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Florida vs. Georgia prediction and pick from college football analyst Matt Hayes. Can the Gators topple the No. 1 team in the country?

Florida vs. Georgia Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds

Spread: Georgia -14

Total: 51

Game time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where to Watch: CBS

Florida vs. Georgia odds

Florida vs. Georgia - Out of the Tunnel

Dan Mullen has led Florida to three straight New Year’s Six bowl games and won 29 games in his first three seasons with the Gators.

Yet here he is, fair or not, staring at a seminal moment.

He has made a mess of the quarterback job at Florida, and the Gators have lost twice this season to heavy underdogs because Mullen’s team wasn’t prepared to play (15 penalties vs. Kentucky) or was manhandled by a team in disarray (LSU).

Now here comes bitter rival and No.1-ranked Georgia in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, a game and a moment that will dictate Mullen’s trendline in Gainesville.

Lose here – and lose big, which is clearly a possibility – and any number of possibilities come into play for Mullen’s future.

A year ago in this game, Georgia coach Kirby Smart was the coach who had botched the quarterback decision, opting for former walkon Stetson Bennett over JT Daniels. Bennett got off to a fast start but eventually struggled, got hurt and Georgia lost by two touchdowns.

A week later, JT Daniels, who said he was healthy enough to play in the game, entered the starting lineup and Georgia didn’t lose another game. In face, Georgia hasn’t lost since last year’s Florida game.

But wait, this quarterback drama gets better.

Both Mullen and Smart say both quarterbacks will play for their respective teams. That’s right, Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson for Florida; Bennett and Daniels for Georgia.

Let’s not forget: these are bitter rivals, and the coaches aren’t too fond of each other, either.

When Georgia has the ball

Think about the early days of Nick Saban’s dynasty at Alabama. Offense was a complementary aspect of winning football. Defense controlled everything.

Welcome to Georgia football, circa 2021.

Offense is simple in its soul-sapping consistency: run the ball and throwing off play action. In the three games Bennett has started for Daniels (lat injury), he has thrown 11, 21, and 20 passes. Meanwhile, Georgia has run the ball 132 times.

That ground and pound style begins with an offensive line that controls the line of scrimmage and allows TBs Zamir White (400 yards, 7 TDs), James Cook (296 yards, 2 TDs) and Kendall Milton (243 yards, 1 TD) to wear down opposing defenses with long, tempo-dictating drives.

Georgia forces defenses to commit more players to stop the run, which then forces defenses to play man coverage. It’s then when Bennett is at his best, throwing accurately on intermediate digs and deep balls.

Freshman TE Brock Bowers is a force, with 6 TDS and an average of 16.6 yards per catch. Redshirt freshman WR Ladd McConkey has become a legitimate deep threat (17.4 ypc.), and WR Jermaine Burton (17.2 ypc.) is the most talented option on the team.

Bennett is second in the nation in yards per attempt (12.1 ypa.), an indicator of how Georgia likes to throw deep. The Florida defense, meanwhile, has had poor safety play for the last two seasons -- and the rotation of players through the spots have all struggled to find deep balls and defend.

The last time the Florida defense was on the field, the Gators gave up 321 rushing yards to an LSU offense that isn’t nearly as polished or talented in the run game as Georgia.

When Florida has the ball

For weeks Dan Mullen has talked about Richardson getting a better understanding of the offense and how practice habits become game results.

Now, the problem: it’s clear to anyone who watches Richardson and Jones that Richardson is, by far, the more talented of the two quarterbacks and should be playing – no matter how he practices.

If you’re going up against the best defense in college football – and statistically, one of the best defenses in the last decade – you need every possible advantage. Richardson is a rare athlete and dynamic presence that can stress a defense like few can, and make everyone around him on offense a better player.

Jones, while a dangerous dual threat, isn’t the thrower that Richardson is. He’s late on reads and doesn’t throw with anticipation. The offense, in general, slows to a crawl with Jones in the game.

Florida must throw the ball because Georgia’s only flaw on defense is a banged up and relatively inexperienced secondary. We’re more than halfway through the season, and the Bulldogs have yet to play a team that can consistently complete passes.

Part of that is because of Georgia ferocious front seven, and because the Bulldogs take away the run and make an offense one-dimensional – and then tee off on the quarterback with various blitz packages to take away the passing game.

Richardson, the runner, will force Georgia to account for another run threat who can outrun the defense if he reaches the second level. Florida, which couldn’t run the ball against LSU (or gave up on it too soon), needs more from TBs Nay’Quan Wright, Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis.

Florida vs. Georgia - The Bottom Line

Georgia has been waiting for this game since the Gators scored 38 points in the first half of last year’s game. The problems at quarterback for Georgia last year wasted one of the top five defenses in the nation.

That’s won’t happen this time around. Bennett and Daniels will play smart and protect the ball, and Georgia will get explosion plays against an overmatched Florida front seven before hitting a few deep balls over the top.

Florida vs. Georgia Pick

Prediction: Georgia 38-17

Pick: Georgia -14 @ -108


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