ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia is closing in on a trip to the Southeastern Conference championship game. Auburn is a long way from playing for another title.
Aaron Murray threw four touchdown passes to surpass Matthew Stafford's school record and the No. 14 Bulldogs, with a dominating first-half performance, romped past the defending national champions 45-7 Saturday to move within one win of clinching the SEC East.
The Bulldogs (8-2, 6-1 SEC) won their eighth in a row with a dominating performance in the Deep South's oldest rivalry. They raced to a 35-7 halftime lead over the stunned Tigers (6-4, 4-3) and finished with their biggest win in the series since a 41-0 triumph in 1946.
Georgia will be at home next weekend against Kentucky, looking to clinch its first division title in six years and completely snuff out any talk about Mark Richt's coaching future. The Bulldogs have bounced back from a losing season in 2010 and an 0-2 start to this year.
Murray threw all his scoring passes by halftime, giving him 27 TDs on the season and nine in the past two weeks. He broke the school mark of 25 set by Stafford in 2008 before he was picked No. 1 overall in the NFL draft.
With 92,000-seat Sanford Stadium as loud as it's been in years, Georgia scored on four of its first five offensive possessions — the only glitch was the first of two fumbles by freshman Isaiah Crowell, Auburn fumbled right back to Georgia.
Murray threw touchdown passes of 8 yards to Tavarres King, 27 yards to Michael Bennett, 15 yards to Bruce Figgins and 25 yards to Malcolm Mitchell. Safety Bacarri Rambo tacked on a defensive TD, picking off a pass by Clint Moseley and returning it 24 yards to the end zone with a brilliant return that featured a soaring leap across the goal line.
Auburn briefly tied the game at 7 with a bit of trickery. Moseley handed off to freshman C.J. Uzomah, who flipped a 4-yard pass to Philip Lutzenkirchen, the Georgia native's third TD catch in two years against the Bulldogs.
That was it for the Tigers, who have gone through major rebuilding pains after winning the national title with Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton at quarterback. They have lost four SEC road games by a combined 111 points, and this was the ugliest performance yet. Auburn turned it over three times and was outgained in total yards 528-195.
Fortunately for Georgia, the Tigers did win one game away from Jordan-Hare Stadium — a 16-13 upset of South Carolina back on Oct. 1. That could turn out to be the difference in the SEC East.
The Bulldogs fell behind in the division with a 45-42 loss to the Gamecocks in the second week of the season. Georgia hasn't lost since, while South Carolina dropped another conference game at Arkansas last week to clear the way for Georgia to take the East.
One more win will do it.
Crowell and Carlton Thomas, both suspended from Georgia's previous game after reportedly failing a drug test, gave Georgia its first pair of 100-yard rushers since 2009. Crowell gained 132 and Thomas had 127. Murray was 14 of 18 for 224 yards.
There was none of the nastiness that marked last year's game, when Auburn rallied from an early 14-point deficit and romped to a 49-31 victory on the way to a perfect season. Nick Fairley delivered two brutal hits on Murray, there were 10 personal fouls and two Auburn players wound up with suspensions for throwing punches.
Of course, this one was over so quickly no one had time to get too mad at anyone.
Moseley was 11 of 22 for 140 yards, spending most of the day running for his life. He was sacked five times. The Tigers were held to 51 yards on the ground — compared with 304 for Georgia.
Auburn's most devastating turnover came with Georgia up 21-7. On third down from his own 17, Moseley threw over the middle, Rambo streaked in front of the receiver to pick it off, then produced a return that was even better than his seventh interception of the season. The safety cut to his right, picked up several key blocks and leaped high into the end zone.
Rambo was pummeled by his teammates against the famous hedges and the Georgia bench went wild, drawing a penalty for excessive celebration.
The Bulldogs didn't mind that flag a bit.