Florida Gators will need to own the fourth quarter (again) to top Georgia

The Gators' revamped strength program is paying off with a big improvement in the fourth quarter that could be key in knocking off Georgia.
Florida needs to keep Georgia from running away early, because the Gators' fourth-quarter prowess could be enough to earn a win. [ MONICA HERNDON  |  Times ]
Florida needs to keep Georgia from running away early, because the Gators' fourth-quarter prowess could be enough to earn a win. [ MONICA HERNDON | Times ]
Published October 27 2018

I don't know what to expect today in Jacksonville. My gut told me to pick the Florida Gators. But my eyes and logic told me to pick Georgia because the Bulldogs have more talent.

Regardless, I expect the game to be close. And if it comes down to the fourth quarter, that favors UF.

The Gators' revamped strength and conditioning program is paying off. Last year, UF's defense gave up an average of 7.4 points in the fourth quarter (78th nationally), and its offense scored 7.7 (41st nationally).

This year, the defense's figure is down to 4.3 points (14th nationally), and the offense's number is up to 12.3 (fourth). That's a meaningful jump.

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UF has improved in other ways in the fourth quarter. Its run game is averaging 6.55 yards per carry (No. 1 in the SEC and No. 9 in the country). That's more than two yards per attempt better than last year, thanks in part to the emergence of running back Dameon Pierce as a late change-of-pace option.

Opponents have a 52.31 passing efficiency and 35.3 completion percentage against the Gators' defense in the fourth quarter. Those figures are No. 1 and No. 2 in the country, respectively.

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Georgia hasn't been as impressive down the stretch, maybe because many of its games have been blowouts. The Bulldogs' scoring offense (5.7 points in the fourth quarter) ranks 87th, and their scoring defense (7.3 points) is 77th.

Given how much better Georgia has recruited recently, there's a chance the Bulldogs jump out early and hold on Saturday. But if UF can keep it close, the numbers suggest the Gators could pull out a fourth-quarter win.

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