TCU receiver John Diarse, left, scrambles past the Georgia defense for a 10-yard touchdown reception during the second quarter of the Liberty Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal via AP)
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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

FORT WORTH, TX - SEPTEMBER 3:  Kenny Hill #7 of the TCU Horned Frogs drops back to pass against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits during the second half on September 3, 2016 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
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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.

Kirby Smart sends Alabama to SEC title game as Georgia upsets No. 9 Auburn

Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason (10) throws against Auburn in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
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Kirby Smart no longer coaches for Alabama, just as Maurice Smith no longer plays for them. But a former Tide coach and player did a major favor for their former team as Georgia upended No. 9 Auburn 13-7 in Athens. The loss dropped Auburn to 5-2 in SEC play, thereby clinching the SEC West championship for the undefeated Tide.

Of far more importance, of course, for Smart is what this means for his new team. The win sends Georgia (6-4, 4-4 SEC) to a bowl game, extending the program’s streak to 20 consecutive seasons. It’s Smart’s first win over a top-10 team, and the program’s first since beating a similarly-ranked No. 9 Auburn team in 2014. And it provides an image of what this program wants to become under Smart, an image for the new staff to point players, fans and recruits to and say “this is where we’re going, now hop aboard.”

It didn’t look that way through one half, though. Georgia’s offense was stuck in mud and the defense played well but still permitted 109 rushing yards and the game’s only score, a 3-yard Kerryon Johnson rush with 28 seconds left in the first quarter.

But Smart’s defense completely smothered Auburn in the second half.

The half started when, after two incomplete passes, Auburn quarterback Sean White fired an interception directly into Smith’s gut, who returned the ball 34 yards for a game-tying touchdown.

Every other Auburn possession ended after just three plays except the final one. And that one only lasted four because the Tigers ran out of time to punt. When accounting for Smith’s 34-yard return and the seven points it produced, Auburn’s second half produced a net of minus-2 yards and minus-7 points.

That’s not to say the Georgia offense found success against its Auburn counterparts, however. The Bulldogs never found the end zone, but two Rodrigo Blankenship field goals — a 45-yarder at the 13:44 mark of the fourth quarter and a 21-yard chip shot with 2:25 to play — on the heels of 13- and 14-play drives provided enough offense.

And, unlike Auburn, Georgia’s offense avoided the crucial mistake. Freshman Jacob Eason completed 2o-of-31 passes for 208 yards (and narrowly missed catching a reverse pass from Terry Godwin that would’ve provided a clinching touchdown before Blankenship’s final field goal) while Nick Chubb carried 23 times for 101 yards and Sony Michel added 55 yards on 10 attempts.

The Tigers’ offensive numbers finished as ugly as their drive chart. White completed 6-of-20 passes for 27 yards and that pick six, while six Auburn rushers managed only 14 rushing yards in the second half.

With a closing kick of Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia Tech before the bowl game, Georgia can now reasonably point toward a possible 5-game winning streak to send Smart’s first season out with a bang.

Auburn, meanwhile, must regroup after this dud and use next week’s working vacation against Alabama A&M to prepare for Alabama without a possible SEC championship on the line.

No. 9 Auburn leading Georgia in low-scoring affair

STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 8:  Running back Kerryon Johnson #21 of the Auburn Tigers carries the ball against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Oct. 8, 2016 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
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Auburn-Georgia fashions itself as an old fashioned rivalry, and that old fashioned rivalry has an old fashioned halftime score. The 9th-ranked Tigers claim a 7-0 edge over the Bulldogs at the break in Athens.

Playing without starting running back Kamryn Pettway (leg), Auburn has taken an offense-by-committee approach, letting six different players carry the ball, four Tigers take shotgun snaps from center and two of them throw passes. Most of the offense, though, has come from the legs of backup running back Kerryon Johnson, who’s carried 15 times for 74 yards to this point. Sean White has thrown only seven times, completing four for just 19 yards.

Johnson also has the only score of the day, a 3-yard plunge with 28 seconds left in the first quarter.

As a team, Auburn has run 23 times for 109 yards.

As indicative of the goose egg on the scoreboard, Georgia’s offense has struggled to get much going thus far. Nick Chubb has rushed nine times for 39 yards and Sony Michel has added 38 yards on four attempts. Jacob Eason has completed 8-of-16 passes for 102 yards. A number of deep shots have come up on the wrong end of coin-flip pass interference calls, and the Dawgs’ best scoring chance ended in a halfback pass that Terry Godwin tossed to a wide open Auburn defensive back in Tray Matthews.

Auburn will receive to open the second half.

No. 14 Florida shuts down Georgia to keep control of SEC East

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 29: Chris Thompson #85 of the Florida Gators carries as Roquan Smith #3 and Reggie Davis #81 of the Georgia Bulldogs defend during the first quarter of the game at EverBank Field on October 29, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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The No. 14 Florida Gators (6-1, 4-1 SEC) made sure they would end the day in first place in the hotly contested SEC East with a 24-10 victory over Georgia (4-4, 2-4 SEC). It is Florida’s third straight win (and third straight double-digit victory) against Georgia in the series.

The game was not particularly enjoyable to watch for many, as the defenses took advantage of some sloppy offensive play on both sides. Georgia managed to get just 164 yards of offense and went 4-for-14 on third down. Florida’s offense did not fare that much better, with fewer than 250 yards of offense and a turnover. Luke Del Rio completed 15-of-25 attempts for 131 yards and a touchdown (and an interception on the opening series of the game). Georgia’s freshman Jacob Eason had an even longer afternoon, completing 15-of-33 attempts for 143 yards. Florida really clamped down on Georgia’s running game, limiting Nick Chubb to 20 yards on nine rushing attempts. The Bulldogs rushed for just 21 yards in the game.

Florida held a 14-10 lead at halftime and expanded their lead in the third quarter on an Antonio Callaway touchdown run. From there, Florida could keep Georgia at a distance with a few punts and turnovers on downs the rest of the way.

With the win, Florida remains on top of the SEC East standings with a one-game lead in the loss column on Kentucky and Tennessee. Florida also owns a head-to-head tiebreaker with Kentucky, but not with Tennessee. Florida may have a small buffer, but the Gators also may have the most difficult remaining SEC schedule among the SEC East contenders. Florida plays at Arkansas next week and now had a mid-November game at LSU that was rescheduled from earlier this season (which was originally a home game for the Gators).

Georgia is now eliminated from being able to win the SEC East with four conference losses, so the sights will be on trying to finish strongly to improve whatever bowl opportunities will be available. Georgia can throw a wrinkle in Kentucky’s SEC East hopes next week in Lexington before closing out SEC play at home against Auburn in two weeks. Georgia’s final three games of the season will all be at home, starting with Auburn and finishing with UL-Lafayette and ACC rival Georgia Tech.