Georgia Bulldogs cruise to second straight CFP championship ESPN

Georgia Bulldogs cruise to second straight CFP championship

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — There was no epic comeback and miraculous ending because there wasn’t a chance — not when the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs asserted their sheer dominance from the start, sucking away the picture-book ending right under No. 3 TCU with one 65-7 win in Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship game at SoFi Stadium.

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

And they made it look so easy.

With 13:25 in the game and Georgia sitting comfortably with a 52-7 lead, Bennett unbuckled his chin strap, removed his helmet with a smile and walked to the sidelines, where he was greeted with hugs and high-fives from coaches and teammates for crowning his career with the greatest prize in sport. Bennett totaled six touchdowns, four rushing and two passing in the win.

Georgia beat this rough but talented TCU team every way possible, using strong tight ends to make big plays in the passing game, finding holes for long bursts in the running game, and pushing through the Horned Frogs’ offensive line to take TCU- Quarterback Max Duggan pressured into costly mistakes. He threw two first-half interceptions, including one with 36 seconds remaining that led to another touchdown pass from Bennett two games later, and a 38-7 comfortable half-time lead for Georgia. It was the largest halftime lead in a national championship game since BCS 2002, when Miami led 34-0 over Nebraska.

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Georgia, who had won everything just a year ago, looked relaxed and calm, while the Frogs, who finished 5-7 a year ago and were picked seventh in the Big 12, looked wide-eyed and disgruntled under first-year coach Sonny Dykes .

“There’s a lot of credit to be given to Georgia, they’ve done a great job of getting their team ready to play,” said Dykes. “These guys came out and played exceptionally well, they have a very 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, who defied odds weekly, had won five games this season while trailing after halftime and garnered attention the nation with their funky, drew hypnotoad and underdog status along the way.

Not this time.

This wasn’t about a fairy tale ending. No, this was about what Georgia starts under Kirby Smart.

“Lots of grit. Lots of toughness. The word we use around our court is connection,” Smart said on the championship podium. “Every one of our guys knows we stay connected, we’re hard to beat.”

As of 1990, Nebraska (1994-95) and USC (2003-04) are the only other schools to have won back-to-back national titles. The comparisons between Georgia and what Alabama has been doing 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 already usurped the Crimson Tide, which has won six national titles in 12 seasons under Nick Saban, as the most elite program in the SEC.

Smart, who spent nine seasons as Saban’s defensive coordinator in Alabama before being hired at Georgia, took Saban’s championship draft to Athens. He has now won five SEC East titles, two SEC championships, and two national titles. He has lured in seven top 3 signing classes and they were in full view on Monday night.

For much of the first half, Bennett threw at open receivers with no defenders within reach. He threw only four incompletions and caught two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in the half.

Georgia surpassed TCU by 233 yards in the first half, the widest margin in one half of a national championship game since at least the 2004 season. The Bulldogs broke national championship records left and right. It was a complete meltdown for the Frogs as they attempted to win the program’s first national title since 1938.

“Playing really aggressively, holding nothing back, we wanted our kids to play without fear,” Smart said. “And all year long I told them, I said, ‘We’re not being hunted guys. … We do the hunting. And the hunting season is almost over. We only have one more chance to hunt, and we hunted tonight.’ “

As TCU defeated No. 2 Michigan in the CFP semifinals at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl, they continued to turn critics into believers. However, it was only a half before Georgia made it clear that the gap between the SEC’s most elite program and TCU was as great as the score indicated.

Midway through the third quarter, Georgia had played as many plays (45) as it had points, which explains why the team’s fans at SoFi Stadium seemed as content as the lead they were staring at. Almost everything collapsed for TCU, including their first-half defense, which conceded the most points in a first half since giving 38 to Oklahoma in 2017.

At the start of the second quarter, Georgia’s players waved their arms on the field and their white towels on the touchline, signaling the fans to get into the game. They did it again early in the second half. Georgia’s 17 points was the most scored in the first quarter by any team in a BCS or CFP national championship game. Despite the underwhelming start, there was still a feeling that TCU would struggle as always, and the first quarter was far too early to write off the Frogs. That happened in the second quarter.

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