Georgia Was THE Team, Stetson Bennett: 5 National Championship Thoughts

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Stetson Bennett’s big drive, to the loss of Jameson Williams, to Georgia being THE team of 2021, here are 5 National Championship thoughts from the terrific game.

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Georgia 33, Alabama 18: College Football Playoff National Championship 5 Things That Matter

Prediction: Georgia 26, Alabama 23
Line: Georgia -2.5, o/u: 52.5
CFN Georgia vs Alabama Preview

Now that the dust has settled after Georgia beat Alabama for the College Football Playoff National Championship – and after getting a shot to watch the game again after spending a fun night in a raucous and very cold Lucas Oil Stadium – here are the 5 main takeaways with 24 hours to let it all sink in.

5. Georgia was the team of 2021

Yeah, of course – it won the national championship. Losing the SEC Championship – as it turned out – didn’t matter, and it might have been just what the Dawgs needed.

You want focus? LB Nakobe Dean was so locked in on Alabama that he ended up wearing a Tide national championship hat after it was all over.

Obviously that was a mistake, but the loss in Atlanta refocused the effort. Any possibility of overconfidence was gone, the mission was to take down Bama – of course it was going to be Georgia-Alabama in the national championship – and this veteran team full of superstar talent had the laser focus needed to pull this off.

2021 Georgia was the team of the year, just like 2020 Alabama was the team of the year, just like LSU owned the 2019 season.

Georgia’s defense stopped Clemson to start the season – getting the only touchdown of the game on a pick six – and it ended the season with a dramatic pick six.

2021 Alabama might have rented the top spot for several weeks, but it was Georgia’s turn thanks to that D that helped bail out …

Georgia – Alabama National Championship 5 Thoughts
4. Stetson Bennett’s one big drive
3. Jameson William’s injury mattered
2. Bill O’Brien was fine
1. The talent level, oh, the talent level
National Championship Game Thoughts

NEXT: Stetson Bennett wasn’t good until he absolutely had to be

4. Stetson Bennett wasn’t good until he absolutely had to be

It wasn’t Justin Fields. It wasn’t Jake Fromm. It wasn’t Jacob Eason, Matthew Stafford, DJ Shockley, Aaron Murray, D’Wan Mathis, Jamie Newman. Brock Vandagriff, or any one of a number of big-time four-and-five-star quarterback recruits or transfers who got Georgia its first national title in over 40 years.

However, it was almost JT Daniels who got a shot to be the hero.

Stetson Bennett wasn’t playing well.

The smallish former walk-on stepped in when Daniels went down early in the season and never gave up the gig the rest of the way, but he was really, really shaky.

He didn’t want a repeat of the key mistakes made in the SEC Championship game, he didn’t force anything that wasn’t there, and he played in the national championship like he was trying not to lose.

The Crimson Tide figured that out fast. The run defense was getting the job done, the pass rushers turned it loose and made Bennett scramble, and nothing was working.

13 was beaten up, knocked around, and pressured all game long, until his fumble – that really wasn’t a fumble, but okay – led to Alabama taking the lead in the fourth quarter.

Daniels was getting loose on the sidelines.

Georgia had to make a change. It had to try something different with Bennett not getting the job done and the national championship slipping away, but down 18-13, he got back out there, and boom – he drove a ball on his most confident throw of the game for 18 yards to Jermaine Burton.

He had Burton potentially open for a touchdown, but a pass interference call stopped that. He slipped a pass to Kenny McIntosh for another first down, and after a sack, he threw a good-enough ball to Adonai Mitchell for a 40-yard touchdown that turned out to be the game-winning score.

Four throws. All the problems, all the doubts, all the mistakes went away on the one drive Georgia had to have.

Another pass interference call and a touchdown pass to Brock Bowers all but sealed the deal on the team’s next drive – the defense had to take care of the rest after the Dawgs inexplicably didn’t go for two to try to end it – and that was it.

The unsung guy everyone wanted to replace went a misleading 17-of-26 for 224 yards and two scores with no picks …

And one national title.

Nah, this doesn’t mean you don’t want the high-end future NFL starter under center, and nah, this doesn’t prove anything more than good quarterback can come through with a team around him loaded with special players, but whatever.

Stetson Bennett is a national championship-winning starting quarterback.

The guy pulled it off.

Georgia – Alabama National Championship 5 Thoughts
5. Georgia was THE team of 2021
3. Jameson William’s injury mattered
2. Bill O’Brien was fine
1. The talent level, oh, the talent level
National Championship Game Thoughts

NEXT: Yeah, the Jameson Williams knee injury mattered

3. Yeah, the Jameson Williams knee injury mattered

Star Crimson Tide WR Jameson Williams – who torched Georgia for 184 yards and two touchdowns in the SEC Championship – was doing it again. He caught seven passes for 65 yards before leaving the game in the first half with a knee injury – he tore his ACL.

He was gone, and Alabama was also missing leading receiver John Metchie, who caught 96 passes for 1,142 yards and eight scores before getting knocked out for the season in the first meeting with the Dawgs.

Bryce Young still threw for 369 yards and a score, and he had the puck on his stick with a chance to tie it before the Kelee Ringo pick six ended the festivities.

It’s not fair to say that Alabama wins if Williams doesn’t get hurt – a popular narrative among some in the social media and talk radio world.

That game could’ve gone a slew of different ways, and the Dawg D was doing a brilliant job of bending but not breaking, but does Williams – or Metchie, for that matter – come up with the catch down the right sidelines on a perfectly thrown ball that Ja’Corey Brooks fought off for an incompletion?

Maybe.

The overall timing of the offense certainly would’ve been sharper, even though Slade Bolden and TE Cameron Latu did a decent job of picking up the slack. However, not having the main man out there changed things up a bit for the offensive game plan.

Even so, despite all of the criticism …

Georgia – Alabama National Championship 5 Thoughts
5. Georgia was THE team of 2021
4. Stetson Bennett’s one big drive
3. Jameson William’s injury mattered
1. The talent level, oh, the talent level
National Championship Game Thoughts

NEXT: Bill O’Brien called a better game than you think

2. Bill O’Brien called a better game than you think

Oh did the Alabama world take it out on Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.

He didn’t have Bryce Young throw downfield enough, he didn’t establish the running game, he didn’t take enough chances, he took too many chances, he …

He couldn’t win. Alabama was having a hard time moving the ball against the nation’s best defense, and the offensive coordinator was getting ripped for it.

Unpopular opinion time – he and the Alabama offense were terrific considering the circumstances.

No one was running the ball in this. Georgia had one big dash and one other decent run, and that was about it. There wasn’t anything consistent. Alabama couldn’t get Brian Robinson free – he finished with just 68 yards on 22 carries – and Young was getting hit and pressured all game long.

However, the idea of going wide and relying on Young to come up with quick-hitting throws worked.

The time of possession battle only ended up by a +3 minutes for Alabama, but it controlled the clock for the first three quarters with dinks, dunks, and field position – the field was totally tilted to the Georgia end for long stretches.

Yeah, the Tide had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns in a 9-6 start, but the defense was fantastic, Stetson Bennett wasn’t showing any signs of making anything happen, and Alabama had to scramble without its two star wide receivers to help the cause.

O’Brien and the offense had their moments.

Young set up Georgia perfectly on the team’s lone touchdown. The pass rush came in, and after going outside on the move all game long, Young stopped, threw against the grain, and Latu had settled in just over the goal line for the score. That moment was set up all game long, and the play call nailed it.

It just wasn’t enough.

Again, shorthanded, Alabama outgained Georgia 399 to 365 and almost pulled it off. O’Brien was fine, Young was terrific, and Georgia’s defense was Georgia’s defense.

Georgia – Alabama National Championship 5 Thoughts
5. Georgia was THE team of 2021
4. Stetson Bennett’s one big drive
3. Jameson William’s injury mattered
2. Bill O’Brien was fine
National Championship Game Thoughts

NEXT: The talent. Oh dear heavens, the talent.

1. The talent. Oh dear heavens, the talent.

No matter which recruiting service does it for you, Georgia had either the first or second-best recruiting class in the country over each of the last few years, and Alabama had either the first or second-best class.

At the very least, no one was ranking either of the recruiting classes from these two outside of the top five.

In and around the press box, the talk wasn’t about the game, or the strategy, or the coaching, or anything else other than 1) Stetson Bennett, and 2) the jaw-dropping talent.

You want to know why no one can push past the best SEC teams for the national championship on a consistent basis? You need to be Clemson or Ohio State or on that level to think about hanging with the talent and athleticism of what was on that field in Indianapolis.

The speed. The quickness. The skill. You just saw the future of the NFL.

That’s what you’re dealing with, college football.

Oh sure, a Michigan or a Cincinnati might be able to find its way into the College Football Playoff, but if you want to win it all, you have to be able to hang with that.

You block Will Anderson, and if you do, good luck with Christian Harris on the other side.

You push Jordan Davis off his base, and them stop the guided missile that’s Nakobe Dean, and on and on and on and on for both sides.

There were at least 20 players combined from the two teams that should be selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. That’s not including Bryce Young, or Will Anderson, or Brock Bowers, or a whole slew of underclassmen who aren’t eligible yet.

The game might have been dry at times, and people didn’t want the rematch, and there’s Alabama fatigue, and SEC fatigue, and …

That was a heavyweight fight of talent on Monday night. It was special.

Georgia – Alabama National Championship 5 Thoughts
5. Georgia was THE team of 2021
4. Stetson Bennett’s one big drive
3. Jameson William’s injury mattered
2. Bill O’Brien was fine
1. The talent level, oh, the talent level
National Championship Game Thoughts