Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Stetson Bennett’s Cinderella story ends with him becoming Georgia legend | Why loss stings for Alabama

Party like it’s 1980, Georgia fans. Your team is back on top of the college football world.

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Good morning to everyone but especially to…

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THE GEORGIA BULLDOGS

Just over a month ago, Alabama rolled up 41 points on then-No. 1 Georgia in a blowout SEC Championship win, demolishing what had been an impenetrable defense.

On Monday night, the Bulldogs made sure there would be no repeat of that.

Here’s how the Bulldogs’ 33-18 triumph went down:

A lot happened in this game, especially in the second half. To me, here’s what stuck out:

  • After his fumble set up Alabama’s go-ahead touchdown, Stetson Bennett was outstanding and capped a true Cinderella story.
  • Georgia’s defense was torn apart in the SEC Championship but on Monday night the unit dominated, picking off Heisman Trophy winner Young twice and holding the Crimson Tide to just 60 rushing yards.
  • Kirby Smart finally beat Nick Saban after losing the first four meetings against his old boss.

When it came down to crunch time, though, on a field of the best of the best recruits, it was a former walk-on — Bennett — who shined brightest, writes our college football reporter Barrett Sallee.

  • Sallee: “It was Bennett who came up clutch on the game’s biggest stage, not Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner. Bennett was the one who earned Offensive Player of the Game honors with 224 passing yards. His perfect fourth quarter was the ideal conclusion to one of the most remarkable seasons in college football history. It was a four-month ride into college football history for a player who will never have to buy a drink in Athens for the rest of his life.”

It’s hard not to feel good for Georgia. From Bennett showing resilience to Smart tearing up when asked about winning a title at his alma mater to the team getting revenge after an SEC Championship loss, this was an awesome way to cap another awesome college football season.

You can check out all of our coverage from Indianapolis here.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…

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THE ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

With 10 minutes and 14 seconds left in the game, Young’s strike to Cameron Latu gave Alabama an 18-13 lead. The defense was dominating, and the offense had finally found the end zone.

The Tide were rolling to another national championship. And then, all of the sudden, the defense fell apart and the offense ran out of gas.

It was a truly shocking turn of events for Nick Saban’s squad, which got outscored 20-9 in the fourth quarter. It was the first time Alabama got outscored by double digits in the fourth quarter of a loss since, fittingly, the 2016 national championship, when Clemson rallied past the Crimson Tide.

Georgia is a thoroughly deserving champion in all aspects. There is no doubting that. Still, the late-game meltdown will sting for the Tide all offseason, writes our college football expert David Cobb:

  • Cobb: “For a Crimson Tide team that finishes the season 13-2, there will always be a ‘what if’ factor associated with the memory of a loss that denied coach Nick Saban his seventh national title with the program. What if Alabama’s leader in receptions John Metchie III hadn’t been lost for the playoffs … what if Jameson Williams, the team’s leader in receiving yards and touchdowns, didn’t have his night cut short due to a knee injury in the second quarter of Monday’s title game? Down their top two receiving targets, and with cornerbacks Josh Jobe and Jalyn Armour-Davis already out with injuries, the Crimson Tide lacked their usual athletic supremacy on the perimeter against a Georgia team that has recruited comparably well.”

NFL coaching carousel: Dolphins, Bears, Vikings making changes 🏈

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USATSI

The number of NFL teams looking for a new head coach doubled to six Monday, with the Dolphins, Bears and Vikings joining the Raiders, Jaguars and Broncos. As a quick reminder, you can keep up with all of the hirings and firings here and see which teams are interviewing which candidates here.

Miami is far and away the biggest surprise here after the organization relieved Brian Flores of his duties. Flores was 24-25 in three seasons with the Dolphins but posted a winning record each of the last two seasons, including a 9-8 campaign this season after starting 1-7.

The Dolphins have missed the playoffs five straight seasons and haven’t won a playoff game since 2000, but this one still came as a surprise to many, including plenty of Dolphins players

As for who will take over in South Beach, team owner Stephen Ross said it won’t be Jim Harbaugh. Our NFL expert Tyler Sullivan has a Super Bowl champ as one of three other potential options:

  • Sullivan:If they want someone with a winning pedigree and can bring that culture to the locker room quickly, the Dolphins could look towards Doug Pederson. ... Pederson also is a coach that should be able to help develop the quarterback position whether it is Tua Tagovailoa or whoever the organization decides will be the man under center going forward. After all, he did have [Carson] Wentz playing at an MVP level prior to his injury back in 2017 and then coached Nick Foles up through a miraculous playoff run that resulted in a title.”

Flores, meanwhile, could find his next home quickly, perhaps in Chicago after the Bears fired Matt Nagy writes our NFL guru Jeff Kerr:

  • Kerr: “Flores will have his players prepared to play and has an excellent on-field culture, which is what the Bears need. Perhaps he’ll be better with off-field personnel in his second stint as a head coach.”

Finally, in Minnesota, the Vikings will have someone other than Mike Zimmer patrolling the sidelines for the first time since 2013. As for who that “someone” might be, NFL scribe Jordan Dajani has an off-the-radar name, alongside Pederson and Flores as potential options.

Ranking all 14 of the NFL’s playoff teams 🏈

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With the NFL playoff field set, our NFL expert Cody Benjamin ranked the 14 teams. It’s no surprise who’s at the top:

  • Packers“It’s simple: They have the MVP under center. OK, so it’s more than that; even if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t officially claim his second straight award, he’s the smoothest, most confident QB in the game right now, and while he and Matt LaFleur have yet to advance past the NFC title game, their track record is better than anyone’s during their time together.”

One team that’s grown on me recently is the Bills (Benjamin ranked them No. 4). We all know that Josh Allen can take over a game like few other quarterbacks can, Stefon Diggs is awesome, and the defense — which allowed the fewest points in the league — is championship-quality.

What really encourages me about Buffalo is that the running game has come to life. Only the Seahawks had more rushing yards over the last five weeks. And it’s not just Allen on quarterback keepers — Devin Singletary has 375 rushing yards since Week 14.

Remember, the Bills blew out the Chiefs in Kansas City early this season and dominated their upcoming Wild Card opponent, the Patriots, in late December. As long as there’s not disastrously bad weather in Buffalo like there was in the first matchup, I like the Bills this weekend, and I think they have as good of a chance as anyone to beat the Chiefs, too.

Newest NFL mock draft includes just one QB in top 10 👀

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The college football season is over and with 14 teams headed to the NFL playoffs, the first 18 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft are set. Therefore, it’s mock draft time.

Our NFL Draft expert Ryan Wilson has us covered in his latest mock, with Michigan product Aidan Hutchinson off the board first to the Jaguars:

  • Wilson: “Hutchinson is a great example of a player who got better each and every season, and instead of coming out early he stayed in school, balled out as a senior, and made himself into arguably the best player — on either side of the ball — in the country during the ’21 college football season.”

Here’s Wilson’s entire top five from his latest mock:

So, it’s four linemen and a safety in the top five, and (spoiler alert) there’s only one QB in the top 10: Ole MissMatt Corral. As Wilson notes, though, a lot can and will change between now and draft day. You can keep track of all of our experts’ latest mock drafts here.

What we’re watching Tuesday 📺

🏀 No. 19 Texas Tech at No. 1 Baylor (-12), 7 p.m. on ESPN2

🏀 Warriors (-1.5) at Grizzlies, 8 p.m. on NBA TV

🏀 No. 4 Auburn at No. 24 Alabama (-2), 9 p.m. on ESPN

🏀 Nuggets at Clippers, 10:30 p.m. on NBA TV

Georgia Bulldogs championship gear released

The Bulldogs have won their first national title in four decades. You can now buy Georgia championship shirts, hats, jerseys, hoodies, and much more to celebrate the historic win. Get gear here now.

We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

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