JACKSONVILLE (CBSMiami) – The Florida Gators are perfectly situated to make a big run at the national championship in 2012, but they have a huge hurdle on Saturday when they meet the Georgia Bulldogs in a game where the Gators can clinch the SEC Eastern Division.
A year ago, the Gators team was in trouble and struggling through a rough season. Georgia pulled out a 24-20 victory after holding the ball for the last 5 minutes, 32 seconds of the game. But what a difference a year can make in the Gators’ defense.
Florida’s defense is ranked fourth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 12.1 points per game in 2012. The Gators have given up just nine total touchdowns in 2012. Florida’s opponents average just 3.1 yards per attempt and 4.2 yards per play overall this season.
The defense is a reflection of the team’s fiery head coach, Will Muschamp. He constructed championship defenses at Auburn University and at the University of Texas. Since taking over at Florida, he’s brought a new fire to the defense that is clicking on all cylinders.
“This is everything this week,” Florida guard James Wilson said.
The Bulldogs could take command of the SEC East race if they can pull out a victory in Jacksonville. Georgia would likely need to win its remaining conference games against Mississippi and Auburn to wrap up the division and a trip to Atlanta.
“Obviously, we have a couple of more SEC games after this…but to be able to put ourselves in a situation with a chance to play in Atlanta, I think any of us would’ve jumped on this equation in a heartbeat,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “We’re excited for this opportunity.”
But as good as Florida’s defense has played this year, the offense isn’t slacking. The Gators finally settled on a quarterback in Jeff Driskel and he has paid huge dividends for the Gators this season.
Florida is averaging 30 points per game and nearly 5.5 yards per play in total offense this season. The Gators also rank third in the SEC in rushing, averaging 212.7 yards per game.
Driskel, only a sophomore, has thrown for 929 yards, 8 touchdowns and just one interception this season, while completing 67 percent of his passes. He’s also contributing roughly 46 yards per game on the ground.
Georgia’s defense started out SEC play with an impressive performance against Missouri, but has fallen on rough times including a blowout loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks. Georgia’s defense is surrendering 24.1 points per game and will have to come to play if it wants to keep up with UF.
Georgia versus Florida will kick off on Saturday at 3:30 and can be seen exclusively on CBS4.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)