GAINESVILLE -- OK, so it's rivalry time again and that means it's ULTIMATE PREVIEW time again. First, here's a link to my story in today's paper. You know, the one I teased last night with the Book of Revelations quotes. A fun read. So, do yourself the favor. LINK!
And here's a link to Mike-Mike's daily practice rail. LINK! Mike-Mike writes that stopping Georgia basically boils down to one thing: shutting down UGA receiver A.J. Green.
First, a programming note: The editorial board at Gator Clause decided to publish the ULTIMATE PREVIEW a few days early this week. In rivalries past, we published the ULTIMATE PREVIEW on Saturday mornings as a game-day preview. Looking back, that seemed kind of like a waste because who the heck reads Gator Clause on a Saturday morning?
THE ULTIMATE PREVIEW'S EXPANDED CAPSULE
TEAMS: No.1 Florida (7-0, 5-0 SEC); Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC)
KICKOFF: 3:30 p.m., Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, Jacksonville
SERIES: Georgia leads the all-time series 46-38-2 but Florida is 16-3 against the Bulldogs since 1990.
COACHES: Urban Meyer (90-17 overall; 51-9 at UF, fifth season; 29-8 vs. SEC; 4-0 vs. UGA); Mark Richt (86-25 overall/at UGA, ninth season; 51-21 vs. SEC; 2-6 vs. UF)
Florida game notes LINK!
Georgia game notes LINK!
GATORS, DID YOU KNOW? Since Urban Meyer became the head coach in 2005, the Gators have a 13-1 mark against their primary rivals (FSU, UGA, UT and UM).
BULLDOGS, DID YOU KNOW? Georgia currently leads the country with 12 consecutive seasons with eight or more wins, but that record seems to be in jeopardy in 2009.
SEC, DID YOU KNOW? If Florida defeats Georgia on Saturday and South Carolina loses to Tennessee, the Gators will clinch the SEC Eastern Division title. Book your tickets to Atlanta, folks.
LAST YEAR: Florida defeated Georgia 49-10 in a game where pretty much everything went right for the Gators. Tebow rushed for three scores and passed for two more. In all, Florida converted 5 of 5 times inside the red zone. Florida's defense intercepted former UGA quarterback Matt Stafford (No.1 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft) three times, including and 88-yard interception return by UF cornerback Joe Haden.
TIM TEBOW RECORDS WATCH: Florida quarterback Tim Tebow needs one rushing touchdown to break former UGA running back Herschel Walker's SEC record for career rushing touchdowns (49). Tebow needs three more touchdowns (rushing or receiving) to tie him with former LSU running back Kevin Faulk (53) for the SEC record for career touchdowns.
[PICTURED, Tebow before there was eye black.]
Tebow needs two touchdown passes to tie him with former Florida quarterback Rex Grossman (77) for seventh in the SEC and third at UF. Tebow needs seven more rushing attempts to tie former Florida running back Earnest Graham (603) for fourth at UF. Tebow needs 17 completions to tie him former Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell for seventh at UF. Tebow needs 36 passing yards to tie him with Bell (7,585) for fifth at UF. Tebow needs two passing touchdowns to tie Grossman (77) for third at UF. Tebow needs 11 more plays to tie him with former Florida quarterback Chris Leak (1,636) for first at UF.
[PICTURED, James is another Jackonsville-area native looking to go out big on Saturday.]
James needs one more kick return (kickoff or punt) to tie former Mississippi State Bulldog Tony James and former Auburn Tiger Thomas Bailey (199) for the SEC record. James needs one more punt return for a touchdown to tie former Vanderbilt Commodore Lee Nalley (5) for second all-time in the SEC. James needs one more kick return for a touchdown (kickoff or punt) to tie him with Nalley (6) for second in the SEC. James trails former LSU Tiger Robert Dow 19.1-18.2 for the SEC record in total average per kick return (kickoff and punt).
FLORIDA INJURY REPORT (bold means starter or former starter this season)
PROBABLE: DT Lawrence Marsh (ankle), DT Jaye Howard (knee), MLB Brandon Spikes (groin), Jeff Demps (probable)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Wondy Pierre-Louis (undisclosed), CB Moses Jenkins (concussion), SS Dorian Munroe (knee), LB Jelani Jenkins (ankle)
OUT: DT Justin Trattou (bicep), DT Brandon Antwine (shoulder), LT Matt Patchan (knee), WR Carl Moore (back), WR Andre Debose (hamstring), LB Brandan Beal (neck), TE Desmond Parks (knee), WR Paul Wilson (foot), LB John Jones (transfer).
GEORGIA INJURY REPORT
QUETIONABLE: FB Shaun Chapas (neck), CB Chad Gloer (hamstring), DE Kiante Tripp (shoulder), CB Vance Cuff (suspension), LB Marcus Dowtin (finger), LB Akeem Dent (hamstring)
OUT: DE Roderick Battle (knee), OT Trinton Sturdivant (knee), TE Bruce Figgins (suspension, redshirt), WR Kris Durham (shoulder), TE Bryce Ros (toe), OL Tanner Strickland (shoulder), WR Tony Wilson (ankle), S John Knox (transfer).
THE ULTIMATE PREVIEW'S EXPANDED SCOUTING REPORT
WHEN FLORIDA HAS THE BALL
The Gators' lead the SEC in rushing (258.3) and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has been the dominant force at the line of scrimmage. Tebow has 121 rushing attempts this season, compared to 143 combined rushing attempts by running backs Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Moody.
[PICTURED, Moody wouldn't mind a few more carries on Saturday.]
Tebow's tough running is the main reason why Florida leads the SEC in third-down conversion percentage (45.98 percent). He leads the SEC in passing efficiency (151.1 rating) despite tossing two interceptions last week against Mississippi State.
Turnovers, sacks and converting red-zone opportunities into touchdowns have been problems for the Gators. Tebow has been sacked 16 times in seven games and UF's quarterback has turned the ball over four times in his last two games (two fumbles against Arkansas; two interceptions against Mississippi State). Florida continues to struggle in the red zone. In conference play, Florida is 7 of 25 in converting red-zone chances into touchdowns.
In his last two games, UF sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis has missed two field-goal attempts from the 37-yard line. Sturgis made 3 of 4 field goals against both Mississippi State and Arkansas. His final field goal against the Razorbacks was the game winner.
Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez leads the Gators with 33 receptions. Combined, Hernandez and receiver Riley Cooper make up the large majority of UF's receiving offense. Hernandez and Cooper have combined for 60 receptions, which is more than the rest of the Gators' skill players combined (46). In conference play, senior receiver David Nelson and senior receiver Brandon James have caught five passes each. Sophomore receiver Deonte Thompson has four receptions in conference play.
Protecting Tebow inside the pocket has become a major concern for Florida's coaching staff. The left side of the offensive line appears to be the problem. It wasn't great to begin with but took a major hit when starting left tackle Matt Patchan tore an anterior-cruciate ligament in his right knee during the Gators' bye week. Florida began the year with a strong right side (center Maurkice Pouncey, right guard Mike Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert), but UF has since moved Mike Pouncey to left guard to balance the line. Florida experimented in practice this week by moving freshman left tackle Xavier Nixon into the starting rotation. Nixon could receive his first significant amount of playing time against Georgia.
[PICTURED, Is Xavier Nixon ready for the big time?]
That UF coach Urban Meyer even suggested this week that Nixon, a true freshman, could be an option against Georgia likely means that Florida guards James Wilson and Maurice Hurt are to blame for UF's offensive line woes. Starting Nixon at left tackle would allow Carl Johnson (current starting left tackle) to shift inside and play his natural position (left guard). Florida's coaches are concerned with Georgia's dominant defensive tackles from Broward County (Geno Atkins of Fort Lauderdale and Jeff Owens of Sunrise). To limit Atkins and Owens, Florida could also move both Pounceys to the guard positions and start redshirt freshman Sam Robey, leaving Johnson at left tackle.
WHEN GEORGIA IS ON DEFENSE
Georgia's passing defense is ranked eleventh in yards allowed (238.3 ypg) and pass-defense efficiency (131.5) in the SEC entering Saturday's game. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet torched the Bulldogs for 408 yards and five touchdowns and Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton looked like an All-American against the UGA defense. Crompton passed for 310 yards and four touchdowns in the Vols' 45-19 win. Against Tennessee, Georgia's defenders did not record a sack or a quarterback hurry.
[PICTURED, This guy punked Georgia? Wow!]
Georgia's defense ranks last in the SEC in scoring (27.7 ppg) and that number does not match up well with the Gators' offense, which ranks first in the SEC in scoring (35.3 ppg). The problem seems to be lack of playmakers. Celebrated safety Reshard Jones has one interception and Georgia has recorded just five interceptions in 234 passing plays. Part of the problem: Georgia's supposed All-American defensive tackle combo of Atkins and Owens have combined for half a sack.
The Bulldogs are ranked fifth in the SEC in rushing defense, which should help the Bulldogs against UF's Thundercat Offense. Before Georgia fans get excited, consider this: A good measuring stick might be Georgia's game against Tennessee. Vols running back Montario Hardesty rushed for 97 yards on 20 carries against the Bulldogs.
WHEN GEORGIA HAS THE BALL
When Georgia has the ball, it's usually in the hands of receiver A.J. Green. Green, perhaps the best receiver in Georgia history, has 41 receptions through seven games for 682 yards and six touchdowns. Considering Georgia is ranked last in the SEC in rushing (108.0 ypg), Green is basically the team's entire offense. Georgia's second-leading receiver, Michael Moore of Coconut Creek North Broward Prep, has 19 receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia quarterback Joe Cox ranks sixth in the SEC in passing efficiency (132.9 rating) and has thrown 13 touchdowns. Those are acceptable numbers but the problem is Georgia does not have a running game to balance the pass.
WHEN FLORIDA IS ON DEFENSE
In conference play, the Gators are ranked first in scoring defense (10.1 ppg), first in total defense (229.6 ypg), first in passing defense (135.0 ypg), second in rushing defense (94.6 ypg), first in pass-defense efficiency (86.6 rating) and third in interceptions (10). Yeah, the Gators are THAT good.
The biggest match up of the day will be Florida's cornerbacks against Georgia receiver A.J. Green. Green usually lines up on the left side of the field, which means he'll be going head to head against UF sophomore corner Janoris Jenkins most of the time. Jenkins and fellow cornerback Joe Haden have watched film of Green run passing routes for two hours every day since Sunday.
[PICTURED, Can Janoris shut down A.J. Green?]
Georgia quarterback Joe Cox has been intercepted nine times in seven games. He has thrown at least one interception in each game this season. Florida safety Major Wright of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas leads the Gators with three interceptions. Jenkins and Haden have two interceptions each and strong safety Ahmad Black has one. As Black likes to say, it could be a "pick party" on Saturday for the Gators' secondary.
Florida's defensive front should have no problem shutting down Georgia's rushing attack on Saturday. UF linebacker Brandon Spikes, who missed the Mississippi State game with a groin injury, will likely play and defensive tackles Lawrence Marsh (ankle) and Jaye Howard (knee) are expected to rejoin the defensive line rotation.
Florida has had turnover problems but Georgia has had turnover nightmares. The Bulldogs have 17 turnovers in seven games and are minus-11 in turnover margin. If Florida shuts down the Bulldogs running game, as expected, and limits UGA receiver A.J. Green to under 100 yards receiving, the Gators will likely win easily. Tebow accounted for five touchdowns (three rushing) against Georgia last season and you better believe he is highly motivated this time around. He needs one rushing touchdown to break former Georgia running back Herschel Walker's SEC record (49) and Tebow will be playing in Jacksonville, his hometown, for the final time against the Gators' primary SEC rival.
Florida 42, Georgia 10
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! (This is, after all, the ULTIMATE PREVIEW)
8 The number of touchdowns Tebow has accounted for in the last two years against Georgia.
7 The number of touchdowns Georgia's offense has accounted for in the last two years against Florida.
3 The number of times Florida and Georgia have played on Halloween. Georgia leads the all-time Halloween series 1-2. The Bulldogs defeated Florida 33-6 on UF's homecoming on Oct. 31, 1931. In 1992, Florida evened the series with a 26-24 victory. UF quarterback Shane Matthews passed for 301 yards and two touchdowns and UF's defense held Georgia Heisman Trophy candidate Garrison Hearst to just 41 rushing yards on 14 carries. On Oct. 31, 1998, No.11 Georgia upset No.5 Florida to regain control of this scary Halloween rivalry.
3 The number of sacks UF defensive end Carlos Dunlap recorded last week against Mississippi State. It was a career high for Dunlap. Dunlap's peformance against pass happy Georgia could be a key to the game.
18 The number of punts for Florida this season, which is the nation's lowest total. Seriously, is UF's offense really struggling.
27 The number of former Gators on current NFL rosters, according to Florida's sports information department.
38 The number of former Georgia Bulldogs on current NFL rosters, according to Georgia's sports information department. (Seemingly Georgia's only source of recent pride in this rivalry.)