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How Georgia football can maintain its gap over Florida
Dan Mullen has rather famously stated that the difference right now between Georgia and Florida is just seven points. Nevermind that the Bulldogs have beaten a Mullen coached team in each of the past three seasons, or that Georgia continues to recruit at a better level than the Gators.
Still, Mullen is a talker, and talk he shall. But he's not the only one who sees the difference between the two rivals as a few points. Sportsbetting.ag put out a number of early lines for 2020 games and the Georgia-Florida game was among those listed. It had the Bulldogs as just a 2-point favorite over the Gators.
This might seem small given the recent history between Smart and Mullen, but keep in mind that Florida is likely to enter the 2020 season as a top-10 team. The Gators will also bring back Kyle Trask, a more known entity than what Jamie Newman might look like for the Bulldogs.
So how does Georgia maintain this edge over Florida? Whether it be two points or seven, beating Florida every season is one of the more important goals for Smart t Georgia. And there are a few things Georgia can continue to do to maintain, and perhaps even grow that edge.
1. Continue to practice social distancing: We're repeating this bit from Monday. As trying as it is at the moment, it's the only way we're going to get through it. There's a popular joke going around on the internet that if you told southerners that staying inside for seven days would save the college football season, they'd do it. Well, there is always a bit of truth in jokes.
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2. Find a more consistent(ly great offense
Georgia's offensive performance against Florida last season was a departure from what we saw against most capable defenses. Jake Fromm was excellent, turning in his best performance of the season. Lawrence Cager made the most of his one game against Florida count, hauling a huge touchdown. And the offensive line kept Fromm clean the entire game, as the vaunted Florida pass rush finished with no sacks.
If Georgia's offense looked more like it did against Florida, James Coley is probably still the offensive coordinator. Now it will be up to Todd Monken to right some of the wrongs from last season.
Monken will have Newman and his dual-threat ability could open up some more things for the Bulldogs. Georgia hasn't always had a great offense under Smart but imagine if Monken is able to turn things around. Imagine Georgia having a talent and possible schematic edge on the offensive side of the ball.
That would make Florida's task even more daunting.
3. Continue to recruit at a noticeably better clip than Florida
Georgia has signed the No. 3, No. 1, No. 2 and No. 1 recruiting classes in each of the past four cycles. Recruiting is clearly not an issue for Smart and his staff.
The same can't be said for Florida. The Gators saw a number of members from their 2019 class leave before the start of the 2019 season. The 2020 Florida class came at No. 8 and is headlined by 5-star defensive tackle Gervon Dexter.
But that No. 8 class ranks sixth in the SEC. Georgia and LSU, two teams the Gators play every season, finished ahead of Florida. It's still clear thMullen and his assistants have to improve on the recruiting side of this rivalry.
The Gators have gotten off to a strong in the 2021 recruiting cycle, as Florida has the No. 3 ranked class, largely due to the Gators having 14 commitments.
There isn't really anything Smart and company can do about this one. The Bulldogs are still going to be one of the top recruiting teams in the country. It's going to be up to Florida here to close the gap.
4. Continue to have Kirby Smart involved in the defense
Dating back to his final season Mississippi State, Mullen's lowest-scoring performance in two out of the past three seasons have come against Smart and Georgia. In 2017, Mississippi State scored just 3 points. In 2018, Florida scored 17 but it still wasn't the worst offensive game of the year. Last season, the Gators once again scored just 17 points, making it the lone time the Gators were held below 20 points.
In each of those games, Mullen's teams also entered ranked in the top-25 as well. So it's not exactly like he was leading a team like Geoff Collins is at Georgia Tech. Mullen has had some talent. And given Mullen's reputation as an offensive guru, one would think he'd be able to put together a team that scored more than 20 points.
This is the point where we remind you that Smart is still one of the best defensive minds in the sport. Even though he may not be the defensive coordinator, his fingerprints are all over the defensive side of the ball. Even after the change in coordinators from Mel Tucker to Dan Lanning, the defensive unit improved. And it might be poised to do so again in 2020 with all the talent Georgia has returning.
Unless Smart takes a hands-off approach as Mark Richt did at the end of his Georgia tenure, this aspect isn't likely to change either. Smart and Mullen are going to be matching wits for the foreseeable future and Georgia fans have to like that matchup.
5. Hope Florida continues to employ Dan Mullen
For all that we've said about Mullen to this point, he's still proven that he's a pretty good coach. He's won 10 games in back-to-back seasons and finished in the top-10 each time. If you had to describe the trajectory of the Florida program, it would be up.
And yet, Mullen has still shown to this point that he is not on the same level of Smart as a head coach. Not that Smart isn't without his flaws either. But following the Orange Bowl win over Virginia, Mullen remarked how difficult it is to go from an 11-win team to a 12-win team. That is something Smart has already done twice.
Given their past three matchups, it's clear right now Smart has an edge over Mullen. That doesn't mean Mullen will lose every game against Smart, but for the moment, you would have to say Georgia has the superior coach.
If it stays that way, Georgia is going to stay on top of this rivalry.
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