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Georgia wide receiver Kearis Jackson (10) celebrates after a win against Auburn. Georgia defeated Auburn 21-14 on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

AUBURN, Ala. — The Georgia football team is quickly establishing a new home outside of Athens — Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

With a 21-14 triumph over No. 12 Auburn, the No. 4-ranked Bulldogs punched their ticket to the SEC championship for the third year in a row. No team from the SEC East has made three consecutive trips to Atlanta for the title game in 23 years.

“That’s special,” quarterback Jake Fromm said. “Praise God for that. For us, to do it three years in a row, speaks a lot about our football program, our head coach and guys wanting to work in the locker room and do whatever it takes.”

Fromm headlined Kirby Smart’s dominant 2017 recruiting class which has bloomed into a crew of stars including Fromm and running back D’Andre Swift. Now that tandem has a chance to earn its second SEC crown.

It didn’t come easy, however, as the Bulldogs watched their 21-point lead slip in the fourth quarter before ultimately treading water to victory. Georgia’s SEC East hopes would have mathematically been alive even with a loss to Auburn, but Fromm didn’t want to take any chances.

“We wanted to [clinch] as quick as we could,” he said. “Obviously, we want to win every single football game we’re in. But to come into an environment like this — a really tough SEC West road game — and come out of here with a win, it’s special.”

Georgia’s season has had hiccups, and the Bulldog victories have all come with blemishes. But the hopes for a College Football Playoff berth live on after surviving the Plains, which Georgia failed to do two years ago. For Smart, clinching the East was not at the forefront of his mind.

“The goal for us was to continue to get better, grow, play in a tough environment,” Smart said. “But it really wasn’t about the SEC East. That’s a hell of an accomplishment, and I’m proud of our guys. But that’s not what it’s about.”

Georgia commanded the game until a roller-coaster final 15 minutes, and Auburn’s defensive front challenged the Bulldogs all afternoon. Smart said it feels like some Tigers have been around the league an eternity.

Georgia’s passing game was spotty, and Swift led the charge on the ground to give some breathing room. The crew picked up a messy win, and going into Saturday they knew there was no space to slip up.

While Smart turns the page to Texas A&M, the rest of the Bulldogs will at least have the ride home to reflect. For Fromm, Swift and offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, winning the East is all they know.

“It’s exciting,” Thomas said. “We work hard. We slipped up early in the season, but we knew that if we stayed down and grinded, we could get to where we wanted to be. I think we’ve got a good thing going.”

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