ATHENS, Ga. -- Steve Spurrier was running his mouth Saturday afternoon right after his South Carolina Gamecocks beat his old team, the Florida Gators.
“We’ll see how Georgia plays when they know they have to win,” Spurrier told the media.
Well, he was right.
We did need to know how Georgia would play when it knew it had to win. South Carolina beat Florida earlier in the day, so a loss by Georgia to Auburn would have given the Gamecocks the SEC East title.
But for the first time all season, Georgia played a complete game. The Bulldogs won, as they had in the previous seven games, and this time around they looked good doing it.
We really weren’t sure whether Georgia had played a solid, all-around game during the winning streak. Yes, the Bulldogs played pretty well against New Mexico State, but we needed to see it against a conference opponent.
And give Georgia credit. It came out and clearly was the better team. Auburn might not be very good, but who really cares. It was a rivalry game. It was the next game on the schedule. It was the biggest game for Georgia in a couple of years, and the Bulldogs took care of business.
Georgia made Auburn look like it wasn’t very good with a relentless defense that would have made Erk Russell smile. Plus, the Georgia offense was productive against a defense that certainly paled in comparison to last year’s unit at Auburn.
Saturday’s win by Georgia was the first win this season by an SEC East team over an SEC West team that’s not in Mississippi. The SEC East isn’t very good this year, but, as we’ve gotten deeper into the season, Georgia is starting to stand alone as the best.
After the first two games, Georgia was 0-2. The Bulldogs looked awful against Boise State and handed South Carolina a game with key turnovers. Some who look at the glass half full believed Georgia’s schedule was set up where it could run the table -- even after the bad start.
There were plenty of reasons for skepticism. Sure, the schedule didn’t include Alabama, LSU or even Arkansas. But there wasn’t much reason to hope, based on the first two weeks, that Georgia could beat even mediocre teams.
But it did. Some were close, and the wins over Vanderbilt and Florida, in particular, included a little bit of luck. But a team that found ways to lose last year has found ways to win this season.
How did this happen? Well, the defense deserves most of the credit. Georgia scored 45 points Saturday, but the Auburn offense was lost all day. The Bulldogs now have playmakers on defense who make it very difficult for the opponent to score.
They have a real nose guard with John Jenkins. They have a legitimate pass rusher in Jarvis Jones (Carver High). They have a headhunter in Alec Ogletree. And the secondary seems to be getting better as the season goes along.
Sure, Georgia Tech might straighten things out on offense and hang 40 on Georgia in two weeks. And who knows, LSU might hang 50 on the Bulldogs in the conference title game. But don’t count on it. This defense is going to keep Georgia in any game it plays.
Georgia showed us all something Saturday. Maybe they sent Spurrier a message, too, because he was so curious. You have to wonder how Spurrier felt as he watched the game from Columbia. Georgia fans are just happy it looks like he’ll watch the SEC championship from the same location.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com.