ATHENS — “Talking season” continues to heat up in the SEC, with 247Sports the latest to jump on the Dan Mullen bandwagon, picking Florida to derail Georgia and win the East.
The Bulldogs have played in three straight SEC Championship Games, beating the Gators 42-7 (2017), 36-17 (2018) and 24-17 (2019) along the way.
It doesn’t take a mathematician to see UGA’s victory margin has narrowed the past two meetings or a historian to reveal the Bulldogs haven’t won four straight in the series since Herschel Walker was on the roster for three of six straight wins (1978-1983).
But that’s not why 247Sports or Athlon Sports has made the bold pick of Florida over Georgia.
Indeed, former Auburn beat writer and current 247Sports National Writer Brandon Marcello states:
“Florida is the pick to win the SEC East for one simple reason: the Gators are in a better position at a key position. I’ll take Kyle Trask over Georgia’s Jamie Newman.”
If only it were that simple.
Trask might very well prove better than Newman — assuming Newman wins the UGA starting job and/or is under center when the teams play on Oct. 31.
Florida proponents can take it one step further and point out the Gators return four starters to an offensive line recently ranked fifth-best in the SEC.
But how many people are talking about Florida losing four senior receivers? (Key Point 1)
Indeed, Bulldogs’ fans know better than anyone what happens when a team has to reload at the receiver position.
The fact the offseason has been cut short certainly wouldn’t seem to be doing a team that relies so heavily on the pass game, as Florida does, any favors. (Key Point 2)
Or did everyone forget the Gators averaged only 129.8 yards rushing per game last season? For the record, that was 13th in the SEC and 107th in the nation. (Key Point 3)
It’s worth noting those rushing struggles came with Lamical Perine, a fourth-round NFL pick, working in the backfield.
The past 14 Georgia-Florida games have been won by the team that has rushed for the most yards. (Key Point 4)
Orlando Sentinel Florida beat writer Edgar Thompson told DawgNation last week the best way to boil down the Gators’ defense is that it’s “strong on the perimeter, and weak in the middle.”
Florida is banking on those edge rushers feasting on new Georgia starters at offensive tackle.
UF does indeed have good ends and cornerbacks, but the safeties appear just as suspect heading into this season as they were last year (Key Point 5), and the interior defensive line is not on a championship level. (Key point 6)
Linebackers are also a question mark. Senior middle linebacker David Reese, the heart of the defense, has moved on to the NFL. (Key point 7)
Is this really a team to make an argument for?
Athlon Sports may have had a better point for picking Florida over Georgia — in what oddsmakers suggest would be an upset — when it compared the teams’ schedules.
The Gators play reshuffled LSU and Ole Miss from the West Division, while Georgia plays Alabama and Auburn.
It’s possible the Bulldogs could beat Florida head-to-head and still not win the East if they drop those two games to the Alabama schools and the Gators sweep their West Division foes.
But there’s no reason to believe Georgia will lose to both of those teams when one examines the matchups and takes the Bulldogs’ defense into account.
Is there a reason no one seems to be talking about Georgia’s defense?
Even 247Sports, in its entire story, didn’t make mention of one player on a Bulldogs’ defense that figures to be the best in the nation.
Maybe they read where Athlon Sports appointed only one UGA defender preseason first-team in its preview.
It’s still interesting, considering the 247Sports author sat and watched that same Georgia defense shut out Auburn for three quarters last season in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
To be fair, much of the offseason conversation about Georgia has revolved around the quarterback position and the much-hyped Newman.
But the winds have recently shifted in Athens.
Carson Beck had a strong offseason, D’Wan Mathis has gotten cleared to play in games, and former 5-star signee and USC quarterback JT Daniels is one NCAA waiver away from being a threat to win the starting job.
The point is, there’s a lot more in the quarterback room than just Newman. (Key Point 8)
But the bottom line is, it’s going to take a lot more than just Kyle Trask and the No. 5-rated offensive line in the SEC to score touchdowns against Georgia. (Key Point 9)
Especially when one considers the Gators didn’t manage to get into the end zone until the fourth quarter last year, and that was only after UGA softened its pass coverage to trade yards for time off the clock in a game it had dominated.
Georgia returns 80 percent of the production from that defense and signed no less than three potential defensive impact players in the No. 1 signing class of 2020. (Key point 10)
Ultimately, it will be settled on the field by the players, not the prognosticators.
For now, it’s fun to poke holes in all the theories and preseason picks.
DawgNation has put plenty of conjecture out there that Florida and Tennessee fans aren’t on board with, so perhaps it all evens out.
Well, everything but the Georgia-Florida rivalry, which Bulldogs’ fans can smugly feel their team will win once again this year.