Georgia Bulldogs headed for second straight CFP championship

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — There was no epic comeback and no miraculous finish because there was no chance — not when the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs asserted dominance early on and sucked the storybook ending as No. 3 TCU with a 65-7 win in the College Football Playoff National Championship game at SoFi Stadium on Monday night.

In a game that featured two Heisman Trophy quarterfinalists, Georgia’s Stetson Bennett continued his legacy, leading the Bulldogs to back-to-back national titles for the first time since Alabama accomplished the feat in 2011-12.

And they made it so easy.

With 13:25 left in the game and Georgia comfortably seated with a 52-7 lead, Bennett picked up his chin bar, removed his helmet with a smile and went to the sidelines, where he was greeted with hugs and high-fives from the coaches. and his teammates for crowning his career with the sport’s greatest prize. Bennett had six total touchdowns in the win, four rushing and two passing.

Georgia beat this scrappy but talented TCU team in every way, using their powerful tight ends for big plays in the passing game, finding holes for long bursts in the running game and pushing through the offensive line of the Horned Frogs to pressure TCU quarterback Max Duggan. costly mistakes. He threw two interceptions in the first half, including one with 36 seconds left that led to another touchdown pass from Bennett two plays later and a resounding 38-7 halftime lead for Georgia. . It was the biggest halftime lead in a national championship game since the 2002 BCS, when Miami led Nebraska 34-0.

Georgia, having the experience of winning it all just a year ago, looked comfortable and calm, while the Frogs, who finished 5-7 a year ago and were chosen for finishing seventh in the Big 12, looked wide-eyed and uncomfortable. under freshman coach Sonny Dykes.

“You have to give Georgia a ton of credit, they’ve done a tremendous job getting their team ready to play,” Dykes said. “These guys have come out and played exceptionally well, they have a really good football team, really talented.”

Georgia closed as a 13.5-point favorite, the biggest favorite in a national title game since 1998, but TCU, which defied the odds on a weekly basis, had won five games after halftime. this season while capturing the nation’s attention with its funky Hypnotoad and underdog status along the way.

Not this time.

It was not a fairy tale ending. No, it was about what was starting in Georgia under Kirby Smart.

“A lot of courage. A lot of tenacity. The word we use at home is ‘connection,'” Smart said from the championship podium. “Every one of our guys knows we stay connected, we’re tough to beat.”

Since 1990, the only other schools to win back-to-back national titles are Nebraska (1994-95) and USC (2003-04). Comparisons between Georgia’s leadership and what Alabama did began last season, when the Bulldogs defeated the Tide to win their first national title in 41 years. Now that Georgia has won back-to-back championships, there’s an undeniable tilt in the balance of power between the two programs. Debate will heat up over whether Georgia has ever usurped the Crimson Tide, which won six national titles in 12 seasons under Nick Saban, as the SEC’s most elite program.

Smart, who spent nine seasons as Saban’s defensive coordinator at Alabama before moving to Georgia, took Saban’s championship plan with him to Athens. He has now won five SEC East titles, two SEC championships and two national titles. He drew seven of the top three signing classes, and they were on full display Monday night.

For much of the first half, Bennett was throwing to open receivers with no defenders close at hand. He threw just four misses and had two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in the half.

Georgia passed TCU by 233 yards in the first half, the widest margin in a half of a national championship game since at least the 2004 season. The Bulldogs were breaking national championship records left and right . It was a total meltdown for the Frogs, who were trying to win the program’s first national title since 1938.

“A really aggressive game, with nothing to hold back, we wanted our kids to play without fear,” Smart said. “And all year I told them, I said, ‘We won’t be kicked out guys. … We hunt. And the hunting season is almost over. We only have one more chance to hunt, and we hunted tonight. ‘”

When TCU knocked out No. 2 Michigan in the CFP semifinal at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl, he continued to convert critics into believers. However, it only took a half for Georgia to make it clear that the gap between the SEC’s most elite program and the TCU was as big as the score listed.

Midway through the third quarter, Georgia had run as many plays (45) as they had points, which is why the team’s fans at SoFi Stadium looked as comfortable as the lead they looked. Just about everything fell apart for TCU, including its first-half defense, which allowed the most first-half runs since giving up 38 to Oklahoma in 2017.

Going into the second quarter, the Georgia players waved their arms on the field and their white towels on the sidelines, beckoning the fans into the game. They did it again early in the second half. Georgia’s 17 points were the most in the first quarter by a team in a BCS or CFP national championship game. Even with the resounding start, however, there was still a sense that TCU would fight as they always do, and the first quarter was far too early to write off the Frogs. It happened in the second quarter.

TCU forged its identity this season through its relentless ability to find ways to win, but it was an insurmountable task against a program that forged its identity as the best team in the country.

Again.

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