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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.

45,161 fans see Ithaca beat SUNY Cortland to set D3 attendance record at MetLife Stadium

Keenan Slusher
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MetLife Stadium has been home to some awful NFL football this season but this past Saturday fans in the Tri-State region were at least treated to a far more interesting product on the field..

As we noted back in early October, this year’s Battle for the Cortaga Jug was going to be extra special because it was going to take place in the Meadowlands as Ithaca College and SUNY Cortland attempted to set a new Division III record for attendance. According to the Ithaca Journal, the pair did just that with 45,161 fans showed up to the game as the Bombers (that’s Ithaca) won their third straight Jug, 32-20.

“The electricity was unreal,” Cortland senior running back Zach Tripodi told the paper, “… When I scored, I don’t think I’ve ever felt something like that. You really felt the crowd.”

The final tally broke the previous D3 mark of 37,355 (from a 2017 matchup between St. Thomas and St. John’s at Minneapolis’ Target Field) by a considerable margin.

For what it’s worth, the D3 game at MetLife also had a bigger crowd than the ones that watched some of the FBS programs in New York, including the 16,286 down in Durham, N.C. that saw Syracuse thump Duke, the 8,450 that saw Buffalo lose at Kent State or the 25,747 in West Point that saw Army beat Virginia Military Institute.

Good football, it seems, is hard to come by in the Empire State but fans will come out for quality play no matter what level.

Louisville AD dons a bird mask, breaks out Pappy van Winkle to celebrate bowl berth

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For some teams, reaching a bowl game — even those obscure dot com-sponsored ones — is quite meaningful. Such is the case at Louisville as they have embarked on one of the better turnarounds in the country this season under new head coach Scott Satterfield. 

Following up a 2-10 disaster at the hands of Bobby Petrino last year, the new staff has revitalized the program and secured bowl eligibility on Saturday by beating N.C. State 34-20. That’s a cause worth celebrating around the city and Cardinals AD Vince Tyra certainly did not short himself on that front after the sixth victory of 2019 by donning a rather comical mask in the locker room and breaking out some very expensive whiskey to share with the head coach.

Tyra and Satterfield may indeed be the only ones to drink Pappy out of a Gatorade cup but it probably tasted even sweeter than it normally does given the accomplishment it’s celebrating. While some fans may scoff at reaching six wins in a season, the jubilation in Louisville is a good reminder that benchmarks like that have plenty of meaning for programs who sat at home in disarray last year.

 

Auburn receives $10 million gift toward new football building

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Auburn may have lost the battle with Georgia in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry on Saturday but the Tigers at least made some progress on the facilities war.

According to the school, Walt and Ginger Woltosz made the largest gift to the athletic department in program history over the weekend thanks to a $10 million pledge that will help kickstart construction on a new football facility.

“We always tell our players to use their influence in a positive way,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said in a statement. “Walt and Ginger are a great example of that. Their gift will help us compete for championships and serve our student-athletes for generations. They represent everything that Auburn stands for. Hard work, concern for others and generosity.”

AU said that $31.5 million has already been raised for the new building in total, which has gone through a number of board approvals already and just needs to finalize a design and budget before shovels can hit the ground.

The primary motivation behind such a project is pretty clear as regional and conference rivals from Clemson to Alabama to the aforementioned Bulldogs have all added flashy new facilities in recent years while the Tigers’ current digs were built over three decades ago.

AP Poll: Georgia moves past Alabama; Texas A&M, Virginia Tech join top 25

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Voters are still struggling with what to do with Alabama after Tua Tagovailoa’s season-ending hip injury but it’s pretty clear that the immediate effect for the Tide is to drop behind their SEC rival Georgia in the polls.

After doing so in the Coaches Poll earlier Sunday, the new No. 4 Bulldogs flipped places with the No. 5 Crimson Tide, following the example set by the CFP Selection Committee last Tuesday as well.

Elsewhere in the poll, previously undefeated Baylor and Minnesota dropped several spots after taking their first L’s of the year. The Bears were only down one place however to No. 13 while the Gophers were punished a little harsher by moving from No. 7 to No. 11. That latter spot is, it should be noted, two places behind the team it just beat a week ago in No. 9 Penn State.

No. 17 Cincinnati remained the top Group of Five team in the poll but there was some movement at the bottom of the rankings following a number of losses in the 20-25 range. No. 23 Appalachian State returns to the rankings after thumping Georgia State while No. 24 Texas A&M and No. 25 Virginia Tech also earned an appearance.

The full AP Top 25 entering Week 13:

  1. LSU (54 first-place votes)
  2. Ohio State (5)
  3. Clemson (3)
  4. Georgia
  5. Alabama
  6. Oregon
  7. Utah
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Penn State
  10. Florida
  11. Minnesota
  12. Michigan
  13. Baylor
  14. Wisconsin
  15. Notre Dame
  16. Auburn
  17. Cincinnati
  18. Memphis
  19. Iowa
  20. Boise State
  21. SMU
  22. Oklahoma State
  23. Appalachian State
  24. Texas A&M
  25. Virginia Tech