There's been so much discussion this week about the Georgia football and its issues - defense, special teams, emotion, etc. - that admittedly we've been a bit delinquent in talking about the very formidable opponent this week. Let's try to fix that a bit now.
Hays Carlyon covers the Florida Gators for the Florida Times-Union, the paper in Jacksonville. They have some great coverage on the World's Largest - er, the Georgia-Florida game, over at this link. You can follow Hays on Twitter at @HaysCarlyon.
It's a very busy week for everyone involved, so thanks to Hays for taking the time to answer my questions, and I'm sure you'll find his answer informative:
1. While Florida may be the favorite over Georgia, is it a fair assumption that the nature of this rivalry - and the fact Georgia won last year - mitigates much chance of an emotional letdown for the Gators?
Never miss a local story.
HC: I think so. Florida's style of play also helps in that area. When your identity is to outhit the other team, you rarely come out flat. I think of all the losses last season, and there were plenty for the Gators, the one to Georgia seems to be the most bitter for the players. They blew a lead and allowed four fourth-down conversions including two for touchdowns.
2. Florida's defense: Entering the year the Gators didn't have anybody on the preseason all-SEC team, but here they are ranked in the top 10 nationally, holding guys like Johnny Manziel and Marcus Lattimore in check, and holding LSU to six points. What happened to make this such a stout defense?
HC: UF actually was eighth in the country last season in total defense, but the Gators are a unit without that dominant star. Will Muschamp gets a lot of that credit. Seems like any defense he runs, going back to his days at Auburn, LSU and Texas, finishes top 10 in total defense. Lattimore was banged up, so UF doesn't get a bunch of credit for that, but holding Manziel in check in the second half of that win was impressive.
3. Georgia's strength on offense is passing the ball, and the weakness is blocking. How does that match up with the Gators' strength and weaknesses on defense?
HC: It's a strength vs. strength aspect of the game. UF doesn't have a great pass rush, but it covers well. Whichever side wins that battle in the trenches will have a huge edge in this game.
4. How different is Florida's offense under Brent Pease, as compared to under Charlie Weis?
HC: The biggest difference is the upgrade at quarterback. John Brantley was a mediocre quarterback at best. Jeff Driskel is big, athletic and has made good decisions passing the ball. Pease has been more creative than Weis, but is also helps that Pease has a much more experienced line to work with than Weis did last season.
5. It seems Jeff Driskel has been very efficient, while not quite spectacular as a passer. The Gators rank a measly 114th nationally in pass offense, but Driskel has managed the game well and is a running threat. Is he similar to Connor Shaw in that regard?
HC: He's actually not bad as a passer, he just isn't asked to throw it much. The Gators are 30th in the country in pass efficiency. Driskel doesn't have Shaw's burst, but at 6-4, 237 pounds he's harder to get down.
6. Final question: In your mind what are the two or three keys for Florida to win this game?
HC: The Gators will try to execute the same plan that worked in wins over Texas A&M, LSU and South Carolina. They'll continue to test Georgia's run defense and hope to wear the Bulldogs down. UF will count on its defense and special teams to keep the game close, so it can once again win the fourth quarter.