The No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs clinched a spot in the 2019 SEC Championship Game with a 21-14 victory over the No. 12 Auburn Tigers on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
In addition to their third straight appearance in the conference title game, the Bulldogs added another signature win to boost their College Football Playoff profile. Head coach Kirby Smart's team holds three wins over teams ranked in the Top 16 after having also beaten No. 11 Florida and No. 16 Notre Dame.
Georgia (9-1) is the first SEC East team to play for a conference title in three consecutive seasons since the Florida Gators did it from 1992-96. Auburn (7-3) took its third loss, though they have all come against teams in the Top 11 (No. 1 LSU and Florida).
Notable Game Stats
- Jake Fromm, QB (Georgia): 13-of-28, 110 yards, 3 TDs
- D'Andre Swift, RB (Georgia): 17 carries, 106 yards
- Dominick Blaylock, WR (Georgia): 2 receptions, 50 yards, TD
- Bo Nix, QB (Auburn): 30-of-50, 245 yards, 1 TD; 13 carries, 42 yards, 1 TD
- JaTarvious Whitlow, RB (Auburn): 11 carries, 23 yards
- Seth Williams, WR (Auburn): 13 receptions, 121 yards
Dominant Defense Carries Bulldogs
If the Bulldogs are going to stay in the Top Four of the CFP rankings, Saturday's game was a microcosm of how they will do it.
Defense has been the clear strength of Smart's team. It entered this week ranked second in the nation with 10.1 points allowed per game and fifth in yards allowed per game (260.3).
It's not a coincidence that in the one game in which an opponent scored at least 20 points, Georgia lost to South Carolina in double overtime.
The combination of speed and power the team possesses on that side of the ball has caused problems for every squad it has played:
That group's ability to dominate also allows the offense time to settle in.
If there's an Achilles' heel for the Bulldogs, it's a lack of consistency in the passing game. Jake Fromm tied his season high in touchdown passes, but he completed less than 55 percent of his passes for the third time in the past five games.
When Fromm is firing on all cylinders, he can do great things with accuracy and touch on his passes:
Those moments have been more spread out this season than the Bulldogs would like, forcing the defense to be perfect each week. It's held up its end of the bargain, though, which is why Georgia overwhelmed Auburn and remained in the thick of the playoff race.
Rough First Half Dooms Auburn
The difference between winning and losing for Auburn came down to a sluggish first half in which the offense was unable to sustain anything with just nine first downs and 3.3 yards per play.
Neither offense seemed likely to shine in this game, but the Tigers had great difficulties getting anything going and a 21-0 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter seemed insurmountable.
They finally turned things around on back-to-back drives, the first of which started late in the third. Bo Nix capped a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to Eli Stove:
On that drive, Nix accounted for 65 yards (56 passing) and was aided by a pass interference call against Eric Stokes on 4th-and-5 from the Bulldogs' 9-yard line.
The Auburn freshman took it in himself from two yards out on the next drive to help make it a 21-14 game and end Georgia's stunning streak:
The Tigers defense responded by forcing a three-and-out, and Auburn had an opportunity to tie the game with a third straight touchdown drive. Nix showed off many of the traits that make him a star, but his inexperience also got the best of him on the biggest play of the game.
He was excellent in moving out of the pocket to buy time on an eight-yard completion to Anthony Schwartz:
Later in the drive on 4th-and-2, though, Nix's inaccuracy showed up at the worst possible time on this attempt to Harold Joiner:
The Tigers got the ball back after another three-and-out, but they were at their own 27 with 1:59 remaining.
The stout Georgia defense buckled down, forcing three straight incompletions before Travon Walker sacked Nix to seal the marquee win.
Georgia will return home to host Texas A&M at Sanford Stadium at 3:30 p.m. ET next Saturday. Auburn has its annual FCS tune-up game against Samford at 12 p.m. ET.