After the disruption of the previous year, the 2021 college football season saw fans fill stadiums with a raucous cacophony of noise. It reminded us of how special college football could be. A special season deserved an equally momentous and historic champion, and that’s what we got. But, who won the 2022 College Football National Championship?
College Football National Championship 2022 Winner
The Georgia Bulldogs team that won the 2022 College Football National Championship will be regarded as one of the greatest teams in the sport’s illustrious history. When the Bulldogs defeated Alabama in Lucas Oil Stadium on Jan. 10, 2022, they set multiple College Football Playoff and NCAA records in addition to ending over 40 years of hurt for fans of the program.
The season was momentous for many reasons. The 2022 College Football National Championship was the first for Georgia since 1980. Even reaching the CFP ended a four-year drought of Bulldog representation in the Final Four.
When Kirby Smart’s team rolled past Alabama 33-18 in the title game, they became the first team who ranked third in final CFP rankings to win a national title. But, what made the 2022 College Football National Championship winner such a special team?
2022 College Football National Championship Winner Georgia Proves Defense Does Win Championships
There’s an old adage in football that goes, “offense wins games, defense wins championships.” Never before has that phrase, that cliche, been so applicable as to the 2022 College Football National Championship-winning Georgia team. Sure, their offense, which averaged 38.6 points per game, helped them win 14 games — the most single-season wins in program history — but the defense, the defense was historically incredible.
By the time the Bulldogs had limited Alabama to just nine second-half points in the 2022 College Football National Championship Game, they’d asserted themselves among the pantheon of exceptional college football defenses.
Limiting their opponents to a nation-leading 10.2 points per game, the Georgia unit allowed less than 80.0 rushing yards per game and gave up a measly five rushing scores and 11 passing touchdowns, while only Wisconsin allowed less than the Bulldogs’ 267.9 yards per game.
The 2022 College Football National Championship winner was an unstoppable defensive juggernaut, built front-to-back with elite playmaking talent. Their defensive front, made up of Devonte Wyatt, Jordan Davis, Jalen Carter, Travon Walker, and Nolan Smith, would set the standard for eye-popping athleticism. Big men simply aren’t meant to have the moves that the Bulldogs’ trench bullies bought into battle.
Behind them, a linebacker rotation that contained Nakobe Dean and Channing Tindall as the star names were as commanding in coverage as they were ballistic into the backfield. Derion Kendrick, Kelee Ringo, and the dangerously dynamic Lewis Cine formed a no-fly-zone over Athens and any other stadium where the Bulldogs’ defense set up shop during a simply incredible season, the like of which we’ll probably never see again.
By the time Ringo had secured a game-winning interception returned for a touchdown in the 2022 College Football National Championship Game, everyone was sure that we’d witnessed a defensive unit that rivaled the likes of Alabama’s 2011 defense, the Miami Hurricanes unit of 2001, the 1993 FSU team, and the Clemson “Power Rangers”-led defense from 2018. Yet, the signs that we were about to witness college football defensive dominance were there right from the very start.
When number three-ranked Clemson put up just three points on the fifth-ranked Bulldogs in the Duke’s Mayo Classic — the annual season-opener from the home of the Carolina Panthers, not the mayo-dumping postseason party at Bank of America Stadium — many fans and analysts derided the quality of offensive football.
While the downfall of D.J. Uiagalelei might be traced back to that game, it was the sheer ferocity of the Georgia defense on display that day that set the tone for what would be a title-winning season.
Clemson managed just three points. The following week, UAB totaled just seven. While South Carolina tallied double digits, that would be nullified by consecutive shutouts against Vanderbilt and Arkansas. The Razorbacks were the eighth-ranked team in the nation when the eventual 2022 College Football National Championship winner took them to task.
Without Alabama on their cross-conference schedule, the Bulldogs continued unabated to the SEC Championship Game. Florida, Missouri, Charleston Southern, and Georgia Tech were all held under 10 points while the offense — led by former walk-on turned Athens mega-star Stetson Bennett IV and tremendous tight end talent Brock Bowers — never dipped under 20 points for the rest of the regular season after their opening day duel with Clemson.
But then came that SEC Championship Game and a date with old foe Alabama in Atlanta. It was comfortably the biggest test the Bulldogs and their vaunted defense had faced all season. On the biggest stage, Bryce Young had his way with the Bulldogs, throwing for 421 yards and three touchdowns on an afternoon where Jameson Williams consistently found space to work his magic.
The team that had ranked number one in the CFP rankings from the initial to the penultimate found themselves third on “Selection Sunday.” Ultimately, it didn’t matter where the Bulldogs ranked heading into the College Football Playoffs.
The defeat to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, and the questions it provoked, lit a fire under Smart’s team. They obliterated the Michigan Wolverines in the Orange Bowl, leading by over 30 points until a consolation touchdown pass to Andrel Anthony left the final score at 34-11, setting up a rematch with the Crimson Tide in the 2022 College Football National Championship Game.
A cagey first half ensued in Lucas Oil Stadium. One of the best offenses in college football facing one of the best defenses naturally resulted in a kicking contest between Alabama’s Will Reichard and Georgia’s Jack Podlesny. It wouldn’t be until late in the third quarter when things would heat up, with Zamir White’s touchdown run opening the floodgates for a high-scoring fourth quarter. Reichard and Cameron Latu restored the Alabama lead before Adonai Mitchell, Bowers, and the Ringo pick-six secured Georgia’s 33-18 win.