No. 1 Georgia will be trying to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 25 games Saturday when it faces rival Florida in Jacksonville, Florida, in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week. The Bulldogs have won back-to-back meetings and five of the last six over the Gators in this storied rivalry.
The Bulldogs won a sloppy 37-20 affair over Vanderbilt two weeks ago in Nashville in a game that saw tight end Brock Bowers suffer an ankle injury that will keep him out of Saturday’s game. Last week’s bye gave coach Kirby Smart and the offensive staff some extra time to develop a plan without its superstar in the lineup.
The Gators also had last week off. The last time they took the field, quarterback Graham Mertz played the game of his life in a thrilling 41-39 win over South Carolina two weeks ago. The fifth-year junior threw for 423 yards and three touchdowns on the night, including a game-winning 21-yard strike to Ricky Pearsall with 47 seconds left in the game.
What will happen when the two rivals tee it up on the banks of the St. Johns River? Let’s break down the matchup and make picks straight up and against the spread.
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How to watch Georgia vs. Florida live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 28 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: EverBank Stadium — Jacksonville, Florida
TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
Streaming on Paramount+ with Showtime (Try It Free)
Georgia vs. Florida: Need to know
All eyes on Delp: Sophomore Oscar Delp was the No. 51 overall player and top tight end in the Class of 2022, according to 247Sports. He steps into the spotlight as the No. 1 tight end on the depth chart in place of Bowers. He’s a 6-foot-5, 245-pounder who — like Bowers — is cut from the new age of pass-catching tight ends. While he’s only a sophomore, Smart is comfortable with what he has learned during his brief career.
“I think being around Darnell [Washington] and Brock last year was a great learning tool for him, because from a side of being a Y and a physical blocker, he got to see Darnell and be and him, and he got to see Brock do the things he’s done,” Smart said on Monday. “His growth has been good. I don’t know that if he didn’t have those two he would be where he is, because those two demanded that he do things right in order to get on the field. He had to earn the right to play. He has earned that by how he’s practiced and played.”
Is Delp going to be as successful as Bowers? Probably not. That’s too much to ask. However, it’ll be fascinating to see how the offense clicks with Delp in the offense instead of Bowers, who served as the focal point during the first six-plus games.
Can Mertz build off of his success? Mertz was phenomenal against the Gamecocks, which helped shape the identity of a Florida offense that has progressed nicely through the first half of the season. History would tell you the Bulldogs defense is going to make life difficult for Mertz by harassing him on nearly every through. Surprisingly, though, the Bulldog defense ranks No. 87 in FBS in pressure rate at 30.3%.
That will probably have to change if Georgia is going to slow down Mertz. He is completing 79.5% of his passes and averaging 8.6 yards per attempt. He’s tossed 11 touchdowns and only one interception when he isn’t under duress.
This is a very interesting matchup to watch. Georgia’s front seven has long been a strength. However, if it didn’t take a step forward during the bye week, Mertz might be able to make this one interesting.
Third down means everything: While Georgia’s front seven hasn’t lived up to the expectations set forth by the previous two teams, the defense as a whole leads the nation in third-down defense at 23.6%. It has only allowed two conversions on third downs in each of its last three games (Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Auburn).
That doesn’t bode well for Florida. Despite its recent success with Mertz slinging it all over the field, the Gators offense ranks No. 109 in the country in third-down conversions at 33.3%. Even in their thrilling comeback win over Gamecocks last week, they only managed to convert four of their 15 attempts on third down.
“I think ultimately it’s the category of third down that you’re playing in,” Florida coach Billy Napier said on Monday. “I think you want to be good on third down defense, make ’em play third and long. I think they’ve done a good job on the early downs creating those passing downs. Obviously those are much more difficult to convert. That’s the key to the drill. I think it’s trying to keep third down manageable in the game will be part of the game, both sides of the ball, for us and them.”
This will tell the tale of the game. It will take a Herculean effort for Florida to solve this riddle.
Georgia vs. Florida prediction, picks
Odds via SportsLine consensus
Georgia is 1-5 against the spread this season, and that trend will continue this week against a Florida team can draw even with the Bulldogs in the race for the SEC East title if it can spring the upset. The Bulldogs offense will struggle a bit without Brock Bowers in the lineup, and that should allow Mertz to keep his team in the mix into the fourth quarter. In the end, the Bulldogs’ depth and versatility will shine through and they’ll get the win. This feels like a 10-point game and a Florida cover. Pick: Florida +14.5
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 9, and which underdogs will win outright? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned more than $2,000 in profit over the past seven-plus seasons — and find out.