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No. 6 Georgia secures sweet revenge over No. 2 Auburn in SEC championship game to punch playoff ticket

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Ticket punched, revenge complete.

No. 6 Georgia more than made up for their lone loss on the season by upsetting Deep South rival and second-ranked Auburn on Saturday evening 28-7 in an old school SEC Championship Game to secure the conference title and book their trip to the College Football Playoff at the same time.

The relatively low-scoring affair was quite the contrast to the Tigers’ victory three weeks ago on the Plains when they throttled the Bulldogs 40-17. Though quarterback Jarrett Stidham led the Auburn offense down the field to a quick strike touchdown on the opening drive of the game, that easy ball movement didn’t seem to return for either side as both defenses showed why they are two of the best in the country across the board. That early bit of momentum for Gus Malzahn’s team looked like it was going to lead to another repeat of the first meeting but that proved not to be the case when the Bulldogs seized control of the game and never let go the rest of the way.

A Stidham fumble early in the second quarter might have been one of the biggest game-changers of the day in Atlanta as it led to points on the other end. Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm found tight end Isaac Nauta wide open in the middle of the end zone off a fake toss play and was symbolic of the kind of bounce-back the freshman signal-caller (183 yards passing, two touchdowns) and the rest of the team would have.

Nothing summed that reversal of fortune up more than a pair of key defensive plays down the stretch in the second half. DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle blocked a short field goal right into the waiting arms of Dominick Sanders, while a fumble recovery at the start of the fourth quarter led to a perfect back-shoulder throw by Fromm to Terry Godwin (who also caught a two-point conversion) from seven yards out extended the lead further.

That kind of lead meant it was time for the UGA ground game to get going to salt away the victory. With Sony Michel was banged up with a left knee injury he suffered in the third quarter, Nick Chubb grabbed most of the carries and finished with 77 yards rushing against that tough front seven of coordinator Kevin Steele. Yet it was youngster D'Andre Swift (88 yards) that truly opened things up in the upset by jetting 64 yards for a touchdown.

Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson did start despite banging his shoulder up against Alabama last week, rushing for a team-high 44 yards but coughed up that costly fumble in the second half. Stidham was far from the kind of quarterback he showed in recent upsets of the No. 1 team in the rankings the past month and threw for only 145 yards on just 16 completions. In the end, the team simply appeared to run out of gas after a hot start and never could make a play to get themselves right back into things.

Now comes the intrigue with the College Football Playoff thanks to that kind of performance. Georgia will assuredly find themselves in the top four come Sunday afternoon and are likely ticketed to the Rose Bowl semifinal as either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. Current No. 3 Oklahoma punched their ticket earlier in the day with a victory over No. 11 TCU and the winner of the ACC title game is a lock as well.

With No. 10 USC likely set for a Fiesta Bowl trip, that leaves the Big Ten championship game winner facing off for a spot against No. 5 and one-loss Alabama. The Crimson Tide probably would have preferred an Auburn blowout win in Atlanta but that wasn’t the case as the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry went the way of the Bulldogs in the biggest way possible.

No. 6 Georgia takes slim halftime lead in rematch with No. 2 Auburn in the SEC title game

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With an SEC title and a spot in the College Football Playoff on the line, the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has likely never meant more than it does on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. Not surprisingly, that sense of urgency was reflected in the game as No. 2 Auburn jumped out to an early lead but No. 6 Georgia battled back to take the lead 10-7 going into halftime of a rematch that is much more interesting than the original was three weeks ago.

The Tigers got on the board first by taking the opening drive 75-yards to pay dirt as Jarrett Stidham threw an absolute strike over the middle of the end zone to Nate Craig-Myers. The quarterback wrapped up the half with 73 yards passing but was under duress for just about every throw after the first possession in a stark contrast to what happened on the Plains in the rivals’ first meeting this season.

Running back Kerryon Johnson just start for Auburn despite being banged up in the Iron Bowl against Alabama last week but managed just 13 yards on seven carries.

The Tigers were threatening to extend their lead early in the second quarter but the Georgia defense came up with a huge play to flip momentum completely at Mercedes Benz Stadium. That’s when Davin Bellamy burst off the line to chase down Stidham, who fumbled as part of a strip sack and gave the offense the ball back around midfield. They promptly marched down to tie the game as QB Jake Fromm (119 yards on 9-of-10 passing) faked a toss and then found a  wide open Isaac Nauta in the end zone for the touchdown.

A second defensive stop followed and then it was time for the reliable combo in the Bulldogs backfield to take over as Sony Michel (32 yards) and Nick Chubb (33 yards) went to work on the ground as the team took the lead on a field goal.

Two quarters are left down in Atlanta and the SEC championship game is living up to the grand stage so far. Halftime adjustments will be key to both sides as the College Football Playoff committee looks on in great anticipation at what is essentially a win-and-in scenario to the final four for either Georgia or Auburn.

No. 7 Georgia waxes Tennessee in fatal blow for the Butch Jones era

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There would be no Hail Mary to bail out the Vols this time.

No. 7 Georgia dominated Tennessee from the opening stop and never let up, cruising to a 41-0 victory that could prove to be the final blow of the Butch Jones era in Knoxville.

The Bulldog domination began literally from the first snap, as Quentin Dormady was intercepted by Tyrique McGhee on the very first play from scrimmage. That pick set up a 38-yard Rodrigo Blankenship to put Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) up for good.

The Vols’ next two possessions went three-and-out, and the second led to a 7-play, 54-yard touchdown march capped by a 12-yard scoring strike from Jake Fromm to Javon Wims. Fromm completed Georgia’s next scoring drive — an 87-yard marathon — on a 9-yard scamper on a 3rd-and-goal, staking the Dogs to a 17-0 lead with 7:13 left before halftime.

Another Dormady interception — though this one ricocheted off the leg of his intended receiver into the hands of Georgia safety J.R. Reed, who returned it 34 yards to the Tennessee 26-yard line — set up Fromm’s second rushing touchdown, a zone-read keeper to bury the Vols at 24-0 just before the half.

Sony Michel added a 31-yard rushing score late in the third quarter. Brian Herrian punched in a 1-yard score in the fourth quarter, and David Martin completed the scoring with a 19-yard field goal with 5:24 remaining.

Georgia’s defense utterly owned Tennessee’s offense, limiting Dormady to 5-of-16 passing for 64 yards with two picks and a fumble before he was pulled for Jarrett Guarantano. Six Vols rushers combined to carry 29 times for just 62 yards. The Bulldogs pounded out 285 rushing yards, led by Nick Chubb‘s 109 yards on 16 attempts. The only drama for Kirby Smart‘s team moving forward is who to play at quarterback. Fromm out-played his stats (7-of-15 for 84 yards with a touchdown and a pick, with two rushing scores) and effectively moved the offense up and down the field. But competition is on the way, as opening day starter Jacob Eason returned to action in mop up duty.

Tennessee is still 3-2 (0-2 SEC) this season with a likely bowl appearance waiting, but patience for the Volunteers’ fifth-year coach was at an all-time low before Saturday’s blowout — and Jones himself knew it, as evidenced by his anti-media rant on Monday. Jones has failed to deliver Tennessee its first SEC East championship since 2007, and Saturday’s loss — coupled with the Hail Mary defeat to Florida two weeks ago — all but guaranteed the streak of title-less seasons will stretch to 11. Jones blew golden opportunities to win the division in 2015 and ’16, with Florida and Georgia clearly down but obviously retooling, and the frustration over his failure to cash in was exacerbated by his everything-is-fine-here demeanor — as if he was hired to go 18-8 over the 2-season stretch and nothing more, while conveniently ignoring Tennessee’s 9-7 SEC mark over that span, including an inexcusable 4-4 mark last season despite beating both the Gators and the Bulldogs.

This loss will likely make a comeback effort for Jones impossible, whether or not his official dismissal comes later this weekend or at a to-be-determined date in the fall. Georgia’s players were more talented and executed better than Tennessee’s but, worse than anything for Jones, they simply tried harder than the Vols. CBS cameras captured shot after shot after shot of Georgia players refusing to be tackled, and found none of the the opposite. And when Tennessee did fight as hard as, a 44-yard completion to John Kelly, it still ended in a fumble.

Kicking woes, Kenny Hill miscues doom TCU in Liberty Bowl loss to Georgia

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In a microcosm of its entire season, TCU watched an immensely winnable game slip away thanks to mistakes in the kicking game and bad decisions by quarterback Kenny Hill, as the Frogs watched a 16-7 lead turn into a 31-23 loss to Georgia in the Liberty Bowl.

After Georgia staked a 7-0 lead, TCU took control of the contest when it ripped off 16 consecutive points over a 7-minute stretch, but should have stretched the run to at least 20 points. The Frogs got on the board with a 40-yard Brandon Hatfield field goal, then immediately took the ball back at the Georgia 21 when Tipa Galeai sacked and stripped Jacob Eason. Hill (18-of-27 for 146 yards with two touchdowns plus 17 carries for 72 yards and a score) raced in for a 10-yard touchdown dash one play later, but Hatfield’s ensuing extra point clanked off the right upright and ricocheted wide left.

After forcing two more three-and-outs, TCU added another touchdown when Hill hit John Diarse for a 10-yard score at the 9:15 mark of the second quarter. (Hatfield’s extra point was good this time.) After another Georgia three-and-out, Hill set the Frogs up with a 1st-and-10 at the Georgia 20 with a 45-yard rush, but a sack and an incompletion forced a 41-yard field goal — which Hatfield missed.

Hill compounded his sack by costing the Frogs another scoring opportunity late in the half, losing a fumble at the Georgia 44 with 30 seconds still remaining before the half.

Running back Kyle Hicks (15 carries for a team-leading 88 yards) opened the second half with a fumble of his own, handing Georgia (8-5) the ball at its own 48. The Bulldogs marched 52 yards in 12 plays, aided by another TCU special teams error when holder Brice Ramsey converted a 4th-and-6 with an 11-yard fake field goal rush. Eason hit Javon Wims for a 4-yard strike three plays later, putting Georgia on top 21-16.

TCU (6-7) see-sawed back in front when Hill and Diarse hooked up for their second score of the day, this one a 9-yarder with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter, but Georgia’s offense was fully alive after a first half stretch in which it registered four three-and-outs and a lost fumble. The Bulldogs moved 56 yards in seven plays to set up Rodrigo Blankenship‘s 30-yard field goal to push Georgia back in front at 24-23 with 13:27 remaining.

Just like in the first half, Hill once again positioned the Frogs with a 1st-and-10 at the Georgia 20, but he once again took a sack he shouldn’t have taken on third down and, once again, Hatfield missed his ensuing 47-yard field goal. Georgia took advantage of the miscue, riding Nick Chubb most of the way on a 9-play, 70-yard march to push the lead to 31-23 with 2:48 left to play. Chubb and the Georgia running game came alive in the second half; the Dogs finished with 247 yards on 5.6 per carry after mounting only 49 yards in the first half. Chubb led the way with 17 carries for 142 yards and a score, while Sony Michel added 15 totes for 87 yards and a score. Eason hit 12-of-21 passes for 164 yards with two touchdowns and one fumble.

Needing a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to push the game to overtime — instead of simply a field goal to win without Hatfield’s missed kicks — TCU moved to the Georgia 44 when Hill’s 4th-and-4 pass to Taj Williams was broken up by Georgia’s Deandre Baker.

The win lifts a struggling SEC to 2-4 in bowl play while the Big 12 falls to 3-2. The two conferences have split their two meetings thus far, with the rubber match between Oklahoma and Auburn coming in Monday night’s Sugar Bowl.

TCU leading Georgia halfway through messy Liberty Bowl

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TCU leads Georgia 16-14 midway through the Liberty Bowl after a half in which neither side can be particularly happy about.

TCU ripped off 16 consecutive points over a 7-minute stretch, but missed opportunities to add more. The Frogs got on the board with a 40-yard Brandon Hatfield field goal, then immediately took the ball back at the Georgia 21 when Tipa Galeai sacked and stripped Jacob EasonKenny Hill raced in for a 10-yard touchdown dash one play later, but Hatfield’s ensuing extra point clanked off the right upright and ricocheted wide left.

After forcing two more three-and-outs, TCU added another touchdown when Hill hit John Diarse for a 10-yard score at the 9:15 mark of the second quarter. (Hatfield’s extra point was good this time.) After another Georgia three-and-out, Hill set the Frogs up with a 1st-and-10 at the Georgia 20 with a 45-yard rush, but a sack and an incompletion forced a 41-yard field goal — which Hatfield missed.

Georgia’s offense has been downright painful — except when it’s not. The Bulldogs mounted an 86-yard touchdown drive on their second possession and a 76-yard touchdown march on their second-to-last offensive touch, but squeezed five three-and-outs and a fumble around them. Eason has hit 9-of-16 throws for 155 yards and a touchdown, while Sony Michel has posted 29 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Hill has been his usual self, mixing the fantastic with the horrendous. He’s completed 7-of-11 passes for 62 yards and a touchdown and rushed 11 times for a game-high 55 yards and a score, but lost a fumble near midfield that allowed Georgia a shot at a go-ahead 53-yard field goal on the final play of the half. Kyle Hicks has rushed eight times for 51 yards. The Frogs have out-rushed the Dogs 112-49.

TCU will receive to open the third quarter.