In Round 2, it was Georgia that returned the favor - with the defensive front often hurrying Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham when he went back to pass in the pocket and the offensive front opening big gaps for Georgia star running back Nick Chubb to run through. Georgia will be the first SEC champion in the playoff not named Alabama, and the Bulldogs (12-1) are the first Eastern Division team to wear the league crown since Florida in 2008. Auburn was ranked second in the CFP poll but managed only 259 yards after piling up 488 in its November 11 rout of the Bulldogs.
Stidham looked like an National Football League quarterback on the first possession of the game when he zipped a pass into Nate Craig-Myers for the first points of the game, but he spent much of the rest of the game running for his life.
Malzahn led the seventh-ranked Tigers into the Southeastern Conference championship game but had faced repeated questions about whether he was interested in the vacant Arkansas job in his home state.
Auburn was selected to a New Year's Six bowl game for a second straight year and will face UCF in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on January 1. We have a great foundation for the future.
Auburn is 45-21 over the course of Auburn's five-year tenure, which began following the firing of Gene Chizik after the 2012 season. Then, trailing 13-7, another turnover on the first play of the fourth quarter finished off the Tigers. "I love my players", Malzahn said Saturday.
"We have worked very hard to create something here".
Four plays later, Fromm threw his second touchdown pass - a 7-yarder to Terry Godwin.
The Tigers led 7-0 early in the second quarter and had a third-and-6 at Georgia's 14-yard line, but Bulldogs outside linebacker Davin Bellamy stripped Stidham of the ball, and Smith recovered at the 16. "Having that guy on the other side of me is really comforting".
That was just the beginning of Georgia's second-half surge.
"Our goal today was to come out and compete", second-year Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. But the Tigers were stymied by their own mistakes, also including a blocked field goal, and they had no answer for a Georgia team eager to make up for its embarrassing 40-17 defeat on the Plains. It was a physical, tough game, and we kept our composure for the most part. This forced Georgia to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Blankenship, giving the Bulldogs their 10-7 lead that they would carry into the locker room.