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College Football Playoff Team Profile: No. 3 Georgia
For most of the season, Georgia looked like a prohibitive favorite to capture the SEC crown as well as their first national championship since 1980 even though they trailed Alabama in the polls early on. The Bulldogs’ opening game victory over Clemson, where they held the Tigers out of the end zone in a 10-3 win, served notice that the Crimson Tide had a serious challenger in their own conference.
Georgia rolled through the regular season, giving up less than seven points a game and compiling the only undefeated record among Power Five conference teams. After their first contest, the closest anyone got to the Bulldogs was Kentucky, who managed to get within 17 points in a 30-13 loss.
The Bulldogs recorded a trio of shutouts, including a 37-0 masterpiece against eighth-ranked Arkansas who was coming off a big upset of Texas A&M the previous week and a drubbing of Texas earlier in the season. To say Georgia was on a roll heading into the SEC title game in Atlanta would have been a huge understatement.
But somewhere between Bobby Stadium at Historic Grant Field where they dismantled Georgia Tech 45-0 to wrap up a 12-0 regular campaign and Mercedes-Benz Stadium less than two miles away, something happened to the Bulldogs’ mojo that Alabama was able to take advantage of, rolling up 536 yards on a defense that had been yielding 231 yards a game and defeat Georgia 41-24 to knock them down to third in the CFP rankings, just ahead of 13-0 Cincinnati and into an Orange Bowl matchup with #2 Michigan.
Part of the reason could be that even though Georgia dominated their opponents, they were able to avoid Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and LSU from the SEC West while catching a Clemson team that struggled on offense all season. When faced with a well-prepared and motivated Alabama squad that was able to put pressure on quarterback Stenson Bennett, the Bulldogs weren’t able to keep up.
Georgia Needs to Rebound Quickly
Even with the sound beating they received at the hands of Alabama, the Bulldogs are still far and away the best scoring defense, giving up 9.5 points per game with Clemson the next best at 15. They dropped back to second in total yards allowed, but at 254 yards per game for opposing offenses, they are still in an elite position.
They still have the most complete defense in the country, ranking third in both passing and rushing yards allowed, but Alabama’s Bryce Young was able to do something few quarterbacks had accomplished, and that was to get the time to find open receivers running free through the Georgia secondary. Although Michigan has an efficient quarterback in Cade McNamara, he will need for his team to establish a solid running game to support the air attack, something that Alabama didn’t need to do because of Young and his talented receiving corps.
Despite the hiccup against Alabama, there is no need for head coach Kirby Smart to panic and make too many changes to what they had done all season to put themselves in a position to contend for the national title. After all, it was Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide and he hasn’t finished on top of college football eight times without being able to figure out ways to exploit opponents’ vulnerabilities.
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