The Grandaddy of Them All
On January 1, 2018, the Georgia Bulldogs football team will take the field at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California with all their goals still in reach. For the first time in 35 years, a chance to win the national championship is still in play during the bowl season, when Georgia faced Penn State in the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1983. In addition, for the first time in 75 years, Georgia will play in the Rose Bowl, where they won the 1942 National Championship behind Heisman Quarterback Frank Sinkwich. This time around, it will be Georgia facing the Heisman winner, in Baker Mayfield. He is the Quarterback of the Oklahoma Sooners, a storied program whom Georgia will be facing on the gridiron for the first time ever.
Both teams come into this game as champions of their conference, as well as young head coaches that are coaching in their first playoff game. Everything else about these teams seems to be opposite while comparing. Oklahoma’s strength is passing through the air behind Mayfield, while Georgia was lead by a strong senior backfield and a suffocating defense. It would be easy to say, whichever of these groups out-performs the other will win the game, but with a month of preparation you never know. Very few people know, Oklahoma also leads the Big 12 in rushing this year behind Rodney Anderson. At the same time, Oklahoma’s punt coverage and kickoff coverage are towards the bottom in the country, creating a possibility for Mecole Hardman and company to have a fun afternoon. In addition, Jake Fromm leads the country in efficiency on deep ball passes as well as third downs.
With all that being said, I wholeheartedly believe the game will come down to Roquan Smith’s ability to contain Baker Mayfield and Rodney Anderson. The Sooners offense will have their big play moments, but with the game on the line which side will make the deciding play? At Notre Dame back on September 9th it was Davin Bellamy forcing a strip sack and fumble recovery to secure a 20-19 win with 1:27 left to play. This time, Georgia fans can only hope for the same result as that September night in South Bend. For Georgia fans, I expect a similar showing as the 30,000 plus that flocked north to Chicago for Brewers @ Cubs, Falcons @ Bears, and most importantly Georgia @ Notre Dame in South Bend. It has been a dream season for Georgia fans: winning at Notre Dame by 1, shutting Tennessee out at Neyland Stadium, beating Florida by 35 for the first time since a 1982 44-0 win, beating Tech by 31, and avenging a loss to Auburn by winning their first SEC Championship in 12 years at the brand-new Merecedes-Benz Stadium. I see Georgia continuing their magical season with a 31-27 win over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl to head back to Atlanta for the National Championship. Having a month to prepare for a high-potent Sooners offense is the reason I give Georgia the edge. Had the Bulldogs only had a week to prepare, like a regular season game, I do not believe Georgia would be successful. Though in the past, Oklahoma’s high scoring offenses have struggled in high profile bowl games. In the 2003 National Championship against LSU, Heisman Quarterback Jason White only led Oklahoma to 14 points. The very next year in the 2004 National Championship, White and Adrian Peterson only scored 19 points against USC down in Miami. Finally, in 2008, Heisman Quarterback Sam Bradford was held to 14 points again in the national Championship against Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators.
I believe Georgia’s 2017 defense is comparable to the ones mentioned above. I also believe Mayfield is a better college Quarterback than the ones mentioned above, which is why I believe Oklahoma will score 27 points, rather than the 14-19 range. My final point will be, Oklahoma beat their Big 12 opponents by an average of 16 points this year, with close wins of 5 points over 6-6 Texas, 8 points over 1-11 Baylor, and 7 points over 7-5 Kansas State. On the other hand, Georgia beat their SEC opponents by an average of 24.9 points per game with their closest winning margin being 14 points against 8-4 South Carolina.
For the fans making the trip out west to California, enjoy the parade as well as the other festivities surrounding the College Football Playoff game.
God Bless and Go Dawgs!