It’s finally that time of year. All eyes will be on the showdown in Jacksonville this weekend as the No. 6 Florida Gators and the No. 8 Georgia Bulldogs write the next chapter of their storied rivalry.
This chapter has serious implications. Not just within the SEC, as the winner will likely represent the East in the conference championship, but College Football Playoff implications.
Despite being ranked higher, the Gators will enter the Top-10 showdown as underdogs. It’s their third Top-10 matchup of the year, being the underdog each time.
A win in Jacksonville could show that the Gators are back amongst the top programs in the country. A loss could show what it seems like many outsiders think, that the program is still a few years away.
With that being said, here are the five Gators on the spot this week to perform should they leave Jacksonville with a win.
- Kyle Pitts, Tight End
Among the number of storylines with the Gators this year, the emergence of Kyle Pitts may be one of the most significant. Pitts has transformed into a lethal weapon and one of the best tight ends in the country. He leads Florida in receptions, yards and is tied for the team-lead in touchdowns. Dan Mullen has shown he knows how to find Pitts the best matchup and get him the ball. In another big-time showdown, you can bet Mullen is going to try to find ways to get the ball to his oversized receiver. Pitts is just that, his route running and hands are amongst the best on the team. The Gators need Pitts to show just that against a pretty strong Georgia defense. In particular, Pitts will need to show up in the red zone for Florida. They can’t afford to drive down the field and stall out, so Pitts could see a lot of targets in the end zone.
- David Reese II, Linebacker
It’s no secret, the running game is the Dawgs bread-and-butter. D’Andre Swift is one of the top running backs in the nation and there’s more than capable runners behind him on the depth chart with Brian Herrien and Zamir White. Georgia is rushing for 237 yards a game, higher than average yards through the air. All of those are reasons why David Reese II needs to have a huge game in the middle of the Gators defense. The senior linebacker is Florida’s leading tackler by a large margin, with 66 total tackles. If the Gators want to be successful Saturday, they need to slow down the run game and make Jake Fromm beat them through the air. Slowing down the Dawgs potent run-attack is no easy task, but Reese has shown in the past he can be a tackling machine and that’s just what the Gators need him to be in Jacksonville.
- Shawn Davis, Safety
For many of the same reasons, Shawn Davis needs to be on his game Saturday for the Gators. He will also have to play a key role in slowing down the aforementioned rushing attack, but he will also have to make plays when the Dawgs air it out. He had great games against Kentucky and Auburn, but he needs to have another this weekend. The Gators will need Davis to be flying around all over the field making plays. He’s shown he’s more than capable. Davis leads Florida in interceptions (3) and is third on the team in total tackles (27). The rotation amongst the safeties has been one of the greater question marks around the defense. In a game like this, Davis needs to be on the field as much as possible.
- Kyle Trask, Quarterback
Another week means another new challenge for Kyle Trask. This time, he will get a real taste of what FL/GA is as the starter. It’s no secret that the Gators need Trask to continue on the path he’s on, but they may need him to take another step Saturday should they be victorious. Georgia’s defense shouldn’t be taken lightly, but Trask has shown he is capable of attacking defenses since taking over the starting quarterback role for Florida. He needs to have another efficient effort where he puts the ball in the hands of the Gators playmakers and let them work. When these two teams meet, it often times come down to the turnover battle. Trask needs to take care of the football and move the offense down the field. He’s yet to waver to in any situation he’s been thrown in and the Gators need another impressive showing from their signal caller.
- Jon Greenard, BUCK
His health has big one of the big storylines leading up to the showdown, but it seems like Jon Greenard wouldn’t miss this game for the world. He’s been battling an ankle sprain for weeks now, but the Gators should have Greenard back to face Georgia. However, the Gators need Greenard to be more than just healthy. They need him to be the force he was before the injury. Georgia’s offense line has served as a security blanket for Jake Fromm. They’re the largest O-line in the country and have allowed just four sacks this season. The Gators will need Greenard to get after Fromm and be disruptive while also playing a role in slowing for the Dawgs run-game. He grew up watching this great rivalry as a fan, now he’ll get the chance to take part in it. Should the Gators leave Jacksonville with a win, Greenard has to be a force.