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Before the year had started, everyone and their Mother expected these teams to play in the National Championship. We’ll settle for a playoff game instead. Ohio State comes into this game with an Andre the Giant-sized chip on their shoulder after losing to he who shall not be named and the Michigan Wolverines. And while the result was every Buckeyes fan’s worst nightmare, there was a lot to be learned from the contest, and now the Buckeyes come into the playoff as a very dangerous underdog. Georgia may have won the SEC Championship Game by a fair margin, but their defense looked awfully bad against a banged-up LSU team that gave their backup quarterback almost half of the snaps. The Tigers passed for over 500 yards, and Georgia’s secondary gave up plenty of big plays, including a few deep bombs that would make even Cambodians that lived through Vietnam do a double-take. While they were all highly touted recruits, UGA’s corners have been exposed from time to time, and this will be the best set of receivers Georgia has seen this year. Marvin Harrison Jr. (1,157 yards, 12 TDs) and Emeka Egbuka (1,039 yards, 9 TDs) have eviscerated opposing secondaries all season, and if Ohio State can give CJ Stroud time, the Bulldogs won’t be playing football in January.
Speaking of CJ Stroud, let’s talk about Ohio State’s first two-time Heisman finalist in program history. Stroud has been simply incredible this year. He racked up 3,340 passing yards, completed 66 percent of his passes, and threw for 37 touchdowns this season in yet another incredible campaign. Ohio State can win this game, but it would require Stroud to play his best brand of football behind good protection. Stroud wasn’t the player or leader Ohio State needed against Michigan, any Buckeye fan would tell you that, but he has one more chance to redeem himself for his coach, his teammates, and the thousands of fans wearing scarlet and gray. As you’ve probably heard on ESPN 1,000 times by now, Georgia has quite the defensive front. Highlighted by future top-five pick Jalen Carter, the Dawgs have the best-run defense in the Nation, and they put opposing quarterbacks under more duress than a liberal mayor puts on a city. That being said, Georgia is without their star linebacker and team captain Nolan Smith because of a pec injury. Smith’s absence has left a significant hole in the Georgia defense, and outside linebackers Robert Beal and Chaz Chambliss have done a decent job filling his shoes, but if their last game was evident of anything, it’s that the Georgia defense is missing Smith as the leader of their defense.
Georgia’s offense is a behemoth. UGA averaged 207 rushing yards per game, and the committee of Kenny McIntosh (709 yards, 10 TDs), Daijuan Edwards (683 yards, 7 TDs), and Kendall Milton (531 yards, 5 TDs) will be a challenge to stop. Not to mention, quarterback Stetson Bennett has built upon his National Championship MVP season from last year and is one of the Nation’s most efficient quarterbacks. He’s in the top 15 in every relevant statistical category for a passer, and he continued a trend from last year as well, when he was 4th in the country in quarterback rating. UGA is no joke; however, two stats should jump out to Ohio State fans more than anything. Stetson Bennett might be a Heisman-caliber quarterback when the situation around him is perfect, but he stinks worse than a gym sock that farted when the blitz is on. Bennett finished the regular season with a 72.9% completion percentage with a clean pocket and a 41.9% percentage under pressure. Against a Buckeyes team with one of the highest sack rates in college football (8.94%), that’s not going to fly. The second most crucial stat going into this game relates to Ohio State’s pass defense, which they weren’t exactly known for this year. According to advanced statistics, the Buckeyes were the second-best defense in the country when guarding tight ends and running backs being used as receiving threats…they were 109th against receivers. Against most teams, this stat wouldn’t even matter. But against Stetson Bennett, it does. Georgia’s biggest receiving threats are Brock Powers, Kenny McIntosh, and Darnell Washington…two tight ends and a running back. Ohio State will take away Bennett’s three favorite targets, leaving him throwing to the only position where UGA is shallow- receiver.
Ohio State will win this game by taking away Stetson Bennett’s receiving options and relying on their receivers to give CJ Stroud some downfield opportunities. Vegas likes Georgia -6.5, but Ohio State will win a close game by a field goal. Want to make up for the crappy attempt at a Christmas gift you bought your girlfriend? I think Ohio State wins this week, so be sure to sign up today with BetMGM to get $200 in bonus bets when sports betting goes live!
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