GAME DAY COVERAGE:

No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs vs Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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College

    With three players out due to NCAA rules violations, Georgia Tech defeated Texas-Rio Grande Valley, 78-68, Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion.  After the win, Jackets’ coach Josh Pastner declined to comment on the suspension of guard Justin Moore or the paid administrative leave of assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie. Tech (2-1) was without guards Josh Okogie, Tadric Jackson and Justin Moore, who were all serving suspensions for violating NCAA rules. Never miss a minute of what’s happening with Georgia Tech. Subscribe to myAJC.com
  • Coach Mark Richt’s undefeated Miami Hurricanes are No. 2 in the latest rankings by the College Football Playoff selection committee. The committee, in rankings released Tuesday night, flip-flopped Miami and Clemson in the rankings. Clemson, which was No. 2 last week, is now No. 3. There were no other changes in the top 12 of Tuesday’s rankings. Georgia was among the teams holding position, staying No. 7. Alabama remained No. 1, Oklahoma No. 4, Wisconsin No. 5 and Auburn No. 6. Click here to read more on myAJC.com Never miss what’s happening with the Georgia Bulldogs. Subscribe to myAJC 
  • After a sluggish start, Georgia’s run game took over, and the No. 7 Bulldogs defeated Kentucky 42-13 on Saturday at Sanford Stadium in Athens. The familiar formula of a strong run game, one that worked well in most games this season against teams not known as Auburn, carried the Dogs again. Georgia (10-1, 7-1 SEC) did seem to carry an early hangover from its first loss of the season a week ago, a 40-17 rout at the hands of Auburn. Then midway through the second quarter, the Bulldogs came to life and went on to overpower the Wildcats (7-4, 4-4) for their eighth consecutive victory in the series. Here are three observations from the game. Georgia run game takes over. After Georgia’s offensive line was dominated by Auburn a week ago, whether the Dogs passed or ran, things were a bit familiar for most of the first half Saturday. Quarterback Jake Fromm was sacked once for minus-3 yards, and the run game struggled. In the first half, Georgia gained 123 yards on 20 carries, a healthy 6.2 yards per carry, but take away Sony Michel’s 37-yard touchdown run and Fromm’s 21-yard gain on a draw play, and Georgia ran 18 times for 65 yards  Then came the second half. The Dogs rushed for 258 yards on 24 carries to finish with 381 yards on 44 carries. Georgia gained 94 yards on 12 carries in the third quarter, and the Dogs’ first four rushes of the fourth quarter went for 55, 17, 25 and 14 yards. Nick Chubb, who gained 31 yards on seven carries in the half, but 17 of the yards on two carries, finished with 151 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. His big play was a 55-yard TD run on the second play of the fourth quarter. Michel finished with 87 yards on 12 carries and scored three touchdowns. D’Andre Swift gained 66 yards on seven carries, after gaining seven yards on his first three carries. Fromm kicks off the second-quarter surge. About midway through the second quarter, Georgia’s freshman quarterback was 4-of-7 passing for 34 yards before he got the hot hand. On the ensuing UGA drive, Fromm was 3-of-3 for 63 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Javon Wims that gave the Bulldogs a 14-6 lead.  On Georgia’s next drive, set up by a 20-yard punt return by Mecole Hardman to the Georgia 49, Fromm put the Dogs in Kentucky territory with an 11-yard pass to Terry Godwin. His next pass was ruled incomplete along the sideline, but TV replays showed that Wims came within inches of catching the pass. Fromm finished the half 8-of-12 passing for 108 yards and a touchdown. He also had a pass intercepted to set up Kentucky’s first field goal. Because of the run game, Fromm was quiet in the second half. He completed one of two attempts for 15 yards. Miscellaneous thoughts. < Kentucky’s run game had nowhere near the success that Georgia had. The Wildcats finished with 124 yards on 37 carries. Benny Snell led the way with 94 yards on 22 carries, and Kentucky’s only touchdown. < Sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason entered the game with 5:14 to play in the fourth quarter. He gave way to senior Brice Ramsey with 1:30 to play, in Ramsey’s final home game. < Overall, Georgia gained 504 yards on 58 plays after gaining 231 in the first half on 32 plays. 
  • Georgia players arrived home from Auburn late Saturday night. They had a full weightlifting session Sunday, as normal. They had their customary Sunday night dinner with coach Kirby Smart. And then they headed out to class Monday, two days after their first loss of the season, for a chance to gauge the mood on campus. Or maybe not. “I only had one class [Monday], so I didn’t have to interact with too many people,” senior cornerback Aaron Davis said with a smile. In the immediate aftermath of the loss at Auburn, the range of emotions in Georgia’s locker room went from sullen to disconsolate. Senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, normally the most outgoing player, was so upset he gave short answers, and that was after being persuaded to talk by a team official. The game, tight end Jeb Blazevich said, was a “reality check” for a team that had been No. 1 in the country and not only unbeaten, but waxing opponents. Then it became the team that got waxed. “We didn’t play Georgia football on Saturday, and that’s something that showed on the scoreboard towards the end,” Davis said. Two days later, however, Georgia’s players had no choice. They had to get back to practice. “I’m just anxious and excited to move on, get this behind us,” Blazevich said. “I know it’s going to be tough for fans and everybody else because they don’t start Kentucky game prep [on Monday]. You know, it’s not like it is for us where we can wash it, because we don’t have the luxury of time to sit around and wonder, ‘What if?’ You’ve got a job to do.” What Kirby Smart had to say about Kentucky on Monday Here’s why: The season not only isn’t over, but the Bulldogs still have a very real chance of winning a national championship. The Bulldogs will be favored in their final two regular-season games, first Kentucky and then at Georgia Tech, although neither game is a sure win, especially against the Yellow Jackets and their option offense. Survive those two, and then it’s basically a playoff play-in against Auburn or Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Smart said he had full confidence in his players to regroup and focus, adding they had “the right stuff” when it comes to that. It would be nearly impossible to survey the entire locker room; only four players were made available to the media Monday. That’s the normal amount, and those four echoed that company line: On to Kentucky. “You can’t really cry over spilt milk,” senior nose tackle John Atkins said. “We don’t have the luxury of time to sit around and feel bad for ourselves,” Blazevich said. “It’s something where we can’t mope around. We have work to do.” Georgia’s odds to win the national championship dropped, per the gambling site Bovada, but they are not off the board. The Bulldogs are now a 12-1 shot to win the whole thing, after being 4-1 last week. That still puts them in a tie for the sixth-best odds, along with Wisconsin, behind Alabama (10-to-11 odds), Oklahoma (4-1), Clemson and Miami (8-1) and Auburn (10-1). Video: Game-by-game look at Georgia’s 2017 schedule “You can’t be too down because we still have a lot of football left,” Atkins said. “Once you get down about it, that’s when you don’t want to go to practice, you don’t want to tackle, you don’t want to do this. The best thing is to just focus on the next game.” Atkins was asked if a loss could actually help a team. “It can,” Atkins said, sounding like he didn’t believe that. “But you really don’t want to lose.”
  • Georgia’s time at the top of the College Football Playoff standings will come to an end Tuesday, after the visiting Bulldogs lost 40-17 to No. 10 Auburn on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers turned the tables on the Bulldogs, who had dominated most of their previous opponents this season and had outscored their first six SEC opponents 236-62. Georgia hadn’t trailed in a game since the fourth quarter against Notre Dame on Sept. 9. On Saturday, Georgia received the opening kickoff and after an eight-play drive the Bulldogs led 7-0. That drive accounted for 70 yards. It went downhill the rest of the way for Georgia finished the game with 230 yards of offense.   Here are three things to know about the game:  Auburn’s offense was in control. Just as Auburn’s defense controlled the line of scrimmage, so did its offense. Tigers running back Kerryon Johnson rushed for 167 yards on 32 carries. He rushed for 91 yards in the second half after rushing for 76 in the first half. He also caught two passes for 66 yards. The second was a 55-yard screen pass that went for a touchdown. As a team, Auburn rushed for 237 yards on 46 carries.  Quarterback Jarrett Stidham was 16-for-23 passing for 214 yards and three touchdowns. Most of his damage came in the first half, when he was 12-for-18 for 125 yards and a touchdown. The running game took over in the second half.   Auburn had to settle for field goals on its first three scores, but then the onslaught began. The Tigers scored on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Stidham to Darius Clayton, a 7-yard run by Stidham, a 32-yard pass from Stidham to Ryan Davis and Johnson’s screen pass.  Georgia’s offensive line couldn’t run-block or pass-protect. Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm was sacked four times for minus-37 yards. The pressure may have gotten to Fromm, too. He completed his first three passes for 56 yards before the first sack. After that Fromm was 10-for-25 for 128 yards, continually under pressure throughout the game and with no running game to help.  Even not accounting for Fromm’s sacks, which are subtracted from a team’s rushing yards, Georgia rushed for 83 yards on 29 carries. Nick Chubb was held to 27 yards on 11 carries and Sony Michel to 21 yards on nine carries.  Georgia’s critical mistakes. Auburn’s first touchdown was set up by a personal-foul penalty against D’Andre Walker, who was called for roughing the kicker on an Auburn punt. The play allowed Auburn to keep the ball at its 46 and two plays later, Slayton scored on a 42-yard pass play.  Auburn’s second touchdown came after Georgia’s Mecole Hardman fumbled a punt return. Auburn took over on the Georgia 23 and scored four plays later.  Another penalty on an Auburn punting play, this time a personal foul against Sony Michel, allowed the Tigers to keep possession, and they scored two plays later on the 32-yard touchdown catch by Davis. 
  • The man perhaps best equipped to comment on both programs, Vince Dooley, was asked this week how Georgia has managed to turn things around against Auburn. Dooley, not quite known for beating his chest, did this time. “My scheduling,” he said. Dooley elaborated: Every year from 1953-2001, the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry had immediately followed the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail party. Georgia played Florida and then turned around and immediately played Auburn. It took a toll, which Dooley knew from first coaching the Bulldogs and then serving as athletic director. “I said, ‘If there’s one damn thing I’m going to do I’m going to separate the Florida and Auburn games,’ ” Dooley said. “That was the toughest thing we ever had to do, was to play those two teams back-to-back.” So during three days in Birmingham, Dooley can’t remember which year, the SEC athletic directors hashed it out so Georgia would get a break in between those arch-rivalry games. That started in 2002, and ever since then, the Bulldogs have had the better of the rivalry with Auburn. Georgia has defeated Auburn 11 of the past 15 times, and Auburn’s only wins over Georgia during the past 11 years came in seasons that the Tigers appeared in the national championship game. And even then the games were close: -- 2010: Cam Newton and Auburn eventually pulled away for a 49-31 win, but it was a four-point game early in the fourth quarter. This in a year that Georgia finished with a losing record (6-7) and Auburn went unbeaten (14-0). -- 2013: It took the infamous (for Georgia, at least) Prayer at Jordan-Hare for Auburn to pull out a 43-38 win. On fourth-and-long, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, dismissed by Georgia the previous year, threw a pass that was tipped when two Georgia players collided, and receiver Ricardo Louis caught the ball and ran in for a 73-yard touchdown with 25 seconds left. (Even then, Aaron Murray led Georgia back downfield and had a last-second pass fall incomplete.) Otherwise, Georgia has won every game dating back to 2006 and often not by close margins: Five of the 10 wins in that period were by double digits, including 45-7 (2011 in Athens), 38-0 (2012 at Auburn) and 34-7 (2014 in Athens, when Auburn entered the game ranked No. 9 in the country). Georgia-Auburn rewind: UGA wins 13-7 in 2016, best win of Smart’s first season The run began in 2006 when Auburn was ranked No. 5 in the country, and yet unranked Georgia went to The Plains and routed the home team, 37-15. So what’s behind all this? Auburn coach Gus Malzahn may have hit on an explanation for the recent games – when Auburn’s vaunted offense has managed just seven points in each of the past three games against Georgia. The 2014 game was just dominance. But the past two years Auburn has entered the game with injuries, particularly at quarterback. “I will say this, we are healthier as a team,” Malzahn said. “And I will say this, our starting quarterback is healthy. So I can’t say that the last two years. I feel good about where we’re at going into this game.” Indeed, last year Auburn trotted out quarterback Sean White, dealing with an arm injury and very limited, and tailback Kamryn Pettway was out with a hamstring injury. Pettway is out again this year. Auburn entered that game ranked No. 9 in the nation. Georgia won 13-7, the best win in Kirby Smart’s first season as Georgia’s coach. As for previous matchups this century, Dooley perhaps deserves credit for helping even the playing field. Georgia has, on the whole, tended to have better teams. Georgia is 171-60 this century, while Auburn is 155-73. Prior to the scheduling switch, Auburn held the all-time lead in the series. Now Georgia holds it, 57-55 with eight ties. Dooley, the Auburn graduate, perhaps does then deserve full credit for turning it around. “I’m just kidding,” Dooley said, before adding, “but it’s a fact.” Staff writer Chip Towers contributed to this story.
  • Georgia entered a game ranked No. 1 for the first time since 2008, and the Bulldogs then fought off pesky South Carolina for a 24-10 victory Saturday at Sanford Stadium in Athens.  The victory, coupled with Kentucky’s loss to Ole Miss on Saturday night, clinched the SEC East title for the Bulldogs (9-0, 6-0 SEC). Georgia will play in the SEC Championship game for the first time since 2012. This was the Bulldogs’ first close game since defeating Notre Dame 20-19 on Sept. 9. Georgia is 9-0 for seventh time in school history and the first since 1982, when Georgia finished the regular season 11-0 before the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs lost to No. 2 Penn State 27-23 in the Sugar Bowl. South Carolina falls to 6-3, and 4-3 in the SEC. Here are three observations from the game: A tale of two Jakes South Carolina’s defense emphasized stopping the run, and Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm kept the defense honest. Fromm was 16-of-22 for 196 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with Javon Wims for a 12-yard touchdown pass with 9:27 to go in the second quarter and with Mecole Hardman for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 9:28 to play in the third quarter. Both throws were placed where only the Georgia receiver could catch it, each in a tight spot in the end zone. In fact, Wims caught his pass along the sideline, barely getting a foot down in bounds. The play was ruled an incomplete pass before video review led the referees to reverse the call.  Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley kept his team in the game with his feisty passing game. Bentley was 21-of-35 for 227 yards and a touchdown, but he threw two interceptions. A tale of two running games The day was a tale of contrasts in the run game. Georgia rushed for 242 yards on 53 carries and a touchdown, while South Carolina ran for only 43 yards on 17 carries. Nick Chubb led Georgia with 102 yards on 20 carries. Sony Michel added 81 yards on 16 carries. Michael scored on an 8-yard run. A.J. Turner led the Gamecocks with 35 yards on eight carries.  Chubb had the 22nd game of his career with 100 or more yards rushing, second in UGA history. Stats of the day Georgia finished with 438 yards of offense to 270 for South Carolina. The Bulldogs were 8-for-13 on third-down plays, while the Gamecocks were 4-for-12 in that category. Georgia led in time of possession 38:22 to 21:38.
  • The first College Football Playoff rankings may have Georgia ranked No. 1, but at least one sports betting site doesn’t hold them in the same regard.  The site Sports Betting Dime listed top-ranked Georgia as having only the third-best chance to make the playoff, with 7-3 odds.  In odds released Wednesday, Sports Betting Dime lists No. 2 Alabama’s odds of making the playoffs at 1-1. No. 4 Clemson got 3-2 odds for inclusion in the playoff. No. 3 Notre Dame has only the fourth-best odds, according to the web site, at 6-1.  The odds of an Alabama-Clemson rematch in the national title game (Jan. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium) are 5-1. The odds of Georgia winning the SEC championship are listed at 13-7. Alabama’s odds to win the SEC title are 2-3. The web site gives Georgia a 2-1 chance to take a 12-0 record into the SEC Championship game (Dec. 2 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium).
  • Kirby Smart may have woken up in a new world on Wednesday morning, but the man who leads the Georgia football program was doing his best to manage it. A night earlier, Georgia was ranked the No. 1 team in the country by the committee that will in five weeks choose the playoff teams. It was a great honor, and Smart did what a coach normally does this early in the process: Downplayed it.  “Like we say all the time, it really means nothing right now,” Smart said. “It’s really nothing more than a distraction more than anything. And our kids realize that. They acknowledge that and they understand that’s the way of the world, that’s the system we live in. “It’s built to generate ratings and generate publicity for our sport. But our focus and attention is on South Carolina.” After much debate, playoff committee ranks Georgia No. 1 Smart was speaking on the SEC coaches teleconference, during which he spent most of the time talking about the playoff ranking. It was the first time Georgia, since the rankings began in 2014, were ever No. 1 – or even in the top eight. The ranking is another reflection of the praise and attention bestowed on Georgia (8-0) after its dominant start to the season. That’s something Smart said he and the coaches address with the players, including Sunday and Monday, and as they “see the need” throughout the season. The focus, Smart emphasized, remains on South Carolina. “I keep repeating that, but I guess nobody believes us,” Smart said. “That maybe we’re just saying that and we all sit around and just pat ourselves on the back. That’s not what’s going on here. Our kids have been made aware, (and) it’s been a common theme for us throughout the year, that they’re smiling in your face. And that’s what people do.” Road to Atlanta: Georgia’s three routes to the playoff Of course, Georgia beat out Alabama for the No. 1 rankings. The Crimson Tide, four-time national champions with Smart as its defensive coordinator from 2007-15, came in at No. 2 despite being ahead of the Bulldogs in the Associated Press and coaches polls.  So Smart was asked how he thought Nick Saban would use being No. 2 in the rankings. Smart chuckled slightly during his answer. “I know him well. But to say how he’ll use it, I don’t really care to go about that,” Smart said. “I’ve got enough concerns going on over here, and managing my team. That’s where my focus is. I can’t comment on anything with him.”
  • Georgia moved up to No. 2 and took two first-place votes from top-ranked Alabama in The Associated Press college football poll.  Every team in the AP’s top 10, except idle Alabama, changed positions in the poll released Sunday following Ohio State’s last-second victory over Penn State and Iowa State’s win over TCU. The Crimson Tide finished with 59 first-place votes, and Georgia snared two after dispatching archrival Florida, 42-7, Saturday in Jacksonville.  Ohio State moved up three places after rallying to beat then-No. 2 Penn State 39-38 , Wisconsin climbed one spot to No. 4 and Notre Dame rounded out the top 5 by moving up four places. Penn State dropped to No. 7 behind Clemson, followed by Oklahoma, Miami and TCU, which dropped six spots after its 14-7 loss to the Cyclones .  In the coaches poll, idle Alabama remained the unanimous pick in the top stop. Georgia jumped one spot to No. 2 followed by Wisconsin and Clemson, who jumped to No. 5 after its win against Georgia Tech. TCU’s loss to Iowa State pushed it outside the Top 10. Alabama and Georgia give the SEC the top two spots in the polls for the first time since 2013. The College Football Playoff selection committee’s rankings will be released Tuesday. The championship game will be played Jan. 8, 2018, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.