Top-ranked Georgia will look to remain in national-championship form against reeling Florida when the rivals meet Saturday at Jacksonville, Fla.
The Bulldogs and Gators are coming off bye weeks while headed in opposite directions. Georgia (7-0, 4-0 SEC) has passed every test on its schedule, while Florida (4-3, 1-3) has struggled in conference play under first-year coach Billy Napier.
Georgia is second nationally in scoring defense (9.1 points per game), fourth in rushing defense (83.4 yards per game), fifth in passing yards allowed (163.7 yards) and tied for eighth in scoring offense (41.7 points).
The Gators’ weakness has been their defense, which has allowed opponents to average 185 yards rushing and 244.3 passing yards per game. Florida has allowed opponents to convert 52.6 percent of their third downs, which ranks 130th out of 131st FBS schools, just ahead of Colorado’s 52.8 percent.
“We know why we’ve lost games,” Napier said. “I think we know what winning football looks like. The games we lost we didn’t deserve to win.”
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett has completed 70.7 percent of his passes for 2,033 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception, leading an offense that is second in the country in yards per game (526.6).
Tight end Brock Bowers has 26 receptions for 393 yards with two touchdowns, while Ladd McConkey has 29 catches for 362 yards and a score. Kenny McIntosh has been a threat out of the backfield with 28 receptions for 270 yards, in addition to rushing for 248 yards and four scores on 53 carries.
The Bulldogs’ Daijun Edwards is averaging 5.7 yards per carry, having rushed for 337 yards and five touchdowns on 59 carries.
Bennett, however, wasn’t great in his start against Florida last year. He went 10-of-19 passing for 161 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in Georgia’s 34-7 win, its fourth in the past five meetings between the teams.
But Bennett outplayed Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, who will enter Saturday’s game looking to atone for last year.
Richardson was benched after a disastrous two-plus minute stretch in which his three turnovers led to three touchdowns that made it 24-0 at the half following Nakobe Dean’s 50-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final seconds.
Richardson finished 12-for-20 for 82 yards, with two interceptions and a lost fumble.
Richardson has shown growth this year. He has thrown for 1,367 yards with six touchdowns and seven interceptions, in addition to rushing for 395 yards and six touchdowns on 56 carries for an average of 7.1 yards per attempt.
“From the start of the season, you watch every game in sequence and you say, man, this guy is growing and getting better,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “You have got to be careful with him. Some of the runs he’s had have been better than some running backs have across the country.”
Florida’s Montrell Johnson is averaging 7.2 yards per carry while rushing for 425 yards and seven touchdowns on 59 attempts.
Xzavier Henderson, who has 27 catches for 252 yards and a score, is the lone Gator with more than 18 receptions. Justin Shorter has averaged 22.5 yards on his 18 receptions for 405 yards and two scores, while Ricky Pearsall has 16 catches for 303 yards and two touchdowns.
–Field Level Media