The Cocktail Party Preview

Halloween weekend means it’s time for Georgia and Florida to square off on the banks of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville.  For the first time in over 30 years, both teams come into the game unranked.  While the game doesn’t have national title implications as it usually does, this game will have an impact on the SEC race.

When Florida Has the Ball

Florida’s offense has struggled throughout the year to the point where Corch Meyers used the bye week to put in some new wrinkles.  The Gators have had issues at quarterback, offensive line inconsistency, and injuries at the skill positions.  John Brantley has not been the answer to replace Tebow because he is not a threat to run.  Trey Burton has played the role of short yardage quarterback but has not been a threat to throw.  The Gator offensive line has not played well, and they have had a lot of issues with the shotgun snap.  Injuries and suspensions have plagued the running backs and wide receivers.  Chris “The Texting Stalker” Rainey gets reinstated today in an attempt to revive a Gator offense that has gone from averaging 9 yards per play last year to 4 yards per play this year on first down.

The Georgia defense has played better over the last 3 weeks.  Justin Houston is the SEC’s leading pass rusher, and Akeem Dent is one of the league’s top tacklers.  The front seven appears to be getting it together from early season struggles with power running games.  The back four unfortunately is still struggling to get stops especially on third-and-long.  To win today win require a total team effort on defense.  The Gator offense is going to try to start fast to force us to play catch-up all day.  It will be necessary for Georgia to get pressure on Brantley and force negative plays.

When Georgia Has the Ball

Tampa native Aaron Murray gets his first shot at the Gators this afternoon.  Georgia won a heated recruiting battle between Dawgs and Gators to acquire the services of young Mr. Murray two years ago.  Today he needs to play within himself and run the offense the way he has all year long.  As the nation’s highest-rated freshman passer, Aaron has a chance to break a number of Georgia freshman passing records this year.  The emergence of the Georgia offense has been the result of the return of A.J. Green and improved play of the offensive line.  To win, the Georgia offense needs to be multiple and minimize mistakes, which have turned the last 2 Cocktail Parties from close games to Gator routs.

The Florida defense has been stout all year long.  They have had issues during their losing streak defending the run, but they have been very good in the secondary.  I have a feeling the Gators will show some things today they haven’t shown on film to try to confuse Murray and the Georgia offense.  If Janoris Jenkins can match up one-on-one with A.J. Green, their defense can roll a safely down into the box to help in the running game.

What Will Happen

I have a feeling this game is going to be a war.  Corch Meyers has lost three games in a row for the first time in his head coaching career.  Coach Richt needs a win over Florida this year to turn down the heat.  John Brantley needs to reassure the Gator Nation that he is the answer at quarterback.  Aaron Murray could give the Bulldog Nation hope that the series is getting ready to turn back in Georgia’s favor.  Most importantly, a win keeps both teams in the SEC East race to await the November collapse of South Carolina.

The game comes down to special teams where Georgia now has the advantage at kicker with Sturgis out for the Gators.  The final score is my favorite Cocktail Party final score:  Georgia 26, Florida 21.

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