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Florida Gators 27, Georgia Bulldogs 3: UF Takes Hold of SEC East

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The guys from Gainesville are a win away from punching a ticket to Atlanta.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators beat the Georgia Bulldogs 27-3 in Jacksonville to take a firm hold on the SEC East race.

Mark Richt decided to shake things up at quarterback, starting Faton Bauta rather than Greyson Lambert, who had started every other game this season, or Brice Ramsey, who is now apparently the team's main punter. Aside from an ill-fated fake punt in which Ramsey missed his target, Bauta attempted every Bulldog pass in the game. He'd finish a dismal 15-33 for 154 yards (4.7 YPA) and four interceptions with no touchdowns.

Bauta's counterpart Treon Harris wasn't terribly sharp himself throwing the ball. He missed on nine consecutive pass attempts at one point in the first half, but he ended that streak by lofting a pretty, if slightly underthrown, 66-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Callaway down the left sideline.

Things began on shaky footing for both teams. Brandon Powell fumbled the opening kickoff, although a teammate fell on it. Harris nearly threw a pick, and the drive ended with a missed field goal by Austin Hardin. Four punts ensued, followed by Bauta's first interception. The Gators then went three-and-out for the second consecutive drive before Reggie Davis fumbled a punt just outside his own end zone. UF's Nick Washington fell on it, but Georgia blocked Hardin's PAT attempt. The game was at 6-0 Florida, and it felt like it'd be an ugly one throughout.

It never blossomed into a lovely game, but Callaway's long catch and a pair of short Kelvin Taylor runs following Bauta's second pick gave the Gators a 20-0 halftime lead. UGA got points off of a Florida turnover to cut the lead to 17 early in the third quarter. Early in the fourth, the Bulldogs finally went on a sustained drive and appeared poised to score a touchdown and cut the lead to ten. Instead, Keanu Neal intercepted a Bauta pass in the end zone to kill the drive's potential. From there, Florida was content to run out the clock with the ground game. A 60-yard Jordan Scarlett run lead to the final touchdown of the game, but after that end zone pick, Georgia was just done.

The Bulldogs were caught without a good quarterback this year, which happens to everyone sometimes. It was just unfortunate that Justin Scott-Wesley's retirement due to injury left the team with only one top flight receiver, and Nick Chubb's season-ending injury held the team back further. Then, Sony Michel hurt his wrist early in this one. It wasn't bad enough to sideline him, but it did affect him. Lacking playmakers, UGA's offense couldn't move the ball reliably against Florida's seasoned defense.

It wasn't a classic performance from the Florida offense with Harris completing just eight of 19 passes. Taylor had an impressive game though, with his 121 yards and two touchdowns being more impressive than the nearly 200 he ran for last year. In 2014, he was running behind four future NFL Draft picks on the line, and UGA's run defense forgot to show up. The Bulldog defense was far better this year, with two of Florida's four touchdowns coming on a drive of five yards and a special teams fumble recovery. Taylor was running behind a much less effective line today, and Harris's inaccuracy allowed Georgia to key on the run. He still made guys miss enough to go for nearly five yards a carry and hit pay dirt twice.

Florida hasn't mathematically clinched the East yet. In theory, both Vanderbilt and the Gators can still finish 5-3 with Vandy holding the tiebreaker. For all practical purposes, though, UF is going to represent the East in Atlanta for the first time since 2009. Jim McElwain has done a remarkable job this year and has a case for SEC Coach of the Year.

For Georgia, injuries and inconsistency have sunk another season. The Bulldogs must regroup before closing out conference play with Kentucky and Auburn. No one has any idea who the quarterback will be, and the overall offense appears to be a mess. This isn't what anyone had in mind for this team back in August.