- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 2 Florida plays No. 10 Georgia on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla. The Gators (7-0, 6-0 SEC) have won 18 of the past 22 meetings, but the Bulldogs (7-1, 4-1) won in 2011 and are trying to win back-to-back games in the series for the first time since winning three in a row from 1987-89.
Here's five storylines for the game:
1. All the marbles: The SEC’s Eastern Division title is on the line for both teams, but the only the Gators can clinch the title with a victory on Saturday. The Gators wouldn’t be mathematically eliminated with a loss, but they’d need Georgia to lose another game, and the Bulldogs close the SEC season by playing Ole Miss (4-3) and Auburn (1-6). Florida last won the division in 2009. Georgia won it last season and got routed by LSU in the SEC Championship Game.
2. Turnovers: Florida’s plus-11 turnover ratio is third in the SEC. The Gators have forced 15 (eight interceptions), have turned the ball over only four times and have been able to be conservative on offense in part because of that. UF tries to attack players they see on film who do not carry the ball securely, which is what they did against South Carolina last week. CB Loucheiz Purifoy, who forced two fumbles last week, let it slip that the Bulldogs’ running backs (Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall) are on the list of players they’re going after to try and strip the ball. Georgia has turned the ball over 10 times and forced 10 turnovers. QB Aaron Murray has thrown only four interceptions.
3. Take advantage of special teams: With the only exception being the punt returners’ struggles in deciding when to field a punt, the Gators have been fantastic on special teams. Especially P Kyle Christy -- who leads the nation in average (47.9 yards per punt) -- and the punt coverage unit, which is allowing only 1.8 yards per return. The Gators have also called a fake punt, fake field goal or fake PAT in three games this season and have been successful all but once. Georgia’s return game is solid, but the Bulldogs have struggled in the kicking game. K Marshall Morgan has missed four PATs and has only attempted six field goals this season. The Gators need to exploit their advantage here.
4. Make Georgia one-dimensional: Gurley and Marshall have combined to rush for 1,110 yards and 14 touchdowns. That has opened up the passing game for Murray and WRs Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell. The Gators have the SEC’s No. 3 rush defense (97.3 yards per game) and shut down South Carolina’s ground attack last week. Florida’s secondary has played well this season -- especially S Matt Elam and CB Jaylen Watkins -- and matches up favorably with King and Mitchell. The Gators want to stop the run and force Murray, who has a history of struggling in big games, to beat them.
5. Stick with the run: Georgia also wants to stop the run and put the game on Jeff Driskel’s shoulders because the sophomore quarterback has yet to prove he can win a game with his arm. UF’s WRs have made some big plays but not consistently enough to allow the Gators to rely on the passing attack. UF has attempted more than 20 passes just twice this season: the opener against Bowling Green and Kentucky. The Gators have to stick with RB Mike Gillislee, even if he’s not getting chunks of yardage, and Driskel has to be effective when he runs the zone read.
1hSam Khan Jr.
2dSam Khan Jr.