Georgia Bulldogs: Quinton Dunbar

Here are five matchups to watch when Florida has the ball in Saturday's game in Jacksonville:

Florida's running game vs. Georgia's front seven: This is perhaps the most important matchup on this side of the ball. Florida's offensive identity is built around pounding the run and controlling the clock, and it made hay in that department with Mike Gillislee toting the rock an SEC-high 244 times for 1,152 yards last season. The results have been highly uneven this year with quarterback Jeff Driskel and running back Matt Jones sidelined by season-ending injuries. Georgia native Mack Brown (99-359, 3 TDs) is Florida's leading rusher, but he is not the Gators' scariest ball carrier. That honor goes to freshman Kelvin Taylor (28-172, TD), the son of Gator great Fred Taylor. Kelvin has played more recently. The problem is that, like most freshman, he is a liability in pass protection. Until he becomes a more consistent blocker, defenses know what Florida likely intends to do when he lines up in the backfield.

Georgia pass rushers vs. depleted Florida line: The Bulldogs' defense hasn't had much to brag about this season, but they have actually applied fairly consistent pressure against opposing quarterbacks. Georgia is tied for third in the SEC with 19 sacks -- many of which have come from the revitalized defensive line. Defensive end Ray Drew leads the team and is tied for fourth in the SEC with five sacks. Outside linebackers Leonard Floyd (four) and Jordan Jenkins (three) are just behind him. Florida has struggled with its pass protection this season, and it could be an even bigger issue on Saturday now that left tackle D.J. Humphries is out of the picture for the next few games. The Gators have allowed 17 sacks this season -- only Ole Miss and Vanderbilt (19 apiece) have allowed more among SEC teams -- so their injury-depleted line needs to raise its level of play or Florida's offense might have difficulty moving the ball on Saturday. Jarvis Jones, who wreaked havoc against Florida in each of the last two meetings, is no longer on the roster, but Drew, Jenkins and Floyd are good enough to give the Gators problems.

Tyler Murphy on the edge: Driskel's replacement under center, Murphy, started out well enough, leading the Gators to wins against Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas in his first three games. But Murphy took a pounding in the last two games, both losses, and Florida's offense was barely able to generate any scoring punch. He is most effective as a run-pass threat -- Murphy ran 10 times for 84 yards after taking over against Tennessee -- but his Total QBR numbers have fallen off a cliff since his strong start. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Murphy posted an outstanding Total QBR of 93.8 in the first three games, completing 72 percent of his passes, but he averaged an 8.9 QBR against LSU and Missouri -- including a 3.0 against Missouri, the lowest QBR by a Florida starter in the last decade. He'll have to make some things happen with his legs for Florida's offense to be effective Saturday, as he leaves a lot to be desired as a pure drop-back passer.

Containing Florida's receivers: The Gators have pretty much stunk in the passing game over the past few seasons, and 2013 has been no different (12th in the SEC in passing at 175.4 ypg). The speedy Solomon Patton (28-426, 4 TDs) -- whom Georgia safety Shawn Williams bulldog tackled just before he reached the first-down marker on a run last season, knocking Patton out of the game -- has been one of the Gators' only consistent receiving weapons. Otherwise, Florida's receiving corps has been a train wreck this season. Andre Debose is out for the year with an injury. Trey Burton (29-336, TD) has the most catches on the team, but hasn't been particularly consistent. Quinton Dunbar (22-301) is the only other Gator with more than 46 receiving yards. Georgia's secondary has been subpar this season -- the Bulldogs rank 11th in the SEC in pass defense (253.4 ypg) -- so the matchup between its defensive backs and Florida's mediocre wideouts pits two weaknesses against one another.

Burton as wild card: Think back to Florida's 2010 win in Jacksonville. Florida utility man Burton might have been the most effective quarterback on the field that day. Operating out of Florida's Wildcat package, Burton ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns, led the team with five receptions and completed two passes for 26 yards. He still operates out of the Wildcat at times, so keep an eye on the versatile senior, who is capable of impacting the game in a variety of ways.

Expect excitement from the SEC East

September, 7, 2013
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Georgia's thrilling 41-30 win over No. 6 South Carolina inside Sanford Stadium Saturday night set a familiar tone for the SEC Eastern Division: No lead or team is safe.

The 12th-ranked Bulldogs (1-1) went from being outmuscled a week prior in their heartbreaking loss to ACC foe Clemson, to doing most of the pushing around, as the Bulldogs catapulted themselves to the top of the East standings.

[+] EnlargeKeith Marshall, Aaron Murray, Kolton Houston
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia had plenty to celebrate in its win over South Carolina, but there's a long way to go before the Dawgs can think about celebrating an SEC East title.
"The team that loses this game is waiting for the other's bus to break down," Georgia coach Mark Richt said Saturday. "We've been chasing them the last three years. South Carolina has a very good team, and this year, we get a chance to sit in the driver's seat. … We haven't been 1-0 in the league in a while because South Carolina's been getting us. Today, we got them, and I'm so thankful."

The road to Atlanta for the SEC championship game yet again has to go through Athens, but the Bulldogs are far from perfect ... just like the top contenders looking up at the Dawgs.

While Georgia's defense has given up 68 points and allowed an average of 460.5 yards to opposing offenses in the first two games of the season, South Carolina's defense struggled mightily on Saturday after Florida's offense developed a fear of the red zone in its unsettling 21-16 loss to Miami.

Georgia is in the driver's seat for its third consecutive SEC East title, but the East certainly hasn't been won two weeks into the season. If anyone should know that, it's Georgia.

The Bulldogs have a lot of flaws on defense. Things cleaned up against South Carolina, but the Gamecocks (1-1) still churned out 454 yards of offense, including 226 rushing yards, Saturday night. South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw continues to show that he's a true gamer and he's helping those receivers grow more and more.

On the flip side, the Bulldogs showed that they can hang with anyone in any SEC shootout. Georgia piled up 538 total yards, watched Aaron Murray throw four touchdowns, and have a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in running back Todd Gurley (132 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries). Scoring points won't be a problem for the Bulldogs, but stopping them could be.

That's the opposite predicament No. 12 Florida (1-1) finds itself in after a bad loss to the Hurricanes. There's no question that the Gators have an elite defense, but even it couldn't save the offense like it did so many times last season. The offense, which registered 413 yards of offense (the most by Florida since gaining 403 yards against Vanderbilt on Oct. 13 last year), was totally inept inside the red zone.

The Gators took six trips inside Miami's 20-yard line and came away with just nine points and four turnovers. Two were Jeff Driskel interceptions, one was a Trey Burton fumble and another was a turnover on downs on a very questionable fourth-and-1 call.

Adding more salt to the Gators' wound, they missed a puzzling two-point conversion after their first touchdown.

"We moved the ball. We had more than 400 yards, mixed the run and pass well, did some good things at times,'' Florida coach Will Muschamp told reporters after Saturday's loss. "Bottom line, you can't continue to shoot yourself in the foot and give another team an opportunity, especially on the road."

Those shots came in the form of three lost fumbles, two interceptions and red zone failures. While Florida rediscovered the art of actually moving the ball down the field (and might have found capable receiving targets in Quinton Dunbar, Solomon Patton and Burton), mistakes and poor play calling ruined the Gators' chances of beating a less-talented Miami team.

But fear not Gators fans! The East is still in reach. A Miami loss means nothing in conference standings and that defense is only going to get better. By the looks of what Georgia and South Carolina did defensively, the Gators have a chance to squeak out some points against them.

For now, the attention is on Georgia and South Carolina because they have offenses that don't shrink near the goal line (well, minus that failed fourth-and-1 by the Gamecocks late Saturday). They have capable quarterbacks, receivers and running backs. We still don't know if the Gators do. But without a loss in conference play, Florida actually has the advantage over South Carolina, which now has to root for two Georgia losses.

However, the trio at the top still has some other hurdles to conquer. You have to wonder if Vanderbilt or even Missouri or Tennessee can help derail their trains to Atlanta. Nonconference cupcakes aside, Missouri and Tennessee are the only unbeaten teams in the East.

We know Vandy will challenge everyone going forward, but Mizzou and Tennessee still remain relative enigmas this early in the season. With far from perfect teams at the top, any one of these three could serve as a pesky pothole on the road to Atlanta. South Carolina gets its first taste of the rest of the East next week with a visit from Vandy.

Then there's the obstacle that is LSU that Florida and Georgia both face. The Tigers look like they could challenge for the Western Division title and should pose threats both offensively and defensively for the Gators and Dawgs.

Georgia is ahead of the pack, but if we've learned anything from the past few years, the East race to Atlanta is far from being paved in red and black.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 9

October, 28, 2012
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Alabama is still really, really good, and we have a new king of the East:

1. The East is Georgia's to lose: After being counted out heading into their big matchup with Florida, the Bulldogs are now atop the East again. That brutal loss to South Carolina appears to be nothing more than a distant memory in Athens. All those "for sale" signs fans gathered for Mark Richt's house will have to be used for more constructive means after Georgia topped Florida 17-9. The win didn't clinch the East for the Bulldogs, but they are firmly in the driver's seat with Ole Miss and Auburn as their only remaining SEC opponents. The Rebels are much better than they've been in two years, but Georgia likely will be a heavy favorite in that game, while Auburn continues to stumble along this season. House money is on Georgia to take the East, and if the defense feeds off its performance Saturday, the Bulldogs should cruise into Atlanta.

[+] EnlargeAJ McCarron
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAJ McCarron was efficient Saturday in throwing for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
2. The gap between Alabama and the rest of the country is widening: It might take an NFL team to stop the Crimson Tide. Alabama feasted on No. 11 Mississippi State on Saturday night with its 38-7 win over the Bulldogs. Such is life for opponents who walk into that Crimson buzz saw. Alabama is allowing just 3.5 yards per play and is outscoring opponents by 32 points a game. Oregon has looked great and is still scoring in its game against Colorado, while Kansas State and Notre Dame look more impressive every week. But Alabama is on a different level. It's the most disciplined team out there, and it's getting better. The Tide might not be as flashy or score as many points as Oregon or Kansas State, but they doesn't need to. They're too busy running on cruise control in the second half of games to care about scoring margins.

3. Florida needs more playmakers: The Gators have lived and died by running and smothering. But Saturday proved that if Florida is really going to rub elbows with the elites in college football, it has to find more offensive playmakers. Running back Mike Gillislee has been good, but he needs help from the passing game because teams are starting to crowd the box to key on him. Right now, tight end Jordan Reed is the only real reliable receiving target. Ironically, his fourth-quarter fumble sealed the Gators' fate against Georgia, but at least he was there to make some sort of play happen. Wide receivers Quinton Dunbar and Frankie Hammond Jr. have been wildly inconsistent, while utility man Trey Burton just hasn't been very effective since the Tennessee game. Jeff Driskel will take a lot of heat for his critical errors and turnovers on Saturday, but he wasn't getting much help. Someone has to emerge to take the pressure off Driskel and Gillislee.

4. Hugh Freeze was the right choice: Some weren't sure whether Ole Miss got it right with Freeze. He wasn't a sexy name in the coaching world, and many thought the Rebels could do better. Well, after Ole Miss' 30-27 win over Arkansas, the Rebels are one win from being bowl-eligible for the first time in two years and matching their win total from the past two years combined. Freeze has totally changed the culture at Ole Miss and has made the Rebels relevant again. The offense has been fun to watch, and this team has real fight in it. Players admitted to giving up during games last year, but this year's team has really bought in to playing for four quarters. This team wasn't supposed to be remotely close to the bowl picture. Now, it's a win from the postseason, and Freeze is a major reason. He deserves to be considered for SEC Coach of the Year.

5. Another loss could seal Dooley's fate: If the magic number for wins for Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is eight, the Vols will have to win out to get there. That means getting through November unscathed. It's manageable, with Troy, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky left, but it isn't close to a guarantee. The Vols have to really be hurting after that three-point loss to South Carolina. The defense was abused again, and two Tyler Bray turnovers were costly. This team hasn't won a game in October under Dooley and now has to have a perfect November to reach a bowl game. This team swept November in Dooley's first year and has to do it again if it is to have a chance at eight victories.

Q&A with GatorNation's Michael DiRocco 

October, 25, 2012
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With No. 10 Georgia’s showdown with No. 2 Florida only a couple of days away, we sought out perspective from the Sunshine State on what to expect from Saturday’s game in Jacksonville, Fla.

ESPN GatorNation beat writer Michael DiRocco was kind enough to answer five questions about the game that could very well determine this season’s SEC East champion:

Q: The most obvious factor in Florida’s turnaround is that it’s getting solid play from Jeff Driskel at quarterback instead of last season’s revolving door of uncertainty. Is that all it took? Why else is this Florida team so much better?

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Justin Hunter and Da'Rick RogersAP Photo/Wade PayneJustin Hunter (11) and Da'Rick Rogers (21) are considered to be the best receiving duo in the SEC.
Our SEC position rankings continue with a look at schools' wide receiver and tight end groups.

Past rankings:
On to the league's wide receiver/tight end groups:

1. Tennessee: The Vols are equipped with two of the top wideouts in the league with Da'Rick Rogers, who was second in the SEC in receiving last year, and Justin Hunter, who might be the SEC's top deep threat. It sounds like Hunter will be 100 percent this fall after his ACL injury last year. Junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson is big, fast and possesses the big-play gene. The speedy Zach Rogers is back and is so is talented tight end Mychal Rivera.

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