Thanks to a dominating defensive effort, Georgia is back in the SEC championship race, with a chance to play for the national title if several breaks fall in its favor over the next few weeks.
Let’s be honest: the Dawgs’ defense turned in one the best performances in college football over the past five seasons. After all, Auburn’s offense has been virtually unstoppable since Gus Malzahn took over as the program’s head coach. Coming into Saturday night’s action, the Tigers had always scored at least 20 points in every contest, eclipsing the 400-yard barrier in 18 of 22 contests under Malzahn’s watch. Considering that the Bulldogs had allowed 632 yards on the ground in their last two games, everyone expected Auburn’s offense to continue these trends again this weekend.
But, it didn’t happen. Georgia’s defense would own the evening, limiting the vaunted Tiger attack to just seven points and 292 yards.
Both of those totals are lows for Auburn under Malzahn (as the head coach). The previous lows came in a 20-point, 359-yard effort against Kansas State earlier this season.
As awesome as the numbers are, they don’t explain exactly how dominant the Dawgs’ defense truly was. After surrendering a score on the opening drive, the Georgia defense simply would not allow Auburn to sustain a drive. In fact, the Bulldog front seven was so solid that the Tiger offense would not mount a drive of longer than 26 yards until the fourth quarter – when the game was already well out of hand.
Of course, the UGA offense deserves an assist for some of these stellar defensive numbers. Behind the one-two punch of Nick Chubb and Todd Gurley, the Dawgs kept the sticks moving and the clock running. The success in the ground game was so effective that it forced Malzahn to go for it on fourth and eight from the UGA 43 midway through the third quarter, rather than attempt to pin Georgia deep inside its own territory.
So what does this win mean for the Bulldogs?
Simply put: it keeps their hopes of winning both the SEC and national championship alive. Yes, they’ll need some help in order to make it to Atlanta, but it’s worth noting that Missouri still has to play Tennessee and Arkansas – two of the hotter teams in the league – to close the season. A Tiger loss in either of those contests would send the Dawgs to the Georgia Dome with a chance to play their way into the College Football Playoff.