FACTS & STATS: Site: EverBank Field (76,867) -- Jacksonville, Florida. Television: CBS. Home Record: UGA 3-1, UF 3-0. Away Record: UGA 1-2, UF 1-3. Neutral Record: UGA 0-0, UF 0-0. Conference Record: UGA 3-2, UF 3-2. Series Record: Georgia leads, 48-40-2.
GAME NOTES: A pair of disappointing SEC Eastern Division rivals meet at EverBank Field in Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon, as the Georgia Bulldogs take on the Florida Gators.
This marks just the second time since 1980 that both squads come into this matchup unranked. The last time it occurred was in 2010, when Florida won in overtime, 34-31. Even though Georgia has the advantage in the all-time series (48-40-2), the Gators have had the upper hand of late, going 18-5 since 1990.
Georgia, which came into this season with a No. 5 ranking and national championship aspirations, has fallen on hard times and is just 4-3 overall and 3-2 in conference. The Bulldogs have been ravaged by injury, which is part of the reason they have dropped two straight to Missouri (41-26) and Vanderbilt (31-27).
Florida has also been trending in the wrong direction of late, as it too was effectively bounced from the national polls following back-to-back road losses to LSU (17-6) and Missouri (36-17). The Gators have an identical record as the Bulldogs (4-3, 3-2 SEC), and both squads sit a game behind first-place Missouri in the SEC East.
The Bulldogs have taken a tumble due in large part to devastating injuries on the offensive side of the ball, having lost more than half a dozen skill players to long-term ailments. Even with luck not on its side, UGA still has one of the SEC's most potent offenses (36.0 ppg, 475.0 ypg).
The lack of a strong supporting cast has cost Aaron Murray a shot at the Heisman Trophy in this, his senior season, but he has played well nevertheless in completing better than 62 percent of his passes for 1,938 yards with 22 touchdowns (five rushing) paired with only six interceptions. Murray is on the brink of a few treasured SEC records, as he sits just 29 yards behind Tim Tebow for career total offense (12,232 yards) and needs only three touchdown passes to surpass Danny Wuerffel's record of 114.
The offense appears to be in for a huge boost with the probable return of Todd Gurley (450 yards, four TDs), who averaged better than 112 rushing yards per game before going down with an ankle injury against LSU on Sept. 28. J.J. Green (313 yards, TD), who filled in nicely in Gurley's absence, will still earn some touches now that Keith Marshall is out for the season.
With Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley out and Chris Conley listed as doubtful, the most trusted target left for Murray is tight end Arthur Lynch (14 receptions, 212 yards, two TDs). Rantavious Wooten (14 receptions, 174 yards, three TDs) has also seen increased looks in recent weeks.
Georgia's problems run much deeper than its injury woes on offense. The defense has been uncharacteristically bad, as the unit ranks last in the SEC in allowing 33.3 ppg while only forcing seven turnovers in seven games.
Ramik Wilson has racked up a team-high 69 tackles to go with 5.5 TFL and 2.0 sacks. Jordan Jenkins (8.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 15 QB hurries) and Ray Drew (6.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks, eight QB hurries) are top prospects along the defensive line.
Much like Georgia, Florida has been bitten hard by the injury bug on offense with the loss of QB Jeff Driskel, RB Matt Jones, WR Andre Debose and OT Chaz Green for the season, but unlike the Bulldogs, the Gators have not been able to overcome it as they rank 12th in the league in scoring offense (21.1 ppg) and last in total offense (336.9 ypg).
Tyler Murphy has replaced Driskel under center, and while his numbers appear respectable (.627 completions, 814 total yards, seven TDs, two INTs), he accounted for just 207 passing yards, -58 rushing yards and zero scores in the last two losses.
In the absence of Jones, Mack Brown (359 yards, three TDs) will shoulder the rushing load, although he is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry.
Receivers Trey Burton (29 receptions, 336 yards, TD), Solomon Patton (28 receptions, 426 yards, four TDs) and Quinton Dunbar (22 receptions, 301 yards) are all having solid seasons.
Florida's saving grace has been the outstanding play of its defense, which ranks eighth in the nation in scoring defense (16.3 ppg) and fourth in total defense (273.1 ypg), although the unit has also dealt with injury issues, with DT Dominique Easley, CB Nick Washington and LB Jeremi Powell done for the year.
Dante Fowler is the top defensive playmaker with 8.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks, six QB hurries, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Michael Taylor (41 tackles, two FR), Cody Riggs (29 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks), Vernon Hargreaves III (three INTs) and Brian Poole (two INTs) have also been impressive.
Florida's offense should be able to put some points up against a porous Georgia defense. The X-factor in this one is clearly Gurley for the Bulldogs. If he is able to return and bring the necessary balance back to the offense, figure UGA to get back in the win column.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia 28, Florida 27
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