College football went through a drama-filled regular season with tons of surprises, upsets, and wild stories throughout the year. Cincinnati went on an unprecedented run for a team from a non power-five conference, becoming the first to make the college football playoff since its inception in 2014 as the 4th ranked team in the country. Georgia had one of the best defenses in college football history, battling through the SEC and shutting down everyone they faced until they finally slipped up against Alabama in the SEC championship game, losing 42-24. Still, their overall body of work kept them as the 3rd best team in the country in the eyes of the College Football Playoff Committee. Michigan finally had the season fans were expecting during the Jim Harbaugh reign. Even though they lost to Michigan State, their long-awaited win over Ohio State solidified their spot in the final four as the #2 team in the nation. Alabama had fallen from the top spot in the rankings after a stunning last-second loss to Texas A&M. They rebounded and their win over Georgia in the SEC Championship gave them the top seed heading into the playoffs.
Cotton Bowl: #4 Cincinnati vs #1 Alabama:
Led by quarterback Desmond Ridder and cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati had battled through their non-conference and American Athletic Conference slate, including a win over Notre Dame, who at the time was the #9 team in the country. Alabama had a relatively regular season with their lofty expectations, except for the loss to Texas A&M. Quarterback Bryce Young won the Heisman Trophy after a fantastic performance against Georgia in the SEC Championship game. Even though Cincinnati was the undefeated team in this matchup, most expected them to be blown out by Alabama as they were 13.5 point underdogs in the betting markets. Even though their offense was underwhelming, Alabama blew the brakes off of Cincinnati as Young struggled to have much success through the air. Nick Saban’s squad primarily relied on running back Brian Robinson Jr. and the solid defensive effort led by edge defender Will Anderson to defeat the Bearcats 27-6.
Orange Bowl: #3 Georgia vs. #2 Michigan:
Michigan had an extremely impressive season even with their close 37-33 loss to Michigan State. Their final two weeks of the regular season were extraordinarily impressive. They defeated Ohio State and annihilated #13 Iowa 42-3 in the Big 10 Championship game. They had a dominating pass rush with Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. Georgia had the best defense in College Football by a mile. They hadn’t let up more than 17 points in a game until the SEC Championship. Even though they were the lower seed, Georgia was expected to win and favored 7.5 points. Led by former Clemson transfer cornerback Derion Kendrick who had two interceptions, the Bulldogs shut down the Wolverines en route to a 34-11 victory to set up a rematch with Alabama.
College Football Championship: #3 Georgia vs #1 Alabama:
Even after the dismantling of Georgia by Alabama just a few weeks before, the Bulldogs were favored against the Crimson Tide. The game started as a defensive battle by both sides. Missing top receivers John Metchie who got injured in the earlier game between these two teams, and Jameson Williams, who tore his ACL early in the game, the Alabama offense struggled to get their passing game working as Bryce Young was clearly not playing as well as he did in the earlier matchup while throwing to mostly freshman receivers. The first touchdown wasn’t scored until Zamir White ran up the hole for a 1-yard touchdown to make the score 13-9 with just over a minute left in the 3rd quarter. The scoring opened up as the defenses slowly got more tired and receivers started to find open space across the middle of the field. Georgia Quarterback Stetson Bennett played mistake-free football for most of the season except for a fumble early in the fourth quarter. After some more back and forth, Georgia took a 26-18 lead with 3:33 to play before kicking it off to the Tide. Needing a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie and send the game to overtime, Young threw an interception to Kelee Ringo, who returned it 79 yards for a touchdown and made the score 33-18, effectively ending the game and the 2021 College Football Season.