In my humble opinion, one of the big reasons behind Florida’s improvement this season is turnover margin. Last season, the Gators finished dead last in the conference, at minus-12. This year, they sit third, at +11. That’s a helluva swing.
And it matters very much this week, as David Paschall explains.
Georgia has not played a turnover-free game against Florida since 1987, when the Bulldogs defeated the Gators 23-10 in Vince Dooley’s next-to-last season as coach. The Bulldogs have topped Florida only six times since, including three wins in 11 tries under current coach Mark Richt, with turnovers often the primary reason for their undoing.
“We definitely need to take care of the ball,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said this week. “Coach Richt has looked back, and these games really have been decided by turnovers.”
Georgia has committed an astounding 20 turnovers against Florida during the past six series meetings, compared to just seven given up by the Gators. The Bulldogs suffered four turnovers in each of the games from 2008 to ’10, with Murray throwing three interceptions in a 34-31 overtime loss two years ago.
Matthew Stafford was the No. 1 pick in the ’09 NFL draft, but he also had a three-interception debacle in a 49-10 loss to the Gators a few months earlier.
“In the games we’ve really gotten worn out on the scoreboard, we’ve had a lot of turnovers,” Richt said. “Last year, we had some opportunistic plays made where we did get some turnovers that created some momentum for us and helped us win.”
It has been a decade since the Georgia-Florida winner lost the turnover margin.
Georgia hasn’t been bad this season with turnovers. But it hasn’t been better than average, either.
Avoiding disaster may be the key, though. As we saw last week, Florida uses turnover margin to leverage its offensive production – 29 yards of first half offense was enough to create 21 points against South Carolina. The Dawgs have to stay away from those four-minute meltdowns like we saw against Tennessee and make Florida work for points.