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120421 Atlanta: Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett is helped up after getting leveled by Alabama defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis during the second half with Alabama getting the best of Georgia in a 41-24 loss during the SEC Championship game on Saturday, Dec 4, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Georgia football winners and losers as Bulldogs enter College Football Playoff mode

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Georgia football winners and losers as Bulldogs enter College Football Playoff mode

Winner: Brock Bowers

You can’t say much more about what the freshman tight end did on Saturday. Against what is now the No. 1 team in the country, Bowers had the best game of his college career. He caught 10 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown.

Not much went right for the Bulldogs on Saturday. That Georgia’s best player against Alabama was a freshman should be both promising for what it means for the future of Bowers, but also alarming given the talent on the rest of the team.

Loser: The Georgia pass rush

You probably want to read about the quarterback situation. We’ll get to that in a moment. But first, I’d like to share a quote that is attributed to Mark Twain.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

We knew Georgia had a capable pass rush. We knew Alabama’s offensive line was much maligned. The Crimson Tide gave up 7.0 sacks against Auburn prior to the SEC championship game.

Yet Georgia’s pass rush was non-existent. It finished the game with zero sacks. The last time that happened came back in 2019, when Georgia lost 20-17 against South Carolina.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart couldn’t decide whether to use the word surprised or disappointed.

“It’s hard because after watching the tape there were times we did not get pressure but when we got pressure we got beat,” Smart said. “We didn’t finish on the quarterback, meaning he outran the guy. We got pressure, we didn’t finish and we didn’t cover at a premium. And a lot of it has to do with him.

The him is Alabama’s Bryce Young, who locked up the Heisman Trophy one drive into the third quarter. Young threw for 421 yards and ran for another 40. He scored 4 touchdowns, 3 by air and another using his legs. He could do no wrong against a defense that overwhelmed every other quarterback to date.

We should also mention a secondary here that routinely got beat. Whether it be John Metchie finding the open spots in the zone or Jameson Williams twice outrunning the Georgia defense for touchdowns, the Bulldogs had problems in the backend. Should Georgia get a rematch, it won’t face Metchie, as he tore his ACL on Saturday.

All year we heard about this defense being elite. For the first 12 games, it had been. But after that performance, it ain’t so clear how good this defense really is.

Winner: Regular-season success

Despite the 41-24 loss to Alabama, Georgia still found itself in the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs will be the No. 3 seed and travel to Miami to take on the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines.

The disappointing loss on Saturday did not dilute Georgia’s accomplishments in the first 12 games in the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee.

“The goal of every college football team, coach, player, and fan is to be one of the four teams in the Playoff and we are extremely honored,” Smart said. “It presents a great opportunity for our fans who have been so supportive of our team throughout the season at home and on the road. Playing in a city and game with such rich tradition will be a rewarding experience and it represents another step for our program at Georgia.”

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