ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia didn’t officially lock up a spot in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game on Saturday, but it was hard to tell by the condition of the Bulldogs’ Sanford Stadium locker room.
Water bottles, orange peels and tape covered a soaked floor when the doors swung open after the players finished jumping up and down in celebration.
The 14th-ranked Bulldogs romped No. 24 Auburn, 45-7, behind four touchdown passes from quarterback Aaron Murray and a dominant defensive showing to move one victory away from their first trip to the league championship game since 2005.
“We came out with an edge and a chip on our shoulder,” safety Bacarri Rambo said. “Hopefully we made a statement to everyone that Georgia’s back on the map.”
All that stands between Georgia and a spot in the Dec. 3 title game in Atlanta is a victory against Kentucky next Saturday.
The Wildcats will be coming off a 38-8 pounding by Vanderbilt that dropped the Commodores to 1-5 in the SEC.
Georgia (8-2, 6-1) won its eighth consecutive game – the longest winning streak for the Bulldogs since 1982 – and did it under pressure after South Carolina (8-2, 6-2) knocked off Florida, 17-12, before the Bulldogs took the field.
“I can’t hardly think of another game that we played in this stadium where we played as well as a team offense, defense, special teams,” said Mark Richt, who has gone from a coach considered on the hot seat to one on a hot streak.
“I think everybody kind of fed off each other.”
South Carolina’s victory meant a Bulldogs loss to Auburn would have sent the Gamecocks to the championship game.
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Auburn (6-4, 4-3) lost at No. 1 LSU 45-10 three weeks before Georgia beat the Tigers 45-7.
“I think we can line up against anybody in the country and compete,” said outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who had two of Georgia’s five sacks. “We ain’t scared of nobody.”
Aaron Murray completed 14 of 18 for 224 yards and four touchdowns.
Carlton Thomas rushed for a career-high 127 yards and Isaiah Crowell ran for 132 and a touchdown. The two returned after one-game suspensions.
The 38-point victory was Georgia’s largest against Auburn since a 41-0 win in 1946. The Bulldogs defeated Tennessee, Florida and Auburn for the first time in the same season since 1981.