As a wise man —err, squid — once said, “Naturally, the eyes of a watchful nation are all on Jacksonville, Fla., to see the rightful kings of the SEC, the Bulldogs of Georgia (GO YOU SILVER BRITCHES! WOOOOO!), come snatch the SEC throne from the gummy jaws of a toothless Gator Nation.”
In other words, the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is this Saturday, which means it’s Florida Hate Week.
Georgia stands as a two-touchdown favorite heading into the game, but being favored hasn’t always worked out well for the Bulldogs. If the Dawgs aren’t on top of their game, and the Gators are, an upset is possible. Here are five Gators who need to be on top of their game to achieve the unlikely and throw Georgia’s College Football Playoff aspirations for a loop.
Feleipe Franks, QB — Once again, quarterback is far from a position of strength for Florida, but Franks is the leading passer with 794 yards, 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He can also make plays with his feet. And if Florida is down by a touchdown or less with time running out, Franks has the ability to make a game-winning throw. Ask Tennessee.
Johnny Townsend, P — Winning the field position battle will be key for Florida’s chances of victory, and Townsend will play a major role in attempting to achieve that end. He ranks second nationally with a per-punt average of 48.5 yards. Forcing the Georgia offense to work with a long field will go a long way toward limiting it.
David Reese, LB — Defensively, Florida is going to want to shut down Georgia’s prolific rushing attack and force freshman quarterback Jake Fromm to beat it, and the Gators dangerous secondary, with his arm. That’s where Reese comes in. He’s the Florida version of Roquan Smith and leads the Gators in total (53) and solo (22) tackles. Georgia will do everything in its power to create space for Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and D’Andre Swift. If Reese can corral those three before they gain much ground, Georgia’s afternoon will get a lot more difficult.
Malik Davis, RB — Davis is pretty much the only spark the Gators have on offense. He has 506 rushing yards on 6.7 yards per carry. Florida ranks 102nd nationally in total offense. If it’s going to outpace its 351 yards per game average and put enough points on the board to pull of the upset, Davis will probably have to carry the load and play the game of his life.
CJ Henderson, CB — Florida’s best offense is its defense. The Gators have three defensive touchdowns this season, all from pick-sixes. Senior corner Duke Dawson has one of those, and Henderson, a freshman, has the other two. Picking off Fromm and housing it for six would make up for any lack of production by the Florida offense. Creating turnovers gives Florida a best chance for an upset, and getting immediate points from turnovers further improves those odds.
We’re only a few days into Hate Week and the trash talk is already flowing. At least from the Florida side.
But the smack wasn’t just reserved for boilerplate “scoreboard” taunts. Florida safety Chauncey Gardner made it a point to run down Fromm specifically.
“You say they have a great quarterback — I get it. He’s throwing simple passes — I get it. Anybody can throw a slant — I get it,” Gardner said, according to Jordan McPherson of SEC Country. “But I mean, we’re just playing football. If you call him the best quarterback, so be it, but he has to play Saturday. We’re going to see what his best attribute is. If he can beat us with his arm, whoopty do.”
Gardner might not want to throw too many stones at Fromm, the highest-rated passer in the SEC. It’s not a great look to criticize another dude for not standing out when you’ve got distinctions like this attached to your name.
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