ATHENS — Georgia football had a busy bye week, the Bulldogs mixing in work on Florida with self-improvement drills and scheme adjustments.
Indeed, the season will be on the line for the No. 10-ranked Bulldogs (6-1, 3-1 SEC) when they play the No 7-ranked Gators (7-1, 4-1) at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla.
Georgia’s concerns, from the receivers working on separation, to the defense amping up is “Havoc” rate, have been well-documented by Kirby Smart throughout the season.
The Bulldogs’ injury situation has also been monitored closely, the latest update containing more good news than bad.
Orlando Sentinel Florida beat writer Edgar Thompson took some time to share some insight into what the Gators needed to work on during the bye week.
Georgia fans wanting to keep up with their rivals should follow Edgar on Twitter here.
Here are three things the veteran journalist pointed to in Gainesville:
ET: The Gators expect three of their top playmakers back just in time for the biggest game of the season.
Do-everything receiver Kadarius Toney will be back after missing the past six games with a shoulder injury suffered Sept. 7 against UT-Martin. Two weeks earlier, Toney’s 66-yard catch and run on the season’s opening drive helped propel Florida to a 24-20 win against Miami.
Toney averaged 10.9 yards on 46 touches from scrimmage as a sophomore and was expected to be a key cog in Dan Mullen’s offense.
The Gators’ defense could receive an even bigger lift against Georgia with the return of defenders Jon Greenard and Jabari Zuniga. The pass-rushing duo will be on the field together for the first time since Zuniga sustained an ankle injury during the first quarter of UF’s 29-21 win Sept. 14 at Kentucky.
Zuniga, who entered the Kentucky game with three sacks in two games, re-aggravated the injury during the first half of the Gators’ Oct. 12 visit to LSU. Greenard sat out most of the LSU game after he injured his ankle a week earlier against Auburn.
Greenard has 28 tackles, including 6.5 for loss — four of them sacks.
An extra week of rest also could help star cornerback CJ Henderson, who has not been at his best since returning Oct. 5 against Auburn following a three-game layoff with an ankle injury. Considered a first-round draft pick in 2020, Henderson has given up a catch of at least 40 yards in three straight games.
ET: The Gators have been gashed during consecutive games in the middle of the defense.
A week after LSU averaged 9.1 yards per carry, the Gators gave up explosive plays on the ground during key situations at South Carolina. Facing third-and-11, the Gamecocks raced 21 yards for a score following a draw play. South Carolina had gains of 13, 25, 14 and 14 yards to set up a go-ahead field goal.
Florida now faces the SEC’s top running game behind one of the nation’s top offensive lines and tailbacks, D’Andre Swift. Swift could have a huge day if the Gators continue to lose gap control, get hung up on blockers and miss tackles.
3. Identifying a role for backup QB Emory Jones.
ET: Kyle Trask has been brilliant stepping in for injured starter Feleipe Franks. He is completing 67.5 percent of his throws, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt and has a 14-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Trask’s four-touchdown effort last week at South Carolina was the first four-TD-pass game by a UF QB on the road since Tim Tebow.
To beat Georgia, though, Trask might need a helping hand from Jones. The redshirt freshman provided a dual-threat option and change of pace during the Gators’ hard-fought 42-28 loss at LSU.
Florida ultimately could not keep pace with the nation’s top-scoring offense. Jones helped give the Gators a chance. He handled 12 snaps and picked up key first downs during the Gators’ first two scoring drives — the second culminating with Jones’ first touchdown pass in an SEC game.
The Gators’ QB shuffle was a textbook case of teamwork and Mullen’s ability to shake up the game plan. Florida will need both to have a shot against the Bulldogs.
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