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Florida vs. Georgia: Anthony Richardson, Stetson Bennett IV to start at QB, per reports

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Florida is reportedly making a change at quarterback. Georgia is banking on the idea it doesn’t have to.

NCAA Football: Florida at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

When the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs meet in Jacksonville later this Saturday, both teams will do so without having named a starting quarterback prior to kickoff.

Reports suggest both teams may be doing the somewhat unexpected at the position.

For Florida, that means starting redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson over redshirt junior Emory Jones, first puzzlingly reported as an expectation by Matt Zenitz of On3 Sports and then in more concrete fashion by Florida writer Neil Blackmon, who felt comfortable deploying the active voice:

Richardson has starred behind Jones for much of Florida’s 2021 season, his highlight reel-ready plays against FAU and USF creating a groundswell of fan support for him to start that has not ebbed despite Jones largely improving as the season continued and Richardson both sustaining a hamstring injury that kept him out of two games and producing far more mortal performances in Florida’s games against Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

But Jones struggled against LSU, eventually getting replaced by Richardson in the second half — and Richardson led the Gators to four straight scoring drives with a mixture of passing and running, his first sustained success at the helm of the Florida offense. While Dan Mullen has been coy about his quarterbacks over the last two weeks, that performance — and Jones’s underwhelming one — likely made a swap of roles at QB one of just a few that Florida fans would not revile going forward, and though Mullen has insisted that both QBs will play, giving Richardson the lion’s share of the snaps would seem like Florida’s best course of action if it plans on challenging mighty Georgia.

As for the Bulldogs, it seems that they will continue with backup quarterback Stetson Bennett IV at the helm. With starter J.T. Daniels still recovering from multiple injuries, Bennett has been the Bulldogs’ QB1 for the last three games, and Zenitz reported Friday night that he will start again on Saturday, while noting that Daniels will be available to play.

While Bennett has performed admirably as Georgia’s signal-caller over the last two years, he is a relatively diminutive 5’11”, and lacks the arm strength that made Daniels a blue-chip prospect and that has flashed over his stints at both USC and Georgia. Bennett is more mobile than Daniels, however, and has been exceedingly efficient for Georgia’s offense in 2021, compiling a passer rating of 210.93 against mostly overmatched competition and throwing 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions.

Bennett struggled mightily against Florida in 2020, however, completing just five of 16 passes for 78 yards with one touchdown and one interception before being lifted due to a combination of injury and performance for D’Wan Mathis — who somehow played worse, completing just four of 13 passes.

Florida won that game, 44-28, despite Georgia building a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. The Gators turning the tables on the No. 1 Bulldogs on this Saturday would be an even more shocking result.