Georgia Bulldogs: SEC Championship spot secure, CFP hopes on the line after loss

by: Wilton Jackson Updated:

Three weeks ago, the Georgia Bulldogs (9-1) were 7-0 and preparing to face the Florida Gators to kick off their tough series of tests going into final stretch of the season. 

Week after week, Georgia continued to shine in the moment and proved it was not only a force in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), with powerhouse Alabama, but also showed the college football world the Bulldogs were best team in the country, defeating Florida and South Carolina in the friendly confines of Samford Stadium.

Winning each week in the SEC is hard, but winning at home and on the road separates the good teams from the great teams.  The Bulldogs had also passed all of their road tests, beating Notre Dame, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

But on the road against Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday, Georgia faced a major wall of adversity, something the Bulldogs had not faced since winning 20-19 against Notre Dame on Sept 9.  Auburn dominated Georgia for four quarters on offense and defense. The Tigers held the Bulldogs to 46 yards rushing on 32 attempts. Quarterback Jake Fromm was under pressure the entire day as the Tigers defensive front created havoc, forcing him to make more passes and a lot of overthrown balls in the game due to the defensive pressure. 

Defensively, the Bulldogs were dominated up front, leading to Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson rushing for 167 yards on 32 carries. Georgia was also exposed in the secondary as Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham threw for 214 yards and three touchdowns.

With hopes of a perfect season now blemished, the Bulldogs still have their spot secured for Dec. 2 in the SEC Championship game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  The Auburn loss, however, makes things interesting for Georgia’s College Football Playoff (CFP) opportunities and whether the Bulldogs could potentially see a rematch with Auburn if the Tigers beat the Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl.

For now, Georgia must get back to business on both offense and defense. The Bulldogs must take care of Kentucky at home this weekend. The Wildcats are coming off of a huge road win against Vanderbilt, 44-21.  While it was Vanderbilt, anything can happen. The last thing the Bulldogs need is a second loss this season to lessen their chances at the CFP.  

Arthur Lynch #88 of the Georgia Bulldogs kneels dejected after losing the 2012 SEC Championship to the Alabama Crimson Tide at Georgia Dome on December 1, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo: Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images

Quarterback Aaron Murray of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates with running back Todd Gurley after Gurley rushed for a fourth quarter touchdown against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the SEC Championship Game.
Photo: Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images

Take an at-a-glance look at the remainder of Georgia’s schedule as the Bulldogs hope to win the remainder of their regular season games and stay in the hunt for a shot at the CFP. 

No. 2 Georgia (9-1, 6-1 in SEC)


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Nov. 11 -- at Auburn (8-2, 6-1) | Tigers defeated the Bulldogs, 40-17. 

Head coach Gus Malzahn of the Auburn Tigers speaks with head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Athens, Georgia.
Photo: Michael Chang, Getty Images
 Nov. 18 -- Kentucky (7-3, 4-3)

Sony Michel #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs breaks for a long run as Josh Forrest #45 of the Kentucky Wildcats pursues in the third quarter of the game on November 7, 2015 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. Georgia won the game 27-3.
Photo: Todd Kirkland, Getty Images

Kentucky is currently tied for second in the SEC East with South Carolina, but it does not matter because the Bulldogs have clinched the SEC East. What matters the most is that the Bulldogs handle business on their home field.  

After the Wildcats fell apart in a loss to Mississippi State 45-7, they bounced back with a solid win against Tennessee, suffered a defeat against Ole Miss and destroyed Vanderbilt Saturday on the road. In what should be a game that Georgia bounces back in from last week's loss, the Bulldogs must be fully prepared for the Wildcats. 

Kentucky would love to spoil the Bulldogs' chance of earning a spot in the CFP. The last time Georgia lost to Kentucky was in 2009 in Athens, 34-27.

Nov. 25 -- Georgia Tech (5-4, 4-3)

J. J. Green #28 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets gets set for a collision with Aaron Davis #35 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Athens, Georgia.
Photo: Scott Cunningham, Getty Images

The “clean, old-fashioned hate" rivalry between Georgia and Georgia Tech always goes down to the wire, no matter the record of either team or how well they are playing in their respective conferences. Knowing that, don’t expect anything different in this year’s matchup. The last four meetings between the two teams have been decided by an average of five points. Think about that stat for a moment.

Now, the Bulldogs have one loss, and pending the outcome in their game against the Wildcats, the Georgia Tech game has a lot at stake. The Bulldogs, again, will be in another situation to where they cannot lose if they hope to stay in the running for the CFP. 

No. 1 Alabama (10-0, 7-0 SEC)

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts during the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Photo: Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images

Alabama has proven how dominant it can be each year in the SEC, but head coach Nick Saban knows how competitive this conference is and how any team can be beat during any given week. Thus, complete focus and consistency will also be keys to success for the Crimson Tide to earn a spot in the 2017 SEC Championship and ultimately a chance to compete for a national championship once again. The Crimson Tide survived a tough SEC West test against Mississippi State, 31-24.

With its final two matchups being at home against Mercer, and a tough road trip to Auburn for the Iron Bowl, the Crimson Tide will get an easy win this weekend before facing a tough Tigers team that brought Georgia to its knees. If the Crimson Tide lose, Saban's team will not play in the conference title. More importantly, though, the CFP committee deciding between a conference division winner and a potential one-loss Alabama team being in the top four will be an interesting scenario to watch unfold. 

While nothing in college football goes as planned, Georgia will take the field from the SEC East in the conference championships, and for 11 weeks, many in the college football world thought the Bulldogs had a clear shot to face the Crimson Tide. Entering Week 12,  Georgia has one loss, and the Iron Bowl is not just a rivalry of Alabama schools this year -- the SEC West crown and the CFP are on the line. 

Follow Channel 2 sports director Zach Klein as he brings you the latest college football coverage from the Georgia-Kentucky game in Week 12.

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