Georgia Bulldogs win back-to-back CFP titles

It was a Monday night at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The crowd roared in anticipation for a matchup between the defending national champions and an underdog team that defied all preseason expectations. Two Heisman Trophy finalist quarterbacks along with their loaded teams prepared for the biggest game of their college careers- the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Heading into the game, both sides had their fair share of challenges and high expectations. The TCU Horned Frogs and Georgia Bulldogs played to prove themselves as national champion teams. 

TCU’s journey to the CFP title was nothing short of unexpected. The Horned Frogs ended their 2021 season with a 5-7 record after parting ways with longtime coach Gary Patterson. Since new coach Sonny Dykes took over, TCU improved their record in just one year to 11-1 in the regular season. After losing the Big 12 conference championship to Kansas State, TCU still made the playoff and upset #2 seeded Michigan 51-45 in the CFP Fiesta Bowl semifinal.

Although Georgia beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the title game last year, fans and analysts had their doubts about the team. The Bulldogs’ 2021 championship team lost a record 15 players like Jordan Davis, Travon Walker, and George Pickens in the 2022 NFL Draft. Despite this loss, head coach Kirby Smart’s recruiting skills allowed Georgia to retain their championship talent with players like Jalen Carter, Brock Bowers, and Kelee Ringo and end the regular season 13-0. The Bulldogs’ CFP Peach Bowl semifinal against Ohio State also raised concerns after a narrow 42-41 victory on a missed field goal.

Opening the championship game, Georgia showed no hesitation by stifling TCU’s opening drive and scoring a rushing touchdown by quarterback Stetson Bennett IV on their first possession. On the next drive, Georgia recovered a fumble from TCU and eventually kicked a field goal to advance the score to 10-0. 

Later in the first quarter, the Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan scored a touchdown, putting TCU on the scoreboard. Georgia quickly answered with a touchdown from wide receiver Ladd McConkey, setting the score to 17-7. 

Halfway through the second quarter, Bennett ran for his second touchdown. On the following drive, Duggan threw a deep pass intercepted by Georgia’s Javon Bullard, setting up running back Kendall Milton to score the 4th touchdown for the Bulldogs. Just before the half, Bullard managed to pick off Duggan a second time and wide receiver Adonai Mitchell caught a one-handed touchdown. The score at halftime was 38-7, the most points scored in a CFP title game in the first half. 

The Bulldogs started off the second half with two receiving touchdowns from tight end Brock Bowers and wide receiver Ladd McConkey to continue the scoring streak. With a Georgia lead of 52-7 early in the fourth quarter, Bennett was pulled out of play along with other teammates by Coach Smart to put a successful end to his college football career. He received a standing ovation from Georgia fans, acknowledging the legacy he will leave behind at the school.

Backup quarterback Carson Beck closed out the fourth quarter with two rushing touchdown handoffs to freshman running back Branson Robinson. Even the Bulldogs’ second string players ran successful plays in the title game, previewing what that team will be working with next season.

With half a minute left on the clock, Georgia players, coaching staff, and the media rushed onto the field. The Bulldogs had become back-to-back national champions, the third team to do so in the CFP era. 

This highly anticipated matchup may have been disappointing to fans expecting a close game, but the jaw-dropping final score of 65-7 made college football history. Georgia scored the most points a single team has ever scored in a national championship game.

Both TCU and Georgia inspired many this season. Max Duggan started off as a backup quarterback, coming in after the season opener and leading the Horned Frogs to their first ever CFP appearance as well as becoming a Heisman finalist. Stetson Bennett’s long journey to becoming a two-time national champion all started when he became a walk-on at Georgia. After playing JUCO football, he transferred back to Georgia to earn the backup spot. Two years later, he got the starting position and led the Bulldogs to their first title win in 41 years.  

This win meant a lot for Georgia. It was their football program’s fourth ever national championship win, which they dedicated to the late Vince Dooley. Dooley had recently passed in October 2022 and coached for the Bulldogs for 25 years, leading them to their second ever championship win in 1980. Georgia players also wore “MIKE” stickers on their helmets as an homage to Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach, who had passed away in December, dedicating the SEC victory to him as well.