miami gardens, florida. (ap) with an overwhelming half in the orange bowl, no. 3 Georgia proved that a humiliating loss to Alabama didn’t beat the Bulldogs.
in fact, it could have made them even stronger.
stetson bennett threw three touchdown passes, nakobe dean led an angry defense and georgia returned to their dominant form, beating world no. 2 michigan 34-11 on Friday night to advance to the college football playoff championship.
”I answered a million questions about our team, how it recovered and how you played,” said kirby smart, coach of georgia. “We’ve got a lot of great character guys on this team and they played until they dropped today.”
georgia (13-1) won a rematch with southeastern conference nemesis alabama (13-1) in the Jan. 10 in indianapolis.
27 days ago, a crimson tide swept through the Bulldogs, shattering their air of invincibility after a 12-0 regular season in which they were barely challenged.
”All our guys did was work,” smart said of how they responded to the loss and three weeks later being asked what went wrong.
The Bulldogs were quick to answer any questions about whether the damage from that 41-24 setback would linger.
georgia became the first team in the cfp’s eight-year history to score on each of its first five possessions and led 27-3 at halftime.
“We knew we were better than we showed in the last game,” Bennett said.
michigan (12-2) entered its first playoff appearance after a historic season, having ended a long drought against rival ohio state en route to winning the big ten.
”We’re going to rip,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh told ESPN moments before kickoff.
The Bulldogs certainly did, playing as a team to prove a point.
Georgia scored touchdowns the first two times she had the ball, moving it at will against Heisman Trophy runner-up Aidan Hutchinson and the Michigan defense.
bennett found freshman tight end brock bowers for an 8-yard touchdown pass to cap an opening 80-yard drive.
”That set the tone for the game,” said smart.
georgia took a two-touchdown lead and hit michigan with some of the tricks the wolverines have used so well. running back kenny mcintosh swept to the right and delivered a perfect pass to adonai mitchell for an 18-yard touchdown that made it 0-14 in less than five minutes of play.
The Wolverines captured their first Big 10 championship since 2004 without dropping seven points this season.
”i mean, we gave it everything we had and they beat us tonight,” quarterback cade mcnamara said. “But I think once we give it a little time, we’ll be able to appreciate a lot of the great things we accomplished this season.”
The Bulldogs added field goals on their next two possessions and Bennett hit a 57-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Burton who ran down the sideline to make it 27-3 with 1:38 left in the half.
and that was more or less that. the bulldogs outscored the wolverines 330-101 in the first 30 minutes.
”I thought our (defensive) front controlled the line of attack. I thought our offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage,” smart said. “That’s a total team effort.”
Georgia’s defense that was setting a historic pace, allowing less than a touchdown per game before being shredded by Alabama, stifled a Michigan offense built to intimidate opponents.
bulldogs had none of that.
dean, the butkus award-winning linebacker, diagnosed plays before the snap and chased ball carriers from side to side.
dean said he took note of how heading into this game, for the first time all season, georgia’s defensive dominance appeared to be in question.
”We always want to play with a chip on our shoulder,” said dean, who had seven tackles, two turnovers and a forced fumble.
huge nose tackle jordan davis collapsed in the middle of a michigan offensive line that won the joe moore award as the best in the country.
”That was our plan, to be a more dominant physical front,” said American Davis.
cornerback derion kendrick, transferred from clemson, had two interceptions and was the defensive player of the game.
The Wolverines finished with 88 rushing yards after averaging 223 per game. Mcnamara completed 11 of 19 passes for 106 yards.
there was simply no contest and now the bulldogs will have a chance to redeem themselves against alabama, trying to win their first national title since 1980.
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All that stands in the way is the most successful dynasty in college football history, and Nick Saban’s longtime assistant assistant at Alabama’s savvy rival has tried to model his show.
smart dodged his players’ celebratory gatorade bath after the game, smart said he wanted to take a real shower and get to work catching the team georgia has been chasing for five years.
”(alabama) got a five or six hour head start,” smart said. “To be honest with you, I’m not interested in celebrating that.”
georgia opened as a 2 1/2-point favorite, according to fanduel sportsbook.
food to go
georgia: There was a lot of talk about whether bennett should remain the bulldogs’ starting quarterback after he threw two interceptions against alabama. Georgia fans wondered if it was time to switch back to USC transfer JT Daniels, who was QB1 to start the season before an injury opened the door for Bennett.
The former teammate completed his first nine passes against Michigan en route for 307 yards and showed more than enough arm strength on a 53-yard bomb to james cook in the second quarter. Bennett was named offensive mvp.
michigan: The 2021 season will provide much for wolverines to fondly remember.
”This is the beginning,” Harbaugh told ESPN afterward. ”In Michigan history, it’s one of the greatest teams of all time.”
the orange bowl proved that closing the gap to ohio state is one thing, but today there are two teams at the top of college football in a completely different class than the rest.
georgia: the bulldogs will face alabama for the second time in the game for the cfp title. the bulldogs have lost seven straight overall against the current, including the 2017 cfp championship in overtime.
Michigan: Wolverines open the 2022 season at home against Colorado State.
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