Winners and Losers from the 2023 College Football National Championship

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 10, 2023

Winners and Losers from the 2023 College Football National Championship

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    Georgia tight end Brock Bowers (19) celebrates his touchdown with Georgia head coach Kirby Smart during the second half of the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game against TCU, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
    AP Photo/Ashley Landis

    Georgia head coach Kirby Smart noted before the game that his team wanted to "hunt."

    Frogs were the prey.

    After failing to win a single national championship since 1980, the Georgia Bulldogs have now won back-to-back titles and finished a spotless 15-0 season in style, thrashing TCU 65-7. They never left a doubt in the domination, ending the season the way they started it.

    In a prime-time, season-opening win over Oregon, Georgia scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions. In Monday's natty, the Bulldogs scored on all six first-half possessions.

    Say what you want about the SEC, but it was another bad night for the haters. The league has now won its fourth consecutive national championship and the 14th in the past 20 seasons.

    "We had things go about as bad as they could go in the first half," said TCU coach Sonny Dykes, noting his team was "wide-eyed" early. It didn't get better.

    Georgia is simply on a different planet speed-wise and talent-wise than TCU. The Horned Frogs were a nice little Cinderella story throughout the year, but the fairy tale had a horror-story ending, thanks to Stetson Bennett, Brock Bowers, Javon Bullard and Co.

    Let's take a look at the winners and losers of this annihilation.

Winner: Dawn of a Dawgs Dynasty

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    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 09: Kendall Milton #2 of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts with teammates after running for a touchdown in the second quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship game at SoFi Stadium on January 09, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Nick Saban built the last great college football dynasty at Alabama, but he sat in the ESPN booth and played the role of analyst while his most impressive disciple led Georgia in a beatdown Monday night.

    Like every other program in the nation, the greatest coach alive right now is having to think of how he's going to play catch-up to what Smart is doing right now in Athens.

    There isn't an end in sight, either.

    Alabama is putting together an amazing recruiting class in the 2023 cycle, but the Crimson Tide are losing Bryce Young, Will Anderson Jr., Jahmyr Gibbs, Brian Branch and others to the NFL this year. Are they really going to challenge the Puppy Powerhouse next year?

    TCU is reloading through the portal, but the world saw how wide that gap is between those two teams. Michigan has made the past two College Football Playoffs, but the Wolverines have petered out once they got there.

    Ohio State has talent, but the Buckeyes must replace C.J. Stroud, so getting close to the Dawgs next year will be a tall task. Tennessee gets a regular-season chance to beat the Dawgs, but the Vols are replacing Hendon Hooker. Clemson? Oregon? USC? Nah.

    The list goes on and on.

    Georgia must deal with the departure of Stetson Bennett, who has proved time and time again he's better than you think he is. Replacing that leadership and big-play ability won't be easy. But Smart had to replace so much talent from last year's title team, and UGA was actually better.

    The Dawgs have the nation's second-ranked recruiting class, they have waves and depth of talent, and a bevy of former 5-stars will be competing to replace Bennett.

    It feels like just the beginning of a red-and-black reign.

Loser: TCU Tackling in a Hapless Effort

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    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 09: Daijun Edwards #30 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs with the ball against Dee Winters #13 of the TCU Horned Frogs in the second quarter in the College Football Playoff National Championship game at SoFi Stadium on January 09, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    TCU defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie's unit made up for its lack of being statistically brilliant with an aggressive nature throughout the season, taking the unique 3-3-5 concept and puzzling opponents with blitz packages.

    Georgia wasn't fooled.

    Todd Monken called whatever he wanted to from the booth, and the Dawgs offensive coordinator looked like a genius no matter what was dialed up. Yes, Stetson Bennett is the perfect maestro with his veteran leadership and knowledge of the system, but this performance goes beyond that.

    The Bulldogs whipped the Horned Frogs at the line of scrimmage, and, perhaps just as terrible, TCU simply couldn't tackle.

    How bad were they? Georgia scored 45 points on its first 45 plays.

    A common sight was the Frogs allowing UGA tight end Brock Bowers to catch a pass over the middle and see two or three of them hanging on for dear life as he dragged them for extra yards.

    The Dawgs' stable of running backs dominated in yards after contact. Misalignment issues and busted coverage also were stalwarts in a forgettable first half that saw Georgia build an insurmountable 38-7 lead at the break. They outscored TCU 27-0 afterward.

    When the Frogs played well for a couple of snaps, it didn't matter. The Dawgs converted third down after third down, going 4-for-5 in the first half (9-for-13 in the game) while scoring on all six of its possessions (five touchdowns).

    What a bloodbath it was.

Winner: Bennett on the Big Stage (Again)

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    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 09: Stetson Bennett #13 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs for a touchdown in the second quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship game at SoFi Stadium on January 09, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
    Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    By now, everybody knows Stetson Bennett's story, but he's no longer the underdog. He's the Big Dawg barking when the lights come on.

    With the world watching and hoping for a competitive national championship game, the Georgia senior signal-caller toyed with TCU from the first snap, dissecting the Frogs like an eighth grader in science class.

    He showcased his passing skills, utilizing tight end Brock Bowers time and time again and taking advantage of a healthy Ladd McConkey on the outside. Shrugging off those who scoff at his athleticism, he showcased his wheels, too.

    On two of UGA's first three touchdowns, Bennett sauntered untouched into the end zone on runs of 21 and six yards to build a big advantage and accounted for four scores before the break. Cameras caught him smirking multiple times, and why not?

    The natty playing field has been Bennett's playground for two years now.

    On one key first-half moment that saw Georgia facing a 3rd-and-10 from near midfield, the Horned Frogs brought the house on a blitz, but with Dee Winters bearing down on Bennett, he simply ducked out of pressure and sprinted for a first down to set up yet another touchdown.

    A year ago, he was good enough against Alabama, throwing for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 33-18 win to break a 41-year drought. To go back-to-back on Monday night, he wasn't just a game manager; he was the game-changer in a 65-7 demolition.

    Bennett accounted for 343 total yards and six touchdowns (four passing), winning his fourth offensive MVP award in four career College Football Playoff games.

    Bennett finished his career 29-3 as a starter and exits college football as one of the biggest clutch quarterbacks in recent memory.

Loser: An Unhappy Ending for Duggan and Dykes

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    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 09: Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs looks on in the first quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship game at SoFi Stadium on January 09, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Max Duggan looked lost.

    He hadn't seen anything all year like what Georgia threw at him. Even after a wonderful season that saw him be a Heisman Trophy finalist and help orchestrate an upset of Michigan in the national semifinal, Duggan looked overmatched.

    This is the type of defense that can do that to great players, and Duggan experienced it firsthand. With star running back Kendre Miller watching in street clothes on the sideline and UGA building a massive lead, the offense stalled.

    Duggan pressed. He threw two interceptions. He took sacks. He couldn't get star receiver Quentin Johnston involved in the game at all. He accounted for just 114 total yards and the two turnovers.

    It's been a phenomenal final season in a career that is going to go down in Horned Frogs lore.

    Not only did Duggan fail to win the job coming out of camp and take over when Chandler Morris got hurt, but he also seized control of the offense and took it to a different level. He took first-year coach Sonny Dykes' program, put it on his shoulders and changed the trajectory of everything that's going on in Fort Worth.

    Now, TCU is a cool place to go to school. Now, the Frogs are absolutely killing it in the transfer portal, and Dykes' program looks like it's one of the hottest in the nation and on firm footing for the future.

    But Duggan came nowhere near closing out his storybook season with a championship. It was obvious from the beginning he couldn't navigate the red-and-black swarm, the speed and the aggression without his full arsenal of weapons.

    It's important to remember, though, Duggan's tough ending is only the beginning for the Frogs.

Winner: Javon Bullard's Dream Night

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    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 09: Javon Bullard #22 of the Georgia Bulldogs intercepts a pass intended for Quentin Johnston #1 of the TCU Horned Frogs in the second quarter in the College Football Playoff National Championship game at SoFi Stadium on January 09, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The only thing that could stop Georgia safety Javon Bullard on Monday night was an injured shoulder.

    Who knows what his stats would have been had the sophomore from Milledgeville, Georgia, not gotten hurt at the very beginning of the second half.

    As it were, the 5'11", 180-pound safety who spent most of the season in the shadows of more heralded UGA defenders had his coming-out party against TCU. The some-time starter for the Dawgs was the most opportunistic player on a fast, aggressive defense.

    While the headlines are going to (rightfully) be about how great Stetson Bennett played, how TCU couldn't stop Brock Bowers and how Georgia did what it wanted to on offense, Bullard quietly did something you almost never see.

    He was responsible for three turnovers in a national championship game.

    In the first half alone.

    Bullard snared a pair of interceptions and was Javon-on-the-spot early in the first half when Christopher Smith batted the ball away from Derius Davis, forcing a fumble that Bullard pounced on to set up the Bulldogs' second score.

    He wore the golden "Savage" shoulder pads on the sideline with pride following one of the turnovers, and he deserved to. In 19 games leading up to this one, Bullard hadn't gotten a single pick. He chose the biggest stage to show what he can do.

    He's a pick to be a breakout star next season, too.

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