Georgia again proves to be college football’s lone dominant team after destroying LSU in SEC title game

ATLANTA — In a college football season where perfection was elusive, Georgia has become the sport’s rock — solid, hard, pretty much immovable from the No. 1 spot for most of the season.

You might have noticed if you didn’t fall asleep halfway through the No. 1 Bulldogs’ 50-30 destruction of No. 14 LSU in the 2022 SEC Championship Game. Following a weekend of upsets, the Dawgs chomped down on the Tigers and never let go on the way to their first SEC title since 2017.

Georgia will enter the College Football Playoff the same way it ended last season: No. 1. Judging by Saturday’s performance, the two playoff games the Dawgs have to transverse to defend their national championship look like speed bumps.

As the season wound down, almost everyone wavered. Georgia? It got better.

If Saturday isn’t a peak, then God help the rest of the playoff field. The Dawgs opened the scoring blocking a field goal and returning it 96 yards for a score. They later scored two touchdowns in 20 seconds with an interception off a LSU player’s helmet in between. They knocked out Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels at halftime. Turns out Daniels got out just in time. LSU signal callers were sacked eight times.

Conflicted about a Heisman Trophy favorite? You could do worse than Georgia’s Stetson Bennett IV, who might have reserved a flight to New York for himself by tossing four touchdowns — in the first half.

With 13 minutes left, Georgia’s 50 points were the fifth-most in the three-decade history of the SEC Championship Game. It mercifully stayed at half a hundred. The moveable feast of Georgia excellence that is 70 miles from campus in Mercedes-Benz Stadium now has all but booked another “home” game in the first round of the playoff in the Peach Bowl semifinal.

This time, the weekend, the favorite didn’t blink. At the completion of Georgia’s first SEC title in five years, three of the top five and four of the top nine in the CFP had lost their most recently played games. Meanwhile, the Dawgs extended the nation’s longest active winning streak to 15 games.

This season was defined by everybody else having issues, scars, problems, inconsistencies. Remember when there were no really good teams? Turns out even the No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs had wars in an overtime loss to No. 10 Kansas State. No. 4 USC was bullied Friday night by No. 11 Utah.

Georgia had a goal, not only to get back in the playoff but to win it for a second straight season. It would be the first to win consecutive national titles in the CFP era and the first to do it at all since Alabama a decade ago.

Leave no doubt? The Dawgs left marks all up and down the Tigers.

They are the standards. They have again set the bar.

This year’s defense has been quietly just about as good as last season’s generational unit. Put that in perspective: 15 draft choices left the program after the 2021 season, eight of them on defense and five in the first round.

Coming into the game, the Georgia defense had given up exactly 3 more yards per game than last season. That’s the difference between being ranked fourth nationally in 2022 and second in 2021.

It suggests a rather boring playoff if Georgia keeps up like this. No. 2 Michigan — blasted by UGA in last season’s Orange Bowl semifinal — is a Midwestern mirror image. Does it have enough without arguably its best player, running back Blake Corum? If No 5 Ohio State sneaks back into the top four, the lasting image is of the Buckeyes being handled by the Wolverines. No. 3 TCU has to outscore everybody; unlikely against this defence.

Aside from a still inexplicable hiccup at Missouri (26-22 on Oct. 1), the Dawgs have won every game by double digits.

The weekend started with a couple upsets. The day progressed into the night with Georgia staking the clear favorite’s role for a repeat championship. It would be only the sport’s second back-to-back in the last 28 years and the first since Alabama in 2010-11.

But we already told you — until further notice — the road to a championship goes through Athens, Georgiano matter how much Nick Saban began campaigning for Alabama playoff consideration Saturday night.

Perhaps the only team capable of beating the Dawgs at this stage resides in the NFL. Or is reflected in the mirror.

Oh, coach Kirby Smart will complain about giving up 30 points — the first time, by the way, since his team’s last loss in the 2021 SEC Championship Game. LSU backup QB Garrett Nussmeier provided some future hope by throwing for 294 yards and a couple of scores in relief of Daniels.

But for Georgia, most of it had a garbage-time feel. The Dawgs were up by 25 at halftime.

Offensively, this is Alabama from 2007-13 before Saban hired Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator with the Crimson Tide jumping in with both feet on the spread. In other words: game manager quarterback, run-based offense, special special teams and smothering defense.

Bennett’s four touchdown passes tied his career record against a Power Five team. Georgia star defensive lineman Jalen Carter at one point hoisted Daniels off the ground with one arm during a sack. The only thing lacking was a top rope the 300-pounder could toss LSU’s quarterback over, battle royal style.

Daniels was game but limped off at halftime with a gait that sadly looked like the one USC QB Caleb Williams had from Friday night. (Williams supposedly “popped” his hamstring in the first quarter, according to Trojans coach Lincoln Riley.)

Blink and you missed these Dawgs. Defensive back Christopher Smith squatted over that blocked kick seemingly forever. Defenders were high-fiving while Smith finally figured out he could pick up and do anything he wanted with the ball.

Those blitzkrieg 20 seconds were stretched between the first and second quarters. That didn’t damage their immediacy or impact. Bennett first threw a 3-yard scoring pass to Brock Browers. Linebacker Smael Mondon then intercepted a ball that was kept alive when it bounced off Jack Bech’s helmet. Bennett quickly threw another scoring pass, this one 22 yards to Ladd McConkey.

And that, basically, was that at 21-7, Dawgs. It only got worse.

The rules say this CFP thing has to be played out. After Saturday, why bother?

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