Dog eat dog world
By now you have had a slew of college football analysis. That's cool.
The ripples of Georgia's fourth-quarter domination that led to a 33-18 national-championship-clinching win over Alabama needs context first.
This game featured the two best teams in the sport this year. And likely in the years moving forward. They are recruiting at that kind of level and developing players at an even higher level. Plus, getting on the field in Tuscaloosa and/or Athens means getting a shot in the NFL, which means the transfer portal is going to be filled with some of the better players from some of the teams on the next level who are willing to join Smart or Saban for shots at the natty and the NFL.
And since we can all agree that the two best teams played in the final game, I am not only pleased that expansion got tabled — regulars know I am 100% against expanding the college football playoff field — I am justified in this instance.
Which team had a beef about being left out? Baylor, which needed Ole Miss' QB to get hurt to edge by the third-best team in the SEC? Notre Dame? The Irish had its shot against Cincinnati at home in the regular season?
One more context contention: The face of so many championship teams has been the best player or the surprising star who lifts the team in a dark moment on the biggest stage. And there's some of that still, because know this: Stetson Bennett likely will not have to buy another beer in Clarke County, Ga., until he turns 40.
But the continued escalation of the importance, impact and immeasurable value of the college football coach is undeniable, unparalleled and unbelievable. The face of Georgia's first national title is not the 5-10 frame and the hairy eyebrows of Bennett.
The face of this moment for Bulldogs Nation is the visored head of Kirby Smart, with his lips teetering on a cuss word to player, referee or Holly Rose and his eyes scanning for the next detail to coach in preparation of the possibility that Bryce Young could find a 15-point play in the final seconds.
I have said forever that NFL quarterback is the most important position in sports. I need to modify that. QB is the most important position on the field.
College head coach is now the most important — and impactful — position across the sporting landscape.
As for the game
I enjoyed the game. Greatly. (Side note: Other than financial interests, we Auburn and Tennessee fans were trying to figure out a way for both sides to lose. In truth, I pulled for Georgia because Mrs. 5-at-10 and her family have long ties to UGa, and we wanted beloved cousin Andrew to see one of these moments.)
I enjoyed that the first half was dominated by defense.
I enjoyed the physicality. (Side note: Georgia's defense was noticeably ticked off from the opening possession. Also of note, Brian Robinson is a dude, and if he is on the board in round two and the Falcons do not take him, well, Arthur Smith needs to be fired. That's a grown man running the football, friends.)
I enjoyed the growing tension on each side.
And if you did not enjoy the Stetson Bennett Hollywood conclusion, well, then you likely have houndstooth curtains and know someone with kids named Bear, Tua or Crimson.
As for game analysis, well, there are really a few quick snapshots before the actual takeaway of Monday night:
— Alabama defensive end/linebacker Will Anderson is an all-timer. Not at Alabama. Not in the SEC. In the history of college football. And next year, because it appears he's returning, if the Tide turn Anderson loose on one side and Dallas Turner on the other, well, SEC QBs need to make sure their insurance policies are paid.
— I think every Georgia defensive starter save one safety will make an NFL roster, and the Bulldogs likely had eight defensive lineman on this team who are headed for Sunday paychecks.
— Georgia's running back room is right there with THE receiving room at THE Ohio State for the best collection talent in the country.
— With everything that happened and even the way it played out, Alabama losing Jameson Williams was the most difference-making play in the whole game.
But all the breakdowns take a backseat for the biggest star of the moment.
Or shall we say the Smart-Set.
This is Kirby Smart's moment friends. Yes, the RBs were brilliant — and why Zeus White and James Cook did not each have at least five more carries is anyone's guess — and the storybook of Stetson will be the stuff of legend, but we said it Monday morning, so we have to stay true to it Tuesday.
This was on Kirby before the kick, and he gets to swim in the success after the final horn.
Because if Georgia does not mount that critical drive to answer Alabama's TD that gave the Tide an 18-12 lead in the fourth quarter, the questions about Smart and to Smart would have been pointed.
"Why did you not run more?" "Why did you not pull Stetson?" "Do you think you wasted a generational defense?" "Do you think Georgia will ever be able to win the big one?"
Now Kirby gets to smile and nod, slyly grinning at any thought of that kind of rhetoric, because it all changed with a brilliant and dominant fourth quarter of inspired effort.
And with that fateful and frightening good final 15 minutes, Kirby gets to forever trade second-guessing for the knowledge that he's right there with Dabo as the second-best coach in the country.
All-too-early top 25
We have done this every year.
This year will be harder because of the impact of the portal and the unknown status of so many draft-eligible players.
(Side note: We can't overstate the importance of the latter of those. Think back to this time last year and how many of the Georgia players said things like "unfinished business" or "one more run" and see what it became 12 months later. That's not a coincidence.)
1 Alabama. We need a few rule changes in college football. The defensive pass interference needs to be a spot foul. Purposefully cheating should never be considered the 'smart' or 'good' play like it is now when a DB is beat and tackles a streaking wide receiver. (Cue Frank the Tank, "Hey honey, we're streak, up through the quad to the gymnasium.) Also, why is a defensive penalty on a TD the only penalty that a team can push forward not on the next play but on the play after that? Makes no sense. And let's get rid of half-the-distance to the goal unless an offensive penalty is going to be measured back the same distance. If the offense has the ball at the 4 and the defense jumps, move the ball to the inch line. And one more: As long as Saban is in T-Town, Alabama is preseason No. 1. You good? I'm good. (Side note: If you think Brian Robinson was a dude running the football, wait till you get a load of former Georgia Tech star and Alabama transfer Jahmyr Gibbs, who may be the fastest skill position dude in the SEC next year.)
2 THE Ohio State. THE Buckeyes were not ready for Michigan, and it cost them a playoff spot. But it must be added here that this was a rebuilding year in Columbus. And if Bryce Young does not go back to back Heismans, CJ Stroud has to be the frontrunner.
3 Georgia. Reloading rather than rebuilding is a rather revolting cliché but it applies in Athens. Side note: Georgia was great all year save one Saturday iNS December, but it's also fair to wonder how much better/more impressive this team would have been with George Pickens this year. Because Pickens may very well be the first WR off the board come April.
4 Notre Dame. Biggest swing team here for sure because of the new coaching regime. But the talent is there and the schedule remains the softest of all the blue bloods.
5 Clemson. Speaking of a soft schedule, the Tigers get the ACC cakewalk. Plus they get MaxPreps player of the year Cade Klubnik to take over that stagnant offense. And you have to believe that with the amazing staff turnover, this will be the most motivated version of Dabo Swinney we've ever seen.
(OK, running low on time and space so let's do the next crew in tiers, shall we? I think we shall.)
6-10 — Utah, Texas A&M, Michigan, Bylor and Michigan State.
This is uncertain ground for everyone in that group other than Utah, which has Kyle Whittingham, who is the best coach in the game no one knows about. USC is overhauled; A&M is relying on a slew of newcomers; could Michigan lose Harbaugh; Mel Tucker has turned MSU from the Spartans to the Sportals.
11-15 — NC State, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas
The returning QB division of our rankings as all of these teams have veteran and big-play making dudes under center. (Side note: Yes, Chas will have his dander up because UK is behind UT, but so it goes.)
16-20 — Pitt, Wake Forest, Wisconsin, Oregon and Cincinnati
The "We're always underrated division" is filled with sound foundations built by consistently stout coaches who seldom have truly rotten years. As for Pitt, USC transfer Kaden Slovis will fill the shoes of Heisman finalist Kenny Pickett and has a slew of dudes on the perimeter, including the returning Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison.
21-25 — Houston, Texas, Oklahoma, USC and LSU
The blue-bloods — other than Houston — who have a lot of questions and almost assuredly a lot more talent than most of us realize.
When does the season start again?
This and that
— We will move the Tuesday power poll to Wednesday. Hey, rest easy, you'll get a load of NFL on a daily basis now that college football is in the rearview.
— Here's today's A2 column by some fat-faced fella about the Tennessee state legislative sessions starting today.
— Here's Paschall's prose on the title game. (Side note: Gang, there is not a person in the media realm who knows more about those two programs combined working in TV or print than Chattanooga's own David Paschall. Not anyone. Not Finebaum or any of the other SEC Network folks. Not Herbstreit, and assuredly not any of the rest of the talking heads in Bristol.) (Side note on the side note: Is it me or is Herbie becoming very Aikman-esque in his clichéd-filled analysis? Discuss.)
— You know the other rule too. When TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer writes on college hoops, we read and link Weeds on college hoops. Here he is from K-town on the struggles of the Big Orange and Rick Barnes. Look at it this way, Johnny Vols Fans, you'd rather be struggling now and peak and late March than vice versa, right?
— Get well soon, SVP. The ESPN star says he's OK following a 'medical scare' involving his ticker. For my dollar, he's as good as there is at the Mothership.
— Wow, Black Monday hit the NFL hard, as it almost always does. The Bears, Broncos, Dolphins, Jags and Vikings, as well as the Raiders, are all looking for a permanent head coach.
True or false, it's Tuesday. Morning, Ernie.
True or false, the better team won Monday night in Indy.
True or false, the outcome is different if Jameson Williams doesn't get hurt.
True or false, the SEC Network is almost finished with the SEC Storied — "From Walker to Walk-on: Stetson Bennett's rise to Georgia legend."
True or false, you'd take Alabama and Georgia to win it all next year against the field.
True or false, Kirk Herbstreit is overrated.
You know the drills answer the T or Fs, leave some T or Fs.
As for today, Jan. 11, let's review.
On this day in 1949, the first recorded snowfall happened in L.A.
As for a Rushmore, well, visor tip to Kirby. Rushmore of smart, and be creative.