There are 130 teams in college football’s bowl subdivision. The University of Georgia is one of of them. With tonight’s authoritative 34-11 victory over Michigan the Red and Black demonstrated that they are superior to 128 of the 129 others. Now they get another shot at the final boss.
The Georgia defense regained its dominance, and Stetson Bennett led an offense that methodically scored on its first five possessions. The ‘Dawgs churned our 518 yards of offense, including a solid 190 yards on the ground against a vaunted Michigan front seven allegedly among the best in America. Five Bulldog tailbacks got carries on the night, highlighted by Zeus White’s 12 carries for 54 yards.
But it was the Mailman who truly delivered on this night. Bennett completed 20 of his 30 passes for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns. The UGA offense also converted 63% of 3rd down attempts and their only 4th down try, in part thanks to some nifty footwork by Bennett. The Prince of Pierce in fact finished with 32 yards on the ground, second best on the team. Most importantly, he largely avoided the dangerous decisions that led to costly turnovers in the SEC Championship Game. In fact the Bulldogs had no turnovers on the night.
The same could not be said for Jim Harbaugh’s Maize and Blue. The Wolverines turned the ball over on their final possession of the first half and their first two possessions of the second. While Georgia didn’t turn those turnovers into any points, a fact which will certainly let stick in Kirby’s craw, the turnovers kept Michigan spinning its wheels when it most needed to gain some traction for a comeback. By the time Stetson Bennett found James Cook on a looping 39 yard wheel route for a final touchdown, it already felt like this one was all but over.
The negatives? Well, it felt a bit like the ‘Dawgs let up mentally in the third quarter. There were some penalties (5 for 70 yards). Especially on the offensive line, those took some yardage off the board. And of course targeting penalties on Chris Smith and Chaz Chambliss didn’t help (though Smith will be back for the title game).
But the bottom line is that two weeks hence Georgia will play for a national title for the second time in Kirby Smart’s tenure. It will once again be against Alabama and Nick Saban, the hobgoblin who continues to frustrate our ambitions. The common wisdom holds that it’s hard to beat a good football team twice in the same season. Let’s hope so. For now, unless you’re an Alabama fan, you’d trade places with Georgia fans on this night. It is indeed great to be a Georgia Bulldog. We’ll see y’all in the New Year.