Georgia's Beatdown of Tennessee Puts to Rest Which Team Should Be No. 1 in the CFP

Adam KramerNovember 5, 2022

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) reacts to the crowd as he leaves the field following Georgia's victory over Tennessee in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
AP Photo/John Bazemore

We begin with the punter. Yes, the punter.

To understand Georgia’s thorough domination of Tennessee on Saturday—a 27-13 triumph over the Vols that never felt that close—we begin in an unlikely place.

Sure, quarterback Stetson Bennett cemented himself as a legitimate Heisman candidate after accounting for three more touchdowns. And, yes, defensive lineman Jalen Carter, who has battled injuries this season, showcased glimpses as to why many NFL scouts feel he’s in the running for the No. 1 overall pick in next spring’s draft.

But the depth and talent run deep on this roster, all the way to the punter. That punter, Aussie Brett Thorson, unleashed a 75-yard punt that ultimately ducked out of bounds by its lonesome, on the opposing one-yard line.

CBS Sports @CBSSports

It is honestly impossible to have a better punt. <br><br>PERFECTION from Brett Thorson. <a href="https://t.co/kZLaE1NMi2">pic.twitter.com/kZLaE1NMi2</a>

It was a majestic boot—one of the greatest in recent memory. It should have resulted in a safety a few plays later, although it ultimately didn’t, thanks largely to some peculiar officiating surrounding a Tennessee fumble.

Still, Georgia used that field position to score a quick touchdown a few minutes later. The game never felt competitive from that point.

From the quarterback to the punter, the full arsenal of Georgia’s potential was on display in the biggest college football game of the season to date.

All year long, we’ve openly wondered what team deserves the No. 1 ranking: Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee and Georgia all have made legitimate pushes throughout the year.

After Saturday, however, that discussion ends. The answer is Georgia, and there’s not much to it. Well, at least for now.

Georgia defensive lineman Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins (93) reacts after recovering a fumble during the second half of an NCAA college football game as Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) looks on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
AP Photo/John Bazemore

That sentiment, of course, hasn’t always existed this season. After winning the national championship in January, expectations for the program were enormous despite the exodus of impact players.

A blowout victory over Oregon in the opening weekend only fanned the flames. But along the way, Georgia injected some doubt into the season. The Bulldogs allowed Kent State to score 22 points, only to barely beat Missouri on the road the following week.

From that point on, the questions surrounding Georgia have persisted despite a solid string of wins (albeit against inferior opponents). On Saturday, those questions dissipated quickly.

Coming into this week, Tennessee was the hottest team in college football and the No. 1 seed in the first College Football Playoff rankings. Entering Saturday, the Vols were averaging more than 49 points per game.

Georgia held Tennessee, the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense, to one touchdown, and it came with a little more than four minutes remaining in the game. That about sums it up.

Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey (84) celebrates a touchdown catch with teammates during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
AP Photo/John Bazemore

The scoreboard didn’t necessarily read like a blowout, although the actual football game never truly felt all that close. Georgia held a 24-6 lead at half, and then the Bulldogs essentially ran out the clock as the rain finally came from that point forward.

The ramifications that will emerge from this game will be sizable in the SEC and beyond. On Tuesday night, Georgia will be a runaway choice as the selection committee’s new No. 1 choice for the College Football Playoff.

No drama. No debate.

Moving forward, it will likely take a loss to remove the Bulldogs from that position. Tennessee will move down, although probably not too far. And earlier on Saturday, Ohio State, another team in consideration for this No. 1 spot, struggled in a win against one-win Northwestern.

The Bulldogs’ remaining schedule is not without intrigue. Well, perhaps that depends on what you view as “intrigue.”

Georgia will play road games at Mississippi State and Kentucky before heading home to play Georgia Tech. From there, Kirby Smart’s group is likely SEC Championship Game bound. If the Bulldogs get to the title game unbeaten, they are likely a lock for the playoff regardless of the outcome.

Sound familiar? It should.

The very scenario played out last season when Georgia lost to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. From there, the Bulldogs cruised through to the playoffs and to the national title.

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, left, fumbles as he is hit by Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88) in the end zone during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Athens, Ga. Tennessee recovered the ball and avoided a safety. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
AP Photo/John Bazemore

This team, the best football team in America, does not possess the same talent that last year’s group did. That is not a controversial opinion; given all the meaningful players Georgia lost, it’s just the reality.

The fact that Georgia has been able to mold a legitimate title contender this quickly is a testament to the years of brilliant recruiting and development that Smart has constructed in Athens.

Still, back-to-back national titles are not a given for Georgia. Saturday’s result against Tennessee, as significant as it was, guarantees nothing moving forward.

It reminded, however, just how talented this roster is from the very top to the very bottom. It also put the Bulldogs in an unbelievable position moving forward as college football’s home stretch begins.

More immediately, it ended the debate surrounding the nation’s No. 1 team.

That answer is clear. The answer is Georgia.