JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s Kyle Trask has one of the most impressive streaks in school history going right now.
The fifth-year senior has at least four touchdown passes in four straight games, a feat no other Gators quarterback has accomplished. Not even Tim Tebow, Rex Grossman or Danny Wuerffel.
Trask is the main reason the eighth-ranked Gators (3-1) like their chances against No. 5 and slightly favored Georgia (4-1) on Saturday in the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”
“I believe he needs to be in the Heisman race, first in the Heisman race,” receiver Trevon Grimes said. “He’s breaking records. He’s doing everything he needs to do. He’s playing phenomenal. … He’s going out there, he’s doing his thing and he’s playing with a confidence I haven’t seen before.
“I’m excited for him and looking forward to seeing what he does next.”
Trask and Florida have been nearly unstoppable this season, scoring on 28 of 41 drives and averaging 42 points a game. Of course, they haven’t faced a defense with as much talent and depth as the Bulldogs have.
Georgia is giving up 16.2 points a game, and that number would be even better without a 41-24 loss at No. 2 Alabama last month.
But the Bulldogs, who have won three straight in the series, will be short-handed in Jacksonville. Safety Richard LeCounte, who is recovering from a harrowing motorcycle accident on Halloween night, and defensive tackle Julian Rochester (knee) are out. Nose tackle Jordan Davis (elbow), safety Lewis Cine (ankle) and linebackers Quay Walker (neck) and Monty Rice (foot) also are banged up and could be limited or unavailable.
“It’s a laundry list,” coach Kirby Smart said.
Added running back Zamir White: “The guys know their role and they know they need to step up this week and do their part.”
Nonetheless, Florida’s high-scoring offense against Georgia’s usually stout defense is the matchup to watch in a rivalry that likely will determine the Southeastern Conference East Division. The winner will have a chokehold on the East, hardly a surprise since the victor has advanced to the league’s showcase event 10 times in the last 14 years.
“It doesn’t clinch it or seal anything, but certainly whoever wins this game certainly is putting themselves in the driver’s seat to get to Atlanta,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “You’re two games up on this team and you’re really two games up on everybody else in the league at that point. So it makes it a big game.”
It’s probably bigger for the Gators, who have lost six of the last nine and need a victory to get back to Atlanta for the first time in four years and put themselves in the mix for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
“This is the biggest game of the season,” Trask said. “It has a lot of implications.”
The Gators will be without starting defensive end Zach Carter in the first half against Georgia. Carter and linebacker Antwuan Powell drew automatic half-game suspensions for being ejected for fighting in last week’s win against Missouri.
While some Georgia fans may be wishing for a more dynamic passing game with quarterback Stetson Bennett, history shows the team with the most success on the ground will win the game. When Georgia outrushed Florida 119-21 last season, it marked the 14th consecutive year the team with the most rushing yards won the rivalry game.
The Gators were without 15 players last week against Missouri, many of them because of COVID-19 test results and contact tracing. The list included three secondary starters: cornerback Marco Wilson and safeties Shawn Davis and Donovan Stiner. Backup cornerback Chester Kimbrough also was unavailable.
All of them could return against Georgia.
Stetson has held the starting job since replacing starter D’Wan Mathis is Georgia’s season-opening win at Arkansas. Meanwhile, Southern California transfer JT Daniels continues to work on the scout team and wait for his opportunity.
Smart said Daniels “hasn’t shown a lot of ailments” coming off a 2019 season-ending knee surgery at USC. Smart said Daniels is out of the knee brace and “has done a good job” in practice — but not good enough to win the starting job.
“There are a lot of really good competitions out there going on," Smart said. “Ultimately, we feel like Stetson gives us the best chance to win right now.”
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25