by Sean Zerillo
(#3)Georgia vs. (#2)Oklahoma – Rose Bowl Game (Pasadena, CA) – 5:00 PM (EDT), ESPN
Against the Spread: Georgia (9-3); Oklahoma (8-5) Open: Oklahoma (-3), O/U 61 – Current Line: Georgia (-2.5), O/U 60
Both teams come into the Rose Bowl Game off impressive efforts in their conference championship matchups, and after profitable years for backers (17-8 ATS combined). Georgia dispensed of a red hot Auburn team 28-7 in a revenge game to capture the SEC crown; while Heisman winner Baker Mayfield and the electrifying Sooners offense picked apart TCU 41-17 for the Big 12 Title.
Much has been made this week of Mayfield’s health and his lack of practice time with his offense this week leading up to the game. And offenses do often times struggle to get going early in these big matchups after a month long layoff.
Georgia’s defense is also the toughest test that Baker has had to overcome – per Football Outsiders they rank #4 in FEI rankings and #8 in S&P+ ratings. Oklahoma has faced other top defenses this year – they put up 31 points at Ohio State (#10/#11), 29 points on Texas (#7/#26), and 38 and 41 points on TCU (#16/#14). Oklahoma’s defense is subpar, however, ranking #61 or #95 on defense in the same metrics.
Georgia’s offensive line (#12 in efficiency), should be able to maintain consistent push and control the ball against the Sooner defense and defensive line (#87 in efficiency), allowing future NFL talents Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and D’Andre Swift space to eat up yardage. Oklahoma’s offensive line (#2), should have similar success against Georgia’s defensive line (#29), but Georgia can more than hold their own and their biggest strength is in downfield pass coverage. I expect them to bend but not break and to hold Baker and this offense to under 29 points – which would be its season low.
Georgia also has a huge, underrated edge in Special teams Per S&P+ they have the top special teams unit in the country, while Oklahoma has one of the worst (#118).
Oklahoma has the superstar Quarterback that you shouldn’t bet against – Baker Mayfield has become the Aaron Rodgers of college football. But Georgia has the right playing style to keep the ball away from Oklahoma’s offense, and the talent to contain Mayfield when they do get on the field. In a close game, I’ll side with the much better defense and far superior special teams of the Bulldogs.
There was huge early line movement in this game after Oklahoma opened as favorites – sharps got the best of the action at Georgia +3, and might be holding some Oklahoma +3 tickets now as well.
The Pick: Georgia -2.5