Here are three thoughts from the latest installment of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry:
1. News flash: Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb are still a dynamic duo
Georgia didn’t miss a beat on offense while Gurley missed four games for an NCAA-mandated punishment, and much of that was due to Chubb. The freshman back reeled off 671 yards, or 6.6 per carry, during Gurley’s absence. The Dawgs’ showed Saturday why they have the best one-two rushing punch in the SEC now that Gurley’s back.
Chubb and Gurley combined for 282 yards on 48 carries with three scores. After Georgia punted on its first two series, the duo carried the offense to points on six of its next seven possessions. In all Chubb and Gurley accounted for over two-thirds of the Bulldogs' 412 yards of offense.
Thanks to Gurley’s suspension, we didn’t get to see this duo together for an entire season. But now they’re clicking when it really matters for Georgia.
Gurley left the win in the fourth quarter with an apparent left knee injury. His status looking ahead is unclear, putting half of the Bulldogs’ running duo back into jeopardy.
2. Georgia’s defense flummoxed Gus Malzahn
Georgia looked like it might be in for a long night after Auburn’s first drive. The Tigers took their opening drive 70 yards in 10 plays for a Cameron Artis-Payne touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
As it turned out, that was the end of Auburn’s highlight reel.
The Tigers’ remaining drive chart spelled an offensive coordinator’s worst nightmare. Four series ended in punts and two ended on failed fourth-down conversions. Another never began due to a lost fumble on a first-quarter kickoff return. When Auburn finally showed signs of life early in the fourth quarter, Georgia’s Amarlo Herrera picked off quarterback Nick Marshall in the end zone on fourth down.
Malzahn’s offense, which came into the game third in the SEC in scoring (38.7 points per game), managed just 292 yards of offense, or 4.7 yards per play. Even last week, when the Tigers lost to Texas A&M, they put 38 points on the board in a 41-38 loss. But Malzahn and his staff had no answers for the Bulldogs’ defense on Saturday. The result was the Tigers’ lowest point total under Malzahn, well short of their previous low of 20 points in a win at Kansas State on Sept. 28.
3. Georgia’s still in the hunt for an SEC title
If Georgia wins out and Missouri drops a game, the Bulldogs will represent the East in the SEC title game. This is the same Georgia team that got hammered by a sorry Florida earlier this month. That the Dawgs can still win the division says more about the SEC East than them, but they will likely take the title if it comes to them, regardless of their reputation.
That said, are we premature in assuming the SEC West champion will win the entire league? Georgia is clicking on all cylinders on both sides of the ball. Gurley looked great and will be a tremendous asset as long as he’s healthy. Perhaps Mark Richt’s team still has some surprise left in it, if it can reach Atlanta.