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Redemption for Bennett, Garoppolo; Boost for Oregon; Paralysis for CFP Expansion; Honors for Luck

"There was no way I was going to be the reason why we lost this game. I knew I had to fix it."

And fix it, he did.

Stetson Bennett IV, whose fumble on his own 16 yard-line set up Alabama's go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter, proceeded to throw two touchdown passes to lead Georgia to a thrilling 33-18 win in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game last night.

Bennett, the 5-10 walk-on nobody wanted, the kid who dreamed about being the starting quarterback at Georgia from the time he was three years old, slayed the Crimson Tide dragon that has claimed six national titles in the last 12 years.

This is why we all love sports.

Ducks Get Boost: Georgia's national championship was the best sendoff possible for defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, recently hired as the new head coach at Oregon.

Lanning's defense played brilliantly all night, completely stifling the Alabama running game, pressuring Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Bryce Young, and coming up with the game-clinching pick six.

So, ironically, one of the biggest winners on Monday night was the University of Oregon. Duck fans had to thrilled, knowing that having a coach who just played a big part in the CFP championship would enhance Oregon's stature and recruiting efforts in the Pac-12, where no team has won the national title since 2003.

Jimmy G: 49er quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's gutty, clutch performance in Sunday's overtime thriller over the Rams may have finally quieted his critics.

Well, at least for one week.

All Garoppolo did was bring the 49ers back from a 17-0 deficit, start a drive on his own 12 yard line with 1:34 left and take his team 88 yards for the game-tying score in the final seconds, and then drive them to the winning field goal in OT. He did all this with a torn ligament and fracture in his throwing thumb that would've kept many quarterbacks on the sideline.

Garoppolo is a good quarterback. He isn't great. He isn't one of the elite QBs in the league...not Aaron Rodgers (thankfully), Patrick Mahomes, or Tom Brady. In my mind, he’s probably somewhere around 12th or 13th best in the NFL.

Consider his stats for the 2021 regular season, and how he ranks among starting quarterbacks:

  • No. 2 in yards per attempt (8.6) behind only Joe Burrow

  • No. 3 in first down percentage (39.7) behind Rodgers and Mahomes

  • No. 6 in completing percentage (68.3)

  • No. 9 in QB rating (98.7)

  • No. 9 in completions over 20 yards (54)

  • No. 12 in passing yards (3810)

  • No. 12 in TD/Int ratio (20/12)

  • No. 17 in TD passes (20

When and if the 49ers move on to Trey Lance next year, Garoppolo will end up starting and winning games somewhere else in the NFL.

Expansion Paralysis: Last June the "working group" of the college football Playoff Committee announced plans for expanding the current four-team format to a 12 team field, and the idea was met with near-unanimous approval. There was optimism that the new expanded format could be implemented prior to the expiration of the original 12-year agreement in 2026, perhaps with the 2024 season.

But since then, the 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director who make up the committee have been unable to reach an agreement to move forward. Changing the original deal requires a unanimous vote, and some members are pushing an 8-team tournament, while others are insisting that all Power Five Conference champions be guaranteed a spot.

The initial working group proposal included the six highest-ranked conference champions, regardless of whether they were Power Five or not, which the smaller Group of Five conferences prefer.

The ACC, and to a lesser extent the Big Ten, want all five Power 5 conference champions guaranteed with only one spot dedicated to the top Group of 5 champion. That’s the main stalemate.

After the most recent meetings over the weekend, a disgusted Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, the former Stanford Athletic Director, said, "we're not even close. Everybody's more concerned about their own silos than somebody else's. In 2012 Jim Delany (the former Big Ten Commissioner) and Mike Slive (the late SEC Commissioner) got past their individual concerns to do what's best for college football. That's why we got to a playoff...that hasn't happened this time."

The most likely scenario at this point is that we'll have to endure four more years of the four-team format—with two SEC teams in the field most years and top players opting out of "meaningless" non-playoff bowl games—before the commissioners vote on a new contract. In that case, unanimity is not required and the 12-team format will be adopted to begin with the 2026 season.

Until then, because of pettiness, posturing, and self-interest among those entrusted with the welfare of the sport, the fans will be the losers.

Luck Honored: Former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was a first-ballot selection to the College Football Hall of Fame. He joins four other Cardinal quarterbacks who’ve been so enshrined—Frankie Albert, John Brodie, Jim Plunkett and John Elway.

Luck is one of the classiest, most gracious people you’d ever want to meet. He was the Heisman Trophy runner-up two times, finishing behind Cam Newton of Auburn in 2010 and Robert Griffin III of Baylor in 2011. Losing to Newton was okay, losing to Griffin was a crime.

Problem was, Andrew had a very mediocre group of receivers that year, so he spent the entire season throwing to tight ends and running backs. Meanwhile, Griffin was heaving 60-yard bombs in the Big 12, where defense was non-existent.


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

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