Editor’s Note: This is a damn long post. It should be called “TMI: UGA vs. UF,” so brace yourselves.
It’s a short “Hate Week 2007 Part I” due to travel for most people, so I wanted to go ahead and have the preview up in enough time since I will be traveling starting Wednesday night. This will be my first year in getting to Jacksonville before Friday (we’ll be down there Thursday AM), and to say that I’m pumped would be a huge understatement. I’ve been looking forward to this game for a full 365 days and it has only gotten worse since Florida won the Nat’l Championship earlier this year.
Before you read any farther, I want to make sure that everyone understands that this game is not about X’s and O’s. This game is more about heart, will, and determination to win. That’s what it’s going to take to beat Florida on Saturday, so if you think I didn’t “analyze” the game that much in this preview, then you’d be correct. I don’t anticipate a lot of strategy in this one, but more what we need to do to get the mental edge to win.
So let’s get to it.When Florida has the ball:
Every time Mark Richt speaks to the media, he throws out this stat: “Tim Tebow accounts for nearly 75% of Florida’s offense when you combine rushing and passing.” We’ll call that “interesting” as well as “not a surprise.” To say that we need to stop him from running, passing, and even existing on that field would be the understatement of the year. The key to winning this game? Keep Tebow on the sidelines, however possible.
The spread offense is one that works based on timing and options. The QB’s check-downs are not necessarily the same types that a normal QB would have. Tebow will fake a run and then look for his 1st, 2nd, and 3rd options as opposed to normal pocket QB’s who run after nothing comes available. We also have to guard against the option because Florida has the speed to get the ball to the outside and take it for a huge gain.
One thing I have noticed about Tebow is that he’s not very comfortable in tucking the ball and running once a play breaks down. You may think I’m crazy, but take a second and think about it. We all see him run a lot, but those are by design. When do you ever see Tebow look around, realize he has nothing, and then run the ball up the gut? From what I remember, this rarely happens, and to me, that is the key to beating Florida.
We have to confuse their offense. I don’t care if we have to put a stick of dynamite in Jeff Owen’s ass, but we have got to blow up the line of scrimmage and cause some chaos. Throw off the timing, force a turnover or two to hurt their confidence, and flat out hit someone directly in the mouth. I want UGA to play mean. Pissed-off-mean. Florida doesn’t need to know our players’ names. They need only to have enough time to see the numbers before they get hit. We win this game if Tebow says “I might as well hand it off to #33 because he’s already in the backfield on every play,” or if Harvin says “I ain’t going across the middle anymore. #30 is questioning my manhood.”
We’ve got to get physical in this game. Yes, I would love to get pressure on Tebow, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the right answer to winning this one. We need to disrupt the timing a little bit, but the main key is when Tebow has to improvise, we make sure his safety valves are not there. On the field, we win this game at the line of scrimmage and with the cornerbacks. Off the field, we win this game when we stall Florida’s offense and then keep them off the field. We must hit them hard, hit them often, and show that we’re bigger, faster, and stronger. If we win that battle, we win the game, regardless of how our offense plays.When UGA has the ball:Senator Blutarsky nailed it when he said that in this game, the best defense is a good offense
. We have got to keep drives going, even in situations where we’re not given top-notch field positions. We need to bleed as much time off the clock as possible, score some points, and then on the next possession, get a 3-and-out. If we can do that 60% of the time, we win this game convincingly.
From watching the Florida/UK game, I noticed that UK had ample opportunities to burn Florida deep and they would have, had the ball been thrown to the right spot. If Stafford can stay accurate, our deep shots WILL work and it will soften up Florida’s defense in regards to the running game.
Speaking of the running game, the spotlight is on Knowshon and I think he will perform just fine. Jason Johnson is healthy and will provide a solid backup for when Kno-Mo needs a break after he hopefully busts one for about 60 yards or so. Our running game will be crucial to the clock control strategy, but don’t expect it to keep the chains moving for us. Florida is going to know that we will rely heavily on our ability to run the ball, so expect them to dare us to pass. It’s up to us to actually call them on that dare.
An aggressive attitude is what we’ll need in order to beat these guys. We have to have balls in our brains a la Les Miles
and just go for the homerun. If Florida knows we’re in this game to score as many points as possible and walk out with a win, they will be a facing an attitude that UGA hasn’t had in years. That right there might stun the Gator defense enough for us to put some points on the board.Special Teams:
Coutu has been hit or miss lately, but I still trust the guy with the game on the line. He has the leg strength and accuracy to nail a clutch kick, should we encounter one before halftime or before the end of the game. I trust him and I trust his protection to get the ball up and through the uprights should we need him to.
Brian Mimbs continues to impress me in the punting game. Again, that really makes me feel good about Drew Butler and his future in the program. I can’t wait for the impending competition next year after Butler gets some time in the weight room. As it pertains to the present, you couldn’t ask much more of Mimbs, who has done a fine job of kicking the ball this year. Even if some of our drives stall, I trust him to get the ball a good 40+ yards out and hopefully kick out of bounds to protect our sometimes questionable coverage.
In regards to returns, I’m confident in Asher Allen’s ability to gain solid yardage on kickoffs. While he’s not going to have the fanciest of runs, I do believe he can consistently get us to around the 30 or 35. Mikey Henderson should be ready to go, but I doubt that Florida will even give him the chance. UF’s special teams do not give up hardly any yardage at all in regards to punts, so if we can force them to punt at all, don’t expect a game-changing return. My own preference would be to get Mikey back in the kickoff spot so he can use his talent, but I understand the logistics between a punt and kick return are different and he has not had enough time to learn the position. Therefore, expect to see a lot of Asher on special teams, but very little of Mikey.
Return-wise for Florida, they are dangerous, but not scary. We should be able to contain them should we stick to our lanes and not try to get tricky. If we play fundamentally sound here, I believe it will be a non-factor.The Intangibles:
Attitude is everything in this series. Florida has gone into this game for the past 17 years expecting to win and have only come out twice with a loss. That’s a huge stat that looms over our head every single time we meet in Jacksonville. Don’t kid yourself about things that don’t matter like playing in Florida, Florida recruiting a touch more solidly, or even the fact that they look better on paper. This game is all about who is expecting to win and who has a little bit of doubt in the back of their minds.
Speaking of doubt, don’t expect much from our fans. As a contingent, we go to Jacksonville more to get a quick vacation and hang out with friends than we do expecting to win a football game. Yeah, go ahead and hate me for it, but check and see what ticket prices are on Saturday and you’ll see what I’m talking about. I hope I’m terribly wrong about this, but I fully expect the fans to dump the Dawgs early should they fall behind. So it’s up to our team to win for themselves.
No offense to Ching, but I’m tired of the media hype around this game. I’m absolutely sick of it. Every year I see our players sit down and say that they’re focused, ready to play, and how they’re approaching this game like they approach every other game. It’s driving me crazy to read sh*t like that over and over again when I know that 1) it’s not true and 2) even if it was, it shouldn’t be. Our players need to approach this game as if their life is on the line. We need to get this “I hope we don’t lose” mentality out of the back of our minds and start playing like our brain is on fire.
This doesn’t just come from the players. It needs to come from the coaches too. That’s fine if Mark Richt wants to go in front of the cameras and say “this is a game of streaks and yes, they’re a rival, but we’re approaching it like we approach any other game.” I’m OK with him saying that. What I’m not OK with is if he believes it. I want all the coaches, CMR included, to adopt the Alabama mentality and keep our players caged up for a week. Keep them from seeing their girlfriends and invoke a curfew. Sacrifice a baby lizard if you need to, just to get the mentality correct. I’m excited about the future of this program, but I’m absolutely f*cking tired of the Florida mentality.
I’m not picking UGA to win this game. I feel as good about our chances as I have since 2005 BEFORE D.J. was hurt, but I’m not going to say that we’re going to win. I do it every year and we end up losing.
So this year, the Gators will walk into Jacksonville playing to win and we will stumble into Jacksonville playing not to lose. You can throw whatever stat out there that makes you feel better, but if we do what we’ve been doing, we’ll lose this game and we’ll lose it big. Mark it down; the ONLY way we win this game is if we show we have the drive, desire, and heart to do so. We get that under control and everything else will fall into place. Still, I’m picking the Gators on this one.
I’m BEGGING to be proved wrong.
Until next time kids.
Be safe (and GO DAWGS!).
Labels: College Football, Damn It, Game Previews, I hate Florida, UGA Football