As Florida gears up for its annual party in Jacksonville, Fla., against rival Georgia, the Gators will do so battered and bruised and looking for some sort of offensive spark.
So what else is new?
The Gators are hurting, but after South Carolina's upset win at Missouri last week, they are still in the SEC Eastern Division race. It sounds crazy, but with a win on Saturday, the Gators' slim chances of getting to Atlanta widen a bit.
It certainly isn't a given -- because the Gators need a lot of help -- but Atlanta all of a sudden doesn't seem so far away.
So how do Florida inch closer to the East crown? Well, it's all about running the football. With protection issues in the passing game, this team desperately needs a spark from its running backs, and coach Will Muschamp is hoping to get it from new starting back Kelvin Taylor.
The freshman, who is the son of former Florida All-American running back Fred Taylor, had a tiny coming-out party in the loss to Missouri two weeks ago when he carried the ball 12 times for a team-high 74 yards and a touchdown. Against LSU the week prior, Taylor rushed for 52 yards on 10 carries.
"He’s good, continues to improve throughout the season week to week. He’s always been a very instinctive natural runner, it’s very obvious," Muschamp said. "With assignments and different things, I think he’s done a nice job and deserves the opportunity."
Taylor had struggled with protection this season, but Muschamp said the frosh has steadily improved in that department. That's a very good thing because now things won't seem so one-dimensional when he's in. It's easy to play a running back straight up when you know that his sole purpose is just to run the ball.
Running more effectively against a Georgia defense that is giving up just 3.7 yards per carry will be huge when it comes to opening up the passing game. The Bulldogs have struggled to stop the pass this year, allowing 253 yards per game and 12 touchdowns on the season. Florida has the SEC's third-worst passing game (175.4 yards per game), but with the issues Georgia's defense has had even the Gators might be able to make some plays.
And to do so, Muschamp said he wants to simplify things. That means more boring offense, but Muschamp hopes it's a more productive boring going forward.
It'll have to be, or the Gators will find themselves with three straight losses to Georgia for the first time since the late 1980s.
"We’ll scale back to get our guys playing faster," Muschamp said. "And to me, this game all comes down to execution; go execute better than the other guy does, and that gives you a better chance to be successful. And if you don’t execute, it really doesn’t matter what you call. Let’s quit thinking about plays and start thinking about players. And that to me is the most important thing."