Florida got exactly the kind of game it wanted, although this time the roles were reversed.
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party—and that still is the proper name, regardless of what anyone tells you to call it—was far from pretty. In fact, the entire tussle was a massive struggle jam-packed with turnovers, minimal offensive production, penalties and chippy play on both sides.
Nine turnovers, 24 penalties (headlined by plenty of taunting and personal fouls), 227 total yards in penalties and 26 total points told the story in this one. If we knew those numbers without seeing the outcome, we could have assumed that Florida won again.
Not so fast, my friend.
As good as the Gators have been this year, questions remained on the offensive side. The running game has been superb, but how would the Gators respond if they got down, and could this formula hold up through the entire regular season?
Their blowout win against South Carolina last week provided one of the strangest box scores we have ever seen.
The score told one story, but the 44-11 blowout win over Steve Spurrier’s crew told another. In that game, the Gators mustered up just 183 yards of offense, but they forced four Gamecocks turnovers. They took advantage of these takeaways and made their own breaks.
This wasn’t luck, but it was perhaps a sign if things didn’t go their way. At halftime, Florida actually had more touchdowns than first downs.
A week later, and things were much different. Still, despite being down the entire time, this felt like a game that Florida was going to win. The Gators did it against Texas A&M, they did it against Tennessee and they did it against LSU.
The Gators picked off Aaron Murray three times in the first half, but the Georgia defense, headlined by linebacker Jarvis Jones and his ridiculous play, finally woke up. On offense, Georgia's do-everything man, Malcolm Mitchell, broke the game open with this 45-yard touchdown.
Will Muschamp’s team had an answer for the three Georgia turnovers. That answer was six turnovers of their own.
Six turnovers—including a late fumble by wideout Jordan Reed as he neared the end zone—did the Gators in. While they were in the game the entire time and even had seven more minutes of possession than UGA, these mistakes were simply too devastating.
In terms of how this shakes up the SEC, and more specifically the SEC East, you can’t overstate how big this game was. If Georgia beats a much-improved Ole Miss team and, well, a not-so-improved Auburn team, it will represent the East in the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs control their own destiny, and although anything can happen, they put themselves in very good shape with the win.
As for the Gators, what a year it’s been. Yes, it’s been ugly at times, but Will Muschamp has exceeded any expectations we had for them heading into the season. While they no longer have the inside track for the SEC championship, they’re still putting together a tremendous campaign.
Many have compared the 2012 Gators to last year’s LSU team and wondered if a similar loss would eventually come. It did, and their deficiencies finally caught up with them. Again, our expectations have changed drastically since the offseason, and this is a different Florida team since its forgettable opener against Bowling Green.
With Missouri, Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State on deck, the Gators will likely head into their finale with Florida State with only one loss. While a trip to the title game won’t be up for grabs, this game could have major national implications.
The Gators have questions to answer and concerns about their quarterback play and ball security, but my, has this list gotten smaller in two months. Their ugly play finally caught up with them, but they are leaps and bounds better than they were a season ago.
And this thing's far from over.