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Predicting Georgia-Florida: What Players Will Decide The Outcome?

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Todd Gurley will return to Georgia's backfield for Saturday's Florida-Georgia game. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images.
Todd Gurley will return to Georgia's backfield for Saturday's Florida-Georgia game. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images.

In past years, the annual Georgia-Florida game has helped decide the winner of the SEC East.

However, this year is different as this game will decide which is out of the running for the division crown and which lives to fight another day. Both teams have been disappointing this season as they each have three losses.

Here's how each team compares this year:

Florida Gators Stats Georgia Bulldogs
21.1 Points 36.0
16.3 Points Allowed 33.3
161.4 Rushing YPG 192.1
100.7 Rushing Yards Allowed 136.7
175.4 Passing YPG 282.9
172.4 Passing Yards Allowed 253.4

As you can see, the Bulldogs' offense is clearly better, while the Gators' defense is tops. It will be an interesting matchup between teams with different strengths.

So, what matchups will be the key to the game?

Gurley vs. Florida's DL

Gurley will return to the Georgia backfield for the first time since getting injured against LSU. The running game has struggled in his absence as backup Keith Marshall is out for the season and Brendan Douglas can't seem to hang onto the ball in key situations.

As LSU beat writer Donovan Tennimon suggests, even Gurley at 85 percent will be good for the Bulldogs:

If Todd Gurley is back at full strength for Georgia, then it might be the matchup between him and the Florida rush defense. Obviously Georgia's strength is their offense and Florida's is their defense. The Gators are down a few defenders, so if Gurley is back at 100 percent, or even 85 percent, then I think that will give the Bulldogs a tremendous edge.

When Gurley rushes for at least 100 yards, the Bulldogs are 9-2. The two losses came in last year's SEC Championship Game to Alabama and in this year's season opener at Clemson.

The Bulldogs have had success when he runs the ball and if he does it again on Saturday, the Bulldogs will have a huge advantage.

Florida's OL vs. Georgia's Front Seven

The Gators have been without starting quarterback Jeff Driskel for a while now and Tyler Murphy is the starter. In the six games he's played, Murphy has thrown for 737 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for 77 yards.

For a starting quarterback, that's not good and is one of the reasons why the offense was so bad against LSU and Missouri. He's barely averaging 100 passing yards per game, which is a good thing for Georgia's young secondary. That means the front seven is going to have to be on point if Florida chooses to run the ball.

FBS senior editor Christopher Smith believes Florida's running game may be the only way the Gators can pull out a victory:

Florida's defense is pretty steady. With or without Gurley, Georgia's offense is going to win some and lose some. Not a lot of variability there.

The Gators also don't have a quarterback they trust and they just lost the left tackle (D.J. Humphries). So they're likely to force-feed the ball on the ground. It seems like the only chance they have to control the clock and the game.

This is not the Florida team we're accustomed to seeing and it's a big reason why they've struggled this year.

Prediction

With an absence of offense, I don't see how the Gators are going to put up enough points to beat Georgia. The defense may hold Georgia to below its season average, but it's impossible to think the Bulldogs can't score at least 21 points. That's the magic number for this game.

Georgia 27, Florida 10