ATHENS, Ga. -- No. 5 Georgia got the win it needed to clinch the SEC East title against Auburn -- and it did so without any resistance whatsoever from a Tigers team that is stumbling toward the finish line.
The Bulldogs (9-1, 7-1 SEC) thoroughly dominated every aspect of Saturday’s game, handing the Tigers (2-8, 0-7) a defeat that might have sealed the fate of embattled head coach Gene Chizik and his staff.
Let’s recap some of the highs and lows of Saturday’s victory:
1. Blistering start
Georgia knew it needed a quick start to keep Auburn from believing it could win, and that’s exactly what it got. The Bulldogs briskly scored touchdowns on their first four possessions and forced the Tigers to punt on every possession in the first half.
2. One-two punch returns
Todd Gurley has not slacked off at all this season, but the Bulldogs had not gotten much out of Keith Marshall since a Sept. 29 win against Tennessee. But the 1-2 rushing punch from “Gurshall” returned against Auburn, with Gurley rushing 11 times for 116 yards and Marshall running eight times for 105.
3. Tying the series
Thanks to wins in six of the last seven games against Auburn -- including Saturday's first shutout win in the series since 1976 -- Georgia has evened the all-time series with its oldest rival. The series now stands at 54 wins for Georgia, 54 for Auburn and eight ties.
1. Family ties
Two former Georgia defensive coordinators, Brian VanGorder and Willie Martinez, and former Bulldogs player/strength assistant Tony Gilbert are members of the Auburn staff. As happy as Georgia’s coaches and players were with the win, they certainly felt some empathy for their former coaches or co-workers who very likely could be out of work when the season comes to an end.
2. Missing Marlon
Playing its first game without senior receiver Marlon Brown, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week against Ole Miss, the Bulldogs did their best to pay tribute to their fallen teammate. Fellow senior Tavarres King wore Brown’s No. 15 and caught three passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. And Chris Conley moved into the slot receiver position and had four grabs for 32 yards and a score.
3. O-line shuffle
Despite dealing with injuries before Saturday’s game, the Auburn win marked the first time this season the Bulldogs had to open a game with a different starting lineup than the one that opened the first eight contests. Right guard Chris Burnette missed the game with a shoulder injury, causing Mark Beard to join the lineup at left tackle, Kenarious Gates to move from left tackle to left guard and Dallas Lee to move from left to right guard. Burnette’s 18-game starting streak came to an end.