Georgia 33, Alabama 18.

Here’s a sack of takeout opinions — no waiting, served warm:

1) It was a herculean victory for Georgia, which won the program’s first national football championship since the 1980 season. The Bulldogs got it done by answering all of the questions that were sharpened and pointed at the Dawgs since their submissive 17-point loss to Alabama in last month’s SEC Championship Game.

– Could Kirby Smart defeat Nick Saban in a big game? After losing four in a row to Saban since leaving Bama to become Georgia’s head coach, could Smart beat Saban in any football game? Yes. And yes. If Smart had any doubts as he entered the latest matchup against his former boss and mentor, he cast them out with a fourth-quarter rally and a primal scream.

– Could Georgia rise above the psychological blockade and seize a close game from Alabama to prevail instead of fail? Yes. Absolutely. If the Dawgs were going to tense up and crack – an unfortunate trait in previous losses to Alabama – the big reveal surfaced in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Stetson Bennett – playing the highly anticipated role of Panicky Quarterback – lost a fumble to Alabama, and the Crimson Tide cashed in for a 3-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Young to tight end Cameron Latu. Just like that, the Crimson Tide led 18-13 with 10 minutes and 14 seconds remaining in the fourth. The Bulldogs reacted by breaking the chain and attacking Alabama for 20 straight points over the final 8 minutes and 9 seconds. It happened so quickly, Georgia’s reversal of form, reversal of fortune.

– After getting thwacked by Alabama for 536 yards and four offensive touchdowns in the SEC-game upset, was Georgia’s hotly hyped defense exposed and overrated? No. This was a great defense that just had a bad performance on a day when the plenteous Bama offense had a sensational performance. After bullying an extensive sequence of lesser offenses, Georgia’s coaches and players realized that Alabama was a different beast. And got to work.

– Would Smart and GA defensive coordinator Dan Lanning make the necessary adjustments to generate a swarming pass rush to stress Bryce Young? Yes. If we view the game as a whole, Georgia’s pressure was arguably the most critical factor in the triumph that left Dawg fans dancing. Young threw for 369 yards – many filled with empty calories, so to speak. He averaged 6.1 yards per attempt, and 5.1 yards when pressured. He did hit Georgia for one touchdown – but was intercepted twice including the pick-six that sealed GA’s win.

According to Pro Football Focus, Georgia posted the highest pass-rush grade against a Crimson Tide offensive line in the PFF College era, pressuring Young on 47.5% of his total dropbacks. By PFF’s count, eight different Bulldogs generated multiple pressures. And if Young wasn’t being hurried, his passes were hawked by Georgia’s defensive backs. According to PFF, the Dawgs’ cover backs combined for more plays on the ball (eight) than receptions allowed (six) on Young’s 19 throws that traveled 10+ yards downfield. Meanwhile, GA’s defensive front was tough against the run, allowing a 29% success rate on Alabama’s called running plays. All in all, this was the highest-graded defensive performance vs. an Alabama offense since 2014.

– Can you win a national championship with a good quarterback who must hold his own – or exceed expectations – in a duel with the nation’s top quarterback? Yes. He’s the darling of college football right now, but let’s keep it real here: Stetson Bennett was shaky for much of the game. But that made his quarterback-hero star turn even more surprising and impressive. After his ugly turnover set up the Tide’s go-ahead touchdown, Bennett recovered by throwing a perfect strike on a 40-yard touchdown pass to wideout Adonai Mitchell. Not satisfied with reclaiming the lead (19-18), Bennett got back at it on his team’s next series for a 15-yard touchdown connection with tight end Brock Bowers to put the Dawgs up by eight with 3:33 remaining.

“I wasn’t going to be the reason we lost this game,” Bennett told the media after the win. He added another touch of humility by crediting the Georgia defense. “Our defense kept us in this game while we (the offense) were stumbling around in the first half,” Bennett added. “They won this game. We executed a few drives.”

Correct. But after not playing so great for three-plus quarters, Bennett was great when his team needed a rescue. With that 40-yard beam of light, Bennett made the greatest throw – and play – in the national title game. The former walk-on and JUCO quarterback is also one of the greatest individual stories in the modern era of college football.

2) Another great story? Kirby Smart. He’s a Georgia native who played safety and returned kicks for the Dawgs from 1995 through 1998. To work and dream and shake off disappointments to lead your alma mater to the national championship by beating the greatest coach in CFB history who happens to be a mentor — well, does it get any better than that?

3) It was a fabulous evening for SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. And another fantastic season for Sankey and his league. Hours after “leaders” from the Big Ten, Pac 12 and ACC continued their diaper-baby tantrums to thwart plans for an expanded playoff to 12 teams, Sankey’s league had two teams play each other for the national championship. Georgia became the sixth SEC university to win the national title over the last 24 seasons, joining Alabama (six championships), LSU (three times), Florida (two), Tennessee (one) and Auburn (one.)

From the SEC standpoint, it didn’t matter who win Monday’s game. Either way, the league was a big winner …. Again. If anything, a Georgia victory was better for the conference because it added another SEC program to the conference’s national-championship domination over the last quarter century.

Including the BCS (1998 through 2013), SEC teams have won 14 of the last 24 national championships – including 12 of the last 19 and five of the last seven. And by refusing to sign off on an expanded playoff system that would give their teams a clear chance to compete in a national tournament, bring in a treasure of greatly enhanced TV revenue and become more attractive to recruits – well, these sharp guys (not) are becoming less relevant than ever. Sankey has the best league with the best players and the best coaches. And he had the audacity to accept Texas and Oklahoma for SEC membership when the two Big 12 teams came calling.

But for reasons of jealousy – and a hilarious miscalculation of their own power – these dummkopfs fail to realize that they’re making Sankey and the SEC stronger and more powerful. The SEC will be happy to collect more playoff spots and championships. The four-team setup has worked out wonderfully for the SEC – even though Sankey was willing to spread things around to make the playoffs more accessible for teams in other regions.

“Football in the Southeastern Conference is incredibly healthy,” Sankey said Monday, as quoted by The Athletic. It’s not good for college football to have an entire region, the West, not central to the (national) conversation. I’ve had my own members say we should not be deciding our position based on that. It’s my responsibility to say ‘Wait a second. Let’s look at the big picture.’

“In December 2018, conference leaders, presidents and chancellors from conferences not named the Southeastern Conference were loudly, publicly and consistently calling for expansion. We were not. But we were respectful of our colleagues’ desire to expand the Playoff. But if everyone has to have every item on their Christmas list, it will not be a merry Christmas.”

Added Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby who strongly supports the expansion to 12 teams. He noted the work-together philosophies of retired Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and the late SEC commissioner Mike Slive.

“Everybody’s more concerned about their own silos than somebody else’s,” Bowlsby saud. (In 2012), Jim Delany and Mike Slive got past their individual concerns to do what’s best for college football. That’s why we got to a Playoff. That hasn’t happened this time.”

If the little men keep this up, Sankey will give them them the boot, and the SEC and its allies will negotiate with a selfish attitude, and they’ll set up their own playoff system – and if these petulant buffoons still want to say no, well, have yourselves a ball playing for the College Football “B” Squad championship in a few years! Sankey and allies might as well be selfish. You can’t work with people who work against their own interests. That the Big Ten has put itself in this position – projecting weakness and acting like a poor little victim – is an insult to Delany, who always projected strength. The Big Ten is a great conference. So why is the league lowering itself in some half-baked “alliance” with two much weaker conferences, the ACC and the Pac-12? It’s embarrassing.

4) Do not cry for Alabama. But in St. Louis and other places, we can’t help but feel sad for Jameson Williams. The STL native suffered a left knee injury in the first half of Monday’s game, and it’s too soon to say how this will impact his status for the 2022 NFL Draft. But a knee injury is worrisome. One recent national rating had Jameson as a Top 10 overall draft choice. That will likely change, and not for the good. (And we wonder why some kids opt out of bowl games to avoid the possibility of a career-changing injury that can cause NFL teams to turn away?)

Look, Georgia deserves full credit for taking over Monday’s game during the final eight-plus minutes. And again, the Dawgs defense did exactly what it needed to do with the persistent harassment of Bryce Young. But it would also be incredibly dishonest to wave off the injuries to Jameson Williams and John Metchie (among others.) Metchie suffered a serious knee injury in the first half of the SEC championship. Williams went down in the first half of the national championship.

And Alabama still managed to take the lead with 10 minutes to play. In a one-score game – which it was until the final minute of the fourth quarter – Alabama had to mostly go with young and inexperienced wide receivers. Metchie and Williams were missing. And we’re talking about two terrific talents that combined for 175 catches, 2,715 yards and 23 touchdown receptions this season.

5) It would be silly to downgrade Saban. Georgia bagged a tremendous victory on Monday night and is worthy of full honors. By all means, let us salute the Dawgs. But the outcome of this game was no changing-of-the-guard moment. This was no symbolic passing of the torch from Saban to Smart. The two rivals played each other twice in a little over a month. They split the two games, 1-1, with Alabama outscoring Georgia by two points, 59-57. Georgia and Alabama have squared off twice for the CFP championship over the last five seasons, with each team winning a title. Georgia blew a lead and lost to Alabama in the first CFP championship showdown to end the 2017 season, and Alabama squandered a lead and fell to Georgia in the title game to end the ‘21 season.

5a) This Alabama team had a gruesome time of it with injuries all season, including a wiped-out secondary and the late-season misfortune endured by Metchie and Williams. This was one of Saban’s youngest teams at Alabama. There were problems on the offensive line, in the defensive backfield, in pass protection, and in the run game. To Saban and staff’s credit, the Crimson Tide improved and was primed to take Georgia down in the SEC game. But this was still a vulnerable team, at least by Saban’’s standards. Bama had five one-possession outcomes this season – and nearly a sixth on Monday night. To win the SEC championship, secure the No. 1 seed for the playoff, and compete in the championship game for the sixth time in eight seasons … that tells us a lot about Saban. And it tells me that this was one of his finest coaching performances of his 15 seasons at Alabama. The Tide is 26-2 over the last two seasons, and has won 92 of 100 games and three national championships since the start of the 2015 season.

Thanks for reading…


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

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