Breakdown: No. 1 Georgia 50, LSU 30

Credit: Bob Andres for the Atlanta Constitution

Credit: Bob Andres for the Atlanta Constitution

The No. 1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs improved to 13-0 on the season and won their second SEC championship under coach Kirby Smart with a 50-30 win over No. 14 LSU at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday. With the victory, the defending national champions will advance to the College Football Playoff for the second consecutive season and third time in the past five years.

Here’s how Saturday’s game broke down:

Play of the game

Georgia executed a 10-point turnaround when LSU lined up to attempt a 32-yard field goal with just under four minutes remaining in the first quarter. Then a bunch of good things happened for the Bulldogs. First, defensive tackle Nazir Stackhouse penetrated the middle of the protection and got a hand up to block the field-goal attempt. Secondly, the ball ricocheted to the left of the field and stopped at the Georgia 4-yard line. Finally, seeing no one else bothering to scoop up the errant kick, senior safety Christopher Smith decided to. With no LSU players having continued to play and even some of his Georgia teammates giving up on it, Smith scampered 96 yards down the Bulldogs’ sideline for a touchdown.

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Game ball

Two will have to be provided for this game. First, quarterback Stetson Bennett was named the game’s MVP for good reason. A sixth-year senior, Bennett finished with 279 yards and four touchdowns on 23-of-29 passing, with most of that work coming in a first half in which the Bulldogs build a 35-10 lead. … Smith, a fifth-year senior, not only had the 96-yard touchdown return of the blocked field-goal attempt, but he also intercepted LSU in the end zone and deflected a pass that ended up bouncing off the intended receiver’s helmet and was intercepted by linebacker Smael Mondon to set up another Georgia score. Smith finished with four tackles and one tackle for loss.

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Key stat

LSU entered Saturday’s game having recorded only 16 pass plays of 30 yards or more in the previous 12 games. The Tigers had four against Georgia, rolling up a total of 502 yards passing with a starting quarterback (Jayden Daniels) who played with a sprained ankle and a backup redshirt freshman (Garrett Nussmeier) who relieved him at halftime. Malik Nabers averaged 25.6 yards on five catches for 128 yards, and Kayshon Boutte added six for 107 for the Tigers.

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What we learned

The Bulldogs’ chances of repeating as national champions are looking increasingly realistic. Georgia has shown it can win games in a variety of different ways, with great defense, without it, passing the ball, running it, playing fantastic and really not playing all that well. Saturday’s game featured a little bit of all of that.

Georgia 50, LSU 30

They said it

“This has been a different group. You guys have tried to label them, tried to figure ‘em out, tried to analyze ‘em. They’re not comprehend-able. They do what they have to do, and they do it well. They care about each other, and they really do it for each other.” – Smart

“Obviously, we did a poor job coaching. It’s our responsibility to have our guys alert in that situation. They were not alert. That falls on coaching. That falls on my shoulders. I take full responsibility for that.” – LSU coach Brian Kelly on the blocked field-goal attempt return for a touchdown by Georgia

What’s next?

Georgia: The Bulldogs (13-0) will await word from the College Football Playoff selection committee to find out who and where they play in the national semifinals.

LSU: The Tigers (9-4), in their first year under Kelly, will find out Sunday their bowl destination. They were picked to finish fifth in the Western Division this season.