(Photo courtesy USA Today Sports)
The time has come for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, and this year’s edition is a story of two programs in opposite positions. The Georgia Bulldogs enter with an undefeated record while the Florida Gators are 4-3 with a 1-3 conference record. Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald gave Inside the Gators an inside look at the reigning national champions.
Five Georgia Bulldogs to Know
Stetson Bennett, Quarterback, Senior
- The stats seem to speak for themselves. Bennett isn’t a first-round draft pick, but he has a national championship resume. He has over 2,000 yards passing and has five rushing touchdowns on the year. “Stetson Bennett has shown that he is the guy for this offense,” Weiszer said.
Daijun Edwards, Running Back, Junior
- Edwards is the leading running back in attempts (59), yards (334) and touchdowns (5). With that said, he isn’t the lone guy. The Bulldogs have five players with over 25 attempts. “Truthfully, I think they’ll go with the hot hand,” Weiszer said, “Daijun Edwards was a guy that kind of just came in during blowouts last season and got a lot of carries, but he’s a guy they really can count on and shows good vision.”
Brock Bowers, Tight End, Sophomore
- Florida fans know very well what a freak talent at the tight end position looks like. Brock Bowers is that guy. He’s the Bulldogs’ leading receiver with nearly 400 yards on the season and has even busted for a 75-yard run this season. “Huge target for Stetson Bennett,” Weiszer said, “They probably can’t get the ball enough to him. He’s only a sophomore and I think the NFL would have been interested in him after last season.”
Malaki Starks, Defensive Back, Freshman
- Weiszer said this is the next defensive super-star for the Bulldogs and likely a future first-round draft pick. “He really won over a lot of fans, if they weren’t totally bought into him, against Missouri when he ran down a guy that was on the way to the endzone and ran like the 30-yards to stop him at the two-yard-line,” he said, “Georgia’s defense stiffened and forced a field goal.”
Christopher Smith, Defensive Back, Senior
- “Christopher Smith is a safety that kind of unheralded to a certain extent,” Weiszer said, “He’s shown up on some midseason All-American lists. He’s very consistent and made has made some big plays. Last year, against Clemson in the opener he had a pick-six and another pick-six this year.” He has 21 total tackles and two interceptions, so far.
Five Fast Facts
- Florida and Georgia are facing off for the 100th time in the 90th meeting between the two teams in Jacksonville.
- Week 9 marks Florida’s 18th game against the AP No. 1 team including the third across the last two seasons.
- The Gators’ 6.4 yards per carry ranks first in the FBS. Georgia is allowing 3.3 YPC this season (19th in FBS).
- The Gators boast three of the top-four rushers in the SEC in yards per carry: RB Montrell Johnson Jr. (first – 7.2), QB Anthony Richardson (second – 7.1) and RB Trevor Etienne (fourth – 6.3).
- Richardson is one of nine Power Five quarterbacks with 1,300 passing yards and 350 rushing yards this season.
Five Gameday Storylines
Is Georgia Looking Ahead?
- Georgia clearly has bigger fish to fry with a Tennessee matchup looming on next weekend’s schedule. It wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility that Georgia looks to keep key players safe and healthy for that game. With that said, Weiszer said he thinks the Bulldogs will remain focused. “I think Kirby Smart and Georgia’s coaching staff are going to make sure the best they can that these guys are locked in,” Weiszer said, “I think there’s enough history between these teams and these programs.”
Georgia 22.5-point favorites
- The expectation in the eyes of Vegas is for Georgia to beat down the Gators. The Bulldogs did have a close call with Missouri, but would anything less than a dominating performance against Florida be a disappointment? “I don’t think it’s a spread as much as it is not feeling like you’ve taken a step back,” Weiszer said.
Home and Home Around the Corner?
- Questions have risen over recent years about the future of a Jacksonville neutral sight game moving forward. Georgia and Florida released a joint statement that didn’t give readers a strong indication that the contract would be renewed. The contract is set to end in 2023 with an option to extend to 2025.
- One of the biggest problems with the game for coaches has been the loss of a recruiting weekend. Game invites are now allowed for neutral site games, but Weiszer said for Smart it isn’t enough. “Kirby is kind of downplaying that that’s even a big deal,” he said. Weiszer said that unless a recruiting lounge is getting built and coaches are able to interact with the visitors, it won’t ever quite be enough.
Injuries, injuries, injuries
- Georgia is deep, but some key starters remain on the injury report. Jalen Carter, Adonai Mitchell and Kendall Milton, even if they aren’t at 100% could help the Gators out significantly. Smael Mondon will return at linebacker for the Bulldogs.
- Weiszer: 35-14 Georgia
- Chris Will: UGA 45-17