Georgia’s 17-9 win over Florida wasn’t pretty, and it might not have happened if not for a wild play in the final few minutes to seal the win. But the Bulldogs did in fact seal the victory Saturday, their second straight over Florida.
In the process, they may have blown open the SEC Championship and BCS title races as well.
College football fans, welcome to pandemonium.
That wild play came late in the game, with Florida driving down 17-9 after a Malcolm Mitchell 45-yard touchdown run on the previous Georgia possession. With under two minutes to go, Gator quarterback Jeff Driskel hit tight end Jordan Reed in the red zone, and right as the tight end was nearing the goal line, jumped, intending to reach for the end zone.
Unfortunately for Florida fans, Reed never made it.
The ball popped out of Reed’s hands just feet from the goal line and into the end zone for a Georgia touchback. The ‘Dawgs recovered and sealed the win. And they completely altered the SEC title race because of it.
With the victory the ‘Dawgs are now in the driver’s seat in the SEC East championship race and would need a semi-surprising late-season loss to either Ole Miss (at home) or Auburn (on the road) for anyone other than themselves to represent the East in Atlanta. Georgia currently sits at 7-1 and 5-1 in league play, with their sole loss coming to South Carolina, a team which has two conference losses and cannot win the division. More importantly though, with the win Saturday, Georgia now holds the SEC East tiebreak against Florida, which is now 7-1 and 6-1 in the SEC. The Gators only have one remaining conference game against Missouri, and now can only sit back and hope Georgia gets tripped up between now and then.
That last fact is the toughest pill to swallow this afternoon if you’re a Gators fan: For all the success this team has had through the first seven games of the season, it essentially means nothing now. Florida probably isn’t going to the SEC Championship Game, and almost certainly can’t compete for a National Championship because of it either. One of the most successful seasons in recent memory for Florida has now been lost.
And at the end of the day, the Gators have no one to blame but themselves.
The simple truth is that the Gators had more than their fair share of opportunities to get an edge, but unlike so many other games this season never could get things going. A team which has made a habit of big second half comebacks against Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU mustered just one Caleb Sturgis third quarter field goal after intermission, and just nine points total. This despite forcing Aaron Murray into three interceptions, and having plenty of other opportunities to put points on the board.
Of course in the same way that Florida’s season was lost on Saturday afternoon, Georgia’s was reborn.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter that Murray had one of the worst games of his college career or that the ‘Dawgs totaled 14 penalties. What does matter though was that the defense had its best afternoon of the season forcing six turnovers of their own, and the ‘Dawgs got the win. It has now opened up the floodgates, and given Georgia a clear path to Atlanta.
If Georgia wins out, they will be our SEC East Champion.
And we all know that once you get to Atlanta, anything can happen.
The calendar may say October 27, 2012, but the college football season is only beginning.
For all his opinion, analysis and articles on college football, follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.