Four years after the fact, No. 10 Auburn didn’t need another prayer at Jordan-Hare to beat rival Georgia.
They probably caused a few to be said on the other sideline though, as the Tigers capitalized on numerous mistakes to throttle the top-ranked Bulldogs 40-17 on a lovely Saturday afternoon in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry and shake up the College Football Playoff race in the process.
No. 1 Georgia looked like they were ready to roll in the game after an impressive touchdown-scoring drive on their opening possession, but things spiraled out of control in a hurry not long afterward. Gus Malzahn’s crew dominated the final three quarters to take control of the contest and in the process rolled over the SEC East leader with a balanced offensive effort.
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham had perhaps his best outing in an Auburn uniform, looking sharp through the air (214 yards, three touchdowns) while also protecting the ball and not turning it over. He formed quite the combo in the Tigers’ backfield with stud tailback Kerryon Johnson, who outplayed his highly touted counterparts in UGA uniforms to the tune of 167 rushing yards on a whopping 32 carry day while also adding a 55 yard touchdown reception to boot.
More than anything the combo took advantage of big mistakes by their rivals from across the border to seal the victory in the second half. The Bulldogs muffed a punt early in the third quarter, which Stidham converted into a touchdown run on an easy keeper. Following a big defensive stop and long kick return on the next series, he then found Ryan Davis for a nifty 32 yard scoring pass to put the score out of reach.
The effort was also remarkable for how well Auburn played on defense, recording four sacks and limiting the dynamic duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to under 50 yards rushing on a day where every inch was hard to come by. Chubb did wind up passing Bo Jackson on the SEC career rushing yards list early in the first quarter but that feat was quickly forgotten about as the team suffered their first loss of the season in blowout fashion.
Young freshman quarterback Jake Fromm also struggled with all the pressure in his face, throwing for only 184 yards (with one TD pass) and being forced to throw the ball away constantly as the offense converted only three of 14 third downs.
The outcome in the game should result in an interesting set of rankings on Tuesday from the College Football Playoff committee. The Bulldogs are still ticketed to Atlanta for the SEC championship game but will assuredly slip from the top spot in the polls and could fall behind fellow one-loss teams like Clemson and the winner of the TCU-Oklahoma game later on. Auburn remains in control of their destiny too, as the Iron Bowl against No. 2 Alabama will be for the division title and possibly a playoff spot as well.