2018 Rose Bowl: #3 Georgia Bulldogs vs. #2 Oklahoma Sooners

The best part of these playoffs is that it gives us the ability to enjoy a playoff setting in college. I know that is a really generic sentence, but after years of BCS bullshit (OSU v. LSU or Oklahoma v. USC) it forces teams to win a pair of games to be crowned champion. While this year has promoted the possibility of an 8 team playoff better than ever, the 4 currently are undeniable the best 4. Right? Hmmmmm… maybe not. Let’s examine the Rose Bowl.

 

Georgia

2018 Rose Bowl Game: Georgia Bulldogs vs Oklahoma Sooners

 

Fun fact, growing up I was confused by Georgia’s insignia because it was the Packers G on the side of their helmets. It made no sense to me. Then again, I confused the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the Ohio State Buckeyes because everyone referred to both as the “Bucks” and I live in Ohio. I was not a smart child.

 

Georgia is the “least deserving” of the bunch in many eyes and that argument is going up against the Alabama undeserving argument as well. Georgia has wins over Notre Dame (20-19), Miss State (31-3) and a revenge win in the SEC Title Game vs Auburn (28-7). The Miss State win, even as a blowout, is nearly meaningless since they are ranked 23rd. The Notre Dame win is still nice since they are currently ranked 14th, but the crème de la crème victory for the Bulldogs is avenging the 40-17 beat down they took from Auburn. The reason Ohio State isn’t in and Georgia is, is simply because Georgia controlled their title game where OSU allowed the game to stay close by missing numerous scoring opportunities. Georgia won the right games and lost the right game to the right team. However, Georgia has a few leaks in their pipes and are going up against the Heisman favorite Baker Mayfield.

 

All About That D

Georgia’s defensive focus is to stop the best player on the field. Generic sounding yet again, I know, but scheme is built differently when it comes to how Georgia rolls. Against Auburn you can see the defensive focus change from their blowout loss to their 3 TD victory. Looking at the loss statistically it is obvious that Kerryon Johnson absolutely owned the Georgia defense. He rushed 32 times for 167 yards and a pair of TDs, hauling in 2 receptions for 66 yards as well. Compared to the rematch, well, here are the stats. Kerryon Johnson rushed 13 times for 44 yards, 2 receptions for 1 yard. My, oh, my what a difference huh? The Georgia D cramped down on Johnson and forced Stidham to beat them with his arm. He was 16/32, 50%, for 145 yards and a single TD.

 

The biggest issue for Georgia defensively is facing a good team funny enough. Georgia had a soft schedule with Notre Dame and Auburn as key wins and a nice 31-3 shellacking of Miss State. The Notre Dame win is a classic win over a solid team in Georgia’s 20-19 victory which was sealed with a Blankenship field goal while 3:34 remained on the clock. The Auburn case though is where we need to focus and the Bulldog defense is the core of how Georgia performs.

 

Auburn and Georgia a.k.a. Batman vs Superman

Did you see Batman vs Superman? I did, and it was awful. However, it did show Batman understanding where he lacked against Superman and thus utilized the Kryptonite to his advantage. This bout between Auburn and Georgia mimics that. Auburn is like Batman and Georgia like Superman.

 

In their first game, where Auburn won 40-17, the key was Auburn’s continued scoring. Even a field goal is still points and can still give momentum. In this case Georgia’s defense continued to bend and bend, but held from breaking until late in the second quarter. Look at it this way, Georgia scored the opening points at 11:21 in the game with a Chubb TD run, but their next score wasn’t until 5:23 left in the third quarter. It was a field goal. In that span Auburn rattled off 30 unanswered points. 3 field goals, 3 TDs. Georgia’s defense held strong till it broke in the late minutes of the second quarter and opening minutes of the third. Because Georgia’s offense got stifled it allowed Auburn to go on a scoring frenzy forcing Georgia to abandon its run game in the second half. Auburn had more than double the total yards that Georgia had with nearly 200 more rushing yards to boot. Simply put, Georgia lost the time of possession battle and it cost them.

 

Now, game 2 was a literal flip. What helped though? Georgia caused two turnovers, stuffed Kerryon Johnson and held Jarrett Stidham in check. Georgia also rushed for 238 yards on 41 carries, or 5.8 yards per carry. That is killer to any defense and kept the Auburn offense off the field.

 

So, back to my comparison. Much like Batman, Auburn had the upper hand at the start due to their defense stuffing any time of possession on Georgia, but in the end Superman, or Georgia, came back and wrecked as they were the better overall team. Both teams destroyed Miss State, but the 40-17 win over Georgia seemed very out of place in the top heavy SEC. Auburn, Alabama and Georgia are all capable of beating each other, but Georgia has the strongest defense of the three. Superman was knocked down in the beginning of the only scene worth a crap in that movie, but in the end he is stronger than Batman in every imaginable way. Also, Martha.

 

What Does Georgia Need to do to Win?

This seems basic, but it has to get to Heisman Trophy winning and third place bearded Zac Effron look-a-like, Baker Mayfield. There are two ways for Georgia to get this done. Either they keep it low scoring and play a field battle game or they go toe to toe and heave the ball. The problem with attempting to make it a scorefest is that Jake Fromm just isn’t an overly talented quarterback. He has 21 TDs and 5 INTs in 13 games, but compare that to the only QB to beat Oklahoma; Kyle Kempt of Iowa State’s 13 TDs and 3 INTs in 7 games. Kempt overall threw for 75% against Oklahoma for 343 yards and 3 TDs. Fromm threw for 300 once (vs Mizzou) and over 200 two other times (vs Miss State and Ga Tech) while Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined for 26 TDs and 2,123 rush yards. Georgia is a run first, time control style team.

 

They need to keep Mayfield grounded and stopped. They can’t afford to go down by 14 or more which then limits their ability to eat clock. The defense needs to get to Mayfield and pressure or sack him in order to have a chance. Mayfield will throw for 250 yards minimum and likely will hit above 300 yards as he has in 8 games this season already. It isn’t even about picking off his passes, Georgia needs stops. They need to hold to field goals if it comes to that and avoid letting Mayfield pick them apart. If the Bulldog rush can get to Mayfield and make his day hectic then Georgia has a chance to make it to the National Title game.

 

Oklahoma

My wife loves plays and musicals. I generally despise them. The only ones I like are The Book of Mormon and The Room. The Room is technically a movie, one of the worst ever, but is shot like a play so it counts to me. But I especially hated the play Oklahoma. Why? Cause I cannot stand the 1800s. It is a time period I only enjoy if I’m playing Red Dead Redemption and that’s it.

 

Baker Mayfield though is a fun QB who acts a lot like Kirk Cousins and currently plays better than him in comparison to college careers. Mayfield got redemption against Ohio State this year and has led Oklahoma into the playoff for the first time. This team lives by and dies by Baker so giving a rundown on them isn’t honestly all that deep.

 

Baker Mayfield

2018 Rose Bowl Game: Georgia Bulldogs vs Oklahoma Sooners

Yup, we are starting here cause Baker is what matters. As Baker goes, the Sooners go. The starting strength for Baker Mayfield is that Georgia has not faced a quarterback even half as good or competent as he is. Oklahoma will look to score as fast as possible in order to put Georgia on its heels. If Mayfield can do Mayfield things then it would immediately put Oklahoma at the advantage. Scoring fast and picking apart a tired defense are the direction that the Sooners need to go. This is a team built to outscore you and not care how much you score. They could win 49-42 and not care because they are able to put up immense points like that. Georgia has to worry more from a tactical or strategic point of view because it is an easy layout for what Oklahoma needs to do. Let Baker Mayfield be Baker Mayfield.

 

The Heisman isn’t something I generally care about, but Mayfield earned it and is by far the best College quarterback out there. He is deceptively mobile and possesses that rare ability to turn negative situations into position net gains. So long as Mayfield is given the chance to make something happen he usually will. Georgia tends to play better when they are defensively playing strong and this is where Mayfield can make his mark. If he can force Georgia to play a faster paced and rushed offense then it puts the Sooners in position to win. Clock control and scoring frequency define this game and Mayfield has shown he can be one of the best in the country at making opposing teams force a passing game.

 

See? It’s simplistic here. Oklahoma is built to score and force you to play a faster game of pick up whereas Georgia needs to establish a run game and needs to control the clock. Their entire gameplan is screwed if Mayfield drives down field twice in the first quarter and plants a quick 14 points. Georgia cannot play behind more than 2 scores or they are out. Georgia has an issue scoring quickly due to their desire and need to establish a legitimate run game. The Sooners don’t care if they score in a minute or three minutes, they just want to score. Their goal is to force Georgia into mistakes by making them go outside of their gameplan which would allow the Sooner defense the chance to blitz properly and force Fromm to beat them from the pocket. If Fromm is forced to win the game, it puts Oklahoma at the advantage because he is an average at best quarterback and Oklahoma’s defense is good enough to make them work hard for a passing based drive down the field. It all starts with Mayfield and the offense in this regard. If Oklahoma scores 14 within their first two drives it sets the tone. A high scoring game favors the Sooners in this regard.

 

What Does Oklahoma Need to do to Win?

If it isn’t too obvious by now, Oklahoma needs to make this a scorefest. Allow Mayfield the opportunity to make big plays, take shots down the field and just do what Baker does best. Everything will work out for the Sooners so long as their offense isn’t stifled and they force Georgia defensively into holding back their blitz. This is the Baker Mayfield show. Oklahoma lives and dies by the Mayfield. It’s as simple as that. Okahoma’s defense is good, but that’s about it. They’re an average defense in the top 5. They are slightly better than Ohio State, but not as good as Clemson or Alabama. What they have the best of in the nation currently is their QB. Mayfield is the best pure college quarterback right now. Will he be a future NFL star? I don’t think so personally and I like other quarterbacks in the college more, but Mayfield has a rare blend of abilities he excels at. Good athleticism, great arm, rather accurate and pretty cool under pressure. He helms a team that is literally all on his shoulders to perform top tier every time.

 

The Sooner defense can help by stopping the Bulldog running game and making Fromm beat them, which Fromm has yet to prove he can beat a team himself this season. When Mayfield gets his team ahead it allows for defensive risks such as corner or safety blitzing without much worry. Yet, this all comes down to if Baker Mayfield can make things happen. Mayfield is in a rare position of live by, die by in college. Manziel, Luck, RG3 were in similar positions of controlling the entire teams destiny. The difference? Mayfield has a chance to win a National Title.

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