Defending CFP champs: What makes Georgia higher this 12 months?

Arms unfold huge, severe eyes scanning the sector as he sprinted off the sideline, Stetson Bennett’s celebration after Ohio State’s would-be game-winning area objective sailed huge with three seconds remaining bore a robust resemblance to a well-known Russell Crowe meme.

And sure, we have been entertained.

Georgia’s 14-point, fourth-quarter comeback over Ohio State within the Peach Bowl capped the perfect semifinal doubleheader of the School Soccer Playoff period. Texas Christianemerged because the CFP’s first Cinderella with an exciting victory over Michigan. Then the clock struck midnight on Ohio State.

Now the Bulldogs are questioning if their very own fairy story can proceed at SoFi Stadium on Jan. 9 within the nationwide championship sport. Bennett, a former walk-on turned Heisman Trophy finalist, has Georgia in place to turn out to be the primary repeat nationwide champions in a decade, supplementing the identical protection that helped locked down final 12 months’s title with an offense flirting with a number of faculty data.

After rolling up 533 yards towards Ohio State, the Bulldogs (14-0) are averaging 494.9 yards per sport, which is on tempo to interrupt the college report of 484.1 in 2013. They wanted each yard to outlast Ohio State in a 42-41 shootout.

After the Bulldogs scored with 54 seconds remaining to take a one-point lead, Georgia survived by limiting the Buckeyes to a protracted field-goal try within the waning seconds, finishing a fourth quarter with none touchdowns for an Ohio State offense that entered the sport because the second-best scoring offense within the nation.

Georgia outdueled Ohio State behind a balanced assault. Operating backs Kenny McIntosh and Daijun Edwards had 70 and 58 speeding yards, respectively, in 5 and eight carries. Even with out beginning tight finish Darnell Washington, who exited the sport early due to a sprained ankle, six gamers had a couple of catch. Adonai Mitchell, who didn’t have a catch since Sept. 10 towards Samford, had three towards Ohio State, together with the game-tying landing earlier than the go-ahead additional level.

“We have so many tools on offense we can utilize, I think coach [Todd] Monken and the staff find good ways of getting everybody the ball,” stated Brock Bowers, who gained the John Mackey Award because the nation’s high tight finish after main the Bulldogs in receiving with 59 catches for 790 yards and 6 touchdowns. “And it also helps having Stetson.”

The 25-year-old quarterback is the unlikely chief of faculty soccer’s present powerhouse. Bennett, virtually a real-life model of “Rudy,” is a former walk-on whose dad and mom each attended Georgia. Every season supplied a cinematic twist as he transferred to Jones School in Mississippi in 2018 to return in 2019, when he was buried on the depth chart behind Jake Fromm.

In 2020, Bennett was the third-string choice. He wanted Jamie Newman to choose out of the season and D’Wan Mathis, a former four-star prospect, to get benched within the season opener to get his likelihood. One other high prospect — former USC switch J.T. Daniels — pushed him out of the beginning spot later within the season.

Though Bennett completed the pandemic-shortened marketing campaign because the workforce’s high passer by makes an attempt and completions, he was behind Daniels on the depth chart once more in 2021. He completed it by elevating the nationwide championship trophy as the ultimate sport’s offensive most beneficial participant.

“He had a certain view of where he should be as a player and where we thought where he was at that time,” stated Monken, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, “and all he’s done is continue to battle and compete and fight like hell to be the starting quarterback at Georgia.”

When he went to junior faculty, Bennett had no concept that he would return to Georgia. Now, the previous scout workforce quarterback is on tempo to set a faculty report for particular person completion proportion at 68.1%, eclipsing Hutson Mason’s report of 67.8% in 2014.

“I had the guts to go chase it,” Bennett stated, “and then chase it more once I realized that I’m not there yet.”

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett celebrates after the Peach Bowl win as confetti falls round him.

(John Bazemore / Related Press)

They’re the defending nationwide champions, however the Bulldogs refuse to imagine they’ve arrived. Not one of the historical past issues, offensive lineman Sedrick Van Pran claimed. This system’s first nationwide championship in 41 years, the undefeated report this season, the record-setting performances are irrelevant.

If none of it mattered, the middle was requested, what did?

“Winning the next game.”