INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- There was no epic comeback and no miraculous finish because there was no chance -- not when the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs asserted their sheer dominance from the onset and sucked the storybook ending right out from under No. 3 TCU with a 65-7 win in the College Football Playoff National Championship at SoFi Stadium on Monday night.
In a game that featured two Heisman Trophy finalist quarterbacks, Georgia's Stetson Bennett piled onto his legacy before an announced crowd of 72,628, leading the Bulldogs to back-to-back national titles for the first time since Alabama accomplished the feat following the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
And they made it look so easy.
With 13:25 left in the game and Georgia sitting comfortably with a 52-7 lead, coach Kirby Smart called a timeout so the 25-year-old Bennett could walk off the field for the last time and soak in the moment after accounting for six total touchdowns (four passing and two rushing). His teammates in the huddle were wondering why they didn't have a play, and Bennett said he explained it to them. He unhooked his chin strap, pulled off his helmet with a smile and went to the sideline, where he was greeted with hugs and high-fives from coaches and teammates for capping his career with the sport's biggest prize.
"As simple as it is, just one last huddle with the guys," said Bennett, who finished with a 29-3 career record as Georgia's starter. "That was special, coming off and seeing Coach Smart. That was really cool, and I appreciate that."
"First time he's ever walked off that I was hugging him," Smart said with a smile.
Georgia beat this scrappy but talented TCU team every which way, using its powerful tight ends for big plays in the passing game, finding holes for long bursts in the running game and pushing through the Horned Frogs' offensive line to pressure TCU quarterback Max Duggan into costly mistakes. He threw two interceptions in the first half, including one with 36 seconds remaining that led to another Bennett touchdown pass two plays later -- and a resounding 38-7 halftime lead for Georgia. It was the largest halftime lead in a national championship game since the 2002 BCS title game when Miami led Nebraska 34-0.
Georgia, having the experience of winning it all just a year ago, looked comfortable and calm, while the Frogs, who finished 5-7 last season and were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12, appeared wide-eyed and out of sorts under first-year coach Sonny Dykes.
"We'll learn from it," Dykes said, "and next time we're on a stage like this, we'll handle it better."
Georgia closed as a 13.5-point favorite, the largest favorite in a national title game since 1998, but TCU, which defied the odds on a weekly basis, had won five games when trailing after halftime this season while capturing the nation's attention with its funky hypnotoad and underdog status along the way.
Not this time.
This wasn't about a fairy-tale ending. No, this was about what's beginning at Georgia under Smart.
Since 1990, the only other schools besides Alabama to win back-to-back national titles are Nebraska (1994 and 1995) and Southern California (2003 and 2004). This time, Georgia did it without five first-round NFL draft picks from last season's national championship defense.
"If the team last year played this year's team, last year's team probably had more talent on it," Smart said, "but this year's team was different. They just had this eye of the tiger; they weren't going to lose."
The comparisons between where Georgia is heading and what Alabama has done began last season, when the Bulldogs defeated the Crimson Tide to win their first national title in 41 years. Now that Georgia has won consecutive championships, there's an undeniable tilt in the balance of power between the two programs. The debate will heighten if Georgia is usurping -- or already has usurped -- Alabama, which has won six national titles in 12 seasons under Saban, as the most elite program in the SEC.
Smart, who spent nine seasons as Alabama coach Nick Saban's defensive coordinator before he was hired at Georgia, took Saban's championship blueprint with him to Athens. Smart has now won five SEC East titles, two SEC championships and two national titles. He has lured in seven top-three signing classes, and they were on full display Monday night.
For much of the first half, Bennett was throwing to open receivers without a defender in arm's reach. He threw only four incompletions in the first half and accounted for two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns.
"The way he leads, the way he prepares, his mental makeup is such of a quarterback that believes he can make every throw, and what he did tonight was truly amazing," Smart said. "He probably had his best game of his career, in my opinion, with some of the checks he made, some of the decisions he made. It was really elite."
Georgia outgained TCU by 233 yards in the first half, the largest margin in any half of a national championship game since at least the 2004 season. The Bulldogs were shattering national championship records left and right. In the end, Georgia scored the most points in a BCS/CFP national championship -- and enjoyed the largest margin of victory in any bowl game all time, including national championships. It was an utter meltdown for the Frogs, who were trying to win the program's first national title since 1938.
When TCU knocked off No. 2 Michigan in the CFP semifinal, the Frogs continued to convert critics into believers. It took only one half for Georgia to make it clear, however, that the gap between the SEC's most elite program and TCU was as large as the score indicated.
Midway through the third quarter, Georgia had run as many plays (45) as it had points, which explains why the Georgia fans in SoFi Stadium seemed as comfortable as the lead they were staring at. Just about everything collapsed for TCU, including its defense in the first half, which allowed its most points in a first half since giving up 38 to Oklahoma in 2017.
Entering the second quarter, Georgia's players were waving their arms on the field and their white towels on the sideline, gesturing to the fans to get into the game. They did it again at the start of the second half.
Georgia's 17 points were the most scored in the first quarter by a team in a BCS or CFP national championship game. Even with the resounding start, though, there was still a sense TCU would put up a fight like it always does and that the first quarter was far too early to write off the Frogs.
That happened in the second quarter.
TCU carved its identity this season through its relentless ability to find ways to win, but it was an insurmountable task against a program that has forged its identity as the best team in the country.