With a record-breaking sellout crowd jammed into Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Georgia Bulldogs overcame a 14-point deficit and beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 42-41 in thrilling fashion to advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship game.
The Bulldogs will face the 3rd ranked TCU Horned Frogs, who beat the 2nd ranked Michigan Wolverines 51-45 in the second highest scoring game in CFP semifinal history. The game will be played Monday, January 9 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
At the stroke of midnight, Ohio State kicker Noah Ruggles missed the potential game-winning 50-yard field goal. As the ball fluttered through the air, the Georgia fans erupted in boisterous jubilation after suffering through a game that gave everyone affiliated with UGA heartburn.
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud played a masterful game. He finished the night 23-of-34 for 348 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 66 yards. After taking the blame for the horrific loss to Michigan, Stroud did whatever he wanted to Saturday night. For the majority of the game, Stroud and his receivers, Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. had their way with the Georgia secondary. Egbuka and Harrison Jr. each tallied 100 receiving yards in the game.
Throughout the first half and the third quarter, Stroud took deep drops, which forced the Georgia defensive front to travel farther to get to him. Also, Ohio State was able to move the pocket, giving Stroud more time to survey the field. Stroud was also able to pick apart the Georgia secondary when they attempted to matchup with Egbuka and Harrison Jr man-to-man. At one point, Stroud was 16-of-20 and threw three touchdowns while Georgia was in man-to-man.
However, the game turned when Harrison Jr. took a big hit in the endzone on 3rd-and-goal from the seven yard line. The pass fell incomplete, the targeting call initially made by the PAC-12 officiating crew was rescinded, and Ruggles would successfully kick a 25-yard field goal with 38 seconds remaining in the third quarter. At that point, Ohio State was leading 38-24. Without Harrison Jr, the Buckeyes would only score three points the rest of the game.
“To say that losing Marv didn’t have an impact on the game, it absolutely did,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said.
With 2:36 remaining in the game, the Georgia Bulldogs were able to march 72 yards in five plays, capping the drive with a ten yard touchdown strike from Bennett to wide receiver Adonai Mitchell with 54 seconds remaining in the game.
Bennett finished the night completing 23-for-34, 398 yards and three touchdowns in the comeback victory.
“Just looking at everybody and saying, ‘We haven’t played our best, and we haven’t done our jobs to the best of our ability, but we’re here now,'” Bennett said. “It’s in our hands now. Where else would you rather be? Having the ball with two minutes left, and if you score a touchdown, you win the game. I looked around, and there was just a whole bunch of just determined, strong stares from all the dudes. It gave me confidence, and everybody else had confidence when we went down the field.”
The Georgia Bulldogs are an early 13.5 point favorite over TCU, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. TCU is the closest team that the CFP can compare to Cinderella and after the victory against Michigan, they will be heading to the game with loads of confidence.
Meanwhile, Georgia will indeed savor this victory, but come sunrise, the coaches and players will turn their focus to TCU. Head Coach Kirby Smart raved about the fortitude his team displayed in the Peach Bowl.
“Great resiliency, a never-say-die attitude and great toughness,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said in his postgame, on-field interview. “At the end of the day, we didn’t play real well. Ohio State probably deserved to win the game. But we never quit. We stayed in the game and made some big plays. I couldn’t be prouder of these kids. This is a special group.”