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JT Daniels and Georgia will play Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Georgia football winners and losers following College Football Playoff announcements

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Georgia football winners and losers from the final week of 2020 season

Winner: The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

This year, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl was set to host the Group of 5 champion. Usually, that means for a less interesting bowl game, just given the power dynamics of the sport. And that likely means a less than motivated Power 5 team.

On its face that is what the game will be, as Georgia will play Cincinnati. But this is a matchup that is actually much better than what it might seem on paper.

While Georgia enters this game with losses against Alabama and Florida, the Bulldogs were a better team after JT Daniels became the team’s starting quarterback. Cincinnati ranks in the top-10 in both scoring defense and total defense.  This game will give Daniels and the Georgia offense to impress the national media once again and set things up for a promising 2021 season.

As for Cincinnati, they had a legitimate case for the College Football Playoff, especially when you factor that it played in and won three more games than Ohio State. The Bearcats are clearly one of the best teams in the country, full-stop. And the last two times a Group of 5 team has played in the Peach Bowl, it has won.

While this might be a matchup between a Group of 5 team and the fourth-best SEC team, it still sets up as one of the more entertaining bowl games of the 2020 season.

Loser: The sport of college football

There was a lot of arguing this weekend when it came to the sport of college football. The College Football Playoff committee put out a final four of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame. Texas A&M came in at No. 5. The aforementioned Bearcats couldn’t even get a sniff, as they finished behind multi-loss teams like Oklahoma and Florida.

Almost no one came away from this weekend happy. It shows just how dysfunctional this sport has become, as we no longer seem to celebrate the teams, but rather tear them down for their imperfections.

Notre Dame lost by 24 points to Clemson. Texas A&M became the first SEC team to lose just one game and miss the College Football Playoff. Ohio State played fewer games than both and got into the College Football Playoff. And in case you hadn’t already figured this out, as it currently exists a Group of 5 team will never make into the four-team College Football Playoff.

The College Football Playoff so clearly needs to be expanded. Whether that is to eight, 12 of 16 teams is up for debate — I believe it should be 16 — it has to happen. It’s just not likely until the TV contracts need to be re-done, and those currently run through 2025. So it seems we’re stuck with this flawed system for a few more seasons.

With the current College Football Playoff and media set-up though it becomes impossible to recognize that. It’s all about tearing one team down to try and bolster another. How does that help grow the sport? Who wants to deal with that much negativity?

The pandemic obviously added some difficulties to the 2020 season. But throughout it all, the sport is still as broken as it ever was. And until the College Football Playoff is expanded, it won’t be fixed.

Winner: Georgia’s offense

As has usually been the case when Georgia doesn’t make the College Football Playoff, some wonder where the Bulldogs’ motivation might lie. Under Kirby Smart, the objective has been to play in and win SEC championship games, not play in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl that is held in the same stadium a few weeks later.

Georgia finds itself in that situation this season. We touched on Georgia’s opponent above and why this game is worth watching. The Bulldogs showed last year against Baylor that it can still get up for a New Year’s Six game as well, even if the opponent isn’t a big-name draw..

“It was so important to so many in terms of the Baylor Sugar Bowl, the way the kids approached it,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “For the Texas Sugar Bowl, it wasn’t that way. Everybody didn’t approach the game the same way.

“I think we learned a valuable lesson as a staff that it’s not necessarily who you play with but what their mindset is when you go play a game in a bowl game.”

This game against Cincinnati offers a chance for Georgia to continue to build a more potent offense for the 2021 season. Georgia has done that in its past three games, with Daniels and the offense playing much better in the final three games of the season.

Related: Projecting JT Daniels vs. Heisman leaders: USC’s loss is Georgia’s gain

Georgia will get some extra practices ahead of the game as well as the game itself to continue to develop. The Bulldogs lost some of those reps this past offseason and it clearly had an impact on that side of the ball to start the season. Daniels and his wide receivers can only continue to get better with more live reps against a stout defense.

You can also look back to Alabama’s bowl game last year as a sign of things to come. The Crimson Tide didn’t have Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, so Mac Jones was put in a starting role. He proceeded to throw for 327 yards and 3 touchdowns in a win against Michigan. Those practice and game reps no doubt helped him develop into one of the best players in the sport this year.

Daniels has the same chance to do that this year. With Georgia opening the 2021 season against Clemson, this could be a good chance to show the rest of college football what it has to prepare for next season.

Loser: Those who criticize players opting out of bowl games

Georgia is going to have players opt-out of the bowl game. This isn’t a new trend, as we saw the likes of Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson do so last season. Monty Rice and DJ Daniel have already reportedly done so for Georgia this year.

Those defensive players likely won’t be the last. Both Rice and Daniel have already accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl and that opportunity is a huge chance to showcase NFL talent evaluators what they can do in-person. They’re also two of seven Georgia players to accept such an invite.

“We have several seniors with draft prospects, we got several juniors with the draft prospects, having to make decisions,” Smart said. “What I’ve encouraged them to do is be thorough, get good information, try to make the best decision in a timely manner where we can prepare, get ourselves ready.”

You’ll see some people call out or question these players who have chosen to opt-out of the game for one reason or another. Some will bring up them letting their teammates down or what these players owe the team or school.

Frankly, it’s a bunch of hogwash every year, but in a year where these players have already made tremendous sacrifices to have a season played, it’s even more bunk to speak ill of an individual’s decision regarding their future.

Guys like Rice, Daniel or Florida’s Kyle Pitts helped ensure that we actually had a season in the first place. They very easily could’ve decided not to play at the beginning of the year due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. And they would’ve been absolutely in their right to do so. They made the decision to take the necessary measure to keep themselves and their teammates safe. They’re the reason we got to see Georgia have an actual college football season when it was clear that some higher-ups in various conferences didn’t want that to happen.

Rice played through a foot injury for most of the season. Daniel has battled an ankle injury. They did their best to play in every game and help the Georgia team this season. If they want to rest up and prepare for the most important job-interview process of their football careers, they’ve earned that right.

College football players could’ve chosen to not play this season. They could’ve elected to stay home and look out for their own health. Instead, they help put on a season when we as a society really needed one.

These players have earned the right to take a break. And it’s so incredibly weak if you think less of them and their legacies because of that decision.

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