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Georgia Football: 5 Reasons Why the Bulldogs Will Win the College Football Playoff

Georgia Football: Kirby Smart

Kirby Smart's Bulldogs look to rebound from their first loss of the season to win the program's first national title in more than 40 years

Georgia is headed back to the College Football Playoff for the second time under coach Kirby Smart. The Bulldogs ranked as the No. 3 team in the final top 25 and begin their quest for the program's first title since 1980 against Michigan in the Orange Bowl in a national semifinal. Georgia’s perfect season came to an end on Saturday, as Alabama’s offense led the way in a 41-24 victory to claim the SEC title. Although Smart’s team came up short for the SEC, this team still has the formula and talent to win it all and could see the Crimson Tide again in the national championship. A potential rematch, plus the revenge angle, ought to be a motivating factor for Smart’s team in the CFB Playoff.

Why will Georgia win the national championship? Here are five reasons why the Bulldogs will beat Michigan in the Orange Bowl and then win the national title on Jan. 10 in Indianapolis.

Georgia Football: 5 Reasons Why the Bulldogs Will Win the College Football Playoff

1. One bad game doesn't erase 2021

Georgia stumbled in the SEC championship against Alabama, but Smart’s team was considered the best in college football for most of the year and one loss doesn’t change the fact this team still has the pieces to win it all. While the setback to the Crimson Tide exposed a few issues, having extra time to prepare or adjust will give the staff an opportunity to sort out some of these concerns. Also, in terms of personnel and talent, few teams can rival the roster assembled in Athens. The Bulldogs rank second in the SEC in scoring (39.4), and the defense ranks first (9.5) in fewest points allowed. Not many programs in the nation have the combination of a capable and high-scoring offense on a team with an elite defense (and also good special teams) like the one Smart has assembled in 2021.

2. A dominant defense

Smart and coordinator Dan Lanning have some issues to address after the SEC championship loss to Alabama, but this isn’t a broken defense. Coming into the matchup against the Crimson Tide, Georgia’s defense was limiting teams to 3.7 yards per play and 6.9 points a game, with no opponent scoring more than 17 points in a matchup through the first 12 contests. The season numbers climbed to 9.5 points per game and 4.01 yards per play after Saturday’s loss in the SEC title game. Additionally, the Bulldogs head into bowl season ranked No. 3 nationally against the run and have allowed just eight passing scores all year. Every level of the defense features a difference-maker, starting up front with Jordan Davis, Jalen Carter and Devonte Wyatt, and linebacker Nakobe Dean anchoring the middle. The secondary didn’t cover well in the loss to Alabama, but talent isn’t an issue here with cornerbacks Derion Kendrick and Kelee Ringo and safeties Christopher Smith and Lewis Cine. Smart and coordinator Dan Lanning struggled to find the right mix between pressure and coverage against the Crimson Tide, and both areas are places of focus in bowl prep. But even after Saturday’s loss, a defense that was historically good in the regular season suddenly didn’t slip far from that spot. In other words, Smart and Lanning will get this group back on track for the playoff.

3. The ground attack and offensive line

If the betting odds hold true, Georgia’s path to a national title will not only go through Michigan but also a rematch versus Alabama. Running against either defense has been tough for most teams in 2021, but this offense has the right mix up front and in the backfield to test those units. The Bulldogs averaged 3.6 yards per carry versus the Crimson Tide, which was the second-highest per-game total against that defense this fall. The extra prep time will give coordinator Todd Monken and line coach Matt Luke some additional time to work with the front five, which should continue to progress a unit that has allowed only 11 sacks all year.

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Depth is a strength of the backfield. Zamir White (718 yards and 10 scores) could put up bigger numbers with more opportunities, but James Cook (619) and Kenny McIntosh (319) will see plenty of action to keep him fresh deep into games. If the front five is clearing running lanes, having a deep backfield with White, Cook and McIntosh in place can wear down the defenses Georgia (and potentially play keep away in a rematch versus Alabama) will face in the CFB Playoff.

4. Emerging (and healthy) weapons at receiver

Georgia has dealt with injuries in the receiving corps all year, but the extended break should allow this unit to recover and get closer to full strength. George Pickens suffered a torn ACL in the spring but returned against Georgia Tech and also played against Alabama. Pickens has three receptions for 46 yards in his two appearances, but the junior could be a bigger part of the game plan going into the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31 with an opportunity to knock off the rust in December practices. A healthier and more involved Pickens would only give coordinator Todd Monken another option to deploy. Ladd McConkey (15.4 yards per catch) is having a standout freshman year, with Jermaine Burton (23), Adonai Mitchell (25) and Kearis Jackson (14) rounding out the key weapons. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint and Dominick Blaylock suffered major injuries last year and are working back into form. Add in Cook’s contributions (21 catches) as a receiver out of the backfield and it’s easy to see how deep the group of options is on the outside for Georgia.

Tight ends Brock Bowers (43 catches) and Darnell Washington (nine) are also an imposing duo for any defense. In addition to his 11 touchdown catches and presence in the red zone, Bowers is a big-play threat – as evidenced by his 16.8 yards per reception.

With the speed, depth and talent in the receiving corps, along with the backfield pieces, this is not an easy offense to defend in the CFB Playoff.

5. QB options?

Quarterback questions will surround Georgia after Stetson Bennett threw two interceptions in the SEC Championship Game. However, Smart doesn’t seem ready to shift from Bennett back to JT Daniels for the Orange Bowl – and why should he? Bennett averaged 10.1 yards per attempt this season and threw for 2,325 yards and 24 touchdowns to seven picks. Also, Bennett’s mobility (251 yards) could be an asset against a tough Michigan front in the Orange Bowl. Although Bennett didn’t play his best game against Alabama, the bigger problem for Georgia in the loss was a suspect pass defense against Bryce Young. The senior should get another shot to start in the Orange Bowl, but Smart and coordinator Todd Monken have another option if Bennett struggles early against the Wolverines. Daniels started the last four games of 2020 and threw for 1,231 yards and 10 scores. The USC transfer also gave the offense a needed spark in its downfield passing game. Daniels started three out of the first four contests this year, but missed the next four games due to injury, opening the door for Bennett to claim the job. All signs point to Bennett against Michigan. But if the Bulldogs need a spark, Daniels is ready (and capable) to come off the bench.

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