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COLLEGE FOOTBALL FRENZY: NCAA king Georgia shows Tennessee who’s No. 1

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That Tennessee waltz to the top of the NCAA world lasted only a few days.

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Feeling snubbed by the College Football Playoff Rankings crew, the defending champion Georgia Bulldogs escorted the newest No. 1 team atop those ratings off the floor with their own fancy footwork Saturday.

It was a decisive dance for the No. 3 Bulldogs in a 27-13 defeat of the Tennessee Volunteers in Athens, Ga.

“Ya … ya, I do,” answered Georgia QB Stetson Bennett, when asked post-game by CBS if his Bulldogs came in with a chip on their shoulder after the inaugural CFP Rankings slotted them behind both No. Tennessee and the No. 2 Ohio State. 

“We felt like we were the reigning ones and you gotta come see us on our field, and I think we played like it,” continued Bennett. “We attacked this week, and it was pretty sweet.”

Dog-gone it, did they ever attack.

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The vaunted defence for Georgia bared its teeth in limiting a terrific Tennessee offence, especially early on. QB Hendon Hooker, who’s vaulted to become a Heisman Trophy co-favourite with his sensational season, was limited to just 195 passing yards and 17 yards on 18 runs. He didn’t toss a TD or run for one against the mighty Bulldogs defence, either.

“A bunch of kids that love this place,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smith told CBS. “They practised their butts off for two weeks.

“They played together. They stuck to the plan. And when you stick to the plan, you’ve got a helluva chance. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide — that was our theme.”

Tennessee was on a road to somewhere until this one, hoping to push out the Bulldogs, just as it did the Alabama Crimson Tide a few weeks ago in a thriller. 

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But Saturday saw Georgia shake off an early field-goal against to score two first-quarter touchdowns and put up 10 more points in the second half before standing large defensively, proving it can play the way it did in winning it all last year.

Bennett himself passed for 17-of-25 for 257 yards and two TDs, and sophomore receiver Ladd McConkey racked up 94 yards and a major on five receptions.

As a team, Bennett, McConkey and the Bulldogs have now run their way back to No. 1 after this one. They are 9-0 and are — no doubt — the NCAA leader, while top-ranked Tennessee will drop in the CFP Rankings with — now — an 8-1 mark.

SECOND & LONG

High winds and cold weather made it tough for No. 2 Ohio State (9-0) to escape Evanston with a victory, but Ryan Day’s crew persevered in a 21-7 decision over host Northwestern (1-8). How miserable was it? Heisman co-fave C.J. Stroud — not a runner — ran for more yards (79) than he passed for (76). “This is as hard of conditions as we’ve been in in a long-time,” head coach Day told ESPN post-game. “Our guys played tough, played well and found a way to win. Every week’s a new challenge. This is something, though. Glad it’s over with.” … Windy weather affected host pass-happy Purdue (5-4), too, in a 24-3 loss to run-friendly Iowa (5-4). Freshman back Kaleb Johnson rumbled to 200 yards on 22 hauls for Iowa … It was Big 12 challenge for No. 7 TCU (9-0), but Sonny Dyke’s squad hopped to a 34-24 win over visiting Texas Tech (4-5). The Horned Frogs ran away from Tech with three fourth-quarter TDs, thanks in part to a game-long 234 rushing yards, including 158 on 21 carries by junior running back Kendre Miller. TCU’s perfect start through nine games is the best for that program since 2010. 

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THIRD & GOAL

No. 8 Oregon (8-1), on 20-of-24, 274-yard passing by senior QB Bo Nix, laid a 49-10 beating on host Colorado (1-8) in Pac-12 action … No. 15 Penn State (7-2) pasted Big Ten rival Indiana in a 45-14 road victory … No. 16 Illinois (7-2) took a hit to its Big Ten championship hopes but still leads the West Division with a 4-2 conference record despite a loss to sluggish Michigan State (4-5) 23-15 … No. 17 North Carolina (8-1), on 26-of-37 for 293 passing yards from freshman QB Drake Maye, found victory over host Virginia (3-6) 31-28 …  No 18 Oklahoma State (6-3) has lost three of four — this one without QB Spencer Sanders (shoulder) after a 37-16 defeat to host Kansas (6-3) … No. 19 Tulane (8-1), on 357 rushing yards — including 157 and 106 respectively from running backs Tyjae Spears and Shaadie Clayton-Johnson — tossed aside host Tulsa (3-6) 27-13 … Host Pittsburgh (5-4) held No. 20 Syracuse (6-3) to just 145 total yards in handing The ’Cuse a third straight loss — this one 19-9 … Also, No. 25 UCF (7-2) pushed past host Memphis (4-5) 35-28.

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FOURTH & INCHES

Air Force (6-3) captured its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 2016 with a 13-7 stop of Army (3-5) in neutral-site Jerry’s World. The run-happy, stop-happy game was expected in the clinching contest — billed as the Lockheed Martin Commanders’ Classic — of the series among military service academies. Earlier this year, Air Force blow up Navy for a 13-10 win to set this series victory in motion … Embattled head coach Jimbo Fisher must really be feeling the heat after Texas A&M (3-6) lost a fifth-straight game for the first time since 1980 — this time at home to SEC rival Florida (5-4) 41-24 … In marquee evening matchups: No. 4 Clemson (8-0) looked to remain perfect with a visit to play Notre Dame (5-3) in South Bend; No. 5 Michigan (8-0) hoped to stay unbeaten against host Rutgers (4-4); No. 6 Alabama (7-1) tried to stretch a winning run since 2010 in the Bayou to six straight when it faced No. 10 LSU (6-2); No. 24 Texas (5-3) tried to snap five-game away-from-home losing skid with a visit to Manhattan to play No. 13 Kansas State (6-2); No. 14 Utah (6-2) hosted Arizona (3-5); and No. 21 Wake Forest (6-2) wanted to rebound after last week’s loss with a road test against No. 22 NC State (6-2) … On the late, late shows, it was: No. 9 USC (7-1) challenged by visiting California (3-5); and No. 12 UCLA (7-1) in the desert to take on Arizona State (3-5).

tsaelhof@postmedia.com

http://www.twitter.com/ToddSaelhofPM

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