Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, October 26, 2012 at 5:00 PM
Though the surprising Florida Gators are #2 in the current BCS rankings, they probably won’t even get to play for the SEC Championship if they don’t beat #10 Georgia Saturday in their annual “Cocktail Party” held in Jacksonville in a game that will be televised nationally by CBS.
If Florida does win, then they become the earliest SEC team ever to clinch a division. That would set the stage for a potential run at the BCS title. If they lose, then Georgia moves into the East driver’s seat with a 5-1 league record and only Ole Miss and Auburn left on the conference schedule.
Let’s imagine for a moment that Florida wins. Their BCS challenge is still stiff indeed because:
*Florida State, currently #12 in the BCS rankings, awaits later on the regular season schedule in a game that will be played in Tallahassee. It’s possible Florida would be the betting underdog in that game even if they were to be undefeated heading in.
*The SEC Championship opponent will probably be #1 Alabama. The Tide will be favored to win out of course, given their dominance under the Nick Saban coaching regime. It’s unlikely Florida would get to play for the BCS championship if they didn’t win that game. So…even though Florida is #2 in the nation right now…they must still beat Georgia, Florida State, and Alabama for the right to play for the trophy…which might entail a rematch with super-tough Alabama!
That’s one of many storylines looming over Saturday’s SEC showdown in Jacksonville. We’ll touch on some of the others as we run through our indicator data…
GEORGIA vs. FLORIDA in Jacksonville (3:30 p.m. on CBS)
Las Vegas Spread: Florida by 6.5, total of 49
Remember, this is a neutral site game even though it’s technically within Florida’s state borders. Just like Texas-Oklahoma, the stadium will be split up 50/50 for the fans…and the site represents a short trip for both schools and their fan bases. With that in mind, the markets are suggesting that Florida is now almost a full touchdown better than Georgia on a neutral field….meaning they’d be almost 10 points better in Gainesville, and even a field goal favorite in Athens. That’s a HUGE move from preseason expectations. The “game of the year” lines this summer in Las Vegas had Georgia as a favorite. You might recall that Florida didn’t even crack the Top 25 in the Athlon preseason annual we referenced in our conference previews this summer. Georgia was #8 in that magazine, and the presumptive favorite to win the East in what was supposed to be a battle with South Carolina. My how times have changed!
CURRENT BCS RANKINGS
Now, Florida is the second best team in the country according to the BCS composite, while Georgia is playing par golf overall despite some recent bogeys. That puts the Georgia fanbase in the confusing position of being disappointed about the conference race even though the football lteam ranks right about where it was supposed to. You’d have to say that the sports betting markets agree with the BCS. It’s your job to determine if everyone has overshot the mark on the reversal of fortune…or if Georgia is slumping so badly that the Bulldogs are overrated and overpriced.
Georgia: Mark Richt
Florida: Will Muschamp
Both of these men were dealing with some hot seat issues entering the season. Georgia fans were getting tired of hearing about Alabama…and had expected Georgia to step up more dramatically in the wake of Urban Meyer’s departure at Florida. Gators fans were stunned at how bad things had gotten since the Tim Tebow era ended…and how shaky things still looked in Muschamp’s first year since coming over from Texas. Remember, Florida was a borderline Top 25 team in expectations entering the season. Suddenly, Muschamp is the toast of the town (just in time for the cocktail party!), while Richt is facing legitimate career concerns if the Bulldogs don’t show well here and close the season impressively. Yes, top 15 isn’t good enough if you’re still behind Alabama and Florida…and South Carolina and LSU…and maybe even one or two more.
Georgia: Aaron Murray
Florida: Jeff Driskel
On paper, Murray is the bigger threat because he can throw much more consistently to a bevy of receivers. You’ll see in a moment that he passed for over 400 yards last week at Kentucky. Driskel is still having big troubles in the air…but has learned to bail himself out with well-timed scrambles. He’s gone from being “sneaky fast” to being just plain fast (ask Vandy!). The problem is…it’s very hard to run the table against a physical schedule with a quarterback who puts himself at risk that often. Can Driskel and Florida move the ball vs. good defenses?
LAST WEEK’S BOXES
GEORGIA 29, KENTUCKY 24
Total Yardage: Georgia 504, Kentucky 329
Rushing Yards: Georgia 77, Kentucky 206
Passing Stats: Georgia 30-40-0-427, Kentucky 11-20-0-123
Turnovers: Georgia 0, Kentucky 0
Third Downs: Georgia 42%, Kentucky 43%
Vegas Line: Georgia by 26, total of 57
This is an amazing collection of numbers. Georgia had dominant stats, yet still had to sweat the game even though they didn’t make any turnovers! Heck, NEITHER team made any turnovers! You shouldn’t be sweating finishes as 26-point favorites when you win yardage by that much. And, you shouldn’t be allowing over 200 rushing yards to a team like Kentucky. Georgia has some problems that are hard to pin down. What’s most important for you to remember is that the defense has largely been a disappointment this year given what was returning from a statistical juggernaut last year. And, their most important game of the season turned into a shellacking at the hands of South Carolina. Georgia is missing Vegas expectations by quite a bit in recent outings.
FLORIDA 44, SOUTH CAROLINA 11
Total Yardage: South Carolina 191, Florida 183
Rushing Yards: South Carolina 36, Florida 89
Passing Stats: South Carolina 17-40-1-155, Florida 12-17-0-94
Turnovers: South Carolina 4, Florida 0
Third Downs: South Carolina 21%, Florida 44%
Vegas Line: Florida by 3, total of 41
This was one of the most misleading final scores of the whole season. And, it might be at the heart of why the Vegas pointspread has jumped so high. Florida didn’t demolish South Carolina the way the score makes it seem. In fact, Florida’s offense barely did anything other than accepting field position gifts after turnovers. If you look at the two final scores from last week, Florida as a medium favorite seems justified. If you dig deeper into the boxscore stats, suddenly Florida seems unlucky and Georgia potent.
The keys in our view will come down to how well Florida moves the ball on the ground against what’s been a disappointing Georgia defense…and how well Georgia’s offense and special teams protect the ball against Florida tacklers. A Bulldog meltdown similar to what everyone saw at South Carolina would probably lead to a sad ending of Richt’s tenure. A well-played, well-executed performance could lead to an outright Georgia win that scrambles the SEC and BCS pictures. Can Georgia stop the run? Can Georgia avoid turnovers?
JIM HURLEY has been studying those issues closely throughout the week. If he’s confident of answers, then Florida-Georgia may show up as a major release on the Saturday card. You’ll have to check the home page of this website on game day for the final word. Do that Saturday when you come back to read our stat preview of Notre Dame-Oklahoma!
Or, lock yourself in right now to a full season of BIG, JUICY WINNERS by calling 1-800-323-4453. There’s still plenty of great college football action ahead on the road to all the conference titles and the BCS championship. We’re not even halfway through the NFL season yet. The World Series is still finishing up…and the NBA starts Tuesday! What a great time to get on board!
You can test the waters Friday with Hurley’s best from Cincinnati-Louisville and Nevada-Air Force. Saturday’s slate may include Florida/Georgia, Notre Dame/Oklahoma, Ohio State/Penn State, Mississippi State/Alabama or one of several other tasty opportunities. Be sure you check out our College Gift Game of the Month Saturday for only $50 You know the best bets on the Vegas board are available seven days a week courtesy of JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!