CFP - Rose Bowl Preview
December 30, 2017
By Brian Edwards
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Georgia is poised to make its first appearance in the College Football Playoff when it takes on Oklahoma in the semifinals Monday at 5:00 p.m. Eastern in Pasadena, CA., at the Rose Bowl. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
As of Friday afternoon, most betting shops had Georgia (12-1 straight up, 9-4 against the spread) installed as a two-point favorite with a total of 60. The Sooners were available to win outright for a +110 return (risk $100 to win $110).
The Westgate SuperBook opened OU as the 1.5-point ‘chalk’ on Dec. 3. The line had a cup of coffee at two before dipping down to one by the morning of Dec. 4. Then on Dec. 5, UGA became the one-point favorite and that number was up to 1.5 by Dec. 7, where it stayed until Dec. 27. That’s when the number went to 1.5 and eventually two. The Westgate had the Bulldogs at 2.5 on Friday afternoon.
The total hasn’t seen any movement whatsoever.
Kirby Smart hasn’t taken long in making his impression nationally in only his second season as a head coach. The former UGA player who spent nine seasons at Alabama on Nick Saban’s staff struggled in Year 1, going just 7-5. However, he’s about to bring in one of the nation’s premier recruiting classes and has his alma mater knocking on the door for its first national title since a dude named Herschel who wore No. 34 led the way to a ‘natty’ in 1980. (For you young pups out there, that Heisman Trophy winning RB went by the last name of Walker.)
Georgia has won three in a row both SU and ATS since dropping its only game of the year at Auburn (40-17) on Nov. 11. The Bulldogs avenged that defeat at the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, where they captured a 28-7 win over AU as two-point favorites.
Auburn led 7-0 at the end of the first quarter in the rematch, only to see UGA score 28 unanswered points. True freshman QB Jake Fromm completed 16-of-22 passes for 183 yards and two TDs without an interception. D’Andre Swift rushed seven times for 88 yards and one TD, while Nick Chubb had 77 rushing yards on 13 attempts. Terry Godwin had five receptions for 48 yards and one TD. Junior LB Roquan Smith had a season-best 13 tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack and a pair of QB hurries.
Georgia owns a 7-1 SU record and a 5-3 ATS mark in eight games against teams that made the postseason. The Bulldogs captured notable scalps vs. Appalachian State (31-10), at Notre Dame (20-19), vs. Mississippi State (31-3), vs. Missouri (53-28) and vs. Kentucky (42-13).
UGA has been a single-digit favorite three times, compiling a 2-1 record both SU and ATS.
Fromm was thrust into action in the first quarter of his first collegiate game when returning starter Jacob Eason suffered a sprained knee. He hasn’t allowed Eason back on the field with the exception of garbage time since then. Fromm has connected on 63.0 percent of his throws for 2,173 yards with a 21/5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also had three rushing scores.
UGA has the best trio of RBs in the country in Chubb, Sony Michel and Swift. Michel left the SEC title game with a knee injury, but he’s ‘probable’ vs. OU. Chubb, the senior, has run for 1,175 yards and 13 TDs with a 6.2 yards-per-carry average. Michel has 948 rushing yards, 13 TDs and a 7.2 YPC average, while Swift, the true freshman, has rushed for 597 yards and three TDs with an 8.2 YPC average.
Javon Wims has a team-high 38 receptions for 631 yards and six TDs, while Godwin has 29 catches for 540 yards and six TDs. Godwin had a ridiculous one-handed TD grab that was critical in the victory over the Fighting Irish in South Bend.
Georgia is ranked fourth in the nation in total defense, second versus the pass, 11th against the run and fourth in scoring ‘D’ (13.2 points per game). This unit is led by Smith, who was a first-team All-SEC selection after recording 113 tackles, 5.5 sacks, five TFL’s, eight QB hurries, two passes broken up, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Oklahoma (12-1 SU, 8-5 ATS) has been an underdog only once, winning 31-16 at Ohio State. as a 7.5-point underdog in Week 2. The Sooners took their only loss vs. Iowa State by a 38-31 count as 31-point home favorites on Oct. 7. Since then, they’ve won eight games in a row while posting a 5-3 spread record. They’re 5-1 ATS in their last six outings with the only non-cover coming in a 41-3 victory vs. Kansas.
OU is ranked No. 1 in the nation in total offense, No. 2 in passing yards and No. 4 in scoring with a 44.9 points-per-game average. Senior QB Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner, is the reason for those number.
His stats are stupid good. Mayfield has completed 71.0 percent of his passes for 4,340 yards with a 41/5 TD-INT ratio. Mayfield can move as well, which is a factor that should be taken into account with UGA’s fierce pass rush. He’s run for 310 yards and five TDs, which aren’t numbers to wow anyone, but his elusiveness allows him to escape pressure and make plays down the field outside of the pocket.
Mayfield’s has a slew of targets that make plays for him. Marquise Brown has 49 receptions for 981 yards and six TDs, while Mark Andrews has 58 catches for 906 yards and eight TDs. CeeDee Lamb has 40 grabs for 741 yards and seven TDs, and Dimitri Flowers has snared 23 receptions for 411 yards and four TDs. Finally, grad transfer Jeff Badet from Kentucky has 25 catches for 396 yards and three TDs.
OU’s offense has balance, too. Rodney Anderson has run for 960 yards and 11 TDs with a 5.9 YPC average. The Sooners are deep in the backfield, too. Trey Sermon has rushed for 710 yards and five TDs with a 6.0 YPC average, while Abdul Adams has 542 rushing yards and one TD while averaging an eye-popping 9.2 YPC.
The thinking here is that Georgia is going to be able to effectively run the ball against an OU defense that ranks only No. 59 in the country in total ‘D.’ The Sooners’ stop unit is No. 40 in the country versus the run, No. 87 against the pass and No. 51 in scoring ‘D’ (25.0 PPG).
The ‘under’ is 8-5 overall for UGA after cashing in back-to-back contests to close the regular season. The Bulldogs have watched their games average combined scores of 48.2 PPG.
The ‘over’ is 7-6 overall for the Sooners, but the ‘under’ is 3-1 in their last four games. They’ve seen their games average combined scores of 69.9 PPG. This is the lowest total OU has had since a mid-October game at Kansas State.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- The ejection of Kentucky star RB Bennie Snell, the first-team All-SEC selection, in UK’s Music City Bowl game against Northwestern? Horrible! Atrocious! Despicable! Worse than Al Horford getting the boot after ‘Delly’ went low on him with a cheap shot in the NBA Playoffs a few years ago.
-- I was on the radio show ‘Press Row’ Friday on ESPN Chattanooga and said “I’d take Pat Fitzgerald over Mark Stoops every day of the week and twice on Sunday.” Um, time to re-evaluate that program. Fitzgerald went for it on fourth and one up by seven at Northwestern’s own 39 with about 2:30ish left. I was sitting on a strong-as-hell Northwestern -7 play with a touch of -6.5 (buying the hook, obviously, but only at -120 early in the month). I was first-guessing him not to make such a knucklehead decision that backfired. Then when UK scored to cut the deficit to one and set up for a two-point conversion, he burned two timeouts. Hey, Pat, you might want those TO’s to get into field-goal range if UK went ahead on the conversion for a potential game-winning field goal. After all, there was 37 seconds left. Why Stoops wanted to go for two is beyond me. UK’s attempt failed and then there was the onside kick. So what does Stoops do? He tells his kicker to kick (fairly deep) and hope that miraculously a UK player runs the ball down before the only Northwestern player positioned deep gets his hands on the ball. Predictably, that was an epic fail! It was Dumb vs. Dumber at crunch time in Nashville on Friday night.
-- Mayfield missed the Friday presser because he was reportedly under the weather. I’m filing this story nearly 72 hours out from kickoff, so that factoid may have beyond zero relevance.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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