|Marck Richt's Georgia team is suddenly in position to win the SEC East. (US Presswire)|
GEORGIA WON. No one not clad in red and black would call it a thing of beauty, but for the Bulldogs and their supporters, it was a masterpiece, the first back-to-back victories over the hated Gators since 1988 and 1989. Todd Gurley ran for 118 yards and a touchdown, and receiver Malcolm Mitchell broke free for a critical 45-yard touchdown reception midway through the fourth quarter. But linebacker Jarvis Jones returned from injury and was the best player on the field by a wide margin, finishing with an outrageous stat line of 13 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. Jones also made the biggest play of the game, a goal-line strip of Jordan Reed with less than 3 minutes to play.
For all of that, Aaron Murray's awful day (three interceptions) meant that the Bulldogs needed plenty of help from the Gators, and they got it --a whopping six turnovers, four of them from Jeff Driskel alone. The Gators can't say they didn't have their opportunities -- thanks to the Bulldogs' own cavalcade of errors -- but in the end, they were the marginally sloppier team in a game defined by its sloppiness, and it's likely cost them the SEC East title. If Georgia can defeat Ole Miss at home and Auburn on the road, they'll go to Atlanta for a second straight season.
WHY GEORGIA WON. It's pretty simple: in a game in which every point was beyond precious, the Bulldogs got into the end zone twice and held the Gators out of it completely. That's not to say the Bulldogs took advantage of their opportunities --far from it, given that consecutive Florida turnovers inside the Gators' own 30 early in the second half were converted into a grand total of three points. But Mitchell was able to break free for the massive fourth-quarter score -- the sort of big play the Gators never got -- and Gurley let the Bulldogs turn the Gators' first turnover of the game into a quick touchdown and a 7-0 lead they would never reliquish.
As for the Gators, they didn't even need to be good inside the Bulldog 10 to win the game; they just needed to be less than apocalyptically bad. No such luck for Will Muschamp: on one first-half third-and-goal, Driskel couldn't get the ball to a wide-open receiver thanks to a horrible shotgun snap (one that seemed to be intended for a quarterback lined up under center). At the end of the second quarter, Driskel this time had the chance to hit that wide-open receiver from 7 yards; he misfired, then threw an interception on the next play. And of course, there was Reed leaping towards the goal-line with the game on the line, only to let Jones strip him and end the game for all intents and purposes.
In a game that was just about even both on the box score -- total yardage finished 269-258 in Georgia's favor -- and the mistake department, those plays were all the difference Georgia would need.
WHEN GEORGIA WON. With Florida out of timeouts and the game clock under 90 seconds, Georgia faced a 2nd-and-15 and looked likely to have to give the ball back for one final Gator Hail Mary. Nope: Gurley broke loose for a 22-yard gain that left the Bulldogs with nothing left but the victory formation.
WHAT GEORGIA WON. How about the SEC East? There's still work to be done -- next week's visit from Ole Miss suddenly looks like something of a challenge -- but the Bulldogs are now heavy, heavy favorites to go to Atlanta for the second straight year, an outcome that's seemed unthinkable the past few weeks as Mark Richt's team was throttled by South Carolina and pushed for four quarters by Kentucky. The top-10 ranking, the likely second straight 10-win season, even a distant outside chance at re-inserting themselves into the national title conversation ... all of that just the icing on the beating-the-Gators-and-taking-charge-of-the-division-cake.
WHAT FLORIDA LOST. An undefeated season. A top-3 ranking. A second straight to the despised Bulldogs. And, in all likelihood, the SEC East. For all of Muschamp's accomplishments this season, this was the one game he couldn't afford to lose. And his team lost it.