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Georgia 45, Auburn 7: And Now We Have an SEC East Winner (Probably)

There was nothing final about Georgia's victory against Auburn, except of course the bludgeoning of the Tigers in Athens. Technically, Georgia still has to win against Kentucky next week to wrap up a trip to the SEC Championship Game, though that game can probably be safely pronounced as nothing more than a formality.

But something happened on Saturday more than just the Dawgs moving a step closer to grabbing their first divisional championship since 2005: For the first time, an SEC East team looked like it deserved to win the division this year.

After all, most of Georgia's other wins had come against relative conference lightweights or by narrow scores. South Carolina had made a habit of using a powerful defense to win a series of ugly games -- the Gamecocks' 17-12 victory against Florida being a perfect example. And Florida hadn't looked like itself since it started a tour of the SEC West that helped put the Gators in distinct danger of having their first nonwinning season in decades.

But during those victories against underwhelming foes, Georgia was apparently fine-tuning the machine that obliterated Auburn on Saturday -- an offense that churned out 528 yards and a defense that held the Tigers to 51 yards rushing, barely a quarter of their season average. And while quarterback Aaron Murray was impressive, going 14-of-18 for 224 and four touchdowns, two separate Georgia players cranked out 100-yard days on the ground: Isaiah Crowell (24-132) and Carlton Thomas (15-127). So much for the Dawgs' depleted running back corps.

Of course, none of what happened Saturday changed the internal dynamics of the season. Georgia will take on the role of an SEC East team that should be a huge underdog by kickoff in Atlanta. But for the first time in the 2011 season, it looked like that team might have the thinnest sliver of a chance.