After getting lit up by Alabama in the SEC title game, the proud and talented Georgia defense responded in impressive fashion, lift the Bulldogs to their first national championship since the early 1980s.
It was clinched with Georgia’s fourth defensive touchdown of the season as the Bulldogs justified their entering the game as the favorite.
The Las Vegas odds list Alabama (+175) as the tepis favorite to win the 2022 national title, with Georgia next (+190).
After Monday night’s game, many of the standout performers await the 2022 NFL draft
A fitting finale for elite Georgia defense
Regardless of how the title game played out, the ‘Dawg defense was going to be remembered as one of the best in recent memory.
However, for 37 days the leaders of that defense were driven by the memory of surrendering 536 yards and 41 points to Alabama in the conference title game.
The secondary, which had four players selected in the 2021 NFL draft, was rarely tested during the season because the relentless Georgia front seven made quarterbacks get rid of the ball early…if they could throw the ball at all. Alabama also became just the fourth team to have more than 100 rushing yards in the 41-24 win over previously-undefeated Georgia.
It was a different story in the rematch.
The four sacks were not a true reflection of how much pressure Georgia brought against Bryce Young, but the Heisman Trophy winner never looked comfortable, despite throw for 369 yards.
Young was intercepted twice. The first one did not result in points, but the second one certainly did Kelee Ringo’s 79-yard interception return for a touchdown with 54 seconds left turned an eight-point lead into an insurmountable 15-point cushion. For the Georgia defense, there would be no better way to cap an incredible season.
— ESPN (@espn) January 11, 2022
Georgia finished the season with more interceptions (16) than touchdowns allowed (13). The 10.2 points allowed per game were the fewest by an FBS team since the 2011 Alabama team allowed 8.2 points per contest.
Led by the dominant defense, it is no surprise that three of the last four Georgia games finished under the total set by the college football spreads.
Williams’ departure was a game changer
Alabama was already playing without one of its 1,000-yard receivers when John Metchie suffered a season-ending knee injury in the SEC title game. Then Jameson Williams, the Crimson Tide’s leader with 1572 receiving yards and 15 touchdown catches, went down with a knee injury of his own as he made a 40-yard catch.
Williams left the game with 12:28 to play in the first half and did not return. At that point, Alabama was having success completing high-percentage passes to running backs and tight ends while the Georgia defense paid extra attention to the speedy Williams. Once Williams left the game, the Bulldogs could be more aggressive in their coverage and also in the blitz packages. When Young did attempt to throw the ball deep, Alabama receivers dropped multiple passes, also failing to come down with contested catches.
That injury can’t be blamed for Alabama’s loss\, but it certainly changed what the Crimson Tide could do offensively, same as the absence of star cornerback Josh Jobe proved costly when one of the players asked to fill in was first whistled for pass interference, then beaten for a 40-yard touchdown when Georgia used an offsides penalty against ‘Bama as a free play.
Alabama seeing red
Alabama suffered a stunning loss to Texas A&M, then the offense responded in impressive fashion. The Crimson Tide made 11 trips to the red zone in the next three games, scoring touchdowns on each one of them. That started a stretch where Alabama scored touchdowns on 74% of its red-zone visits during an eight-game winning streak, vaulting the Tide into the national title game.
That finishing ability was nowhere to be found Monday evening. In the Crimson Tide’s first nine drives, they ran 10 plays in the red zone-including six inside the 10-yard line-but managed just field goals.
When Will Reichard connected on his fourth field goal of the game with 12:59 to play, it brought Alabama within a point. In reality, Alabama knew it should have had more than just the 12 at that point of the game.
Turning point No. 1
Reichard bailed out the Alabama offense, connecting on three field goals to give the Crimson Tide a 9-6 lead at halftime.
He lined up for his fourth field goal attempt with 3:18 left to play in the third quarter, looking to double Alabama’s lead. Instead, the 16-play, 68-yard (nearly eight-minute) drive ended with Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter blocking the field goal.
Georgia running back James Cook ripped off a 67-yard run on the next play. It was the longest running play allowed by Alabama this season. That led to Zamir White’s 1-yard touchdown, the first of the game.
Turning point No. 2
Alabama’s first touchdown of the game came gift-wrapped by Georgia as quarterback Stetson Bennett fumbled while being sacked by Christian Harris. Brian Branch barely kept his lead foot inbounds to give the Crimson Tide the ball at the Georgia 16. It was the type of momentum swing that Alabama usually pounces on. It was no different this time as Young connected with tight end Cameron Latu for a three-yard touchdown pass to give Alabama the 18-12 lead.
This is the point of the game where the Tide usually take those fortunate circumstances and ride /em all the way to victory.
Georgia, however, had other ideas.
The Bulldogs’ next two possessions resulted in touchdown-scoring drives of 75 and 62 yards, respectively. The next two times Alabama had the ball, there was a three-and-out and then Ringo’s interception return on a forced throw by Young that clinched the game.
Running lanes closed
In the semifinal win over Cincinnati, the Alabama running game kicked into high gear. The physical Alabama offensive line took control of the game and Brian Robinson set a program bowl record with 204 yards. Much of the yardage came with Robinson running between the tackles.
Against Georgia, however, there was a different strategy. The Crimson Tide came into the game determined to attack Georgia on the perimeter, many early runs coming on pitch plays to the outside. That was a wise strategy since teams all season struggled to run between the tackles against Georgia and its 6-foot-6, 340-pound All-American defensive tackle Jordan Davis.
Robinson’s numbers (22 carries, 68 yards) weren’t horrible, but it was clear as the game wore on that the success of the offense would fall squarely on Young’s shoulders. Adding in the four sacks and nine tackles for loss, Alabama was credited with 30 yards on 28 carries.
Salyer’s versatility paid dividends
Jamaree Salyer earned All-American honors as Georgia’s left tackle, but after some issues running the ball in the first half, two things happened. First, the Georgia coaches challenged the offensive line to go out and win the game. Then the 6-foot-4, 325-pound Salyer moved inside to guard.
It wouldn’t take much effort to find footage of big No. 69 on any of the replays showing White or Cook ripping off yards in the second half. He was setting the tone as Georgia used the physical play of both of its lines to polish off the Crimson Tide.
Georgia finished with 140 rushing yards, compared to just 30 by Alabama, with some 78 of those Bulldog ground yards coming on one drive.
The line also helped neutralize Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr., who was the best player on the field for either team in the first half.
Cinderella story comes true for Bennett
Bryce Young came to Alabama with plenty of fanfare as one of the top recruits in the country out of California powerhouse Mater Dei, and he has lived up to all the hype and then some. The other starting quarterback had a much more humble path to championship glory.
Stetson Bennett originally came to Georgia as a preferred walk-on. After enrolling at Georgia and drawing praise as ther scout-team quarterback, Bennett went to Jones College in Ellisville, Mississippi, where he led his team to a 10-2 record, the Mississippi Bowl title and a place in the MACJC championship game. He was rewarded with a scholarship from Georgia.
After Ringo’s game-sealing touchdown, Bennett could be seen on the sidelines shedding tears of joy as he embraced coaches and teammates. His final numbers of 224 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions don’t begin to tell the story of his improbable journey from lightly-regarded recruit to national championship quarterback.
Bowers the real deal
Tight end Brock Bowers came to Georgia as one of the top-rated players at his position among the true freshmen. He didn’t disappoint, leading the Bulldogs with 56 catches and 882 receiving yards.
Bowers had some early receptions when both teams were looking sustained offense, then wasn’t involved much until scoring one of the Bulldogs’ three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Bowers had six touchdown catches in the first 10 games of the season, but did most of his best work down the stretch with a TD grab in each of the last five games. Bowers had 14 catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns in two games against Alabama.
The other tight end wasn’t bad, either, so let’s give props to Alabama’s Cameron Latu and his game-high 102 receiving yards.
Let’s give props to the props
There wasn’t a lack of options for those who bet online from Monday’s national championship game.
The first number that stood out is the total-52½- which was 52 earlier in the week. The final score was 33-18 so there were plenty of anxious folks when Alabama had the ball in the final minute.
That was far from the only bet worth monitoring. Here are some of the others…
Will either team have a 100-yard rusher? It was even money that would happen and -140 that it would not. White led the way with 84 yards.
Will both teams have a 100-yard receiver? While Alabama’s Latu finished with 102 yards on five catches, no Georgia player had a 100-yard receiver, so that paid +110.
Player to score the first touchdown: That almost got busted when Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean returned an apparent fumble by Young for a touchdown on Alabama’s first series of the game. However, after a review, it was called an incomplete forward pass. White (+850) had the fifth-best odds to score the first TD.
Bennett’s total passing yards: He finished with 224 yards and was listed at +600 to finish between 201-225 yards. The best payout would have come at +900 if he threw for 326-350 yards. Young’s 369 passing yards wasn’t as rewarding for those who bet online, as any number over 351 yards carried a +250 price,