Georgia wins SEC East — and looks like threat to Alabama (UPDATED)

It was a night of celebrations for Todd Gurley, Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

It was a night of celebrations for Todd Gurley, Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

(UPDATED: 11 a.m. Sunday)

AUBURN, Ala. – This is the place where few expected Georgia would be after that ugly night in Columbia last month — not only winning games, but winning them impressively, humiliating an opponent on its home field. This is the place where many may have projected the Bulldogs to be before this season began, but certainly not since (because even Buffalo looked like a greater threat in the season opener than Auburn did Saturday night).

This is where Georgia is today: SEC East champions for the second straight season … and, yes, as improbable as it might once have seemed, a legitimate threat to beat Alabama in the Georgia Dome in three weeks.

Doubt it?

Why?

The Bulldogs thoroughly dominated Auburn 38-0. Georgia fans chanted, “SEC, SEC” in the second half. They were easy to hear because because by then most of the Auburrn fans had left.

Maybe body-slamming Auburn no longer is considered a monumental achievement for an Auburn opponent. The Tigers, two years removed from the BCS title, suddenly look two levels removed from Division 1. They’re having their worst season (2-8, 0-7) in 60 years.

But this isn’t a one night aberration. Georgia (9-1) has won four straight since the loss to South Carolina. It has won the last three by a combined score of 92-19.

A touted defense that looked out of sync for much of the season has allowed just one touchdown and four field goals in the last 12 quarters. Aaron Murray, who had three first-half touchdowns against Auburn, doesn’t look anything like the quarterback who had three first-half interceptions against Florida.

The Dogs run the ball. They stop the run. They’re not committing turnovers or dumb penalties.

While Georgia is ascending, Alabama is sputtering (relatively speaking). The Crimson Tide was fortunate to escape Baton Rouge last week with a win, and was upset Saturday by conference newbie Texas A&M — in Tuscaloosa.

“It’s been unbelievable,” said Murray, who celebrated his 22nd birthday. “Most teams might fold [after the loss to South Carolina] and think, ‘They’re going to win all of the rest of their games and our chances of making the SEC are slim.’ But we know anybody can win any week in SEC. South Carolina lost a couple, we beat Florida and now we’re heading back to Atlanta.”

Murray, who has been a different quarterback since Florida week. When he got to the team hotel, he found balloons and chocolate covered strawberries decorated like footballs, sent by his parents. He and teammates immediately scarfed them down.

His parents did not make the trip. His father, Denny, underwent surgery for thyroid cancer last month and recently underwent radiation.

“My dad had some radiation and he can’t be around people right now for three or four days, so he had to stay back,” Murray said. “Sad. First game he’s missed since I was like eight years old. He wanted to be here, I wanted him to be here, but it’s the best thing for him.”

There will be a bigger game upcoming for Murray’s parents to attend. Players and coaches generally limited their comments to the final two regular season games against Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, not yet looking ahead to Alabama.

But safety Bacarri Rambo acknowledged, “I’m sure some people didn’t think we would [be in this position]. I’m sure a lot of people still doubt us. But we feel we can beat anybody.”

And even the coach Mark Richt said Georgia is no longer focused on winning just the conference title. A berth in the BCS bowl game is possible, although the Dogs would need to win out and get some help from the teams ahead of them in the rankings (losses by two of the following three: Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame).

“Atlanta is not the end of the road, we hope,” Richt said.

They did not respond well to an early hole in Columbia. But now for the first time, they are playing with a sense of momentum. They’re playing with an edge.

Assuming no hiccups against Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, the Dogs nonetheless will be underdogs to Alabama in the Georgia Dome.

But this Tide team suddenly looks beatable. It was fortunate to beat LSU 21-17 win last week. On Saturday, Texas A&M made its first conference game trip into Tuscaloosa and won 29-24. Alabama allowed 418 yards in offense and forced three turnovers. (Auburn fans were grateful because when the Alabama score was flashed on the scoreboard it gave them something to cheer about it. That won’t cheer again until coach Gene Chizik’s firing.)

Two years ago at this time, Auburn was on the way to an undefeated season and Georgia was on the way to the Liberty Bowl (and lost).

Richt was at his absolute bottom in terms of how he was perceived by the fan base — at least until losing to Boise State and South Carolina last season.

When asked recently about handling the dramatic turn in fortunes, he said, “You just know it’s a part of the business. You’ve got to keep believing in what you do, keep grinding, keep evaluating what you do, because if you need to make a change, you make a change. Maybe you need to recruit differently or train differently in the offseason or try something different schematically. If you just totally abandon what you believe in and try to be something you’re not, you’re done.”

Georgia isn’t nearly done. A defense that underachieved so much of the season is now stuffing opponents.

Then there is Murray, he of the egged house following the loss to South Carolina and the three-interception first half against Florida. He completed his first 10 passes against Auburn. By halftime he had already thrown for 186 yards and three touchdowns.  He completed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Tavarres King, just after getting knocked to the ground by Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, which forced Murray to leave the game for a play. His threw a 56-yard strike to King, setting up Todd Gurley’s six-yard score.

This isn’t the same team we’ve watched for most of the season. It’s a team playing like a legitimate threat to Alabama and any other team in the BCS rankings.

And that’s something few could have seen coming.

By Jeff Schultz

649 comments Add your comment

socal ugadawg

November 10th, 2012
10:18 pm

socal ugadawg

November 10th, 2012
10:19 pm

Need Lame Kiffin to help us out….

socal ugadawg

November 10th, 2012
10:20 pm

Chris

November 10th, 2012
10:20 pm

BRING ON BAMA

ALUM

November 10th, 2012
10:22 pm

beat Alabama and its a pretty darn good year

bklyndawg

November 10th, 2012
10:22 pm

Socal, that’s an unappealing thought.

Not untrue . . . but definitely unappealing.

Turd Ferguson

November 10th, 2012
10:25 pm

Jeff, you dont know good poo from apple butter.

socal ugadawg

November 10th, 2012
10:26 pm

USC Trojans beat ND. Trojans beat Oregon in rematch in Pac12 Championship Game. Dawgs take care of business in ATL!

Strange Murphy

November 10th, 2012
10:28 pm

GEORGIA BULLDOGS! 2011 & 2012 SEC EAST CHAMPS!!!
Chicken People can piss off!!

Wozzo the Wonder Dog

November 10th, 2012
10:29 pm

We beat Bama then which bowl? We lose to Bama then which bowl?

Michael n Decatur

November 10th, 2012
10:29 pm

Shout out to those idiots the egged AM11’s house. Do us all a favor and go root for another program. We do not need you.

t2go

November 10th, 2012
10:30 pm

hahahaha

November 10th, 2012
10:30 pm

Where is WDE and all those other AU cheating trolls who used to come on here and talk the trash? They know they won the NC with a paid for team and now Cheatzik’s teams are showing their true colors.

dog34

November 10th, 2012
10:31 pm

Need lots up help after a&m messed the sec party up.

BankerDawg

November 10th, 2012
10:32 pm

We will see. Great win tonight to clinch the East, but I’m still not sure who we have really beaten this year…The Gators were dominated by UL Lafayette for 59 minutes and 51 seconds today….surely beating Awbern is nothing to write home about, is it?

Don’t get me wrong, I would surely rather win than lose, but I’m 10 games into the year and I don’t know how good we are.

Do you?

Mike S.

November 10th, 2012
10:32 pm

Now they have to shift gears for a couple of games defensively. They have two option teams in a row with Ga Southern and Ga Tech. They should win both, but its going to test them mentally. Offensively, UGA is looking as good right now as I’ve seen since Stafford and Moreno in 2007 or Shockley in 2005. They have Murray and the pass game clicking and the running game is an absolute miracle turn around with Gurley and Marshall. Great win. Congrats to Richt on yet another fine season.

Smitty

November 10th, 2012
10:32 pm

Where are the bama bloggers? licking wounds/

t2go

November 10th, 2012
10:32 pm

Clearly Bama is beatable…but am I wrong in thinking it might have been better for the Dawgs to have a chance at beating a #1 undefeated Bama in the SEC Chapionship game?

FB

November 10th, 2012
10:32 pm

Where are all the Richt haters now?! 1st team to go to SEC championship 6 times in 11 years!

Our Defense has swarmed two good teams and shut out a bad one. We are peaking at the right time.

SAVTOM

November 10th, 2012
10:34 pm

Good win,,,,what is up with Lemay being 3rd string,,,i wonder if he will be back next year??? also what was Grantham so mad about late in the game on the sideline after the defense made a 3rd down stop???

FB

November 10th, 2012
10:35 pm

Yes T2go, it would have helped if Alabama’s QB would have led his receiver and won the game.

Hiawatha Berry

November 10th, 2012
10:35 pm

Auburn is really horrible.

Gene Chizik

November 10th, 2012
10:35 pm

You can’t fire me…. I know too much about our old pay plan! I told you boys to pony up and pay some more players so we can go to another national championship! We were the best team money could buy! Now, we look like a class A high school team.

baddawg

November 10th, 2012
10:37 pm

Thanks Willie for giving Murray another career night! Willie will be looking for another job again soon after they fire Cheatzik. Maybe he should coach wide receivers instead?

dog34

November 10th, 2012
10:38 pm

t2go, You’re right! UGA needed Bama to win that game VERY,VERY BAD! With them losing, Now you have to hope others lose are the SEC will NOT play in the big game in Miami.

Jimbo fisher

November 10th, 2012
10:38 pm

UGA would get drilled by the Noles

BBQ MAN

November 10th, 2012
10:38 pm

get real LOL

FB

November 10th, 2012
10:38 pm

Auburn used to be a good rivalry. Since Fairly and his intentional roughness, AU has been cheap shot U… There were some bad hits.

Anybody else struggle with T King changing his number? Nice move, however.

Hope the next two chop blocking teams don’t hurt any on our D line. We miss Abry badly already.

Bad Dawg

November 10th, 2012
10:38 pm

ESPN has already staked their position on the possibility of UGA, should they win out, playing in the BCS Championship Game – no dice unless two out of three of the undefeated teams lose, and probably not even then. Any other team that wins the SEC with a 12-1 record would be playing in that game, and it would be because ESPN gave their blessing. They pulled the same crap in 2007. Their bias is so overt it almost reduces their credibility.

HaHa

November 10th, 2012
10:39 pm

A threat to Bama? Who have the Dawgs beaten? Florida is the biggest win of the year….a team that had to have a blocked punt to beat Louisiana Lafayette? Keep drinking the Kool-Aid…Bama 34-3.

Ryder

November 10th, 2012
10:40 pm

BankerDawg, Georgia can’t control who they play in their own division and besides, they beat Florida when they were ranked #2 in the BCS, so they’ve more than proven themselves.

It wouldn’t matter if Alabama had a loss or not, the only chance Georgia has of making the national championship is for Notre Dame and Kansas State to both lose and for the Dawgs to win the SEC title.

We can only lament why the playoffs can’t start this year..

GA Girl

November 10th, 2012
10:40 pm

That’s what YOU couldn’t see coming, but the fans dig deep & ride the season out to the very end DESPITE all of the negativity & WITHOUT losing hope – that’s how we do it at UGA & that’s how we do it in the SEC.

Big Boy

November 10th, 2012
10:40 pm

Georgia will lose to Alabama in the Championship game , will end up in the Capital one or Chick-fil-a bowl…….COUNT ON IT !

rico

November 10th, 2012
10:41 pm

Bwahahahha. Win a couple games in a row in blowout fashion with the softest schedule in the SEC and you quickly forget that UGA has played one good team and lost in a rout. If you try real hard maybe you can forget that it ever happened. Just a little tip; park close the exits at the GA dome so you can get out quicker in the third quarter.

truedawg 881

November 10th, 2012
10:42 pm

How bout that clinch sec east.To all the haters i told you so five weeks ago.TO my cousin KELLY R.I.P. this win was for you .Go dawgs look great on both sides

HaHa

November 10th, 2012
10:42 pm

Beat up on a 2-8 Auburn team and all of a sudden you can beat Bama? Keep dreaming little pussycats.

HaHa

November 10th, 2012
10:43 pm

Beat up on a 2-8 Auburn team and all of a sudden you can beat Bama? That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all year.

truedawg 881

November 10th, 2012
10:45 pm

WE beat Alabama or whoever we play in sec champ game.Georgia is on a roll there will be more losses in top 5.Georgia will win out.Go DAWGS sickem woff woff woff

head ball coach

November 10th, 2012
10:46 pm

USC beat UGA who beat Florida who beat lsu. Gamecocks should be in title game and would beat bama bad

Justin

November 10th, 2012
10:46 pm

Georgia will finish the season 11-1 with two cupcakes coming up…then we’ll take on Bama! Go Dawgs!

td

November 10th, 2012
10:48 pm

You detractors are talking about the UGA schedule but where is the talk about Alabama’s schedule? They did not play the top three teams in the East this year. It appears to me that the east is as strong as the west this year so I think Alabama has had a weaker schedule then GA.

truedawg 881

November 10th, 2012
10:48 pm

19 points in last three weeks who is a better. go dawgs bitchezzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

DwayneL

November 10th, 2012
10:49 pm

NO WAY UGA BEATS BAMA IN SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME!!!

raddawg

November 10th, 2012
10:50 pm

@ rico – the one good team we got routed by was routed by the #2 Florida team we beat. So your statement doesn’t count.

UGA24-7

November 10th, 2012
10:50 pm

Can we put out an APB on THE TIDE IS ROLLING AND NOTHING CAN STOP IT

truedawg 881

November 10th, 2012
10:51 pm

Does anyone got the talley for Gurrley this year carrries and yards

head ball coach

November 10th, 2012
10:51 pm

We want in we deserve it more

itwillbe

November 10th, 2012
10:53 pm

The ducks & K-State and there is not a dang thing the sec can do about it this year.

JDawg

November 10th, 2012
10:53 pm

Yure rite Big Boy. UGA needs to fire Richt and hire a coach that will yell at peeple and get in there face like Saban dose. Every boddy nows that we will never beet a good teem like Bama. How Richt keeps his job amases me. Wy cant smart peeple like me and all of the other blog caochis UGA has get our way and get new coachis. This teem wood be nothing if Williams hadnt been like Saban and got in peepels face. Come on all of my past blog coachis that sopported me in fireing Richt. Whare have you biin the last few weeks.

Paul Johnson

November 10th, 2012
10:54 pm

UGA defense will never stop the gt offense 68 today and rolling headed for acc title