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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Times have changed: Unranked Florida prepares for No. 1 Georgia

The Gators go up against the well-balanced UGA attack Saturday

Florida's Brenton Cox celebrates during a play in a game against Tennessee on Sept. 18.
Florida's Brenton Cox celebrates during a play in a game against Tennessee on Sept. 18.

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV dropped back to pass, his team trailing 41-21 and in desperate need of points. Bennett let the ball fly, overthrowing his receiver and sailing right into the hands of Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam. 

Florida would go on to win the 2020 edition of the Florida-Georgia game 44-28, and Bennett finished the afternoon five-of-16 with 78 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Flash forward to 2021: Bennett and the Bulldogs are undefeated and seem to have a clear path to Atlanta, while the Gators sit 4-3 with more questions than answers.

The 2020 Gators featured offensive fireworks, as Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney and Co. tore apart the Georgia defense. Quarterback Emory Jones and/or Anthony Richardson will struggle to find the same level of success, as the Bulldogs defense has allowed just 6.57 points per game.

“They're very good up front. They're very dynamic,” left tackle Richard Gouriage said. “They escalate their plays very well. Everyday in practice, we've been trying to work on our techniques and stuff to prepare for all the crazy looks they're going to give us.”

The Bulldogs front seven has appeared virtually unstoppable this season, allowing just 63 rushing yards per game and tallying 24 sacks. Defensive tackle Jordan Davis has specifically been a game wrecker: The 6-foot-6, 340-pound senior boasts 11 tackles and three sacks from his interior defensive line spot. There’s even some Heisman scuttlebutt for him, which former Georgia and Florida Edge rusher Brenton Cox Jr. is in support of.

“Oh, yeah, I'm all for it, give him the Heisman,” Cox Jr. said. “I’ve seen him improve over the years… Everything looks good. Good guy. Good player.”

The Georgia defense deservedly gets most of the attention, but this Bulldogs offense is nothing to scoff at. Bennett has improved drastically from the last time he played the Gators, tossing 996 yards, 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions and adding 148 yards with his legs.

“(He’s a) fast guy, really fast guy,” Cox Jr. said. “I remember going against him on scout team. I just couldn’t catch him. As long as we keep him in the pocket we should be good.”

The Bulldogs have put up 38.4 points per game, terrifying defenses with a well-balanced attack: UGA averages 237.4 passing yards and 192.7 rushing yards per game. It could pose a problem for the Gators — Florida’s defense was recently thrashed by a mediocre LSU offense to the tune of 321 rushing yards.

The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party kicks off from Jacksonville Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and will broadcast live on CBS.

Contact Michael Hull at Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Hull33.

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Michael Hull

Michael Hull is a fourth-year journalism sports & media major and a sports writer at The Alligator. He hosts the weekly sports podcast and has worked on staff for five semesters. In the past, Hull has served as the sports editor, the men's and women's golf beat writer, the volleyball beat writer and the football beat writer. 

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