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Bob Andres/AJC
The Auburn crowd stayed rowdy throughout the Tigers' 40-17 win over Georgia.

Georgia failed its first, and last, major road test of the season

Cy Brown

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On the road

It’s an intangible that can’t be measured, but it was clear the rowdy Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd played a part in Auburn’s 40-17 victory over Georgia last weekend. Eighty-something-thousand raucous Tigers fans yelled themselves hoarse when Georgia had the ball. I don’t think the fans rattled Jake Fromm as much as Jeff Holland and the rest of the Auburn defensive line did, but the crowd definitely made it difficult for Georgia to get calls in and make adjustments at the line. It also energized Auburn, which was as fired up as I’ve seen any team in college football this season from minute one.

Georgia’s difficulty dealing with the Auburn crowd is understandable because it’s the first true road crowd it has faced all year and the first one Fromm has ever faced. Look back at the schedule. Forty-thousand Bulldogs fans turned South Bend into a neutral site. The energy was sapped from Neyland Stadium early, and many Tennessee fans left by halftime. Vanderbilt is Vanderbilt, and the Nashville crowd was full of red, as it always is when Georgia heads to Nashville. Jacksonville was a neutral site, but the Florida half of the stadium had the little enthusiasm it came in with drained in the first eight minutes.

Now compare those crowds with Auburn. Nevermind that Jordan-Hare is already a tough a road environment regardless of the circumstances. The Tigers were playing a nationally televised game against a rival they hadn’t beaten in three seasons to keep their SEC and national title hopes alive. And unlike Notre Dame, there weren’t 40,000 Auburn fans willing to sell tickets to Dawgs fans. Jordan-Hare was packed to the gills with “War Eagle”-shoutin’ barners.

Even teams seasoned through big games in difficult environments would have trouble in that situation, and Georgia ain’t that. The last time the Bulldogs faced a road crowd like was in 2013 when they traveled to Clemson and Alabama (or maybe at South Carolina in 2014). Only a handful of current Georgia players were on that 2013 team. The trip to Auburn was uncharted territory for the vast majority of UGA’s roster.

The good news for Georgia is it doesn’t have a road game like that again this season. There’s a home game against Kentucky, which obviously won’t pose any problems in the crowd department. Then there’s a trip to Georgia Tech. Considering the Yellow Jackets are 5-4, and many of their fans are expecting to lose to Georgia, I’m sure a few of them won’t mind selling their tickets. (And, not for nothing, 55,000-seat Bobby Dodd ain’t 87,000-set Jordan-Hare.) Then there’s the SEC Championship Game, which will at least be 50 percent Georgia fans, potentially more. Add in College Football Playoff semifinal destinations, and I’m sure there are plenty of fans who will shell out for a trip to Pasadena or New Orleans. Not to mention the sea of red that would be Atlanta if the Bulldogs somehow managed to make the national title game.

The other good news for Georgia is it now has a road game like that under its belt. The young players on this team know what to expect when they go into hostile territory next season and beyond. That experience will be useful, say, during a trip to LSU in 2018.

The bottom line is the Bulldogs don’t face another environment as hostile as Auburn this season. Not even close. On the contrary, they should have plenty of fan support in the next three games. And we’ve seen what they can do with a bunch of excited Georgia fans in their corner.

At second glance

This, from Seth Emerson of DawgNation, is as good a summation as any of what went wrong in Auburn and what that performance means going forward.

This was too much like last year. The offensive line and play-calling concerns were back. There were crucial errors on special teams. The passing game hasn’t stepped up as a consistent force. The defense took a step back.

That doesn’t mean this can’t all just be a one-off. Georgia’s hopes and main goal are still out there. The Bulldogs will have a chance in less than three weeks to avenge this on a neutral site or to beat an Alabama team that looks beatable. But this performance gives you pause as to whether Georgia actually could pull it off.

The one upshot for the Bulldogs: Maybe the role of the hunted didn’t suit them. Now they can definitely go back to being the hunters.

Tacklin’ fuel

Many Georgia fans may now be worried about the team’s tackling ability after defenders whiffed on Kerryon Johnson all afternoon against Auburn. Kirby Smart says welcome to the club. From Emerson:

“You measure tackling by how many one-on-one situations you get in and how many of those you win,” Smart said. “Typically, our ratio has been the same all year. It has not been real good.”

That’s of particular concern this week with Kentucky running back Benny Snell, who enters the game with 1,013 rushing yards this year and racked up 114 yards and two touchdowns last year against Georgia.

“We lost a lot of one-on-one situations (at Auburn) but we lost a lot of one-on-one situations throughout the year,” Smart said. “When you go to tackle a back like Snell and King and these back they have — they have some good backs, so we have to improve in that area. That has been the case all year long.”

It ain’t bragging if you back it up

After Auburn beat Georgia, Gus Malzahn was caught on camera saying, “We whipped the dog crap out of them, didn’t we?” I’ve talked to a few Georgia fans who took issue with this. (I’m still waiting for them to tell me what he said that was untrue.) Smart did not.

“I’ll be honest with you, I think when you perform the way they did on the field, you earn the right to say really whatever you want,” Smart said, according to Emerson. “I don’t get into what Gus says, and he probably doesn’t get into what I say.”

Georgia loses commitment from 2018 LB

Four-star OLB Caleb Tannor  of Lithonia rescinded his Georgia pledge Monday night. The Bulldogs now have 17 players committed as part of the recruiting class of 2018.

Dawgs on Twitter

Good dog

This has got to be some sort of magic trick.

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