Top Stories of 2022 Countdown: No. 2 -- Georgia wins national championship

Dec. 30—Editor's note: The MDJ counts down the Top 10 local stories of 2022 as determined by newsroom staff. Today's installment is No. 2.

On the night of Jan. 10, 2022, tears — and champagne — flowed across Georgia as Bulldog fans rejoiced the school's first national championship in more than four decades.

The Bulldogs won the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship, defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 33-18 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis that day for the school's first title since 1980.

The day after the game, John Loud, president of LOUD Security Systems, told the MDJ about the experience.

"The energy in the stadium was amazing," he said. "And when things really started turning around for Georgia in the fourth quarter, it turned electric. People you have never met before hugging and jumping in the excitement ... grown men crying ... It was truly amazing."

Georgia won behind the top defense in the nation, which allowed an average of less than 11 points per game during the regular season. Georgia's defense allowed just six points in the first half of the championship game and stifled Alabama quarterback Bryce Young throughout the contest.

The Bulldogs intercepted Young, winner of the 2021 Heisman Trophy, twice in the second half en route to championship glory.

Georgia was led on offense by quarterback Stetson Bennett IV. Bennett started his college career as a walk-on for the Bulldogs, left the school for a year to play at a junior college in Mississippi, then returned to Georgia and won out over other quarterbacks to become the starter. This year, Bennett was one of four finalists for the Heisman, the award given to college football's most outstanding player.

Georgia's victory over Alabama was a rematch of the Southeastern Conference Championship in Atlanta about a month prior, when the Crimson Tide defeated the Bulldogs 41-24.

The game was also a rematch of the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, also played in Atlanta, when Alabama rallied from a 13-0 deficit to beat Georgia 26-23 in overtime.

Georgia's victory at the start of this year marked Kirby Smart's first national championship as a head coach. Smart previously served as an assistant coach at Alabama under Nick Saban.

The Bulldogs are headed back to the College Football Playoff this year after finishing the season 13-0 and look to repeat just a year after breaking a 41-year championship drought.