Most believe that one half of the SEC Championship game will be decided on Saturday as No. 6 Florida and No. 8 Georgia duke it out in Jacksonville in a rivalry contest once dubbed “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”.
The winner of the annual contest has gone on to win the SEC East in each of the last four seasons and the odds are that 2019 will be no different. The Gators come in with a record of 7-1 while Georgia is 6-1. Florida is 4-1 in SEC play compared to Georgia’s 3-1 mark.
Florida was idle last week, but quarterback Kyle Trask threw for four touchdowns his last time out. Trask is completing nearly 68 percent of his passes and has 14 touchdown tosses compared to just four interceptions. Among SEC quarterbacks, only Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and LSU’s Joe Burrow have a higher passer rating.
The Gators struggle on the offensive line, but are solid at the skill positions. Lamical Perine is the workhorse among backs and leads the team with 460 yards rushing and four touchdowns, but Dameon Pierce is averaging better than seven yards per carry as a compliment. Tight end Kyle Pitts is the leading receiver and both he and receiver Freddie Swain have four touchdown catches this season.
Florida will try to find points against a Georgia defense that yields fewer yards and points per game than any other SEC team. The Bulldogs rank in the top 10 nationally in both areas. Georgia doesn’t have a ton of big names, but as a defense, has been nothing short of outstanding with two shutouts so far this season.
Linebacker Monty Rice leads the team with 41 total tackles. Fellow linebacker Azeez Ojulari has a team-high 3.5 sacks. J.R. Reed headlines the secondary, but Mark Webb leads the Bulldogs with a pair of forced fumbles.
For the Georgia offense, junior running back D’Andre Swift leads the SEC with 752 yards rushing on nearly seven yards per carry to go with seven rushing touchdown. Junior quarterback Jake Fromm hasn’t put up gaudy numbers, but is completing 71 percent of his passes and has nine touchdown passes to three interceptions. Fromm does a good job spreading the ball around. Junior Andrew Thomas headlines what may be the best offensive line in the country.
That line will be tested by a Florida defense that is very good up front. On the edges, Jabari Zuniga and Louisville transfer Jonathan Greenard have combined for seven sacks. As a team, the Gators lead the SEC and rank eighth nationally with 29 sacks. The Bulldogs have allowed just four sacks this season — the fewest in the country.
Senior linebacker David Reese leads Florida with 63 total stops. The Gators also lead the SEC with 12 interceptions. C.J. Henderson is one of the best cover corners in the country while junior safety Shawn Davis leads Florida with three interceptions and the nation with 111 interception return yards.
Both teams have excellent kickers in Evan McPherson for Florida and Rodrigo Blankenship for Georgia. The two have combined to go 20-for-23 on field goal attempts. Georgia has won the last two meetings between the teams, including a 36-17 victory last year. Saturday’s contest in Jacksonville will begin at 3:30 p.m. EST and air on CBS.
Prediction: Georgia 24, Florida 17
Other Games Across the State
Houston (3-5) at UCF (6-2)
Saturday, Nov. 2 at 12 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
UCF is coming off perhaps its most complete performance of the year in a 56-21 road win at Temple. Houston hung tough with undefeated SMU last week, but hasn’t been the same since D’Eriq King elected to take a redshirt.
Prediction: UCF 48, Houston 20
Old Dominion (1-7) at Florida International (4-4)
Saturday, Nov. 2 at 12 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Florida International had a dismal showing last week at Middle Tennessee State. The good news is that FIU will get an Old Dominion team that may have the worst offense in the entire country.
Prediction: Florida International 31, Old Dominion 6
Miami (4-4) at Florida State (4-4)
Saturday, Nov. 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
This year’s rivalry contest between Florida State and Miami doesn’t have the allure that so many in years past did, but it is a big game for two teams hoping to make a bowl game. The last five contests have been decided by five points or less.
Prediction: Florida State 26, Miami 21
Florida Atlantic (5-3) at Western Kentucky (5-3)
Saturday, Nov. 2 at 4 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Saturday’s contest in Bowling Green may be a “play-out” game as far as the Conference USA East division race is concerned. The winner will become bowl-eligible after a losing season in 2018.
Prediction: Western Kentucky 27, Florida Atlantic 24
Houston Texans (5-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4)
Sunday, Nov. 3 at 9:30 a.m. (NFL Network, London)
Houston won a low-scoring battle when the teams met at NRG Stadium earlier this season. With a win, Jacksonville would move into a first-place tie in the AFC South.
Prediction: Houston 20, Jacksonville 15
New York Jets (1-6) at Miami Dolphins (0-7)
Sunday, Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
A familiar face returns to Miami as head coach Adam Gase and the New York Jets head to Hard Rock Stadium. Miami has won the last three games in the series and three straight over the Jets at home.
Prediction: Jets 20, Miami 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) at Seattle Seahawks (6-2)
Sunday, Nov. 3 at 4:05 p.m. ET (FOX)
After a controversial loss last week, Tampa Bay will look for its third road win of the season on Sunday. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is the NFL’s top-rated passer and has thrown just one interception all season. Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston has thrown seven in the last two weeks alone.
Prediction: Seattle 34, Tampa Bay 24