ATHENS — Football is a game of matchups, one-on-one, beat the man across from you within a team concept.
The Georgia-Florida rivalry game at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in Jacksonville is no different, with the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (4-1) and No. 8-ranked Gators (3-1) looking to exploit one another in different areas.
Georgia has the advantage at most positions, most notably with how the Bulldogs’ run game is expected to excel against a forgiving Florida defensive front.
That bode well in a series history where the team that has rushed for the most yardage has won the past 14 meetings.
The Gators, however, have a commanding advantage at the quarterback and receiver position, operating at another level than what Georgia has appeared capable.
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask ranks among the best in the nation, and in receiver Kadarius Toney and tight end Kyle Pitts the Gators have two of the top players at their respective positions in the nation.
The Bulldogs’ secondary has been a strength under Kirby Smart, but All-American Richard LeCounte crashed a dirt bike last Saturday night on Macon Highway and is now out indefinitely. Lewis Cine has an ankle injury that could limit him, as well.
Kirby Smart has beaten Dan Mullen each of the three times they have met as head coaches, the past two years in this rivalry, the year before with Mullen at Florida.
FLORIDA: Kyle Trask has made history becoming the first SEC quarterback with 18 touchdown passes through the first four games. Trask is the highest rated QB in the Red Zone, thus the Gators are scoring touchdowns on 76 percent of their trips inside the 25.
GEORGIA: Stetson Bennett has four interceptions in the past six quarters, but he brings a degree of mobility that Kirby Smart likes and he’s completing 72 percent of his passes on third down.
FLORIDA: Dameon Pierce, from Kirby Smart’s hometown of Bainbridge, Ga., paces the run game in a pass-happy Florida attack with just 34 carries through four games for 169 yards and one TD. Malik Davis ranks among the most prolific high school players in Tampa history, but the redshirt junior is more a factor in the pass game with 10 catches for 155 yards than the run game (16 carries for 79 yards).
GEORGIA: Zamir White is coning off his first 100-yard game and will look to break a string of 328 consecutive runs by Georgia running backs of 26 yards or less. Junior James Cook is the X-factor for the UGA offense with the longest play from scrimmage this season (82 yards) and third most receptions on the team. Kendall Milton and Kenny McIntosh both have breakout potential.
RECEIVERS & TIGHT ENDS
FLORIDA: Gators TE Kyle Pitts (6-6, 246) is the toughest matchup in college football, while Kedarius Toney might be the most explosive player in the SEC now that Jaylen Waddle is injured. Florida also has game-breaker targets in Jacob Copeland and Trevon Grimes, both averaging more than 15 yards per catch.
GEORGIA: Junior Kearis Jackson has emerged as the most reliable target, working out of the slot as more of a possession receiver. George Pickens is the most talented receiver in the corps but has just 13 catches for 140 yards through the four games he has played. Freshman Jermaine Burton is drawing several targets and has shown flashes of talent.
FLORIDA: Offensive tackles Stone Forsyth and Jean Delace lead the Gators with 17 straight starts, and the fact Trask has only been sacked 4 times in four games in noteworthy. There’s a combined 73 starts across the Florida line, which was ranked Top 5 in the SEC entering the season.
GEORGIA: Bennett has had plenty of time to throw all year and most often a clean pocket to work from, with Smart saying the UGA quarterback need step up into it more often to find clean passing lanes and avoid batted balls. The Georgia run game will be the key to the game, particularly on first down as the Bulldogs work to stay on schedule and control clock.
FLORIDA: The Gators got a big pick-me-up last week when senior Kyree Campbell returned to the lineup, bringing an experienced an agile 295-pounder into the mix. That will cushion the blow of losing Zachary Carter for the first half due to suspension. Tedarrel Slayton is a 340-pound nose tackle who clogs the middle.
GEORGIA: The “next man up” effect is in play with true freshman Jalen Carter and banged-up senior Devonte Wyatt being called upon to step in with DT Julian Rochester lost for the season and NT Jordan Davis limited or out on account of the elbow injury that left him in a sling a Kentucky. Malik Herring and Travon Walker are needed to step up production.
FLORIDA: Brenton Cox can return to more of an outside backer role with Campbell back up front, and Cox has been active tied for the team lead in sacks and tackles for loss, and tied for second in tackles. Redshirt junior Ventrell Miller leads the Gators with 34 tackles, 13 of them coming in the opener against Ole Miss.
GEORGIA: Team sacks leader Azeez Ojulari leads the nation with a 23-percent pressure rate and will be another integral key to the game as UGA looks to pressure Trask. Team tackles leader Nakobe Dean could be wearing different hats with potential matchups on Kyle Pitts. Senior Monty Rice continues to battle back from foot injury.
FLORIDA: The Gators rank 12th in the SEC in pass defense, allowing 300 yards per game. Celebrated redshirt junior cornerback Marco Wilson is expected back after missing the Missouri game (COVID). Kalir Elam (6-2, 193), who Georgia chased hard in recruiting two years ago, lines up at the other corner. Florida has been susceptible at the safety position.
GEORGIA: Junior Christopher Smith is expected to try to fill the shoes of All-American Richard LeCounte, who is out indefinitely after crashing a dirt bike on Macon Highway last Saturday. Georgia is strong at corner with Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes. Lewis Cine (ankle) health will be key. If Cine can’t go, Major Burns or Latavious Brini could factor in.
FLORIDA: Junior kicker Evan McPherson is 5-for-5 on field goals including a 55-yarder against Ole Miss, following up on a sophomore campaign that saw him 17 for 19. Redshirt senior Jacob Finn has the Gators second in the league in net punt average (44.4). Kadarius Toney is a dangerous return man on punt and kicks when inserted.
GEORGIA: Junior punter Jake Camarda is the best in the nation, averaging 50.4 yards per punt with 12 dropped inside opponents’ 20-yard line. Sophomore walk-on kicker Jack Podlesny is 8-of-10 on field goal attempts. Kenny McIntosh ranked third in kick return average but is questionable for the game.
Georgia-Florida Game Week