No. 6 Georgia routs No. 4 Florida State in Orange Bowl
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Kirby Smart didn't need to do much to convince his Georgia Bulldogs of the importance of the Orange Bowl.
“As long as winning matters, we're gonna compete like hell at Georgia," Smart said.
The Bulldogs entered Saturday night's matchup against Florida State essentially at full strength. The Seminoles, who were missing at least a dozen of their key contributors because of opt outs and players in the transfer portal, did not.
The result was what you might expect: The sixth-ranked Bulldogs crushed previously undefeated and fourth-ranked Florida State 63-3 in the Orange Bowl in a matchup of teams missing out on the College Football Playoff.
Smart said the result of the game was indicative of a larger problem in the sport.
“People need to see what happened tonight, and they need to fix this," he said. "It needs to be fixed. It’s very unfortunate that they (the Seminoles), who have a good football team, are in the position they’re in. Everybody can say it’s their fault. Everybody can say that we had our guys and they didn’t have their guys. I can listen to all that. But college football has got to decide what they want.
"It's really unfortunate for those kids on that side of the sideline that had to play in that game that didn’t have their full arsenal. And it affected the game, 100 percent.”
Carson Beck passed for 203 yards and two touchdowns and backup QB Gunnar Stockton passed for two more scores for Georgia, which scored touchdowns on nine of 12 drives and gained 673 total yards against the short-handed Seminoles.
The Bulldogs (13-1) were used to competing for championships this time of year, having won the last two national titles. But Georgia lost to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game — the Bulldogs' first loss since the 2021 season — and missed out on one of the four spots in the CFP rankings. Instead, they settled for the seventh New Year's Six bowl appearance in program history.
Florida State (13-1) failed to make the CFP cut despite winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title, and because of transfers, opt-outs and injuries, the Seminoles were without players who were responsible for 97% of their passing yards, 88% of their rushing yards and 84% of their receptions this season.
The Bulldogs charged out to a 39-point halftime lead, the largest in the bowl's 90-year history, beating West Virginia's 29-point halftime lead over Clemson in 2012. It was also the largest margin of defeat in Florida State's history.
Beck, who had touchdown passes of 12 and 2 yards, did not play in the second half. Stockton, a freshman, started in the third quarter and immediately ushered another touchdown drive. He finished with 96 yards passing and 46 yards rushing, and the Bulldogs became the first program to score at least 55 points in back-to-back bowl games (they beat TCU 65-7 in the Peach Bowl last season).
The Bulldogs' Kendall Milton was the game's MVP after rushing for 104 yards on nine carries with two touchdowns. Daijun Edwards added two more rushing scores and 62 yards. Both were part of a senior class that picked up its school-record 50th win.
“You want to take every game serious no matter what the level is," Milton said. "You've got to prepare the right way because this is top level college football on any given week, so we took that very personally.”
In what could be his last game for the Bulldogs, receiver Ladd McConkey had 49 all-purpose yards. He scored on a 27-yard rush in which he caught a pass from Beck behind the line of scrimmage, looked to complete another pass but took off running instead, weaving through stumbling Florida State defenders and into the end zone to put Georgia up 38-3 in the second quarter.
Georgia players knew the story of the team on the other side of the field: The Seminoles entered the game having beaten all 13 teams on their schedule, including then-No. 15 Louisville in the ACC title game, but were left out of the College Football Playoff partly due to a season-ending leg injury to starting quarterback Jordan Travis. Florida State became the first Power Five conference champion to finish with an undefeated record and still be left out of the playoff.
“This is a championship level team,” Florida State coach Mike Norvell said. “You go back and watch 13 games and that's who you saw. I am fully confident in what this team did throughout this year and what they could have achieved. It was not the path that was set out for us. ... We'll never know.”
In the week leading up to the bowl game, Georgia players expressed their understanding of the Seminoles' frustrations, while acknowledging that they, too, felt slighted.
Smart had lobbied for the selection committee to consider the Bulldogs' full resume in making their final decision: Georgia won 29 straight games before the SEC title matchup and finished the season with the eighth-best offense in the country and the No. 9 defense.
It wasn't enough. And the Bulldogs vented frustrations in the Orange Bowl — possession by possession.
Georgia: As dominant as the Bulldogs were on offense, their defense was just as impactful. They intercepted Seminoles quarterback Brock Glenn twice and recovered two fumbles. They also limited Florida State to 63 yards rushing.
Florida State: The Seminoles were outmatched in all three phases as they fell short of completing their first 14-win season since 2013. Glenn struggled in his second career start, completing 9 of 26 passes for 139 yards.
Georgia: The Bulldogs open the 2024 season against Clemson in Atlanta. Beck is returning for his senior season.
Florida State: The Seminoles will start the 2024 season against Georgia Tech in Dublin, Ireland, marking the second time that two ACC teams have opened the season in Ireland.
Get alerts on the latest AP Top 25 poll throughout the season. Sign up here.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll