Georgia vs. Auburn score: No. 5 Bulldogs hammer No. 24 Tigers to keep playoff hopes alive
Georgia leaned on its vaunted defense to grind out an important win on Saturday night
No. 5 Georgia topped No. 24 Auburn 27-10 in Athens Saturday night, pushing the Bulldogs record to 7-1 in SEC play and 9-1 overall. Quarterback Jake Fromm completed 13-of-20 passes for 193 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Running back D'Andre Swift gained 186 yards and scored once on just 17 carries, while adding 43 receiving yards on four receptions.
While it was a little hairy for the Bulldogs after the Tigers jumped out to a 10-6 lead in the second quarter, the tide quickly shifted for Georgia when Fromm hit Tyler Simmons for a 14-yard touchdown. The Bulldogs defense also allowed just 102 rushing yards to the Tigers, and looked like the same kind of defense that led them to the SEC title one year ago.
Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham completed 24-of-36 passes for 163 yards in a losing effort, but only 56 in the second half. The Tigers fell to 6-4 overall and 3-4 in the SEC. They will host Liberty next week before finishing off the regular season in Tuscaloosa against No. 1 Alabama.
What are the main takeaways from Saturday night in Athens?
1. Georgia is close to contending with Alabama: The Bulldogs have been a work-in-progress during the season, while the Crimson Tide have been complete from the time toe met leather in the season-opener. Georgia's work is almost done. During the last three weeks in big games vs. Florida, Kentucky and Auburn, everything has come together.
Third down woes plagued the Bulldogs early, but they've been money in that department recently -- including 8-of-14 against the Tigers. Swift has returned to 100 percent after two groin surgeries, and not only looks like a No. 1 back on Georgia's depth chart, but like one of the best in the SEC. Rushing defense is just fine, too. The Bulldogs held Auburn to just 102 yards on the ground on the heels of holding Kentucky to just 84 rushing yards last week.
Nobody is on Alabama's level right now; not even Clemson. But Georgia has been building back to championship form ever since the loss to LSU, and the structure is nearly complete. By the time the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide face off in the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the project will likely be complete.
2. A healthy Swift is a game-changer: The Bulldogs rushing attack was serviceable with Elijah Holyfield, Brian Herrien and a hampered Swift early in the season. With Swift at 100 percent, it's a different animal. The 5-foot-9, 215-pound Swift is as complete of a running back as there is in the nation. He packs a mean punch when he decides to run over defenders, has the moves to break ankles in space and is as dangerous a receiver out of the backfield as any back in the nation. Swift was a weapon against Auburn, but he can -- and likely will -- be used as a safety valve for Fromm once Georgia gets into the meat of its schedule in the postseason. He's a big reason why Georgia has gone from a flawed SEC team to one that looks the part of a champion.
3. Same old Auburn ... at least this year: In year's past, you could count on Auburn to do two things: run the ball effectively and play with tempo. Neither of those things are qualities associated with this year's Tigers, and those deficiencies were prominent Saturday night in Athens. Simply put, this is the Auburn we've seen all year and the Auburn we should have expected.
For the eighth time in 10 games, the Tigers failed to break the 150-yard mark on the ground. That only happened four times last year, three times in 2016 and twice in 2015 -- a year in which the running game was virtually all that Auburn had after the Jeremy Johnson hype fizzled. It's a complete reversal for coach Gus Malzahn, who has produced 15 1,000-yard rushers in 13 years as a college head or assistant coach. The Tigers were a top-15 team with national championship aspirations prior to the season, but that quickly became a myth after it was apparent that running the ball is as painful as a root canal for this year's team.
4. It's Fromm's show: The quarterback battle that seemed to bubble up in the middle of the season between Fromm and true freshman Justin Fields is no more -- and it might not ever have been one to begin with. Aside from a couple of mop up snaps as the true first-teamer, Fields has exclusively been used as a changeup wildcat quarterback. That's not his game. He's as ready to start as a true freshman as current Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.
But Fromm is a star. He's the unflappable superstar who nearly led the Bulldogs to a national title in a pinch as a true freshman in 2017. Other than one hiccup in Baton Rouge last month, Fromm has been a model of consistency. The college football world wondered all offseason how coach Kirby Smart would handle a rich man's problem at quarterback, and he has cashed in with his star sophomore who appears ready to take another shot at college football's biggest prize.
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