Three and Out: Will Muschamp, Florida stun Georgia in narrative-altering win
Entering the weekend, Will Muschamp had never won in the Georgia-Florida rivalry in his career. He went 0-4 as a player for the Bulldogs and 0-3 as a coach in his first three years at Florida. That streak changed Saturday when the much-maligned coach led Florida to a 38-20 upset of No. 11 Georgia in Jacksonville.
Here are three thoughts from the Gators’ win:
1. Florida’s ground game won this matchup
At the end of the first quarter, Georgia looked like its running attack might dominate the Gators. Bulldogs tailback Nick Chubb reached 100 rushing yards late in the first period. Florida did not seem to have an answer.
It was a different story the rest of the game. Georgia hadn’t given up more than 179 rushing yards to an opponent this season, but Florida reeled off 424 yards on the ground -- its most in a game since 1989 -- and 7.2 yards per carry. That included big days from Matt Jones (192 yards) and Kelvin Taylor (197).
Florida didn’t get anything from quarterback Treon Harris, who completed only 3 of 6 passes. In fact, this was the first win for Florida in which its offense completed fewer than 10 passes since 1977. But the Gators simply didn’t need that phase of the game. Even after Georgia threatened late, Taylor cemented a Florida victory with a 65-yard touchdown run with 2:11 to play.
2. Florida can’t fire Will Muschamp now, can it?
Florida’s coach might’ve been sending out resumes by Monday morning had his team suffered an embarrassing loss to Georgia. That narrative is totally different now.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley released a statement after the program’s 42-13 loss to Missouri on Oct. 18 in which Foley offered support for the coaching staff but did not directly address Muschamp. “At the beginning of the season we said we would evaluate the season as it plays out,” Foley said. “We will continue to do so. Our sole focus right now is supporting our coaching staff and players as they prepare for Georgia.”
Now Muschamp has beaten a top 15 team and SEC rival, one that still had a shot at the College Football Playoff. CBS cameras showed Foley hugging staff members on the sideline near the end of Saturday’s game. Does that mean Muschamp saved his job? With games remaining against Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Eastern Kentucky and Florida State, the Gators need only two wins to reach a bowl game. Only Foley knows if that could be enough to warrant an extended stay in Gainesville for Muschamp.
3. Georgia is no longer the SEC East favorite
The Bulldogs looked like the only team capable of winning the SEC East in recent weeks. But that wasn’t the team that showed up in Jacksonville on Saturday.
Georgia’s loss means Missouri, which the Bulldogs hammered 34-0 on Oct. 11, now sits alone atop the SEC East standings. That’s a Missouri team that also lost to Indiana in Columbia, Mo. This is why the SEC East is often forgotten when discussing the conference race. The SEC West has three teams in the top four in the current College Football Playoff rankings and is by far the best division in college football. Can Georgia salvage its season from here on out? If so, it’ll need to play a lot better than it did against the Gators.