ATHENS — Georgia has shattered the football market, soaring higher than ever before with a 14-win season fueled and preserved by a historically dominant defense.
The Bulldogs scored a 33-18 win over Alabama in the CFP Championship Game last Monday, dethroning the defending champs and putting DawgNation atop the college football world.
The riches of a championship will carry through the year for the incredibly loyal UGA fanbase, which outnumbered Alabama 4-to-1 at Lucas Oil Stadium even after enduring a surprising 41-24 loss to the Tide some five weeks earlier in the SEC Championship Game.
UGA’s 2023 recruiting class currently ranks No. 1, and there’s no reason to believe Kirby Smart will slow down on the recruiting trail.
Smart was already talking about the program’s next investments on Tuesday morning, at the customary day-after-the-game press conference, and there’s sure to be plenty of offseason chatter about what the next version of UGA football looks like in 2022.
But for the first time in 41 years, the Bulldogs will be talking as national champions.
Brock Bowers: The unquestionable MVP of the Georgia offense this season, the true freshman from Napa, Calif., was no less than amazing with his reliable hands, ridiculous catch radius and explosive running after the catch. Bowers finished the season with a school-record 13 receiving touchdowns including TD catches in each of the last five games including the final offensive TD of the season for UGA in the CFP Championship Game win over Alabama. Bowers also led the Bulldogs in number of catches
Jordan Davis: The face of the 2021 Georgia football program and a likely future College Football Hall of Fame, Davis was a big hit at the Outland Trophy Award banquet this week, accepting recognition as the best lineman in the nation. Davis’ dominant play at nose tackle erased any notion of between the tackles rushing for the Tide and pushed the pocket back on Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.
Travon Walker: Walker’s 32 QB hurries led the Bulldogs this season and he recorded a team-high 7 QB hurries in the 33-18 win over Alabama, as Bryce Young was harassed into 2 intersections on a 35-of-57 passing night that netted just 1 offensive touchdown. Walker also saved a touchdown with his backside pursuit on Tide receiver Agiye Hall, relegating him to a 24-yard gain instead of a score.
Lewis Cine: The defensive player of the game, Cine’s run support was pivotal, with Alabama running back Brian Robinson bringing great physicality and determination into the Tide attack. Cine met Robinson more than once with thunderous physicality among his 7 tackles. Cine also helped direct a secondary that allowed just 2 plays over 40 yards to the SEC’s most explosive offense.
Jalen Carter: And speaking of players with pivotal moments, Carter’s blocked field goal set the wheels in motion for the pivotal momentum swing, as Cook’s 67-yard run transpired on the ensuing play. Beyond his field goal block, the athletic Carter had 3 stops and a jaw-dropping 6 QB hurries from the defensive tackle position. Pencil-in Carter as a preseason All-American in 2022 and projected first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Nolan Smith: Smith poured it on in the final two games, with 15 tackles and 10 QB hurries in the last two games of his career against Michigan an Alabama, raising his NFL draft stock and putting him in position to make a decision on his future. This is one player Smart and UGA will fight to try to keep.
Kirby Smart: The Georgia head coach is in the midst of negotiating a contract extension and is expected to land a 10-year guaranteed deal worth upwards of $100 million.
Kelee Ringo: What a finish to a championship season for the Bulldogs, both fitting and ironic when one considers Christoper Smith’s interception return to beat Clemson in the opener, and the secondary’s occasional struggles during the season, only to have a defensive back put the exclamation point on things. Ringo’s name will become synonymous with the title because of that one play.
Stetson Bennett: Bennett’s fourth-quarter performance impressed, as he was 4-of-4 for 83 yards and 2 TDs in the final 15 minutes, the offense proving resilient after “stumbling,” as Bennett said, through a 9-6 slugfest the first 40 minutes of the night. Bennett overcame five sacks to deliver at the end and was celebrated at the CFP Championship’s Offensive Player of the Game. Bennett, 24, has indicated he wants to continue playing even if its not at UGA.
Kenny McIntosh: McIntosh’s 59-yard kick return was called back because of a penalty, but his 10-yard catch on Georgia’s go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter featured amazing concentration and athleticism. McIntosh also had a 6-yard run through the heart of the Alabama defense down to the 1, setting up Zamir White for a goal-line plunge that represent the first TD in the game for either team.
Adonai Mitchell: The freshman came down with an amazing 40-yard catch on a jump ball in the corner of the end zone, one of only two catches in the game, but one that will stand the test of time and provide an optional “oil painting” picture should the Ringo Pick-6 be sold out.
James Cook: Cook’s 67-yard run was the offensive game-breaker and reminded NFL scouts what the Miami product has to offer after he had been held to just 4 yards on his 2 carries through 2 1/2 quarters.
Channing Tindall: Tindall made a case for himself with 8 tackles and a sack, his speed and supreme pursuit angles on display. Tindall was a difference-maker in the open field amid the swarming Bulldogs’ defense.
Alabama: To be fair, Nick Saban did a remarkable job winning the SEC title game over UGA and returning to the CFP after losing six first-round NFL draft picks. But the Tide did not add another CFP trophy to the case, and that is how Alabama judged. Michigan, meanwhile, would be in the “stock up” category after losing 34-11 in the Orange Bowl CFP Semifinal, to put the power of SEC and Georgia football into perspective.