AUBURN, Ala. — As expected, Auburn slipped in the AP Top 25 Poll following the Tigers’ loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
Gus Malzahn’s team fell from No. 4 to No. 7 in the AP poll the morning after its conference title game loss in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Auburn also fell from No. 4 to No. 8 in the coaches poll.
Auburn coaches and players insisted that exciting wins against No. 1 Georgia and Alabama wouldn’t drain the Tigers as they battled for an SEC championship and a College Football Playoff spot. However, it was clear Malzahn’s team was physically and emotionally exhausted in the lopsided loss to Georgia.
The Tigers struggled again in what was essentially a road environment. Jordan-Hare Stadium proved to be one of the most intense atmospheres in the country this season when the Tigers had something to play for. Yet when Auburn crossed the Georgia border and walked into a mostly red Mercedes-Benz Stadium, things were significantly different.
Kirby Smart’s team didn’t start out well and had several self-inflicted penalties on the night, but capitalized on huge mistakes Auburn made. The Bulldogs recovered 2 fumbles and blocked a Daniel Carlson field-goal attempt early in the second half. Those plays shifted the momentum in a big way.
Kerryon Johnson, who Malzahn later admitted was dealing with rib and shoulder injuries on Saturday, only ran for 44 yards on 13 attempts. Jarrett Stidham had looked like a Heisman candidate during the last four weeks, but only managed to complete 16 of 32 passes (145 yards) and toss 1 touchdown as Auburn’s offense stalled.
With Johnson injured, Georgia was able to shut down Auburn’s ground game and pressure Stidham more. The Bulldogs looked like a much different team than the one that had visited the Plains in early November.
Defensively, Auburn did a decent job of containing Georgia’s dangerous backfield, but Jake Fromm did what he wanted to against the Tigers. The freshman quarterback completed 16 of 22 attempts (183 yards) and threw 2 touchdown passes.
Georgia should claim a spot in the College Football Playoff when the committee releases the top 4 later this afternoon. Auburn’s bowl destination will also be announced later in the day.