There was a time, not too long ago — 6:54 left in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame, to be exact — when you could argue that Georgia should be in the conversation for best college football team in the country. Then head coach Kirby Smart decided to kick a field goal on fourth-and-1 rather than place a boot on the neck of the Fighting Irish, and the Bulldogs’ reputation has only slid from there.
It’s bad enough that Smart sometimes seems over his head as a game manager, whether it was letting Notre Dame back in the game or overthinking his way out of a field goal attempt that could have beaten South Carolina in regulation. But you also have an immensely talented team on both sides of the ball that just doesn’t seem to play with the kind of urgency and intensity that conference mates LSU or Auburn do on a regular basis against more difficult schedules.
It’s all added up to three losses against the spread (and one outright) in four games, a stretch that’s made the eighth-ranked Bulldogs look vulnerable from a College Football Playoff standpoint, and hardly convincing to bettors.
A team with Jake Fromm, D’Andre Swift and Tae Crowder shouldn’t be losing to 2-5 South Carolina or slogging past Kentucky, but here we are. And while that talent level is so high, Georgia remains a 6-point favorite over No. 6 Florida this weekend on the neutral field in Jacksonville, Fla.
Tell the public to keep laying money on those Bulldogs — because in this game, taking Florida against the spread is the one wager to make.
With a backup quarterback, an opportunistic defense, and skill position players who are hardly household names, the Gators have proven a sum greater than their individual parts, a testament to the quick rebuilding job coach Dan Mullen has done in Gainesville.
Florida gave No. 1 LSU arguably its toughest game of the season to date, pushing the Tigers into the fourth quarter in Death Valley, and haven’t lost against the spread in six weeks.
The matchup pits a Florida defense that leads the SEC in sacks and is among the national leaders in interceptions against a Georgia offense that’s struggled in recent weeks even against mid-tier conference competition.
And then there’s the history of this series, and Florida’s penchant for derailing promising Georgia seasons, a factor which will be on the mind of every Bulldogs fan who walks through the gates on Saturday afternoon.
For bettors, though, Florida is the clear value pick — at +175, even taking the Gators outright is worth considering. And given that these are two of the SEC’s top three defenses, allowing opponents a combined average of 26.4 points per game, going under the total of 47 doesn’t seem outlandish. Expect a low-scoring tussle in Jacksonville, with one big play or one turnover making the difference.