INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Stetson Bennett IV punched his center fist, then spread his arms, cocked his head, and smiled in a pose worthy of this two-time national champion.
The look on the Georgia quarterback’s face was like saying, this is too easy.
Bennett had just scored one of the easiest touchdowns of his career, strolling into the end zone undamaged, protected by a pair of header blockers.
The national championship trophy ceremony was still a few hours away Monday at SoFi Stadium, but by then it had already become clear: Georgia remained at the pinnacle of college football.
Follow every game: Latest NCAA College Football Scores and Schedules
The best team in the land broke the glass slipper and smashed Cinderella.
No. 1 Georgia 65, No. 3 TCU 7.
Georgia’s greatness is no fairy tale.
TCU (13-2) earned their spot in that game, but the national championship was decided when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta, when Georgia won by a single point over Ohio State in the semifinals. The Buckeyes’ record was tainted by two poor fourth quarters, but I’m confident the two most talented teams in the country met that night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
In the second quarter Monday, the only question was whether Georgia (15-0) would score on every possession. The Bulldogs got there until halftime.
Six possessions in the first half. Six goals in the first half.
In a show of mercy, Georgia opened the third quarter. Then the beating resumed.
Nick Saban used to turn national championships into blowouts.
Four of Saban’s six national titles in Alabama were lopsided affairs. One of the two exceptions was Alabama’s overtime triumph over Georgia in 2018, a reminder of how close the Bulldogs have come to winning three national titles over the past six seasons.
“We want Bama” became a humorous paradox throughout Saban’s reign as it only took one turn facing Bama to learn that you wanted nothing to do with the tide.
Until now, maybe.
Alabama has come down from its perch, and that opposing fan slogan needs an overhaul. “We Want Bama” should become “We Want Bama”. Of course, it’s better to play in Georgia. »
When Georgia beat Alabama in the national championship last season, it felt like a snapshot rather than a revamp of the sport’s long-term power dynamics. Georgia then had a historically excellent defense and took advantage of Alabama playing without two injured wide receivers.
Order would be restored this season, or so I thought, after these 2021 Georgia Bulldogs served 15 NFL draft picks. Alabama entered this season at No. 1.
By winning a second consecutive national championship in a sport where such feats are rare, the Bulldogs proved their stamina under coach Kirby Smart. No team had successfully defended their title since teams from Alabama in 2011 and 2012 came and went. Smart was Saban’s defensive coordinator during those years.
The list of coaches who own a national championship includes the likes of Gene Chizik and Ed Orgeron. In winning a second title, Smart joins a more explosive group of multi-championship coaches, a fraternity that includes Saban, Urban Meyer, Dabo Swinney, Bobby Bowden, Tom Osborne and Joe Paterno.
As at the height of the Saban dynasty, the massive departure of NFL talent hasn’t sent Georgia into rebuilding mode. He recharged with a mix of leftovers and new stars.
And if you think Georgia will cancel next season, look for the climax of Mykel Williams sacking Max Duggan. Williams maneuvered past a veteran left tackle before crunching the TCU quarterback.
Williams is a freshman. A five-star freshman. But of course.
Replacing Bennett will be a chore, but if Georgia manages to shift power to the quarterback, it should be seen as a threat to becoming college football’s first three-time champion since Minnesota won three consecutive titles from 1934-36.
Winning a national title can be achieved with transformational talent like Cam Newton or Joe Burrow. Winning twice in a row requires a solid program.
Smart built this.
Bennett concluded his unlikely college career with the flourish of Elton John on a farewell tour. The former Heisman Trophy finalist scorched the Frogs with 343 yards of offense. He came out early in the fourth quarter to a standing ovation.
But more than any player, this championship is a byproduct of continuous recruiting and the development of a program etched from the Saban plan.
TCU hadn’t faced team speed like this. The Bulldogs are closing in fast and they pack a punch when they arrive. TCU had no one who could cover for Brock Bowers or handle Kenny McIntosh’s breakout.
Georgia’s strong offensive line consistently opened up lanes and protected Bennett as if he held the Crown Jewels. His defensive front manhandled TCU offensive linemen like they were Venice Beach hipsters.
Above all, Georgia played as a team without weakness. Smart recruits, then it grows, and it does so with the help of quality staff. This is all very familiar because Saban built the Alabama dynasty the same way.
On Monday, Saban sat down on an ESPN set, previewing a game many expected him to coach just months ago.
Saban became a talking head and Smart grabbed his second trophy. Consider the past torch.
Alabama will not soon give up its relevance. Talented players continue to flock to Tuscaloosa. But you’d rather face Bama than Smart’s Bulldogs right now.
Nobody wants Georgia.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.