If you're going to win the Florida-Georgia (or Georgia-Florida) game, you'll need to run the football.
OK, so it might be a little more complicated than that, but the key to Saturday's game between the 14th-ranked Gators and Georgia will be running the dang ball. History tells us as much, with the past 10 winners in this series claiming the rushing title in each game.
And think about the past two seasons. In runaway victories by the Gators, they registered 676 rushing yards with six touchdowns while averaging 6.3 yards per carry. In Georgia 23-20 win in 2013, the Bulldogs just needed a few more yards to put the Gators away, winning the rushing battle 156-145.
People will want to talk about the two quarterbacks -- one who could be a mega star in this league -- but Saturday's game will come down to who pushes the football the best on the ground, and here's the best part about this: Both teams are middle-of-the-row when it comes to running the ball, yet they have stopped the run pretty well thus far. Basically, neither has much of an advantage over the other.
On the season, Georgia ranks eighth in the SEC in rushing (195.6 YPG), and Florida is ninth (181.8). Against SEC opponents, both teams are averaging 182 yards. Defensively, Georgia is third in the SEC against the run (111.1 ypg) and Florida is fifth (119.2). Now when it comes to SEC play, Georgia is doing much better than Florida. The Bulldogs are giving up fewer than 100 yards per game, but the Gators are surrendering 170 yards.
Georgia has the star power with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel but is getting solid production from freshman Brian Herrien, too. All of them have crossed the 300-yard mark, and Georgia is fourth in the SEC with 51 runs of 10-plus yards. Florida is 13th with 28 of those runs. Florida has taken the four-man approach, with Jordan Scarlett and freshman Lamical Perine both hitting the 300-yard mark. JUCO transfer Mark Thompson and Jordan Cronkrite have combined for 374 yards.
Those are the guys who will be toting the rock, but the guys preventing that rock from being properly toted have been pretty good at stopping explosive runs. In five SEC games, Georgia has allowed just 15 runs of 10-plus-yard runs, while Florida has allowed 20 in four games -- both ranking in the top-five of the SEC.
For Georgia, running the football might be even more important. Florida has nation's No. 2 pass defense (132.8 ypg). Quarterbacks are completing just 37.9 percent of their passes against the Gators, who have picked off 10 passes while allowing just four touchdowns through the air. Quarterback Jacob Eason has had an up-and-down start to his Georgia career and has already thrown four interceptions in SEC play.
If Georgia wants to wear down this defense and have a shot at making some plays through the air with that freshman quarterback, the Dawgs better run it down the Gators' throats.