesn’t need to have a monster game for Georgia to come out on top. All he needs to do is take care of the football. He needs to throw about 15-20 times at the most. He’ll need to make a big 3rd down throw here and there, and he might have to step up and make a key throw in the 4th, but Georgia needs to run the ball and push Florida’s defensive line backwards. That’s something they should be able to do with ease.

Georgia doesn’t need to do anything fancy offensively. There’s no need to try and make explosive plays. Georgia needs to play their style of football and stay with it. They need long, sustaining touchdown drives that eat up clock and keeps Florida’s offense on the sideline. 

If Georgia can establish the run early on and win the time of possession battle, they’re going to leave Jacksonville with a win. The last thing they need to do is throw the ball more than they need too, stopping the clock, and giving the ball right back to Florida.

If the Dawgs can control the clock on offense, the defense will be fresh, giving them a chance to slow down Florida’s high-powered offense. The Gators are going to move the ball. They have a quarterback playing great football with some explosive playmakers on the outside. Kyle Pitts and Kadaruis Toney are going to cause trouble. They’re going to get their touches and make plays. Georgia just needs to play great red-zone defense and hold them to field goals. That will be one of the biggest keys to the game.

In the end, Georgia just needs to play their game. They don’t need Stetson Bennett making mistakes. He should be dinking and dunking all he wants. Keep the ball out of harms way through the air, and run it down Florida’s throat. 

I see a 28-23 Georgia victory

In other news, when does everyone start putting up Christmas lights and decorations? I love Christmas as much as anyone, but I’ve always been a “respect Thanksgiving” guy too. That’s until Thanksgiving actually happens and the crazy aunt comes and ruins it all.

Does everyone else have crazy family drama EVERY year? All my family is from Georgia, so we usually meet up in Macon and everyone comes into town. It’s great for about 30 minutes, but the women in my family love to talk. And talk loudly. Listen Aunt Susie, I’m watching football. I don’t care about your garden or your friend’s grandson finally graduating college after 7 years. I don’t give a damn. Let me continue stuffing my face while I drink beer and watch football.

My fiancé thinks it’s funny. Her family lives up in New York so they don’t have Thanksgiving drama. So she’s all about it. It’s a southern reality show for her.

Anyway, I’ve got a couple more Final Feelings this month to talk about it.  So be prepared.

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Dylan’s Final Feelings

There are several guarantees in life: death, taxes and running lanes against Florida. 

Georgia should have a field day running the football on the Gators. I don’t think it will be to 2017 proportions (292 yards, four touchdowns), but they could certainly get to 200+ rushing yards. The difference though will be that Florida’s offense is actually competent this time around.

No matter how tough this Georgia defense is, they are going to give up points this weekend—likely a lot. Kyle Trask isn’t the scrub that Felipe Franks was (is), he can actually air it out. Franks was a shoo-in for at least one turnover if not more. Now, Georgia is going to need to earn its turnovers, and to win this game, they’ll need at least one.

On the inverse, Georgia doesn’t need to match Florida’s offensive production each drive; they need to keep the ball out of their hands. Long, sustained drives is what is going to give the Dawgs the advantage in this game. The two teams play such opposite styles of football, so if you can control the tempo, you’ll control the game. 

I’ll admit, for a little bit, I was leaning towards Florida for this game. After the Kentucky game, I had lost some faith in Georgia. But, as a lot of us do, I was overreacting a little bit. This will be a very different type of football game than last weekend, one that I think Georgia is well-positioned to do better in. 

Let us not forget that Florida lost to a Texas A&M team that isn’t on the same level as Georgia. In that game, the Aggies rushed for 200+ yards while only conceding 90 yards on the ground. 

If you ask me, I think the numbers will look something like that this weekend. In the SEC, if you have double the amount of rushing yards your opponent has, it generally works to your favor. Give me the Dawgs 31-27.

As for the Horns…

I was wrong about them last weekend. I really thought they would lose to Oklahoma State—even in the moment. Texas actually pulled it out though. Which sets up a great opportunity to lose to West Virginia with the hangover of beating a top-10 team. 

I was dumb not to realize that Texas could and would beat OK State. That seemed like a classic Texas win. This game against West Virginia, seems like a classic Texas loss. Give me the hillbillies of West Virginia to come to Austin and personally fire Tom Herman.

Lastly, I want to crowdsource for some help here—how do y’all cook your steaks? Get into detail for me, if you don’t mind: What cut, how do you season, what do you cook it on? I’ve been experimenting a few different ways and am looking for new ways to try. I just pan seared a strip with some butter and to be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan. I preferred the grill wayyy more, but I’m curious what kind of advice y’all may have. 

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Dean’s Final Feelings

We’ve hit the biggest week of the year for the Dawgs (and Gators), and this will be a Cocktail Party like none we’ve ever seen. This game, with all of its pageantry and fun, is what college football is all about. 

In many ways, Georgia should look around in this wild time, and appreciate what it has in terms of rivalries. Clean Old Fashioned Hate. The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. 

What other program has three rivalries with names? 

Michigan? 

No one cares about the Big Ten’s version of the NWA Television title. Paul Bunyan’s Little Brown Jug? There’s nothing little about Georga’s three rivalry games. 

And yes, I am now going to lecture you on the difference in Georgia’s actual “rivalries” and its “big games”. Like LSU, Texas and USC, each year Georgia plays in “big games”. Those games are games like LSU-UGA, Alabama-UGA or even Clemson-Georgia. 

This, of course, is where people get confused. People incorrectly think all big games are rivalries. They are not. I know the crowd I am talking to, and I know what week it is. So think of it like this degenerates: 

All bourbon is whiskey, but not whiskey is bourbon. 

All of Georgia’s rivalries (Tech, Auburn & the Gators) are big games, but not all of Georgia’s big games (Notre Dame, LSU and Alabama) are rivalries. 

I will now make clear what are UGA rivalries and what are not, and this is very simple. If the big game Georgia is playing has a name it is a rivalry. If it does not have a name it is not a rivalry. 

South Carolina-UGA is not a rivalry (for Georgia); it is a big game
Tennessee-UGA is not a rivalry; it is a big game
Clemson-UGA is not a rivalry; it is a big game

Please don’t at me. Couple of things: First, Georgia can’t include everyone as its rival. That would water down what are the Dawgs’ actual three rivalries with Tech, Auburn and the Gators. If USC-UGA is a rivalry does that make Kentucky-UGA a rivalry? The Cats and Dogs have played more often, and Georgia has dominated both series.

Then you’ve got the crowd that thinks Georgia and Clemson are rivals. This takes some explaining. Much like Kentucky and Carolina, Georgia and the Tigers have played a lot through the years (although not yearly since the 1980s). UGA is up a ton in the series just like the USC and UK series. 

What separates this series from other ones the Dawgs have is that the two teams had a seven-year stretch from 1980 until 1987 where they were both “pretty good” to great teams and had their games decided by very few points or in dramatic fashion (a few game-winning FGs in this one during that time). 

Really all that happened in that time is that Clemson held up its end of the rivalry, and it went back a forth a little bit. The games were entertaining as well. Frankly, the history of Clemson-UGA is that when Georgia won over time it was usually convincing. When the Tigers won it was relatively close - somewhat like the games in 2013 and 2014. 

Anyway - not a “rivalry” but a big game. If you want to know why the Clemson game, at minimum, is no longer played you can thank the 1992 expansion of the SEC. 

On the Tennessee front, this is certainly a big game - no doubt. And I would say it is inching closer to a rivalry. But these two programs hardly played before the SEC went to divisions. Tennessee’s domination of the series in the 1990s and Georgia’s since doesn’t mean the two programs have failed to produce great games. Quite the opposite - 2001, 2006, 2013 and 2016 are games historians will point to in the series that shows there have been some great contests. 

The problem in this series is that it has been particularly lopsided over the last three decades towards one team or the other. Frankly, rarely have both teams been really “good” at the same time going into the game. 

But the fact of the matter is that the UT and USC games are not the same as the rivalries. They don’t have the same history. They don’t have quite the same stakes. When was the last time South Carolina ended Georgia’s season? What in 2019 when Georgia was shocked by Carolina and went on to win the SEC East? 2012? 2011? 2007?

How about Tennessee? 

Those two games are not terminal games. They don’t end things - they set up the stakes. Tech, Auburn (nearly always in the past) and the Gators are almost always terminal games either literally or figuratively. 

And with all due respect to Tech and Auburn, Florida is different. There is a different sense to the game. Frankly, it is all on the line. There isn’t much coming back if you lose, and if you win the explosion of exuberance is noticeable. 

How many other games do you see UGA players celebrate with their fans after games? It happens, but it always happens in Jacksonville. The game means more. It is the definition of the SEC’s motto

And this game defines legacies. Vince Dooley. Steve Spurrier. Urban Meyer. Mark Richt. Their legacies were built in Jacksonville. Just on the Georgia side you immediately think about Belue to Scott and 2007’s storming the field. Spurrier’s domination in the 1990s, and Meyer’s timeouts in 2008 have been seared into the fokelore of the game as well. 

Kirby Smart may have changed the rivalry in Georgia’s direction, but he will have to cement that this weekend. Three wins in a row over Dan Mullen would be a very serious marker in a series that has shown that teams can dominate for decades at a time. It would also undercut the notion that Mullen is the superior coach. Last year’s loss to Georgia really undercut some support for Mullen from Gator faithful - that can happen after big rivalry game losses. But two in a row like that? That would be tough for Mullen. 

With that said, Mullen has this Gator team in very good position. They can score, and they just played their best game of the season against Missouri. COVID-19 has knocked the program back… setting them back an entire week of practice in the middle of the season. 

Three Gators - Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney - make Florida go. Trask is great at getting the ball out to his backs and tight ends. He moves well in the pocket, but he’s not super mobile unless he’s moving forward. On occasion Mullen uses him on QB draws that can be effective for sure. On top of that, Trask is a big athlete. 

Pitts is pretty well unguardable. If you won’t come up and tackle Toney, the Gators will score. That might be the biggest thing in this game. If you don’t tackle, the Gators will continue to move the ball and eventually score, and probably score a touchdown. 

Half the time the Gators start a drive it ends in with a TD. That’s pretty impressive

I still have a lot to say… keep reading. 

The Gators’ defense has gotten better. To some degree folks have overvalued how “bad” they are. But there are major red flags. Holes are there to be had on this defense. It is a problem for the Gators. The defensive line was knocked off the ball a lot in their first four games, and one of their starters in that unit will miss the first half because of the halftime fight last week against Missouri. 

The fundamentals of this game - the offensive and defensive linemen - favor UGA in a way that’s noticeable. And that’s going to be the challenge for the Gators. Can they move the ball against Georgia the way they’ve been able to against everyone else this season? 

I’m skeptical.

Florida’s quarterback is better than UGA’s. Florida’s TE is better than UGA’s. Toney is explosive that’s noticeable in a way that perhaps Kearis Jackson can be, but he shows it more. After those three I’m not sure I see a position or positions where the Gators are better than UGA. 

And that’s the problem I think. The fundamentals of this game favors Georgia, and the other 19 starters in this game. But this is a good Gator team. They can guess sometimes on defense - try to shoot gaps - and I think that could be a real problem against Georgia’s run game. How often will the Dawgs throw? Because whenever they do Todd Grantham is going to bring pressure. Does that mean Georgia will throw on early downs? Stetson Bennett is actually “much” better throwing on third down than first down. I’m not sure why that is. 

Again, can the Gators’ offensive line hold up to UGA’s pass rush and defensive line? Can the Gators’ defensive line hang in there and not allow 200 yards rushing this weekend? Is Kentucky’s defense better than the Gators’? What about turnovers? If Bennett turns it over that certainly favors the Gators, but about one in every eight Florida drives had ended with a turnover - that means they will “probably” turn it over once in this game, too. 

Are you going to come up and tackle these underneath routes? Is Dan Mullen going to get impatient? Will the Gators’ defense start guessing on the defensive line? Will Florida blitz, and leave too much space open on the back end?

Who is more ready to fight for this win? 

This game nearly always comes down to the big guys. That’s why I have Georgia winning what should be a tight game against a good team. Missing the players the Dawgs have missing is not ideal, but everyone is going through something. It is time to grow up and do it. 

 
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