CFP: Last Minute Thoughts

The line is moving towards Ohio State on the day of the game as the sharps come in heavy on the Buckeyes. It went from Georgia -6.5 to now Georgia -5. That’s significant line movement, especially when you consider this is virtually a home game for Georgia and that is reflected in the line.

But here’s the thing: this also happened before the Michigan game. The line moved even more towards Ohio State on the day of the game as the sharps came in late on the Buckeyes. And it was not predictive of the final score at all. Ohio State was favored by I believe 9 going into that Michigan game and lost by 22.

My gut is telling me Ohio State will win, if only because everyone is so down on them, especially their own fans. Ohio State fans are in absolute and complete shambles right now: they think they’ll never beat Michigan again, their team will be soft until they fire Ryan Day, they are getting left behind in recruiting due to NIL and will never land a top class again. Basically if you were to venture into the Ohio State message board and Twitter community, you’d see a ton of despondency. You’d think the team went 4-8 this year. I think it would be hilarious if Ohio State wins this game and wins the National Championship despite the fact that half the fanbase wants Ryan Day run out of town on a rail.

But I am overruling my gut and going with my head on this one: I won’t be fooled by them again. It’s like the psycho ex who promises she’s changed this time, for like the 5th time. I’m not getting fooled again. 

……… but if I were going to be fooled by Ohio State again, I would say they’re as healthy as they’ve been all year. No JSN, no Treyveon Henderson. But Miyan Williams is healthy, Emeka Egbuka will be healthy, Michael Hall will be healthy, Cade Stover will be healthy. Matthew Jones is healthy. Healthy players in key spots is a big deal, because they didn’t have that against Michigan.

Emeka is the key to the game. He was arguably the number one receiver on the team early on; he was getting the most targets and catches while Marvin Harrison was mainly catching touchdowns. Then Egbuka just fell off randomly and it was only Marvin. Apparently the reason for that was a shoulder injury. But with Egbuka healthy it unlocks so much for that Ohio State offense.

I’d point out how PFF says Ohio state has 5 of the top 10 highest graded players in the entire college football playoff, while Georgia has three:

I’d also point to the fact that Georgia isn’t as good as they were last year and are not super great at edge rusher. And their linebackers are young and inexperienced. And Kelee Ringo is exploitable. 

Still though, I’m not falling for Ohio State.

While Georgia may not have as much depth of talent as they had last year, they’re still an incredibly talented team. 

Their defense may not be as dominant as last year, but last year may have been one of the best college football defenses ever.

And they are much more dynamic on offense now this year, I promise you. Darnell Washington and Bowers and Stetson are so much better this year. 

This Georgia team is kind of weird. They can beat you in any way. They are like a team that has no identity yet at the same time their identity is all the above. They have an offense and a defense. They can run and pass. They can defend the run and shut down your passing attack. Whatever the game calls for, they can do.

The College Football Nerds summed this game up as Georgia is much better than Ohio State on defense and not really that far behind Ohio State offensively.

Nobody runs on them under Kirby Smart, either.

I went through every Georgia game since 2017 and looked at their rushing yards allowed, as well as rushing yards per carry, and what I’ve found is that since 2017, Georgia’s defense only allows 3.13 yards per rush.

Since 2017, only 6 opponents have run for better than 5 yards per carry on the Georgia defense, and all of those games were in 2017 or 2018. Actually, Georgia’s run defense was pretty bad in 2018, and even in 2017 when they made it to the National Championship game.

But since 2019, Georgia’s run defense has been an absolute brick wall: 2.63 yards per carry allowed since the start of the 2019 season.

That’s four full seasons of elite run-stopping.

This season, Georgia has only allowed two opponents to run for more than 4 yards per carry: Missouri and Oregon. Oregon had 140 yards on 31 carries, while Missouri had 102 yards on 21 carries.

In the Missouri game, however, one of their running backs had a 63 yard carry, which ended up accounting for over 60% of their rushing yards in the game. Take that play away, and Georgia let up 39 rushing yards on 20 carries, which is under 2 yards per attempt.

And in the Oregon game, yeah, sure, Oregon ran for 140 yards, but they also lost the game 49-3 so whoop-de-friggin-doo. 65 of those 140 yards for Oregon came on their last drive of the game late in the 4th quarter down 46 points. It’s not like Oregon was running the ball well on that Georgia defense.

So really, nobody has run the ball on Georgia this year. Nobody. Ohio State’s best running back, Miyan Williams, is said to be “under the weather” right now but is expected to play on Saturday night. But I don’t think Ohio State is going to be able to run the ball regardless of who they have back there. Unless Ezekiel Elliott suits up for them, they probably aren’t going to get much going on the ground.

Ohio State will have to pass to set up the run. They are not going to be able to run the ball consistently. Yes, they were pretty good on the ground against Michigan, and Michigan is a tough run defense, so I don’t think Ohio State’s run game will be completely shut down, but they won’t be able to count on it for much.

Also, were you aware that this Peach Bowl will be Georgia’s 9th game this year played in the state of Georgia?

Technically, they’ve only had 6 home games this year, but their “neutral site” game against Oregon, as well as the SEC Championship, were both played in Atlanta at the same stadium the Peach Bowl is held in. So this will be Georgia’s 9th game played in the state of Georgia this season, against only 4 road games (South Carolina, Missouri, Mississippi State, Kentucky).

The one area that I think Ohio State will have some success where nobody thinks they will is stopping the run.

Casuals out there look at the box score from the Michigan game and conclude that Ohio State is just as soft as they were last year against the run, they’re a terrible run defense because they gave up 252 yards on 35 carries, good for 7.2 yards per rush. But Michigan had a 75 yard run and an 85 yard run towards the end of the game, good for 160 yards on just 2 carries. Up to that point, Ohio State was really stuffing the run well.

And I’m not sure Georgia runs the ball better than Michigan does. Michigan’s entire offense is geared towards running the ball. It’s their speciality, it’s what they hang their hat on.

So while Georgia is much more competent throwing the ball—and pass defense is Ohio State’s real weakness—I do think it’s significant that Ohio State should be able to have some success stopping the run. 

It will help Ohio State keep the game closer, because while Georgia is efficient throwing the ball, they’re not one of those teams that spreads you out and throws it all over the yard. They’re one of the few teams in college football that hasn’t been “Big 12ified”.

In other words, if you make Georgia more reliant on throwing the ball, they are going to get some three and outs and their offense is going to run into some trouble.

However, Georgia does a lot of their passing on screens to the tight ends, not on downfield throws. And Ohio State’s defense is actually pretty strong against screens and horizontal passing.

This is something interesting to think about:

Except… Oregon won their game so it should be 1-3. And the tweet was sent out before Tennessee beat Clemson.

Other than that, it’s true: Missouri, South Carolina, Florida and Kentucky all lost their bowl games.

So Georgia’s opponents from this year are 2-4 in bowl games. Mississippi State and LSU have yet to play their bowl games, so it’s possible Georgia’s opponents could improve to 4-4–or end up at 2-6.

Ohio State’s opponents have all won their bowl games, 5-0: Notre Dame, Toledo, Wisconsin, Maryland and Iowa.

So, if there is a “tell” that Ohio State is maybe going to surprise some people, then perhaps it’s how well the Big Ten has fared during the bowls and how poorly the SEC has done.

Like, if Ohio State wins, then we might look back on the fact that the teams they played this year did really well in their bowl games, versus how poorly Georgia’s opponents did this year, and say, “Oh, maybe we should’ve seen this coming.”

I don’t know how much we can actually read into this, though, given the prevalence of opt-outs. Bowl games are like glorified spring games nowadays. For example, Kentucky lost to Iowa, but they didn’t even have Will Levis. (On the other hand, Tennessee had their two best players opt out, Hendon Hooker and Jalin Hyatt, and they still dominated a Clemson team that really didn’t have too many major opt-outs).

One of the few teams not ravaged by opt-outs is Alabama, and they are currently beating the dog shit out of Kansas State right now. It’s 45-13 with 11 minutes to go. K-State is a good team, too: they won the Big 12 and gave TCU their only loss.

So I don’t think the SEC is as weak as people are thinking it is. This is also a pretty bad sign for TCU, as the Big 12 is now 1-6 in bowl games. Texas Tech is the only team from the Big 12 that won their bowl game.

If anything, I’m more likely to change my pick in the Michigan-TCU game.

You know what? Screw it. I’m sticking with TCU to get the win. Michigan is fraudulent, they are waiting to get exposed by someone. I don’t know if it will happen because there is really no elite team out there, so this could be the year that fraudulent Michigan lucks into a National Championship.

But I’m going to stick with the magic of Max Duggan. Dude has that dawg in him. TCU 34-27.

As for the Georgia vs. Ohio State game, while my gut is telling me Ohio State might surprise some people, I just refuse to fall for them again. I won’t do it. They look unstoppable on paper, but that hasn’t been the reality when they step on the field. For whatever reason, the sum is less than the parts with them. I will not be fooled by them again. For the past two years, they have always let me down whenever I buy into them.

I’m taking Georgia to win 37-31.

One final thought. Maybe it’s crazy, I’m probably totally wrong, but is it possible that this is Nick Saban’s last game at Alabama?

I thought it was unusual that Bryce Young and Will Anderson didn’t opt out of the game. Maybe the reason for that is they know it’s Saban’s last game and they want to make sure they send him out a winner.

Young and Anderson are likely to go within the top 3 of the draft next spring. They have no reason to play in this Sugar Bowl game, and yet they were out there playing.

You could just say, “Hey, they’re competitors, they wanted to be out there, Bama has a great culture.” It’s possible that’s all there is to it. But it’s also possible they were playing because they know internally at Alabama it’s Saban’s last game.

Bama pulled in an unbelievable recruiting class this year, so that would probably undermine the idea that Saban is retiring after the season. If he were retiring, he’d probably not be out there recruiting his ass off for some other coach’s benefit. And recruits would probably have some indication that Saban was leaving and Bama wouldn’t be able to recruit as well because of it.

I’m probably wrong about Saban retiring after this year. But it’s going to happen sooner than people think.

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