MIAMI — Mission accomplished for the Georgia Bulldogs - step one of it, at least. Now the real test awaits.
The Dawgs did their job on Friday night at the Orange Bowl in Miami, defeating the Michigan Wolverines 34-11 to advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship where they'll meet Alabama for a shot at redemption - and their first national title since 1980.
It's UGA's second trip the national title game in five years, and the second one in which the Tide will stand between them and their long-sought holy grail of a national championship.
On Friday in Miami, it was a defiant night for Coach Kirby Smart and the Dawgs - their defense returned to its old dominant self after allowing 41 points to Alabama in the humbling SEC Championship Game loss on Dec. 3.
That was one half of the equation. The other half was quarterback, and it wound up being a vindicating half for Smart.
After many fans called for the replacement of Stetson Bennett at starting QB following a hugely disappointing performance in the SEC Championship, Bennett turned in a strong showing from the get-go - leading the Dawgs on a 7-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to open the game and never really looking back from there.
Bennett's night all but closes the book on the UGA "quarterback controversy" ahead of the Jan. 10 National Championship Game in Indianapolis.
The victory will provide catharsis for Bulldogs fans - so often snakebitten in the past by games like this - for now. And staring down a formidable, storied opponent like Michigan and mostly shutting them down will give them plenty of confidence going forward.
But the measuring stick is always the same for Georgia - the Tide.
The Dawgs did what they needed to on Friday night, now fans will anxiously wait to see if indeed they'll measure up to the immense expectations that have accompanied this remarkable season for UGA.