Monday, November 13, 2017

Auburn/Georgia: Beware Karma

Ask any UGA fan before this season what their expectations were, and most would've hoped for an SEC East title and a win in Gainesville (beating Tech is a given). Anything else - like spending two weeks in the middle of the season as the number one team in the country - would be gravy. Yet many Dawg fans are disappointed. Can't blame them. Georgia might've played their worst game of the season. Going into the Auburn game there were still several question marks. After winning their first nine games the Dawgs were due to play a bad game. It wasn't a letdown. In fact, they might've pressed and played too hard. Better now than in the SEC Championship Game. 

Down only 9-7, suddenly the Dawgs forgot how to play football. They'd held Auburn out of the end zone, allowing only three Daniel Carlson field goals. That's when everything went wrong for Georgia. Poor play unseen all season up to this point. Dropped passes. Missed tackles. Hardeman drops the punt, then whiffs trying to fall on it. Only ten players on the field coming out of a time out. A personal foul for being too close to the punt returner. Another personal foul for leaping over a punt blocker (I thought this a bad call – he was between the two blockers when he jumped to block the punt). A third personal foul on a punt – this time by senior running back Sony Michel. Meanwhile an Auburn defender knocked a Georgia receiver down out of bounds – while the ball was in the air – but the obvious pass interference wasn't called. Neither was an obvious facemask call.

As I predicted, Rodrigo missed his first field goal since early September – barely wide right. Later he nailed a 47 yarder down the middle. In the first half the Dawgs had two uncovered receivers running free but failed both times to convert the plays into touchdowns. At halftime the score could have easily been 24-17 Georgia. Then the second half would've been completely different. The Dawgs had yet to get the ball to freshman sensation D'andre Swift. If only half these things go Georgia's way next time, look for the Dawgs to win the rematch.

More missed tackled on Auburn's two second half touchdown passes. Georgia let Kerryon Johnson gain seven or eight yards almost every time he touched the ball. Defensive backs were making tackles instead of linemen and linebackers. The Dawgs failed to contain, allowing Auburn to turn upfield on sweeps time after time.

Fans were quick to call for backup QB Jacob Eason. Later two of the AJC's fifty game photos were of Eason. Still trying to stir up trouble (and page clicks). But quarterback play wasn't the problem.

During the game Nick Chubb did pass Auburn's Bo Jackson for fourth place on the all-time SEC rushing list.

Auburn is the best two loss team in the country. They're looking better than Bama. Auburn beat Georgia on both sides of the ball. Beat the Tide and Georgia again and a spot in the playoff is theirs for the taking. And to think legions of Auburn fans were ready to fire Malzahn after a 2-1 start, the close loss coming against number one Clemson. Not sure why anyone would've been surprised with Auburn's win – almost all the experts picked Georgia to lose, and had been doing so for the past several weeks.

But karma is a fickle lady, and Auburn kept ignoring it all afternoon:

(1) before the game Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said Georgia had "two good running backs" (meaning Chubb and Michel). Good? Two? Interesting that Auburn spent the entire week practicing to shut down the even more dangerous third running back D'andre Swift.

(2) Players dancing in the fourth quarter – to a "song" (Soldier Boy) UGA had danced to after an Auburn loss over ten years (and several Auburn wins) ago.

(3) Up 40-10 with 3:38 to go, Auburn challenges a spot. The spot was confirmed.

(4) With 1:17 to go, all Auburn has to do is run out the clock. What do they do? Pass. I lost a little respect for Auburn in that second half. Not exactly the classiest way to beat the number one team in the country – a team they might very well face again three weeks later, should they beat their arch rival. I'm not so sure Auburn can beat both Bama and UGA again, though teams have been known to get on a roll.

The experts are badmouthing Georgia as if they're the only imperfect team in the country. But every team is being badmouthed, except for a few two loss teams. Bama barely won. Their linebackers are hurting. Oklahoma's defense gave up 55 points to Oklahoma State. Wisconsin hasn't really played anyone. Two loss Ohio State might beat them in the conference championship game. Like UGA, Notre Dame was exposed. Unlike UGA, the Irish don't have a chance to redeem themselves.

Clemson's offense, defense, and special teams lack explosiveness. Doubt they'd look forward to rematches with Auburn or Bama right now. Clemson will have their hands full with a resurgent South Carolina team looking to spoil the Tigers' season. The FSU game was close until a late score put the game away. Miami will be an even tougher opponent. The Canes luster was tarnished by Virginia Tech's loss to Georgia Tech.   

What if Bama, Clemson, and Wisconsin all lose? Several teams will be unhappy with the final four. My top teams: (1) Bama (2) Oklahoma (3) Clemson (4) Miami (5) Wisconsin (6) Auburn (7) Georgia. Two of these teams will knock off three of the others. Almost impossible now for two SEC or ACC schools to both make the playoff.

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