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Texas A&M Football

SEC Round-Up: Rewards await winner of Florida-Georgia rivalry game

October 31, 2019

The college football playoff doesn’t begin until late December. Not officially, anyway.

In some ways, though, the first steps of the playoff take place in Jacksonville, Fla. on Saturday when arch-rivals Georgia and Florida square off in a de facto Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title game.

No. 6 Florida (7-1, 4-1) and No. 8 Georgia (6-1, 3-1) are the only one-loss teams in the SEC East.  The winner can all put make plans to be in Atlanta on Dec. 7 for the SEC Championship game.

“This is like a playoff game for us,” Georgia running back D’Andre Swift told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. “We’re playing for pretty much everything we want in our season in one game. So, we have to approach it like it’s our last game.”

A victory wouldn’t technically clinch anything. Georgia still has games against Eastern Division rival Missouri, Auburn and Texas A&M.

But a victory would obviously give Georgia a one-game lead over Florida in the standings and a tie-breaker advantage if necessary.

Florida’s road is easier. The Gators have remaining games against struggling Vanderbilt and Missouri, which lately is struggling even more than the Commodores.

Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports
Jake Fromm and Georgia are the only real obstacles left for Florida. 

Missouri (5-3, 2-2), which is idle this week, is mathematically in contention and still has games remaining against Georgia and Florida. But after consecutive losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, Missouri cannot be taken seriously as a threat.

That leaves Georgia as Florida’s only real obstacle to reach Atlanta.

“I’m pretty sure everybody knows they’re one of the top teams in the SEC right now. They’re competing for the same thing we’re competing for,” Florida receiver Josh Hammond told the Gainesville Sun. “Coach (Dan) Mullen says all the time that these are the games you come to the University of Florida for, to play in these Top-10 matchups.”

Either Georgia or Florida has won the SEC East in each of the last four seasons. In 27 seasons since the SEC championship game was introduced either Georgia or Florida has represented the East Division 19 times.
Georgia, the preseason pick to win the East, is a 6.5-point favorite even though the Bulldogs were upset by South Carolina games ago.

Perhaps that’s because Florida is counting on quarterback Kyle Trask, a career backup who took over the offense when Feleipe Franks was lost to a season-ending injury in the third game of the year — a 29-21 victory over Kentucky.

“We can name numerous things, but I think we’re ready. We’re ready to go out and show what we’ve been working on. It’s a great time to do it.”
- Georgia QB Jake Fromm

Trask has actually played well and has thrown at least two touchdown passes in each of the last five games.

However, Florida’s strength is its defense, which allows an average of just 15.8 points per game. Finding success against that defense won’t be easy for Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, who’s having a rather mediocre season thus far. He’s thrown only nine touchdown passes.

“We’ve had a really good two or three weeks of practice since the South Carolina game and a lot of opportunities to kind of look at ourselves and get better at a lot of different things,” Fromm said. “Just being cleaner as an offense, understanding what we’re trying to do, the physicality of what we’re trying to do, executing. We can name numerous things, but I think we’re ready. We’re ready to go out and show what we’ve been working on. It’s a great time to do it.”

Around the SEC …

This week’s games: Texas-San Antonio at Texas A&M; Mississippi State at Arkansas; Ole Miss at Auburn; Georgia vs. Florida at Jacksonville; Vanderbilt at South Carolina; UAB at Tennessee

Who’s hot: Since shifting from receiver to quarterback three games ago Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden has been nothing short of sensational. He’s boosted the Wildcats to a 2-1 record in that span with victories over Arkansas and Missouri. He rushed for 196 yards and 2 touchdowns and passed for 78 yards and another score in the win over Arkansas. He rushed for 204 yard and 2 touchdowns in the upset of Missouri. Even in a 21-0 loss to Georgia, Bowden rushed for 99 yards. He’s rushed for 499 yards and 4 TDs in those games. The Wildcats had suffered three consecutive losses before Bowden was forced into the lineup when Sawyer Smith was lost to injury. They could’ve collapsed, but Bowden has given them hope to qualify for a bowl game. They need two more wins. They play Tennessee on Nov. 2, followed by Vanderbilt, Tennessee-Martin, and Louisville. They have a realistic shot.

Who’s not: Not hot equates to cold, does it not? Therefore, the coldest would have to be LSU 2022 wide receiver commit Decoldest Crawford. OK, for those who insist that this category should be filled by a current SEC entity then look to Arkansas woeful defense. The Razorbacks have allowed 99 points in the last two games.  Well, that’s not exactly true. Alabama returned one of three interceptions by Nick Starkel for a touchdown. Starkel has thrown 10 interceptions this season.

Keep an eye on: The Auburn quarterback situation is interesting — kind of like trains on a collision course is interesting. Freshman Bo Nix is struggling. He’s passed for 176 yards or less in each of the last there games and has thrown four interceptions in that span. Not coincidentally, the Tigers have lost two of those games. He’s really coach Gus Malzahn’s only option now that backup Joey Gatewood announced he’s entering the transfer portal. Auburn’s other quarterbacks are 24-year-old Cord Sandberg and Will Appleton Sandberg is a former minor league baseball player. He’s thrown four passes since his high school senior season in 2012. Appleton, a senior, has never played collegiately.

The pressure is on: Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead is already feeling the pressure of a four-game losing streak. He may not be able to recover if the Bulldogs lose to Arkansas because that would all but eliminate them from bowl consideration. And … well, he’d have lost to Arkansas. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp is feeling the heat, too. Consecutive losses have the Gamecocks needed to win three of their last four to qualify for a bowl game. A loss to Vanderbilt will all but end those hopes.

Best matchup: Florida defensive ends Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard are supposedly healthy. They will boost the SEC’s best pass rush. Florida leads the SEC with 29 sacks. But they will be challenged by Georgia tackles Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson. With those two on the edges, Georgia has allowed just four sacks — the fewest in the nation.

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