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Georgia Football 2017 Opponent Preview: Florida Gators

Cy Brown

Welcome to your one-stop shop for Georgia football news and takes every Monday through Friday. Today, we look at the next team in our series of 2017 opponent previews: the Florida Gators. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate …

Georgia favored against two-time reigning East champions

The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has always been one of — if not the — most important games in the SEC East. Despite occasional down years from both sides — or a down half-decade in the case of the UGA — the Bulldogs and Gators are perennially two of the favorites for the SEC East crown, making the annual showdown in Jacksonville a virtual must-win affair for either to go on to win the division.

This season is no different, as UGA and Florida are once again pegged as the two teams to beat in the East. In pretty much any preseason ranking you look at, Georgia and Florida are the two top-ranked teams in the division, with Georgia typically, but not always, ranked higher. The two also have the highest over/under win totals and national championship odds in the East, with the Bulldogs a notch above the Gators in both categories.

With that in mind, even as the Gators stand as reigning SEC East champs, at this time most consider the Bulldogs the favorite to win the WLOCP. Of course, that could change drastically once a few games are played.

Regardless of what we think or expect, Georgia vs. Florida is always unpredictable. It’s the kind of game where the records get thrown out the window, as the cliché goes. But even if we don’t have a clue about which team will prevail this season — or any season for that matter — it will go a long way toward determining the king of the East, one way or another.

Offense

The fate of the Gators offense in 2017 — hell, the fate of the Florida period in 2017 — will depend on how they sort out their quarterback situation. Despite winning consecutive SEC East titles, Florida has had some atrocious QB play the last two seasons. Luke Del Rio earned the starting nod last season but was injured most of the year and poor in the games he did play (1,358 yards, 8 TDs, 8 INTs). Between a shoulder injury that kept him out of spring practice and the potential for riots in Gainesville if he starts the first game of the season, it seems doubtful he’ll be No. 1 on the depth chart come fall.

That leaves a battle between redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask for the starting gig. Both QBs look the part, with Franks standing at 6-foot-6 and Trask at 6-4, the kind of size coaches drool over at QB. But Franks is more athletic and has a stronger arm, while Trask is known for having a bit more accuracy. Franks seems the more likely of the two to win the gig, but unless one guy runs away with it in the fall, both, as well as Del Rio and perhaps even true freshman Kadarius Toney, will receive some snaps.

Whoever is named the starting QB likely won’t be done any favors by his offensive line. Florida allowed 28 sacks last season; it will return four starters from that unit. Much of Florida’s offensive success will be determined by whether the line improves with experience or continues on its current track.

Defense

Most of the success the Gators have had the last few seasons has come on the back of their defense. While the offense has struggled, to put it lightly, the defense has been ferocious, living up to the standard that is expected from an SEC division-winning defense. The Gators finished 2016 fifth in the country in total defense, sixth in scoring defense, 32nd in turnovers gained and 40th in sacks.

But Florida lost many of its defensive stars this offseason. The Gators must replace Alex Anzalone, Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson and Marcus Maye, just to name a few. They do have the talent in reserve to replace those guys, but they’re still likely to lose something in the transition. To win another East title, the defense will need to be good enough to once again lead the team while the offense continues trying to find its feet.

There’s also the matter of a new defensive coordinator, with Randy Shannon replacing Geoff Collins after he left for Temple. Shannon was a really good coordinator at Miami in the early 2000s, coaching some of the best defense ever seen in college football. He won’t get this defense anywhere close to the level of those Canes teams, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make the Gators damn good.

What to expect vs. Georgia

In the best-case scenario for Georgia, Florida is still experimenting with quarterbacks in late October and the defense is still trying to recover from all the losses it incurred. In the worst-case scenario for Georgia, either Franks or Trask turn out to be a really good SEC signal caller and the defense hasn’t lost a step from a season ago. A lot will obviously also depend on how Georgia progresses, specifically on offense. Regardless of how different Florida looks in 2017, Georgia simply can’t win another WLOCP with only 20 yards rushing.

FPI Projection — Georgia has an 52.6 percent chance to beat Florida.

Previous opponent previewAppalachian State | Notre Dame | Samford | Mississippi State | Tennessee | Vanderbilt | Missouri

Georgia men’s tennis falls in Final Four

The Georgia men’s tennis team’s season has come to an end in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs fell to North Carolina, 4-3, on Monday at Dan Magill Tennis Complex. For the second consecutive day, the Bulldogs were forced to endure a multi-hour rain delay after matches began. But unlike in the quarterfinals, Georgia was unable to come out the other side with a win.

“I am so proud of our guys,” coach Manny Diaz said, according to Tori McElhaney of DawgNation. “I saw a lot of fight, not only [Monday], but in this entire tournament. We really came together as a team and improved so much through the course of the year. I think it has been a great ride; the future is very bright.”

Although this season had a bitter ending, there is plenty of reason to believe Georgia will be in the mix for the title next season as well. With no seniors on the squad, the Bulldogs are expected to retain their entire roster for next season.

Two Diamond Dogs named to All-SEC teams

Two Georgia baseball players earned All-SEC honors for 2017.

Sophomore Michael Curry was named first-team All-SEC as a designated hitter. Curry, a native of Gainesville, batted .298, knocked in 46 runs and belted a team-high 10 homers. Freshman Cam Shepherd, from Duluth, was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team as a shortstop. Shepherd hit .303, drove in 28 runs and smashed 5 home runs. He also hit a team-high 16 doubles.

The Bulldogs begin SEC Tournament play Tuesday night against Mississippi State in Hoover, Ala. The game is slated for an 8:30 p.m. ET first pitch and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

3-star LB de-commits from Georgia

And then there were two. Again.

Georgia’s 2018 recruiting class is once again down to just two commitments following the de-commitment of 3-star Florida linebacker Donovan Georges. Georges originally pledged to the Bulldogs in late January.

The only commitments Georgia has for the Class of 2018 now are 3-star corner Chris Smith and 2-star kicker Jake Camarda.

ICYMI

Good dog

Former Bulldog Charles Johnson got himself a new pup. His name is Beast Boy, and he is the cutest little nugget I ever did see.

Beast Boy

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Welcome to the johnsons. Name is Beast Boy ( you have to watch teen titans goo to know who I'm talking about )

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