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  • Georgia’s two-headed rushing attack, and Florida’s ability to contain it, will ultimately determine the outcome of this compelling neutral-site game. Should you bet on the Gators or Bulldogs in this SEC clash?
By Ed McGrogan
October 24, 2018

Florida Gators vs. Georgia Bulldogs (-7)

Sat. 10/27, 3:30 p.m. ET

Three things you need to know before betting on Florida-Georgia:

1. With Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift, Georgia’s conference-leading rushing attack (226.3 yards per game) can occasionally make fans forget about Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. October 13 was not one of those days. Against LSU, Georgia largely abandoned the run, calling 34 pass plays for Jake Fromm—the most he’s ever thrown as a Bulldog. It was a baffling decision and a significant factor in Georgia’s lopsided loss to the Tigers, which head coach Kirby Smart later acknowledged. “We’ve got to get both those guys more touches,” referring to Swift and Holyfield.

A renewed focus on the run will be a difficult test for Florida, especially considering the Gators’ defensive shortcomings against their last opponent, Vanderbilt. While the Gator defense locked down the Commodores in the second half—Florida conceded nearly five yards a carry beforehand—the unit will be facing an entirely different animal in Jacksonville. Heavier doses of Swift and Holyfield will also afford Fromm opportunities for play-action passes to Georgia's talented array of receivers.

One notable comparable is LSU, which gashed Georgia for 275 rushing yards on 51 carries this season. As for Florida, it held the previously unbeaten Tigers to 180 rushing yards to earn its signature win. Overall, the Florida run defense has made improvements during the season, but the effectiveness of Georgia’s backfield will ultimately determine this game.

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2. Not since the days of Tim Tebow has Florida’s offense been this effective. Two weeks ago, Dan Mullen’s team rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat Vanderbilt—and covered the 9.5-point spread in the process. The Gators ran the ball 62 times against Vanderbilt, even while trailing by 18, so their commitment to the ground game is steadfast. Beyond that, QB Feleipe Franks threw for a career-high 284 yards. Since its Week 2 loss to Kentucky, Florida has averaged 31 points against SEC competition and went 4-0 straight up in those games.

All of this should concern Georgia, a program in the upper echelon of college football but which has yet to play like it this season. In conference, the Bulldogs are 10th in yards allowed per rush, and are second to last in the SEC in sacks. But one thing Georgia has in its corner is a decisive edge in the coaching head to head. In Kirby Smart’s last eight games against Mullen, he’s 8-0. Yes, Smart had Alabama’s defense to send out against Mississippi State, but Georgia’s defense isn’t too shabby either.

3. Both teams come into this pivotal game off a bye, which you’d think would benefit both sides. That has certainly been the case with Florida, which has covered its last six games after a bye—including three against Georgia. In those three games, the Gators beat the spread by margins of 7.5 points, 24 points and 30 points. As for Georgia? Incredibly, it is just 1-9-1 ATS after a bye.

With its loss to division opponent Kentucky, Florida’s SEC East hopes rest on this game. Meanwhile, Georgia would almost certainly be eliminated from the national title conversation with a second consecutive loss. Florida’s play against top-tier competition has been building to this game, while Georgia seems to be entering the hardest portion of its schedule without ideal preparation.

Pick: Florida +7

Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)

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