The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is here, and while Georgia should rate as the clear favorite, the Dawgs’ clunker against LSU certainly offered Florida the blueprint for how to pull off the huge upset and gain a realistic path to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
By Matt Zemek
No, don’t think Florida is likely to win… but a month or six weeks ago, it was hard to see how the Gators had a snowball’s chance in a mushroom cloud. Now? They can’t be written off entirely.
1 – LSU BOTH WAYS
The Gators’ win against LSU and Georgia’s loss against LSU both show how Florida can win this game. Those two contests, with LSU as the common thread, illustrated what is possible for the Gators here.
Rushing the quarterback is one central component of a Florida victory in Jacksonville. Jake Fromm of Georgia was rattled by LSU’s pass rush. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was affected by Florida’s pass rush.
Florida contained the ground game and limited LSU’s big carries. LSU did the same to Georgia, putting the Bulldogs’ offense in a box.
LSU’s offense wasn’t overwhelmingly great against Georgia, but it did very well on fourth downs. Florida wasn’t overwhelmingly potent against LSU but made clutch plays in the fourth quarter and stacked together critical plays on its three touchdown drives. Winning third down and converting a few fourth-and-short situations will need to become part of the winning pathway for Florida, if we are being honest.
2 – DOUBLE DAWG DARE YA!
The Gators don’t want Georgia to run the ball. They want Georgia to throw the ball. UGA doesn’t have Nick Chubb or Sony Michel, two exceptional talents, from last year’s team. Accordingly, Georgia hasn’t been able to impose its will on opponents to the same extent it did last year. This team doesn’t lack talent, but Chubb and Michel were polished runners, and that’s what Kirby Smart’s team hasn’t been able to bring to the table this season – not to the same extent, at any rate.
Florida has to put this game in the hands of Jake Fromm. Last year, with Chubb and Michel at his side, Fromm consistently made the throws he needed to make, especially in the Rose Bowl and a 17-point comeback win against Oklahoma. Against LSU, Fromm missed the receivers he needed to hit. He continuously buckled under pressure and could not force LSU to change its fundamental defensive approach. Florida must force Fromm to make the same kinds of plays. If Fromm does no better than Burrow did, Florida really could come away with the upset here.
3 – BALL CONTROL
There seems to be no better way for Florida to win than to get a dominant defensive performance and marry that with a ball-control offense. Ball control will keep the defense fresh. It will also mean leveraged field position which will force Georgia to go 85 to 90 yards most of the day. It will also mean a shortened game, which an underdog should regularly covet against a favorite. Once or twice, Florida might need a home-run play to establish a lead or turn the game around, but for the most part, UF needs to combine short passes and timely runs to keep the ball away from Georgia.