If recent history is any indication, No. 8 Georgia (7-1, 4-1 SEC) can start making reservations in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game now. Georgia came out on top of No. 6 Florida (7-2, 4-2 SEC) in Jacksonville on Saturday, 24-17, to take over sole possession of first place in the SEC East. The winner of the Florida-Georgia game has gone on to play for the SEC championship each of the last four seasons, including the last two years by Georgia.
Jake Fromm passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs, with Lawrence Cager being the main target. Cager caught seven passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. It was Cagfer’s touchdown in the fourth quarter that helped keep Georgia ahead for good. Early in the fourth quarter, Cager worked himself into an open spot on the field as the Florida secondary lost track of him, and Cager made them pay for the defensive slip with a 52-yard touchdown to put Georgia up by two scores.
As expected, Georgia tried plugging away on the ground as well. D’Andre Swift carried the football 24 times for 89 yards, with a long run of 30 yards against a solid Florida defense. But Georgia’s defense was the unit really taking charge. Georgia limited Florida to 272 yards of offense and allowed just two out of nine third-down conversions (Florida was also 1-of-2 on fourth down).
The win extends Georgia’s winning streak over Florida to three games, as the Bulldogs and Gators continue to exchange three-game winning streaks. Florida won three consecutive meetings from 2008 through 2010, followed by three consecutive wins by Georgia from 2011 through 2013, with Florida returning the favor from 2014 through 2016. This was also the first game in the series decided by one score since Georgia’s 23-20 victory in 2013.
While the recent trends would suggest Georgia is heading to Atlanta, there is still some work to be done before thinking about a shot at another SEC title. Georgia is home next week to play the next biggest threat within the division, Missouri. A win against Missouri would give Georgia a tough-to-beat path to Atlanta with a one-game lead in the loss column on both the Gators and Tigers and head-to-head tiebreaker against each. The reason that is important is that Georgia also plays arguably the toughest remaining game between all three SEC East contenders. Georgia must play a road game at Auburn in two weeks. A loss at Auburn opens the door once again for Florida (and Missouri), but Georgia would still have to lose to Texas A&M at home for either Florida or Missouri to sneak to the top of the division. Missouri hosts Florida on the same day Georgia is playing at Auburn.
So, in brief, next week’s game against Missouri can pretty much wrap up the SEC East race if Georgia wins.
Florida will look to rebound next week at home against Vanderbilt. The Gators likely will have a difficult path back to a New Years Six at-large with the loss.