Coming into the 2015 season, the Georgia Bulldogs were the favorites to win the SEC East and to play in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game. The Florida Gators were picked to finish fifth in the SEC East during SEC Media Day in July. On Saturday, it was the Gators that pretty much punched their ticket to Atlanta.
Florida defeated Georgia 27-3 in Jacksonville, Fla., as the Gators took an early 6-0 led in the first quarter and never looked back. The Bulldogs recorded just 223 yards of total offense in third-string quarterback Faton Bauta’s first start.
Here are the major takeaways from the 94th installment of what use to be called “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”
1. Kelvin Taylor loves playing in Jacksonville
Last season in Jacksonville against Georgia, Florida's Taylor rushed for 197 yards and two touchdowns. The junior has only crossed the century mark once since that game, that was until Saturday.
Taylor ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns in a stadium where his father, former NFL running back Fred Taylor played 11 seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars. All week, the younger Taylor vowed to have a big game against the Bulldogs and he delivered in more ways than one.
With Florida quarterback Treon Harris' inconsistent play on Saturday, the Gators may need to rely on Taylor and their running game going forward.
2. Florida will play in the SEC Championship Game
In Jim McElwain’s first press conference after accepting the head coaching job at Florida, he talked about his plans to get the Gators back to contending for SEC championships. Who knew McElwain would have the Gators heading to Atlanta in his first season in Gainesville?
Florida hasn’t officially clinched the SEC East yet, but it is a foregone conclusion. The only way the Gators wouldn’t play in the SEC Championship Game would be if they lost to both Vanderbilt and South Carolina and then Vanderbilt would have to win their last four games of the season.
After playing Florida in Gainesville next week, Vanderbilt will host Kentucky and Texas A&M before going to Knoxville to play Tennessee in the regular-season finale on Nov. 28. While the Commodores are better than they were in 2014, Florida will likely officially clinch next weekend when the two teams play.
3. Mark Richt is back on the hot seat
Richt has done an excellent job at Georgia during his 15 seasons in Athens. He has won two SEC championships and has a 141-51 record since being hired in 2001, but it may be time for the Bulldogs to go in a different direction. Georgia came into the season the clear-cut favorites to win the SEC East, but the team may finish in third place in the division.
Yes, Richt has won over 73 percent of his games at Georgia, but he hasn’t won an SEC title since the 2006 season. Sure, stud running back Nick Chubb got hurt and is out for the season, but the Bulldogs have gotten embarrassed against Alabama and Florida, their two biggest games of the year.
The University of Miami has a current job opening and it would be a homecoming for Richt. He played quarterback for the Hurricanes during the 1980s and he is originally from Boca Raton, about 45 minutes from Coral Gables. If Miami approaches Richt, this could be the perfect time for him to leave Georgia.
If Richt does return to Georgia for the 2016 season, he will be under tremendous pressure from the boosters and fans. Sometimes a person can stay in a place too long and it may be time for both Richt and Georgia to mutually part ways.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.