Back Defense Leads ‘Dawgs to Title, Playoff

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Defense Leads ‘Dawgs to Title, Playoff

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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For a defense that has been elite in almost every statistical slotting, how they have finished the year is the category that stands out the most.

Saturday included, the Bulldogs have now given up just a pair of scores in its last nine quarters.

All season, Georgia has been one of the nation's best rush defenses, best pass defenses and one of the game's best at keeping opponents out of the endzone. For a defense that has been elite in almost every statistical slotting, how they have finished the year is the category that stands out the most. After allowing 40 points in a regular season loss at Auburn, Georgia has since held Kentucky, Georgia Tech and the Tigers to a combined 27. The Bulldogs now have their first SEC Championship since 2005 and their first berth in the College Football Playoff ever. 

In their most important game of the schedule to date, Georgia absolutely overwhelmed Auburn, holding the Tigers to their first single-score game of the year and less than 260 total yards, while forcing two critical turnovers. The only teams to hold Gus Malzahn's Auburn to just one total score in a contest, a single field goal or touchdown, are Georgia in 2014, Georgia in 2016 and, now Georgia in 2017. On Saturday, the Bulldogs allowed a score on the Tigers' opening drive -- and that was it.

It was a complete effort for Georgia. The Bulldogs held Auburn to just 114 rushing yards, its second-lowest total this season, and limited Jarrett Stidham to merely 145 passing yards , his second-lowest total of the year. Two recovered fumbles, both by all-everything linebacker Roquan Smith, led to critical Georgia touchdowns. Additionally, DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle blocked a key field goal attempt that would have tied the contest midway through the third quarter. 

The momentum the Bulldogs' defense has entering the College Football Playoff is staggering. Georgia gave up only 4.37 yards per play to Kentucky, the Wildcats' lowest margin in SEC play this fall. Against rival Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs became the first team to hold the Yellow Jackets' famed triple-option attack to less than 190 rushing yards and without a touchdown since Clemson in 2015. This weekend, not even Auburn was able to get going against Georgia.     

Saturday included, the Bulldogs have now given up just a pair of scores in its last nine quarters. Coordinator Mel Tucker's unit has been exceptional in 2017 and appears to be improving ahead of a 2018 debut.  

Georgia, with everything on the line, was at its absolute best, in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Interestingly, the College Football Playoff Final will be played on that very same field. The Bulldogs have dominated down the stretch, a trend and a track they hope continues.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports