The annual Georgia–Florida Classic is upon us again. Pitch the nylon gazebo, break out the red or orange Dixie Cups and fire up your portable George Foreman Grill. It’s cocktail party time, and this year the SEC East is truly at stake.
With a victory over the Bulldogs, Florida (BCS No.2) can basically clinch the SEC East title, and assure themselves of a spot against Alabama…err..I mean, the winner of the SEC West in Atlanta when December rolls around.
On the other hand, Georgia (BCS No.10) can keep themselves in a virtual tie with Florida by beating the Gators, and then would have to win out the remainder of their conference games to be able to stake a second straight claim in the SEC Championship game.
The possibility of a Georgia victory will hinge on one important thing.
Linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Jones is one of those players who can just take over a game, and leave you shaking your head and picking your jaw up off of the floor while you wonder how the heck he just did that. Unfortunately for Georgia, Jones hasn’t been able to really have that kind of impact since week one against Missouri.
Since his stellar performance against the Tigers, Jones has been bothered by a bevy of nagging injuries to his knee, groin and ankle, and has even been held out of a couple of games.
The impact that Jones has on Georgia’s defense was never more evident than last week when Kentucky nearly pulled off a huge upset against the Bulldogs. The once vaunted Junkyard Dawg defense gave up 329 yards of offense (including 206 rushing yards) and 24 points to one of the last place teams in the conference. All Jarvis Jones could do was stand on the sidelines and watch the carnage.
He’s going to have to contribute mightily for Georgia to even have a hope of beating Florida.
The Gators bring in one of the top running attacks and top defensive units in the country, and right now outside of the Crimson Tide, they are probably playing some of the best football in the country as well.
For Georgia to bring this Florida resurgence to a screeching halt, Jarvis Jones is going to have to do what he does best. Get in there and disrupt the quarterback, knock down passes, tackle running backs in the backfield, and just wreak havoc from one sideline to the other.
Without Jones playing at or near his 100% best, the Bulldogs are going to have a difficult time beating the team that just demolished a South Carolina team that made Georgia look silly a few weeks ago.
Georgia’s offense will do what they do best, as long as offensive coordinator Mike Bobo doesn’t revert back to the days of “run up the middle, run up the middle, toss sweep, punt”. Quarterback Aaron Murray needs to get hot early, and get the Florida defenders worried about the vertical passing game so that running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marhsall – a.k.a. Gurshall – can use their explosive speed and eat time off the clock.
But even if the offense does click, Jarvis Jones needs to help force a lot of 3-and-outs and some turnovers against the Florida offense, or Georgia will find themselves in a shootout they can’t win.
Yes, the Cocktail Party is usually one of those “throw out the records” games, but it’s going to take a lot more than just some enthusiasm for playing in a hated rivalry for Georgia to pull off the upset this year.