College football is entering Week 9 and if you didn’t know by now, there’s only one place to get your betting picks and tips — the SEC Wizard!
Florida-Georgia could seal the Bulldogs’ march to an SEC East title. Despite Florida’s 3-3 record (3-2 in the SEC), coach Jim McElwain’s team probably represents the biggest (fading) threat to challenge Georgia in the division. South Carolina and Kentucky also have two SEC losses and have yet to face Georgia.
College football betting picks, Georgia-Florida
Florida has dominated this game in recent years with Steve Spurrier, Urban Meyer — hell, even Ron Zook beat a pair of top-5 Georgia teams. The Gators’ eight years of offensive futility have been interrupted with occasional bouts of competence against the Bulldogs. If McElwain, coordinator Doug Nussmeier and quarterback Feleipe Franks can’t score more than one touchdown, the frustration of this season will continue to escalate.
Win here, and Georgia enters November undefeated for the first time since 2002, a season the Bulldogs finished 13-1 with an SEC Championship and a Sugar Bowl win.
How Florida can win: The redshirt freshman Franks possesses a strong arm and is completing nearly 64 percent of his passes. But the coaches don’t trust him, and he can’t seem to read defenses. Against a top-5 defense, it seems unrealistic to expect Florida to score even 20 points. The offense put up three points against Michigan, 16 against LSU and 17 against Texas A&M, the three best teams the Gators have faced to this point.
Thus, the Gators are counting on a low-scoring game. Expect a steady dose of Malik Davis and Lamical Perine, as the Gators can’t afford for Franks to make crippling mistakes. But Georgia’s secondary looked vulnerable against Missouri, and Florida is going to have to complete two or three passes downfield to Tyrie Cleveland or Kadarius Toney to have a chance.
Florida also needs to limit Jake Fromm, create either a few turnovers on defense or a game-changing play on special teams, and avoid an early deficit.
How Georgia can win: Some of the comparisons to Nick Saban and Alabama have a demeaning tone, but Kirby Smart and Georgia would do well to mimic the Crimson Tide in this one. The Bulldogs have a more talented roster and a more complete team, one good enough that if needed, it can allow Florida to lose this game rather than Georgia going out and winning it.
That means confusing Franks and forcing him into mistakes, turning Florida into a run-only team and grinding away at the Gators defense with a plethora of outstanding running backs. Georgia needs to wear down Florida in the second half, let the Gators self-destruct and not make anything easy. A business-like approach that avoids major mistakes should be enough, as the Bulldogs may only need 14-17 points to win.
Here are a few additional nuggets:
- Georgia hasn’t beaten Florida by 14-plus points since 1997 (37-17).
- The Golden Nugget posted Florida as a 1-point favorite in this matchup on June 22. The line has moved about 15 points since.
- Florida has won three consecutive games in this series. Average margin: 18.7 ppg.
- This is the second meeting between McElwain and Smart as head coaches. The two won national championships as offensive and defensive coordinator at Alabama in 2009 and ’11.
Georgia is No. 1 in the SEC this year in terms of its aggregate number vs. the spread, beating the number by an average of 11.0 points per game. Its defense and conservative, run-first offense have led to five of its seven games finishing under the posted game total.
- Defensive tackle Trenton Thompson (knee) will play against Florida. He missed the last two games, and is a huge boost to the team’s run defense.
- Fellow DL David Marshall (concussion) has been cleared, as well. DT DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle (back) reportedly practiced Wednesday.
- Linebacker Natrez Patrick is serving a four-game suspension.
- LB Reggie Carter (concussion) should be able to play Saturday.
- LB Rashad Roundtree (multiple injuries) probably will not play Saturday.
- Offensive lineman Pat Allen (lower leg) has practiced this week and should be available.
Georgia hasn’t faced a remotely good team since Sept. 23 vs. Mississippi State. Before the bye last weekend, the Bulldogs played Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Missouri on consecutive Saturdays. Florida had a bye in Week 8, as well. With South Carolina on deck for Georgia, there’s nothing remarkable about this spot.
|Kirby Smart||2nd||15-5||8-4||None as head coach|
Smart and his staff have proven to be tremendous recruiters thus far. Smart, a successful defensive coordinator for so many years at Alabama, has that unit playing as well as any in the SEC. He’s on pace to lead Georgia to its first division title since 2012. I’m not quite ready to say that he gives Georgia a distinct coaching advantage in this matchup, though.
Inserted in place of Jacob Eason when the sophomore suffered a knee injury in the season opener, the true freshman is 6-0 as a starter. Georgia hasn’t needed him to win games, but his 9.6 yards per attempt show that he’s been very efficient when he has thrown.
The Gators have actually covered in two of their last three games. This is their biggest underdog spot since the 2016 SEC Championship Game vs. Alabama. The Tide covered, winning the game by 38 points.
- Cleveland (ankle) and Toney (shoulder) should be available. If they’re effective, that’s a big boost for the Florida offense.
- Defensive end Jabari Zuniga (ankle) practiced Tuesday and probably will play. LB Jeremiah Moon (ankle) will play, as well.
- DB Nick Washington (shoulder) is questionable, but probably won’t play.
- WR Josh Hammond (back) is questionable.
- More than 25 percent of Florida’s scholarship players are suspended or hurt, though some will be available vs. Georgia.
Florida enjoyed a bye in Week 8, using it to get healthy (see above) after suffering back-to-back home losses by a combined three points. The Gators travel to Missouri next week, so this is not a look-ahead spot or a let-down spot. Georgia had a bye in Week 8, as well.
|Jim McElwain||3rd||22-11||16-7||2 SEC East titles, 2015 SEC Coach of the Year|
McElwain is 2-0 against Georgia and 9-3 in one-possession games. Brought on to fix the offense and develop a quarterback, he has done neither to this point, winning the last two years mostly with strong defense. McElwain volunteered this week that some connected to the team have received death threats, which led to a strange statement by the school and a bit of a stir in the media.
Franks got pulled in the season opener vs. Michigan and again two weeks later at Kentucky, only to start again when Luke Del Rio suffered a season-ending injury. Behind the scenes, the coaches seem frustrated with his limited ability to read defenses.
THE WIZARD’S PREDICTION
Bet: Georgia -13.5.
Score: Georgia 31, Florida 10.
An “elite” defense is the most consistent dynamic in college football. Georgia has that, at least in the front 7. And Florida doesn’t have the passing game to threaten the Bulldogs’ secondary. Give me the nation’s No. 3 defense against the nation’s No. 103 offense every day, all day.
Florida’s defense isn’t horrible, but the Gators have had sporadic tackling issues (see: Tennessee RB John Kelly). Georgia’s trio of backs will do enough that the Bulldogs won’t need Fromm to do much. I expect an inverse of the 2015 game, with Florida’s defense wearing out late.
I made the game total 42.5, so I don’t like the total.