No. 6 Florida, No. 8 Georgia collide in Jacksonville

Field Level Media

November 01, 2019 at 7:57 am.

No. 6 Florida and No. 8 Georgia meet Saturday afternoon at Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field to decide which team will earn an inside track to the Southeastern Conference championship game.

The winner will own first place in the SEC East Division entering the regular season’s final four weeks. The league’s title game between the East and West Division victors is scheduled for Dec. 7 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The Gators (7-1, 4-1 SEC) and Bulldogs (6-1, 3-1) both are ranked among the nation’s Top 10 for a second straight meeting.

“It’s the way it should be when you look at the SEC East,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Monday. “Those two teams, Georgia and Florida, have been pretty dominant in the East picture for a while. This game always has had some bearing on who goes to Atlanta.”

Although the Gators are ranked higher — it’s their highest position since they were No. 4 on Dec. 2, 2012 — the Bulldogs opened as a 6 1/2-point favorites.

“That’s more a Vegas deal. It would be a much bigger deal if you walked (into the stadium) and they spotted you the points,” a smiling Florida coach Dan Mullen said Monday. “I mean, if we walked in and it said, ‘Florida 4 1/2, Georgia 0’ — then I’d have to pay more attention to it.”

Each team heads into the latest version of “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” following a bye week.

Florida’s lone defeat was a 42-28 decision at now-No. 1 Louisiana State on Oct. 12, the same day Georgia lost 20-17 in double overtime against South Carolina.

Saturday’s game will showcase two potent offenses. Georgia averages 36 points (ranked 24th nationally) and 471.3 yards (21st) total offense. Florida averages 32.5 points (45th) and 419.6 yards (52nd).

Georgia’s Jake Fromm will start against Florida for the third consecutive year after directing victories in 2017 (42-7) and last season (36-17). The junior quarterback has completed 70.7 percent of his passes (123 of 174) this season for 1,406 yards, with nine touchdowns and three interceptions.

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask took over after fellow redshirt junior Feleipe Franks sustained a season-ending ankle injury in the Sept. 14 win at Kentucky. Overall, Trask has completed 114 of 169 (67.4 percent) with 14 TDs and four interceptions.

Defensively, the Bulldogs rank seventh overall by allowing 266.7 yards; the Gators are 25th yielding 319.5. Florida ranks ninth with 29 sacks (3.63 average), while Georgia is fifth against the run (85.7 yards per game).

Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney, out since sustaining a shoulder injury against Tennessee-Martin on Sept. 7, and pass rushers Jon Greenard and Jabari Zuniga, who both have been sidelined with ankle injuries, are expected to play Saturday.

Georgia receiver Lawrence Cager (shoulder, ribs) and defensive lineman Travon Walker (wrist) are expected to return, though cornerback Tyson Campbell (toe) remains questionable.

The outcome very well could boil down to which team protects the ball better.

“You could argue (that) the closer the games are from a standpoint of the teams matched, the turnover plays an even bigger factor,” Smart said. “It’s harder to overcome a minus-1 or minus-2 turnover margin if the teams are evenly matched across the board. I really think special teams will be the same way.”