No. 4 Georgia dominates No. 7 Auburn in first top-10 matchup of the season

The earliest clash on the calendar between Georgia and Auburn since the very first meeting of the "Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry" in 1892 produced a result that has become familiar.

Georgia’s season picked up some major momentum when the No. 4 Bulldogs dominated No. 7 Auburn in a 27-6 victory Saturday night in Sanford Stadium before a national television audience on ESPN.

Georgia has now won seven of the last eight and 13 of its 16 last games against Auburn.

The 125th meeting between these programs was the first top-10 matchup this college football season, but we didn't know much about theseteams going in given the Bulldogs trailed at the half to Arkansas and Auburn led Kentucky at home by just two in the fourth quarter just a week earlier. 

Here are three takeaways from the Bulldogs' win: 

Stetson Bennett solidifies No. 1 spot

ESPN ran a graphic during the Florida-South Carolina game Saturday afternoon where the only UGA player featured was J.T. Daniels. Joey Galloway at halftime mentioned Daniels as the Bulldogs expected starting quarterback against Auburn.

Stetson Bennett’s family got their hands on 14 tickets for his starting debut.

It won’t be his last.

They saw Bennett help lead Georgia to scores on four straight first-half drives after the Bulldogs punted on their first possession.

Georgia (2-0) entered the game with seemingly three quarterbacks that could make an appearance— Bennett, D’Wan Mathis and Daniels — with freshman Carson Beck also a fourth option.

“I’ve honestly never dealt with anything like this at quarterback,” Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken told sideline reporter Allison Williams.

Bennett, the former walk-on who was at junior college two years ago, looks like he could give Georgia stability. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 240 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

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On the Bulldogs’ first scoring drive Bennett rolled left with two pass rushers in pursuit and fired a stroke to Kearis Jackson for a first down for 17 yards.

He connected on two more third-down passes to Jackson for 16 and for 17.

He averaged 13.2 yards per completion in the first half and 7.8 yards per attempt that included a 49-yard strike downfield to Jackson, who racked up career-highs with 147 receiving yards on 9 catches.

Bennett rolled right on a third-and-9 and hit George Pickens for a 21-yard touchdown pass.

Bennett kept rolling in the second half. On play-action, he hit tight end John Fitzpatrick over the middle and then hit Jackson for 20 yards wide open on the right side.

D’Wan Mathis came in for Bennett with 4:48 to go with the Bulldogs leading comfortable.

Georgia secondary makes a statement

Auburn had two or three of the best wideouts Georgia will play this season when “you start talking about vertical speed, releases,” Kirby Smart said on his Thursday night radio show.

Well, the best of those wideouts, Seth Williams didn’t catch his first pass until early in the third quarter despite being targeted four times in the first half.

Mark Webb ended Bo Nix’s streak of passes without an interception at 251 with a pick at the end of the third quarter. Only Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence had a longer streak.

Auburn’s longest pass play of the night went for 20 yards despite Georgia losing preseason All-American safety Richard LeCounte in the second quarter to targeting.

Auburn wide receiver Kobe Hudsonmakes a catch while Georgia defensive back Eric Stokes defends during the second half at Sanford Stadium. (Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports)

Junior Christopher Smith stepped in to join sophomore Lewis Cine at safety.

Nix completed 21 of 41 passes for 177 yards and an interception.

LeCounte and cornerback Eric Stokes clamped down on Anthony Schwartz on a third-down incompletion in the first quarter.

With the score 17-0, Nix was too long for Schwartz when he had a step on DJ Daniel.

Nix threw what is still his career high of 5o passes last season against Georgia, averaging just 4.8 yards per attempt. He was worst on this night at 4.3.

Campbell broke up a pass on the sideline late in the third quarter intended for Williams.

Owning the rivalry

Smart improved to 5-1 against Auburn (including an SEC championship victory in 2017). He is 14-4 against the Bulldogs’ biggest rivals, including 3-1 against Florida, Tennessee and Georgia Tech each.

The No. 20 Volunteers will come to Athens next Saturday after improving to 2-0 by dumping Missouri 35-12.

Georgia shut out Auburn last year on the Plains until 10:04 to go and the Tigers made it close in a 21-14 Bulldogs win.

This time, the Tigers were held to a pair of Anders Carlson field goals of 20 and 45 yards.

Some of the shine probably came off Auburn’s new offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

The Tigers were held to 216 total yards of offense, the fifth straight game Auburn had been held to 292 or fewer yards in Sanford Stadium dating back to the 2011 game.

Auburn has scored 6, 10, 7, 7 and 7 points in those five games.

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