It’s a matchup of polar opposites in the first College Football Playoff national semifinal on New Year’s Day as No. 3 Georgia and No. 2 Oklahoma face off in the Rose Bowl. The winner faces Alabama or Clemson on Jan. 8.
By any standard, Georgia and Oklahoma are two of the marquee programs in college football and have been for decades. Yet they have never played. That’s almost impossible to believe.
Bulldogs vs. Sooners Spread and Betting Analysis
The Rose Bowl for many years had taken only the Pac-12 and Big Ten champions so the Bulldogs and Sooners have very little experience playing in arguably the most storied stadium in the sport. Georgia’s lone trip was a 9-0 win over UCLA on Jan. 1, 1943. Oklahoma’s only Rose bowl was New Year’s Day 2003, a 34-14 victory over Washington State.
UGA and OU didn’t play a common opponent this year. The Dawgs were 3-1 against teams ranked at the time, beating Notre Dame, Mississippi State and then Auburn in the SEC title game after losing to Auburn during the regular season. Big 12 champion Oklahoma has ranked wins over Ohio State (likely the best non-conference win of any school in the country), Oklahoma State and TCU twice. The Sooners’ lone loss was a shocking 38-31 home defeat to Iowa State, blowing a 24-10 lead.
The head coaches for both schools learned under legends. Kirby Smart, in his second season at Georgia, was formerly the defensive coordinator at Alabama under Nick Saban. The Dawgs are going to be a monster for a while as they currently have the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class for 2018. OU first-year coach Lincoln Riley was the former offensive coordinator under Bob Stoops, who surprisingly retired this past summer. Keep in mind that defense/offense head coaching contrast because that’s what this game is all about.
The No. 3 Dawgs (12-1 SU, 9-4 ATS) wouldn’t be called an exciting team to watch because they win with a ball-control offense behind a terrific running game as well as one of the country’s top defenses. UGA averages 263.5 yards rushing and might have the best trio of running backs in the country in Nick Chubb (1,175 yards, 13 TDs), Sony Michel (948 yards, 13 TDs) and future Heisman Trophy candidate D’Andre Swift, a freshman who averages 8.2 yards per carry. Freshman QB Jake Fromm took over the starting job from an injured Jacob Eason very early in the season and hasn’t relinquished it. Defensively, Georgia allows just 13.2 points (fourth nationally) and 271 yards (also fourth) per game. Linebacker Roquan Smith was named the Butkus Award winner and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. UGA hasn’t seen an offense like OU’s, yet, however.
No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1 SU, 8-5 ATS) leads the nation in yards per game (583), is second in passing yards (367.4) and fourth in scoring (44.9 ppg). Of course, that group is led by Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, who will go down as the best QB in school history (which is saying something) and among the best in NCAA history, statistically at least. Mayfield led the nation in passer rating (203.8, breaking his own NCAA record) and completion percentage (71) and was second in yards (4,340) and TD passes (41). It should be noted that Mayfield reportedly is battling an illness and has had to skip several functions, etc., this past week but there’s zero chance he would miss this game. Mayfield has experience in a national semifinal as his Sooners lost to Clemson in the Orange Bowl following the 2015 season, 37-17. Mayfield threw for 311 yards but was intercepted twice.
Rose Bowl Prediction