College Football Playoffs Recap
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The first year back to a full season of college football has been anything but disappointing. Avid college football fans were in for a ride this season, as they were met with many surprises. Among these surprises were rivalry upsets, such as Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines topping their longtime rival, the Ohio State Buckeyes, in Ann Arbor, which knocked the latter out of the playoffs. These surprises also included the introduction of three new teams to the College Football Playoff National Championship: the Michigan Wolverines, the Georgia Bulldogs, and the Cincinnati Bearcats.
One aspect of college football that has been consistent throughout the past decade is the Alabama Crimson Tide’s dominance. Alabama, ranked number one, toppled Cincinnati, ranked number four, by a score of 27-6, culminating their miraculous, undefeated season. Even after losing their star quarterback (Mac Jones, round one), star running back (Najee Harris, round one), and Heisman winning receiver (DeVonta Smith, round one) alongside numerous other starters, Alabama looks as strong as ever. They currently sit on a 13-1 record, with their one defeat coming from a shocking three point loss to Texas A&M. Since that loss, they have been undefeated, thanks to the likes of their Heisman winning quarterback Bryce Young, an incredible offensive line, and a slew of talented players in their star-studded roster.
On the flipside, the Georgia Bulldogs have also been performing exceptionally. Georgia, at number three, ended number two Michigan’s miraculous season, despite being labeled as underdogs prior to the game. Georgia quarterback and walk-on Stetson Bennett marched the offense down the field with 310 passing yards of the day, aided by running back James Cook and freshman All-American tight end Brock Bowers. Georgia’s offense was able to breeze past Michigan’s defense, which includes Heisman finalist and future first-round pick Aidan Hutchinson. Georgia’s defense proved to be impenetrable, as it has been in the regular season, shutting down Michigan’s passing game led by quarterback Cade McNamara and stopping 1000-yard rusher Hassan Haskins in his tracks. Georgia boasts a defense with multiple All-Americans, including defensive tackles Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt, linebacker Nakobe Dean, and safety Lewis Cine. They played an integral role in keeping Michigan at 11 points to set up the Georgia offense for scoring, thus sending them to the national championship against Alabama.
This national championship was a rematch between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs. Earlier in December, Alabama handed Georgia their first and only loss, with a score of 41-24. Georgia entered the national championship with a historically strong defense, allowing only 9.5 points per game and 10 touchdowns total. Their offense was not one to underestimate either, ranking 10th in total offensive yards. Bennett stepped in at the beginning of the season after starting quarterback JT Daniels was injured and never looked back, commanding the offense with the fourth best passing in college football at 178. Georgia planned on getting revenge for their single loss and ending their six-game losing streak against Alabama. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was a former defensive back for the Bulldogs himself, but he also served under Alabama head coach Nick Saban for years as a defensive coordinator. Coming into the game, he planned on taking the title from his former colleague and bringing it to his alma mater. Meanwhile, Saban, considering his long history of defeating Georgia in the playoffs, didn’t plan on letting his seven national titles escape him.
An audience of 22.6 million viewers across the world tuned in on Monday night to watch the match. In a stunning upset, Georgia beat Alabama 33-18, ending 41 years of their national title drought. In the first three quarters of the game, Georgia and Alabama traded field goals, with their defenses proving to be impenetrable. Alabama matched Georgia’s unstoppable defense, with players like All-American Will Anderson Jr. making plays all over the field, linebacker Christian Harris putting on the pressure, and defensive backs like Jordan Battle and Kool-Aid McKinstry at coverage. Only one touchdown had been scored so far: a huge run by Alabama player Cook for 67 yards, bringing the Georgia offense close to the endzone for a touchdown run by Zamir White. Then, the legendary fourth quarter commenced as both teams stepped up their offensive firepower. Bennett fumbled the ball, which placed the Crimson Tide right at the end zone for Young to score. Georgia followed up quickly with an onslaught of completions from their walk-on quarterback, ending with a 40-yard deep shot to give them the lead. After the Bulldogs forced the Tide to punt, runs from White and Cook marched Georgia down the field to set up a touchdown pass to Bowers. On third and 10, with one touchdown behind, Young threw the ball but was intercepted by Kelee Ringo. An entourage of blockers led the way for Ringo to run into the endzone for a game-sealing pick-six.
For the first time, Georgia was able to break their curse against Alabama and end their national title drought in the biggest stage of college football. Smart was ecstatic after the game. “I’m so happy for the Georgia people,” he said. “I told the guys in the locker room, ‘Just take a picture of this.’ […] As they say, they become legendary [...] It’s not for me [...] It’s really for these guys.”
Bennett, who was named MVP of the game, also took some time to express the hard work and dedication of the team: “The tears afterwards, that just hit me,” he said. “When you put as much time as we do into this thing, blood, sweat, tears, it means something.”