Maybe you thought Auburn would defend its home field successfully against No. 1 Georgia. You would not have been crazy to think that given what the Tigers have proven to be capable of this season when they play their best. But you would have been laughed at if you thought this would be the day Georgia would be overpowered, outcoached, outplayed and embarrassed in this fashion. Auburn’s 40-17 victory over the top-ranked Bulldogs will go down as one of the more embarrassing losses for a top-ranked team in recent memory, and it should lead to quite an interesting turn of events in the College Football Playoff picture.
But let’s start with what went down in this game, other than Georgia’s ranking.
things actually got off to a good start for Georgia. The Bulldogs marched right down the field on the game’s opening possession, with Nick Chubb ending a 70-yard drive with a touchdown run on the goal line. Up 7-0 after the opening possession, Georgia was just taking care of business the way you expect a No. 1 team to do. Little did anyone know at the time, Auburn’s defense was about to take over in a decisive fashion. As the offense started chipping away with long drives resulting in mere field goals, the Auburn defense was forcing Georgia to punt time and time again after short drives. While doing that, Auburn’s offense was figuring things out.
After taking the lead on a third field goal by Daniel Carlson early in the second quarter, Auburn finally hit the big play later in the second quarter with a 42-yard touchdown pass from Jarrett Stidham to Darius Slayton. With 4:09 left until halftime, Auburn took a 16-7 lead. The rout was officially on.
Auburn came out of halftime and scored two touchdowns by the midway point in the third quarter to build a 30-7 lead, and Georgia could do nothing but settle for a field goal just minutes later. Auburn continued to tack on points by finding the cracks in the Georgia defense all over the field. Soon enough, Auburn had a 40-10 lead and it would not be long before the book was closed on a 40-17 victory that was every bit as lopsided as the score indicated.
In the grand scheme of things, the overall picture for the SEC championship has not been changed too much. Georgia was still going to represent the East Division in Atlanta. But now the Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama will be the de facto SEC West Division championship game, with the winner advancing to Atlanta. Sound familiar? We’ve been down this road before, and Auburn will get that game at home. For Georgia, a chance to win the SEC and be 12-1 is still likely to be worthy of playoff consideration. But what now must be asked is whether or not Auburn can become the first two-loss conference champion to reach the College Football Playoff.
It has not happened yet but is bound to become a possibility at some point in time. If Auburn were to win the SEC, that means they would have defeated No. 1 Georgia, potentially No. 1 Alabama, and then Georgia once again to win the SEC. Entering the week ranked 10th in the playoff committee’s weekly rankings, it would stand to figure that would do wonders to Auburn’s resume even with two blemishes in the loss column.
The more important development is what this means for the idea of two SEC teams reaching the playoff are. The quick reaction is to think that the possibility is eliminated, but if it is a 12-1 Georgia at the end of the season with a victory over a previously undefeated Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, it is still a scenario to keep in mind. But the pressure is now on a number of one-loss conference contenders (and Notre Dame) to keep the foot on the gas pedal and hope the committee values conference championships under those circumstances. We’ll have to wait to see what the selection committee does. Georgia will obviously be falling, but a 23-point loss could see them hit fairly hard on a day some one-loss and undefeated teams are picking up key wins.
This going to be quite the finish to the regular season, and Auburn is very much in the thick of it.
Auburn will host Louisiana-Monroe next week before hosting Alabama in the Iron Bowl in two weeks. Georgia will look to regroup at home against Kentucky next week in their SEC finale before wrapping up the season at Georgia Tech.