Maybe he should give the pregame talk to the team this year.
Seriously, if the same team that suited up in Knoxville walks out on the field this Saturday, it will be more appropriate to think about the keys to the car – as in “will somebody unlock this so I can get a beer?” – than the keys to the game. So, for the purpose of having something to post here, I am going to take what I hope is the smallest of leaps of faith and talk about the task at hand.
I do believe that this game will be won or lost based on what the offense is able to do. Georgia is talented on defense, but not on the level of an LSU. The Dawgs need to model their gameplan after what Auburn and Kentucky did (obviously, with varying degrees of success), and that is to use the offense as a means of keeping a very efficient Gator offense off the field as much as possible.
The statistics don’t suggest that turnovers will be a major factor in the game and the intangibles (Superman, 2-15, etc.) clearly favor the Gators, so Georgia has to look for ways to grind this one out. If Florida gets up a quick two or three scores, it’s going to be a near impossible burden for our kids to overcome.
With that being said, here’s what I think has to happen for Georgia to make it a game:
- Mike Bobo has to use the pass to set up the run. Believe me, I know that Knowshon is the one consistent playmaker Bobo has at his disposal. The thing is, so does every competent defensive coordinator in the SEC. Chavis (who many UT fans at this point would insist isn’t competent) basically dared Bobo to throw the ball and brought the Vol safeties up to stuff the run and help pressure the Georgia offensive line, a strategy that was a smashing success because Bobo refused to take the gift of a wide open middle of the field that was offered to him. He can’t make the same mistake again. I can’t imagine that Florida’s defensive coordinators, who do seem to have a clue about what they’re doing, are going to call up something drastically different. Florida has the 95th ranked passing defense in the nation and a starting safety that is likely to be out due to injury. Stafford, whatever his accuracy woes on the long ball, can hit the intermediate pass. Use that to keep the safeties honest and the field open for Moreno.
- Stafford needs to complete over 60% of his passes. It’s easy to jump on Matt’s case because he has been inconsistent with some of his throws, but it should be pointed out that his game has improved in many areas this year, particularly in not turning the ball over. But Georgia needs more from him in this game. The offense will not be able to mount time consuming drives unless he can keep the chains moving with completions. We’ve seen what he can do with the game on the line this year. He just needs to have the mindset that the Florida game is on the line from the first minute of the first quarter.
- Get the ball in the red zone. Georgia has scored 23 out of 24 times it’s been inside the opponent’s 20 this season, with 17 of those being TDs. Of course, as Kit points out, getting there is half the fun.
- The defensive line must exert some degree of control on the line of scrimmage. Between Tebow’s mobility and an experienced offensive line, the Gators don’t give up a lot of sacks, but that’s not the biggest challenge anyway. The tackles need to stop the run up the middle that is Florida’s bread and butter play and force the Gator ground game to go laterally. The ends need to play the kind of assignment football that controls the option pitch and the receiver running plays off reverses – something which has not been a consistent part of the Dawg’s defensive repertoire all season. If Georgia can’t control this any better than it did against Vandy in the first half, it will be a long day.
- On special teams, prevent Brandon James from making the big play. His return in the second quarter of the Kentucky game changed the complexion of that game for good. Remember that he had a big return in Jacksonville last year that was nullified by a penalty. He needs to be kept in check.
In a year that’s been as unpredictable as Les Miles’ playcalling when the game is on the line, or a Terence Moore column that I actually agree with for the most part, I’m not going to call a score or a result. But I think it’s important to say that this is a game that Georgia needs to win. Not because there’s a monkey it needs to remove from its back (although that wouldn’t hurt), but because this program is trending dangerously close to becoming an afterthought in the SEC East.
Lose this game, and it’s likely that the Dawgs are staring at back to back 4-4 SEC campaigns. That’s not a level this program wants to occupy. A win makes this team relevant in the East race this year – something that I wouldn’t have thought possible three weeks ago – and sends the message that Georgia remains one of the elites in the conference.
And make no mistake, this should be a winnable game. If Auburn can go to the Swamp and win, this Georgia team can go to Jacksonville after a bye week and do the same.
It’s time to show up.