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Florida Preview

Alec Smith

The Georgia Bulldogs vs. The Florida Gators

Saturday, October 28th, 2023, 3:30 EST (CBS)




2023 Record



Head Coach

Kirby Smart

Billy Napier

HC Career Record










The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, The Border Battle, The Georgia / Florida Game. This is the big one folks. Make no mistake about it, UGA has a tall task ahead of them in Jacksonville on Saturday. This is a talented, well-couched squad that possesses something dangerous, confidence. For the first time in several years, Florida enters this matchup with the ability to control their own destiny. They are currently 5-2 with only one SEC loss to Kentucky. Should UF conquer the remainder of their conference schedule, they would find themselves in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. I am sure though that, aside from postseason implications, I do not have to stress the importance of this matchup to this lot. So, without further ado, let us jump into some matchups for the Dawgs and Gators.

Florida Offense

The Gators employ a rather balanced offense, running the ball 34.6 times a game compared to throwing 33.4 times per match. The quarterback, Graham Mertz, is a transfer from Wisconsin who has exceeded most expectations thus far. His current stats are 1,897 yards through the air with 12 TD’s and only 2 INT’s. Mertz does not possess great rushing ability, but his greatest strength is taking care of the football. Graham completes over 75% of his throws and has only one turnover worthy play, according to PFF, coupled with an overall grade of 80.2 (34th in FBS). Mertz’s favorite target is far and away WR Ricky Pearsall, who has 44 catches for 619 yards and 3 TD’s on the year. The next biggest threat in their WR room is Eugene Wilson III who has 26 catches for 251 yards so far.

On the rushing side, the Gators have a two-headed attack with Montrell Johnson and the younger Etienne brother, Trevor. The duo has combined for 845 yards and 7 TD’s this year on 5.5 YPC. Etienne and Johnson have PFF grades of 77.3 and 72.2, respectively. Florida’s Oline has not had much to write home about this year, as they currently rank T-100th in sacks allowed, along with being ranked 81st in rushing offense. UF’s offense is very reliant on balance, and they have not faired well when not able to run. Since 2022, the Gators are 0-6 when making less than 3 explosive run plays in a game. They are 4-12 when averaging less than 5.0 YPC since 2021.

Florida Defense

The Gators defense is an interesting unit that has yet to live up to its full potential. They are currently 18th in the country in total defense, but they rank 87th in passing efficiency defense. They stop the run well but rank outside out of the top 100 in TFL’s and explosive plays allowed. They gave up 465 yards of offense to South Carolina in their road win two weeks ago. UF allowed 329 yards on the ground against Kentucky two weeks before SC. There is immense talent on the defensive side of the ball, but they have yet to put it all together consistently. Yes, not having Brock Bowers will hurt UGA’s offense. Who now does the Gator defense key on? The Dawgs will have their top three RB’s available. Carson Beck lost his security blanket in Bowers, but he has a plethora of options to go to in the clutch. It will be impossible for UF to contain Lovett AND McConkey AND Rosemy-Jacksaint AND Thomas AND Delp AND Luckie AND Arian Smith. My point here is that Bowers being out may not be as huge as a negative as originally thought for this game.

Biggest Mismatch in Florida’s Favor

Redzone offense vs. Georgia’s RZ defense. The Dawgs are allowing a TD on 73% of redzone opportunities which ranks 118th in the nation. Florida’s offense is T-15th in redzone scoring at 93.5%. They have scored a TD on 21/31 red area attempts this year. Watch closely how UGA’s D responds as the Gators approach the endzones.

Biggest Mismatch in Georgia’s Favor

3rd downs are the name of the game for Saturday. UGA is #1 in the country on 3rd down conversions against (24%). Florida’s offense is converting third downs at a 33% rate. They don’t call it a money down for no reason.

Impact Players to Watch

Graham Mertz (QB #15) – This may be an obvious one, but UF’s O depends on Mertz taking care of the football and keeping them on schedule. I expect a heavier blitz rate from the Junkyard Dawgs to rattle his cage early and often.

Ricky Pearsall (WR #1) – A transfer from Arizona State in his 2nd season in Gainesville. Mertz’s go-to guy on 3rd downs and in the redzone. A slippery route runner with excellent hands, who also possesses the ability to stretch the field.

Shemar James (LB #6) – Florida’s leading tackler from the ILB position. A Freshman All-SEC player in 2022. James is a sure tackler who plays sideline to sideline.

Princely Umanmielen (DL #1) – The star on UF’s Dline. He is also their sack and TFL leader. Versatile player who will play between the tackles or off the edge. Greatest strength is pass rush and anticipation.

Betting Trends

Your Georgia Bulldogs are currently a 14.5 point favorite over the Florida Gators in Jacksnville. The game total is at 47.5 points. UGA is 1-6 ATS this year while UF is 3-4. Florida is 1-2 SU and ATS as an underdog. A particularly interesting note: in Florida’s last 8 matchups as a >14 point underdog, the over is 7-1.


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