Auburn’s 40-17 over No. 1 Georgia win was pretty simple, when you get down to it.
The conventional wisdom was this: If you could force freshman QB Jake Fromm to beat you, then run-first Georgia wouldn’t be able to get it done. Florida and South Carolina defenders even dared to call out Fromm before their eventual losses to the Dawgs. There’s a problem with that wisdom, though, because nobody could really force that scenario.
Notre Dame lost an ugly game in South Bend, in Fromm’s first start. Missouri couldn’t put the game in Fromm’s hands, even in a game that was pretty close through two quarters. The South Carolina game was pretty ugly throughout, but the Dawgs weren’t truly threatened there either.
Then Auburn did exactly what everyone had been trying to do all year.
Consider Georgia’s efficiency in tough situations. The Dawgs entered the game at a 51 percent conversion rate on third down. When they did get into obvious passing situations (like third-and-long situations), the Dawgs were ruthlessly efficient, per opponent-adjusted metrics.
Our preview of the game said as much.
It takes a good defense to slow the Dawgs. Georgia’s offense is most regarded for its terrifying stable of running backs, but freshman quarterback Jake Fromm’s ability to dig out of holes has been vital. The Dawgs rank 18th in Standard Downs S&P+ but seventh in Passing Downs S&P+; on third down with four or more yards to go, Fromm is 29-for-47 for 499 yards, eight touchdowns, three picks, and a 194.3 passer rating. As a freshman.
But the Tigers neutered Georgia’s third-down efficiency.
I could take this snippet from our live blog of the game completely out of context, but the fact that a good punt was viewed as a positive step for the Dawgs’ offense says a lot.
Yet another stuffed Nick Chubb run and two incompletions were followed by a COFFIN CORNER PUNT by Cameron Nizialek. Not the greatest news for the Dawgs, but could force a short drive and nice field position.
The Dawgs were three-of-14 third downs, with an average distance of eight yards to gain. Nine third down situations were nine-plus yards, and only three were with four yards to gain or fewer.
Fromm was four-of-11 passing on third-down attempts, converting three third downs through the air. A penalty gave the Dawgs the other conversion.
UGA rushed on one third down to no avail (losing one yard), and got sacked on two others.
The Dawgs weren’t explosive, either.
That vaunted rushing attack had one rush of more than 10 yards, and it was late in the fourth quarter, with the outcome of the game very much decided. In the passing game, they had five completions over 15 yards, but two drops that were near-certain touchdowns loomed large.
Georgia’s yards-per-play mark of 3.8 isn’t going to get it done against many teams, and 61 total plays aren’t going to tax many defenses. And this doesn’t even factor in Georgia’s many self-inflicted wounds. Georgia’s seven penalties were often at inopportune times.
Reserve defenders shoving after the play. Starting defenders arguing with each other on the sideline between series. An offense that couldn’t do much after the first series other than get pushed backwards for three minutes then high five the defense on their way back to the sideline. Georgia lost this football game when they inexplicably never got off the bus.
Auburn was happy to let Georgia beat itself, or at least show an inability to rise to the occasion. The Tigers didn’t luck into this win, but they did what they did while the Dawgs stumbled through the afternoon.
Kerryon Johnson paced the Tiger offense with 233 yards of total offense and a touchdown. He ran for 167 yards on a career-high 32 carries. Jarrett Stidham led an efficient attack with 214 yards on 16-23 passing with three touchdowns and a rushing touchdown as well. Auburn gained 488 yards on the day, while the Tigers limited Georgia to 230 total yards, and sacked Jake Fromm time and again.
All is certainly not lost for Georgia, however.
The Dawgs have only one loss, and will still go to the SEC Championship game with a Playoff berth likely still in play. They should handle Kentucky next week, and shouldn’t have many problems with Georgia Tech, due to the speed of the Dawgs’ defense.
But then they stare down the barrel of the worst possible draws from the SEC West. Option one is Alabama, which is frighteningly efficient on defense as usual, allowing opponents to convert third downs at a 29 percent rate, entering Week 11.
The other option is Auburn. We’ve already seen proof that the Tigers are capable of rolling out the beat-Georgia blueprint.