Georgia unleashes Brock Bowers as College Football Playoff awaits

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Brock Bowers might be the best individual offensive player in the coming College Football Playoff. The Georgia tight end is a marvel, an athletic mismatch at a position at which he has no equal.

Yet in the two relatively competitive games before Saturday’s SEC Championship game, Bowers had seven catches for 30 yards and a score. It could be suggested the Bulldogs were saving him for their tougher battles.

“I’m not sure, I don’t make the plan,” Bowers said with a chuckle when proposed that theory.

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The truth is Georgia, rich with offensive options and never desperate for a single play, simply didn’t need Bowers’ brilliance to beat Kentucky or Georgia Tech. As the tight end himself noted, “We have a bunch of playmakers. Why not give them all the ball?”

But the Bulldogs will need him in the CFP. And they used the game Saturday to announce his return to prominence.

Bowers had six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown in a 50-30 win against LSU. He was involved early, helping Georgia build a 25-point halftime lead. Each time the Bulldogs looked in his direction, he showed the audience why he was perhaps the best talent on a field full of it.

During their first touchdown drive, Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett hit Bowers for 15- and 32-yard gains. Bowers scored a 3-yard touchdown easily when Bennett rolled out and found Bowers as he separated from defenders.

“It’s always fun catching the ball,” Bowers said. “I’m just trying to do my job, do as much as I can with the ball in my hands.”

Up 21-7, Georgia assembled a 13-play drive just before half that included a third-and-3 conversion by Bowers in the red zone. Two plays later, Bennett found his other beastly tight end Darnell Washington for a touchdown. Bowers had five catches for 58 yards at the break.

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As the third quarter wound down and it appeared the Bulldogs again had disregarded their top weapon, Bennett fired a tight-window throw to Bowers, whose catch-and-run accounted for 23 yards. The Bulldogs scored on that drive and reached the 50-point mark. Bowers’ catch came on the team’s final pass of the game (sans a two-point conversion attempt).

Georgia, who should retain the No. 1 seed in the final CFP rankings Sunday, could face TCU or Ohio State – maybe even Alabama if the committee is so inclined – in a semifinals contest at the Peach Bowl. The reigning champions know, at this stage, that it’s about not only having the best talent, but knowing how to best utilize it.

It’s arguable that Bowers is Georgia’s most talented player – defensive tackle Jalen Carter might have that distinction – but there are few, if any, skill players among the CFP candidates who possess Bowers’ rare ability.

Ohio State has skill talents such as Marvin Harrison and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, should he return from injury. TCU has receiver Quentin Johnston, whom you’ll find in the first round of any 2023 mock draft. The Wolverines had running back Blake Corum, but he’s out following knee surgery. They still have impressive players such as running back Donovan Edwards and receiver Ronnie Bell.

Harrison is the only one in Bowers’ talent class. The national scene is well-aware of Georgia’s preposterously deep tight end group, and Bowers is the headliner. But despite his renowned name, he hasn’t always been the focal point of the offense.

The reason: He hasn’t needed to be. That’s the case when you win 12 of 13 games by double digits. He’s eclipsed 100 yards receiving only twice – half as many occasions as 2021. His nine touchdowns are three fewer than last season.

“If we’re winning – we’re 13-0 – and if we keep winning, then I don’t have a problem with who’s getting the ball or if I get any catches at all,” Bowers said. “As long as we’re winning. We came here to win games.”

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Bowers is conducive to doing just that. The Bulldogs will unleash him when needed. Last year, he had 139 yards in the SEC Championship game, which Georgia lost to Alabama. He had nine catches for 91 yards across the ensuing two CFP games, scoring in both as the Bulldogs won the championship (a humorous tidbit: Bowers said celebrating Saturday’s SEC title was “nicer” than the national championship because he was immediately drug-tested following the latter while his teammates celebrated).

Bowers has drawn attention nearly every week for his highlight plays, but he never exceeded five catches in a single contest during the regular season. He crossed 70 yards receiving only twice. He had over 100 total yards on three occasions.

Then, in the most important game to date, Bowers was the team’s leading receiver with a season-best six catches. Georgia’s offense is better than last season’s, as its 50-point outburst reminded spectators. Bowers tormenting the minds of opposing defenders and coordinators is a large part of the equation, even when the surface stats are forgettable.

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Players aren’t supposed to be so nuanced, speedy and well-built, especially at age 19. The Bulldogs plucked this behemoth from Napa, California, and he’s overwhelmed defenses from Day 1. Talents such as Bowers are what totally separates Georgia from the pack.

“If you look at him, he has like 8% body fat,” Washington said. “It’s crazy to see as a tight end. And everybody knows he’s fast. He’s just a unique guy.”

Bet on Bowers further asserting himself in the CFP. Defenses will try to contain him, but he hasn’t been tamed when Georgia has truly needed him. Many already consider him the greatest tight end in Bulldogs history.

Just as there’s no doubt Georgia is No. 1, there’s no question Bowers is America’s best collegiate tight end – even if he won’t accept the flattery.

“I just feel like I have a lot to prove,” Bowers said. “I just have to keep working.”

Georgia 50, LSU 30