There will always be critics who say a team can do better or doesn’t deserve their ranking. I have been saying since this summer that Auburn was going to be competitive but lose four games this year. After this weekend, they are now up to two. In most statistics, Georgia went into this game having the top-ranked defense in the country but seeing efficiency concerns on the offensive side.
It was something that Coach Smart had paid attention to all season. Georgia has been below average in converting on third down. The good news was that the Bulldogs moved the ball well on first and second down, so that third wasn’t a crutch. But the Auburn game has always been a big game, and there has been so much history. You can go back and look at all of Auburn’s great runs in the last 11 years, and you will find a closely contested game against Georgia in every year the Tigers were on a title run, and they won the ones that mattered most.
Under Coach Smart, the Bulldogs hold a 6-1 record over Auburn, with the lone loss coming in the 2017 season, which was avenged in the SEC Championship game a month later in route to a National Championship appearance. Most of those seven games have been close at times, and the game this past weekend had its moments of being a competitive game. When the second quarter started, you could feel the momentum fall off the teetering fence and land on Georgia’s side.
Even without starting quarterback JT Daniels, the Bulldogs offense was able to gain chunk yards through the air, with Stetson Bennett having yet another sensational game against an SEC West defense. You can’t even argue anymore that Bennett has only put up numbers against bad defenses. Against Arkansas, Bennett threw for 72 yards on 11 attempts, but that’s all he was asked to do. This weekend against Auburn, he racked up 231 yards and two touchdowns, but more importantly, he seemed to be in complete control of the offense from start to finish. He is looking more and more like Hutson Mason, with better wheels.
The defense was in bend but didn’t break mode, allowing a rushing touchdown for the first time this season. The final tally for the game showed just how hard it was to run against this defense, allowing 1.6 yards per carry for a total of 46 yards. I will be the first to admit, and the pass rush seemed a bit sluggish this week. In prior weeks, blitzing with Nakobe Dean or Quay Walker up the middle was an almost gives me; this time around, Auburn’s offensive line help the Bulldogs Linebackers to just 1.5 sacks, but less pressure than was expected.
It was a solid win, and as we advance, I think they are beginning to find their identity on offense. It’s also going to be hard to go back to JT Daniels at this point; with Stetson looking like a winner, I think you have to ride the hot hand, just like Coach Smart did with Jake Fromm when Jacob Eason was injured. Only time will tell who the real QB1 will be for the Dawgs. Let’s chat again after Kentucky, and I look forward to another SEC challenge.