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Adam Anderson ahd a monster game for the Bulldogs against Auburn.

Georgia football winners and losers following 27-6 victory over Auburn

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Georgia football winners and losers following 27-6 win over Auburn

Winner: Adam Anderson

The junior outside linebacker from Rome, Ga., had the best game of his Georgia career on Saturday night. Anderson picked up 2.0 sacks and was constantly harassing Auburn quarterback Bo Nix as Anderson had a team-high six pressures.

Both of Anderson’s sacks came in the second half, when the Georgia defense has a three-touchdown lead and was able to tee off on the Auburn offense, as there was little threat Auburn’s run game.

To this point in his career, Anderson has produced as his 5-star recruiting ranking would’ve indicated But in his junior season, it seems like he has finally found a role where he can shine and maximize his talents. Georgia’s outside linebacker group might be the best position group on the team and if Anderson can continue to be effective as a designated pass rusher, that will open up things for the rest of the Georgia defense. .

When you factor in the likes of Azeez Ojulari, Nolan Smith and Jermaine Johnson, it’s understandable why Anderson isn’t an every-down player on this defense. But it says a lot about Anderson and the Georgia coaching staff that he was able to have the impact he did in a game between top-10 teams.

Loser: Gus Malzahn

Since Malzahn’s famed dog crap comments back in 2017, the Auburn offense has struggled to do much of anything against the Georgia defense. The most the Tigers have scored against Georgia in game came in 2019 when they put up 14 points on Georgia in a 21-14 defeat.

The offense was supposed to be the unit that helped carry Auburn early in the season as the Tigers have to replace the likes of Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson on the defensive side of the ball. But Nix and company couldn’t do that on Saturday.

The Tigers ran for just 39 yards. That’s not a recipe to beating this Georgia team. In the past two years, Nix has thrown the ball 90 times against the Georgia defense. He’s thrown for a total of 422 yards and a single touchdown.

Related: Georgia football: What Auburn and Gus Malzahn had to say after that 27-6 loss

Smart actually acknowledged after the game that the changes new offensive coordinator Chad Morris made Auburn a different offense than what the Tigers have traditionally done.

But it still didn’t end up changing the narrative surrounding Malzahn vs. Smart.

“I got comfortable playing against Auburn with Gus (Malzahn) at the helm,” Smart said. “I say comfortable, but I want to explain that. Comfortable that I felt like I what they were going to do, because I have a strong, long history. He knows what we are going to do. So you can try to out-execute him, you can see things coming maybe before they come.”

Since Smart took over in 2016, Malzahn is just 1-5 against Georgia. The win in the 2017 regular season was the only time Auburn scored more than 14 points. For a coach in Malzahn who rose to prominence because of his offense, it has to be deflating to be so thoroughly outplayed when that unit is on the field.

Winner: Georgia secondary

Tyson Campbell said earlier in the week that defending Auburn’s wide receivers would be a challenge. On Saturday, Campbell and the group more than lived up to that talk.

The Auburn wide receivers never really got going against the vaunted Georgia secondary. Seth Williams had just three catches for 34 yards. He had a number of big battles with Campbell on the outside, with the Georgia cornerback more than holding his own.

Anthony Schwartz meanwhile never seemed to break the big play. He had eight catches for 57 yards. He had a chance to score a touchdown just before halftime but Campbell came up and made a huge tackle on his former high school teammate.

Auburn’s leading receiver was actually running back Tank Bigsby, as he finished with 68 yards on seven catches. But most of those came when Nix was scrambling and looking for a safety value.

The Georgia secondary also forced the Auburn passing attack to do something it hadn’t’ done since Oct. 26 of 2019. Senior defensive back Mark Webb managed to intercept a Nix pass. The interception was the first of Webb’s career.

Georgia will face similar challenges in weeks to come — Alabama and Mac Jones — but for the first big test of the 2020 season, the Georgia secondary smothered Auburn and its passing attack.

Loser: Georgia’s sack total

Georgia finished with 3.0 sacks against Auburn. But after listening to Smart talk following the win, you could tell that the number should’ve been higher.

“I don’t think we finished well. I think we had, I don’t know, I’d be guessing, four or five missed sacks, just couldn’t get him on the ground,” Smart said. “I think that’s a credit to his athleticism because we’ve got some pretty good athletes out there that couldn’t get him on the ground.”

Nix does deserve some credit for being able to escape pressure on the night, though it also clearly contributed to his struggles in the passing game. .

Finishing plays was something the Georgia defense and coaches spent much of the offseason harping on. Georgia had no problem pressuring teams last season, but it needs to convert those pressures into sacks.

Georgia did eventually do that in the second half, but with how Georgia’s pass rushers dominated the Auburn offensive line, the final sack total should’ve been much higher.

Winner: Kirby Smart

Very rarely do coaches have statement games in which they win emphatically and have the chance to harp on things that can be improved.

But that’s what Smart did and earned on Saturday.

The Bulldogs played well on Saturday and raced out to a 24-0 lead. But the Bulldogs could’ve and probably should’ve won by more. For as good as Stetson Bennett looked, there were some missed throws as well. The Georgia offense didn’t score a touchdown in the second half.

And the Tigers were able to play somewhat better on third down in the final 30-minutes, which you can tell bugged Smart.

“We’ve been pretty good at getting off the field on third down and seven of 16 is not our, we didn’t meet our goal,” Smart said. “So we know that the first drive of the second half is not up to our standard.”

Smart won’t face the same number of questions this week about his team’s place at the top of the polls nor about his handling of the quarterback situation. But he does have legitimate things to correct with his team, especially with Georgia having to face ranked foes in back-to-back weeks in Tennessee and Alabama.

Sounds like a pretty good place to be for the Georgia head coach.

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