ATLANTA — Shaking off a blowout loss to Auburn just three weeks ago, Jake Fromm threw two touchdown passes and No. 6 Georgia made its bid for a spot in the College Football Playoff with a 28-7 victory over the No. 4 Tigers in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday.
Auburn (10-3) was the hottest team in the country, rolling into Atlanta after wins over Georgia and then-No. 1 Alabama in its last three games. But the Tigers were stymied by two crucial turnovers, a blocked field goal and a Georgia team eager to make up for its embarrassing 40-17 defeat on the Plains.
Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and freshman D’Andre Swift provided a much more effective running game for Georgia than the first meeting, which opened up things for the freshman quarterback. Fromm completed 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown to Isaac Nauta in the second quarter and a 6-yarder to Terry Godwin with just over 13 minutes remaining that essentially sealed Georgia’s victory.
The Bulldogs claimed their first SEC title since 2005 and capped an impressive rise in Kirby Smart’s second season as coach. Georgia went 8-5 a year ago, but Nick Saban’s former defensive coordinator insisted he was establishing a culture that would return the team to national prominence.
It happened in Year 2.
Georgia (12-1), which was No. 6 in the latest CFP standings, will surely move into the top four after its dominating performance against the Tigers. Auburn was ranked second in the CFP poll but managed only 259 yards after piling up 488 in the Nov. 11 rout.
Swift, another impressive Georgia freshman, finished off the Georgia’s rout by breaking loose for a 64-yard touchdown run with 10:34 remaining . The Georgia line opened up a huge hole through the left side, receiver Javon Wims made a key block on the perimeter and Swift dashed to the end zone without being touched, sending the Georgia fans into a raucous celebration that figured to go on well into the night.
Swift rushed for 88 yards, Chubb had 77 and Michel added 45. In the first game, Chubb was held to 27 and Michel 21 — the lowest outputs of the season.
Auburn started out the game like it was headed for another big win.
The Tigers moved 75 yards in 10 plays, capped by Jarrett Stidham’s 6-yard scoring pass to Nate Craig-Myers. Early in the second quarter, Auburn pushed into position to extend its lead, facing second-and-6 at the Georgia 14.
That’s when the game suddenly turned.
Stidham dropped back to throw, couldn’t find anyone open and didn’t sense Davin Bellamy coming up behind him. The Georgia linebacker stripped the ball away and Roquan Smith fell on it for the Bulldogs at the 16.
Georgia drove the other way for the tying score and tacked on the first of two field goals by Rodrigo Blankenship for a 10-7 lead at the half.
Auburn wasted another scoring opportunity in the third quarter when Daniel Carlson’s 31-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle . Then, trailing 13-7, another turnover on the first play of the fourth quarter finished off the Tigers.
Kerryon Johnson, who played despite an ailing shoulder, was stripped of the ball and Smith scooped it up again at the Auburn 39 , retaining the spiked, Road Warrior-style vest that Georgia awards to players who take the ball away from the other team, the Dawgs’ version of the turnover chain.
Fromm quickly guided Georgia to another TD, and the celebration was on for the red and black.
Georgia: The Bulldogs were clearly motivated by that loss at Auburn, turning in a much more physical performance after getting totally dominated in the first meeting. Smart did a masterful job of using that game to fire up his players.
Auburn: The Tigers bounced back from an excruciating defeat at LSU, where they blew a 20-point lead, with an impressive five-game winning streak. But a third straight victory over a Top 10 opponent was too much to ask, and now everyone will turn their attention to coach Gus Malzahn’s future. He’s been mentioned as a possible candidate for Arkansas’ vacancy.
Georgia: Will likely head to either the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl to play in a semifinal game, looking to take another step toward the team’s first national title since 1980.
Auburn: Could wind up returning to Atlanta on New Year’s Day for the Peach Bowl.