Florida-Georgia game will be ‘chess match’ between Mullen, Smart – GatorBait.net


When No. 8 Florida faces fifth-ranked Georgia Saturday in the Worlds Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, all eyes will be on the Gators offensive attack against the UGA defense.

These are two of the best units in the country on their side of the ball, and they will meet as top-10 teams for the third consecutive year a first in the rivalrys history.

I think it's a chess match going back and forth, UF offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said. Trying to find what the best matchup is, how you can exploit certain looks that they provide. They have an excellent system and they recruit great players to go play in that system.

Three of those great players are unavailable for this game, with Georgia missing a trio of starters in safety Richard LeCounte (motorcycle accident) and defensive linemen Julian Rochester (ACL) and Jordan Davis (elbow). Nonetheless, this defense will still be Floridas toughest test yet.

The Bulldogs rank first in the SEC in six categories: opponent first downs, sacks, scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and passing efficiency defense. They also boast the leagues third-best passing defense.

They play hard, and they have talent at every level of the defense, Florida coach Dan Mullen said. I dont want to say its just players. Kirby [Smart] has a great defensive scheme. They have answers to the questions. He knows it inside and out. They do a good job of putting their guys in great position to make plays, and theyre not afraid to tweak.

They can put big guys in the game to stop the run; they can put pass rushers in the game to get pressure; they can cover and play man coverage; they can try to confuse you with looks and a lot of different zones; they mix it up a lot. Theyre a very, very good defensive football team and its not one thing that makes them a great football team. Its every layer of it.

As good as Georgia is defensively, the Gators have been even more elite on offense. Theyre the best in the country at red-zone conversions and rank No. 2 in the SEC and top-10 nationally in five categories: yards per play, scoring offense, passing offense and passing offense efficiency.

UFs total offense also ranks 15th in the FBS behind quarterback Kyle Trask, who leads the league with 18 touchdown passes and is the only player in school history to throw four-plus TDs in four consecutive games. His offensive line, which also ranks second in the SEC in sacks allowed, must hold its own against Georgias front seven.

Every time you play against a Coach Mullen offense there's different strengths, whether it's Dak Prescott or it's an elite back or elite receivers. It's always something different, Smart said. You try to play to your strengths and not always to his. This year, it'll be different obviously because we have different players on defense in terms of our injuries, and they're not exactly the same as they were last year.

What hasnt changed is the Kyle-to-Kyle connection between Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts, who ranks in the top five nationally in receiving touchdowns (7) and tight end receiving yards per game (88.8). Pitts didnt score against the Bulldogs in 2019, but caught four passes for 78 yards.

He demands double coverages, and Smart is unable to assign one player to Pitts because of how much Mullen lines him up at different spots.

You gotta know where he's at, certainly, Smart said of Pitts. He's extremely talented. I mean, he was extremely talented last year. He's only gotten better. Seems like he's gotten a little bigger, a little more physical. Dan finds ways to use him in both the run game and pass game.

But, he's elite. He's first-round talent, there's no question about that. In a lot of my history in the SEC, I don't know that there's been a guy like that. He's a receiver/tight end in one.

In the 24-17 loss last season, Floridas offense only gained 278 total yards, converted just 2-of-9 third-down attempts and lost the time of possession battle (35:48 to 24:12) with only seven possessions. Johnson said first downs will be critical Saturday and his unit has to score touchdowns not field goals in the red zone.

We have some great players on offense, and they have great players on defense, Johnson said. We gotta do a great job of putting our guys at positions so they can go and make plays on a consistent basis.

I think the biggest thing is us going out there and playing at an extremely high level and doing what we do to go win the game.

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Florida-Georgia game will be 'chess match' between Mullen, Smart - GatorBait.net

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