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Winners, losers from Peach Bowl 2022: Stetson Bennett, Georgia Bulldogs survive 42-41 thriller against Ohio State

Peach Bowl
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State Buckeyes vs Georgia Bulldogs clash in the Peach Bowl delivered a great CFP Semifinal. Coming hours after a historic and high-scoring Fiesta Bowl, college football got more than enough entertainment on Saturday night.

We got plenty of fireworks early. After Georgia’s Jack Podlesny missed a field goal on the opening drive, Buckeyes’ quarterback C.J. Stroud answered with a four-play, 71-yard touchdown drive with receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. snagging two receptions for 55 yards and a score. Stetson Bennett and the Bulldogs’ offense responded immediately, capping off a 75-yard drive with Kenny McIntosh taking a screen 25 yards to the house for the game-tying score.

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The exchanging of back-and-forth scoring drives dominate the first half, with Stroud leading Ohio State to a 28-24 halftime lead. Naturally, the Ohio State legend continued to attack Georgia with surgeon-like accuracy in the second half.

Naturally, the Bulldogs came back with a bite as Arian Smith was left wide-open for a 76-yard touchdown to make it a one-score game. Stetson Bennett got the football back one last time down by six with 2:36 remaining and needed less than two minutes to cover 72 yards and ultimately win the game.

Stroud did everything he could, but it just wasn’t enough. After a thrilling CFP Semifinal, let’s dive into the winners and losers from the Peach Bowl 2022.

Winner: C.J. Stroud plays like a No. 1 pick

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Ohio State at Georgia
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

C.J. Stroud went into the Peach Bowl viewed by most as the No. 3 player in 2023 NFL Draft QB rankings. In the eyes of many evaluators, he didn’t have the physical tools to match Will Levis and just wasn’t held in as high of a regard as Bryce Young. It might be time for a debate.

  • C.J. Stroud stats (Peach Bowl):

Ohio State’s quarterback went to work early, hitting Marvin Harrison Jr and Emeka Egbuka for gains of 68 total yards on three passes. With Georgia’s pass rush forcing him from the pocket, Stroud rolled out and motioned for Harrison Jr. to come toward him then hit him for the 31-yard touchdown.

Facing the best defense in college football, the future top-10 pick kept coming through. After leading an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, Stroud turned an interception into another score. After slipping out of three sack attempts, the Heisman Trophy finalist kept his eyes downfield and connected with Harrison Jr. for their second touchdown of the first half.

Keep in mind, this is the same Georgia defense that held opponents to 223.9 pass ypg with the 10th-lowest average QB rating (112.9) allowed. Throughout the entire regular season, opposing quarterbacks completed just 56.3% of their pass attempts against the Bulldogs.

Stroud kept attacking. Coming out of halftime with a 28-24 lead, he immediately engineered a touchdown drive covering 70 yards in six plays that he capped off with a 10-yard scoring strike to Emeka Egbuka. Two drives later, another scoring drive.

Playing without Jaxon Smith-Njogba and TreVeyon Henderson for the entire game then taking the field without Harrison Jr in the fourth quarter, Stroud dominated with his mind, arm and even his legs. All of this against a defense with a lot of NFL talent. That’s what you see from a No. 1 pick.

Loser: Ohio State DC Jim Knowles fails in big moment again

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive coordinator Jim Knowles joined the program in 2022 with everyone hoping he could put this unit over the top. Things looked so promising for a majority of the season, but one of the highest-paid coordinators in college football came up short once more.

First, let’s revisit what happened in The Game. Ohio State allowed 45 points and 530 total yards to the Michigan Wolverines. Bad game plans, miscommunications, being outcoached. All of it culminated in Michigan doing whatever it wanted. Fast forward to the Peach Bowl.

Georgia’s offense erupted. For the second consecutive game and once again vs a top-five opponent, Ohio State allowed 40-plus points and 500-plus total yards. Most alarming, Knowles’ defense surrendered 39 fourth-quarter points to Michigan and Georgia. This loss falls on Knowles and head coach Ryan Day.

Winner: Marvin Harrison Jr. is a future NFL All-Pro

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Ohio State at Georgia
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

If the Biletnikoff Award truly goes to the most outstanding wide receiver in college football, it belonged in Marvin Harrison Jr’s home months ago. After being robbed of the honor, Ohio State’s unanimous All-American simply took out his frustrations on Georgia’s secondary.

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He really only needed two quarters to prove himself. Facing projected first-round pick Kelee Ringo, Harrison Jr. torched Georgia. One touchdown after another, Harrison Jr made plays that would make his Pro Football Hall of Fame father proud.

In the unlikely event that 106 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the first half isn’t enough for you, he drew a big pass interference against Ringo in the third quarter. Unfortunately, a hit near his head forced him out of the game after the third quarter.

We’re not simply talking about a future first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Harrison Jr. is on a tier with Ja’Marr Chase, someone who could sit out his final collegiate season, be the No. 5 pick and then earn second-team All-Pro honors as a rookie.

Loser: College football kickers

Syndication: HawkCentral
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

One of the greatest College Football Playoff game in recent memory proved to be a miserable experience for anyone who likes kickers. No matter who came out on top of Saturday’s game, either Jack Podlesny or Noah Ruggles would come away from it marked forever.

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After Podlesny missed two field-goal attempts earlier in the game, Ruggles had a chance to become a hero in Ohio. Stroud set him up perfectly, too. After Ohio State’s offense covered 43 yards in less than a minute, it all lined up for the 50-yard game-winning field goal attempt.

Ruggles kick didn’t come close. If you measured distance to the football from the goal posts to the orange pylon, it was closer to the pylon when it landed. It was unfortunately the last moment in Ruggles’ Ohio State career. As his beloved teammate said, the fans should be respectful.

Winner: Stetson Bennett saves his best for last

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Ohio State at Georgia
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Stetson Bennett played like a Heisman finalist and the SEC Championship Game in the first quarter. He led two long scoring drives, completing 9-of-10 attempts for 110 yards and a touchdown. Just about everything after that more closely resembled a walk-on quarterback in the next two quarters.

Related: Stetson Bennett generating buzz among NFL scouts

Bennett found the end zone on a rushing score, but McIntosh did most of the work on that drive. As Stroud tore apart Georgia’s secondary, head coach Kirby Smart could only watch from the sideline as his senior quarterback seemed to crumble. In the next two quarters, Bennett completed just 4-of-12 attempts for 98 passing yards with one interception and it put Georgia in a 38-24 hole.

Yet, everything seemed to change when a Buckeyes’ defensive back slipped and left Arian Smith open for the 76-yard touchdown. Bennett took that little bit of life and used it to kill Ohio State’s defense. The five-play, 72-yard drive showed off Bennett’s poise in the biggest moments.

There have been plenty of jokes about the 25-year-old quarterback. The walk-on who social media loves to talk about his bright future running car dealerships dealt in another big moment. Georgia desperately needed their leader to come through and with everything at stake, he delivered.

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