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ESPN analysts debated how the Georgia Bulldogs would fare in a rematch with the Auburn Tigers if the two met in the SEC Championship Game.

ESPN analysts debate how Georgia would fare in a rematch with Auburn

Cy Brown

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How would Georgia fare in a rematch with Auburn?

It was a fun couple of weeks, but Georgia’s reign atop the College Football Playoff rankings is over, dropping from No. 1 to No. 7 following the loss to Auburn on Saturday. Of course, the goal is not to hold the top spot during the season, it’s to hold it at the end of the season. But since the inception of the CFP rankings, only one team that has dropped out of the top four in the regular season has made it into the CFP (Washington in 2016).

On the College Football Playoff: Top 25 show on ESPN, commentators Kirk Herbstreit, Booger McFarland and Joey Galloway conceded Georgia still has a chance to make it into the top four after championship weekend. If the Bulldogs win out in the regular season and beat Auburn or Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, they’re probably going to the playoff.

But the commentators were bearish on the Dawgs’ ability to do that after seeing how they played against Auburn. And seein,g as how they’ll have to face either an Auburn team that already beat them by three touchdowns or an Alabama team that is, well, Alabama. Galloway went as far as to say Alabama looks like a better opponent for Georgia.

“There was nothing, and I mean nothing, about Georgia last weekend against Auburn that would lead anybody to believe that they can somehow beat that team,” Galloway said. “If I’m Georgia, I want to see Alabama.”

Herbstreit noted Georgia’s over-reliance on the run as a factor that could hamstring the Dawgs as they fight to make the CFP considering both Auburn and Alabama have staunch run defenses. Auburn shut down Georgia’s typically outstanding run game, limiting it to 46 yards. Despite clear signs that Auburn’s defense could dominate against the run early in the contest, Kirby Smart and Jim Chaney kept pounding the ball, never really giving freshman quarterback Jake Fromm an opportunity to try to win the game through the air.

“With Georgia, it’s the thing we talked about really all year. Until they face somebody that can defend the run and make them throw the ball, they’re going to be able to control and throw on their terms,” Herbstreit said. “Last week was the first time they faced a defensive line and a front that took that away. Bama has that same ability. They’ve got to get more balanced.”

While Davis and Galloway both said they don’t think anything would be different if Georgia and Auburn played again, Herbstreit noted the X-factor if the Bulldogs and the Tigers meet at a neutral site in the SEC title game: the crowd.

“I would just tell you that where they play will be different,” Herbstreit said. “Auburn was on fire. Anybody that went into that environment that day would have struggled against Auburn.”

Execute, execute, execute

We all know that Auburn dominated Georgia on the line of scrimmage, but we might not know how it dominated the line of scrimmage. Ian Boyd of SB Nation has a great breakdown of just that, and the answer is simpler than you might think: Execution.

To generate offense against Auburn requires dropping back and making the linebackers worry about covering routes in the middle or attacking the cornerbacks down the sidelines, when they’re isolated by coverages that involve the safeties in the run game. The Tigers tend to play things pretty basic and rely on strength and athleticism, and while they occasionally present an enticing target for a run, it’s hard to beat their big DL or speedy secondary.

The Tigers play fast in basic schemes and always know what they’re about. You’re either going to outexecute them up front and hope their safeties don’t clean things up, or you outexecute them down the field in the passing game. If the latter never happens, Auburn might not be done shocking the world.

Why Georgia doesn’t run many screens

I’ve heard from a lot of Georgia fans who are miffed about Georgia’s lack of screen passes. The issue came to a head when Smart and Chaney ran few against Auburn despite nothing else working on offense. Smart was asked about it in his press conference Tuesday, and he said screens were difficult with defenses so focused on Georgia’s talented tailbacks. From Seth Emerson of DawgNation:

“We don’t see traditional coverages,” Smart said. “People don’t play us the way we play people. The way people play us a lot of times is to take the run away. A lot of times it’s like that. It’s not as simple as calling a screen play. There’s more to it than that. We’re trying to find ways to get the backs the ball because we’ve got a lot of backs. But they cover our backs out of the backfield last week, and they cover our backs out of the slot. So you’re always trying to find a way to get them the ball. There’s no easy way against really good defenses.”

Georgia hoops avoids upset to USC-Upstate

Georgia managed to get its second win of the season with a 74-65 victory over USC Upstate on Tuesday night, but the Bulldogs almost suffered an upset that could have been calamitous if they’re on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament next spring.

The Dawgs opened the game on an 11-0 run, but the Spartans were able to claw back and close the gap to 34-30 by halftime. Georgia trailed by five with a little less than six minutes remaining, but 7 points in three minutes from freshman Rayshaun Hammonds put Georgia back ahead. Hammonds finished the game with 13 points. Yante Maten scored 9 of his 22 points in the final three minutes to put the game on ice.

“We were so impatient,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said, according to Tori McElhaney of DawgNation. “We had a few guys who were just trying to shoot the ball so that they could get more playing time. That’s not how you get more playing time. You don’t score your way onto the court. You have to make the right play.”

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