The Oklahoma Sooners and Georgia Bulldogs face off in a College Football Playoff semifinal, the 2018 Rose Bowl, for a spot in the National Championship. When it comes to grabbing headlines, it stands to reason that fans would flock towards the College Football Playoff matchup between Alabama and Clemson. After all, the third meeting after two instant-classics in the past two seasons is highly intriguing. With that being said, though, the better matchup of the two semifinals should well be in the 2018 Rose Bowl as the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners face the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs.
In this contest, you’re obviously getting the Big 12 Champion going toe-to-toe with the SEC Champion. However, the interest in the matchup goes well beyond the accolades that each team has earned to this point.
Put simply, these are two teams that create a lot of problems for one another. While the Georgia defense has been beastly all season, they may not have seen an offense quite like the one helmed by Baker Mayfield. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has yet to contend with a team that can control the game with the run like the Bulldogs are capable of with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
Subsequently, this game has the potential for fireworks. But before we start breaking down the matchup, let’s take a look at what you need to know to catch this game on New Year’s Day.
Rose Bowl 2018
Date: Monday, January 1
Time (ET): 5 p.m. ET
Location: Rose Bowl stadium
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Spread: Georgia (-2)
Team Injury Reports
- Deangelo Gibbs, DB, Questionable
- Jayson Stanley, WR, Questionable
- Natrez Patrick, LB, Out
- Sony Michel, RB, Probable
- Christian Payne, FB, Probable
- Rashad Roundtree, LB, Out
- Rodney Anderson, RB, Probable
- Curtis Bolton, LB, Out
- Matt Romar, DT, Out
- Jordan Parker, CB, Out
- Kennedy Brooks, RB, Out
- Levi Draper, LB, Out
- Alex Dalton, OL, Out
- Nick Basquine, WR, Out
Georgia Keys to Victory
Whenever a team is coming up against Oklahoma, the first key is always going to be limiting Baker Mayfield. It would be great to say that Georgia needs to stop the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, but we should all know by now that’s not really something realistic, even for a defense as talented as Georgia’s.
However, what the Bulldogs defense can do is limit Mayfield’s effectiveness. If they are able to keep him from escaping and buying time to make plays, while also limiting the run game, they are going to be able to assert themselves more often than they otherwise would be able to. Again, Mayfield is going to get his production because he’s that talented and smart as a quarterback. However, the key is limiting how much damage he does.
In that same vein, though, the Georgia offense can help limit Mayfield and help the team move on to the National Championship Game by simply doing what they’ve done all season: run the football. The combination of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel is one of the best rushing duos in the country. When you then sprinkle in some D’Andre Swift, it almost becomes unfair.
While Jake Fromm has been great this season, you don’t want to put too much on the young QB’s shoulders. As such, controlling the clock and game with the lethal rushing attack is what Smart’s team must do in the Rose Bowl. If they’re able to force things to play out that way, their chances of winning drastically increase.
Oklahoma Keys to Victory
Stop. The. Run. Those three words may make it seem like it’s a simple task, but there’s nothing simple about trying to stifle the run game of the Bulldogs. Not only do they have a two-headed (maybe three-headed) monster carrying the ball throughout 60 minutes of action, but those guys are also running behind a stout and experienced offensive line that’s more than capable of grading the road ahead.
Much like the UGA defense when it comes to Mayfield, there’s no chance of the OU defense completely stifling the Dawgs rushing attack. However, it’s all about limiting what they can do. They can’t afford to let Chubb or Michel get loose and break off big plays — especially big scoring plays. Yes, it’s still bad if the backs control the pace of the game, but that’s better than them breaking the game wide-open with 20-plus-yard touchdown runs. Thus, the Oklahoma defense must tackle well in the front seven and stay disciplined to their gaps.
As for the offense, we all know that Mayfield needs to be a superhero, as he often does. However, the bigger key could be the rushing attack. Georgia also knows how dangerous the quarterback is, so they’ll almost surely be focusing the brunt of their attention on the Heisman winner. That could potentially open up the door for some nice runs with a talented bevy of backs from Norman. Even if the Bulldogs don’t sell out against the pass, running the ball effectively will help open the field for Mayfield and ultimately make the whole offense more effective.
Anything short of a small spread for this one wouldn’t have made much sense.
In one corner is Georgia’s elite defense and running game, a tandem capable of keeping a player like Mayfield off the field. In the other corner, Mayfield.
Lost in some of the quarterback hype, though, is the fact the Sooners can also slow it down and control the pace via a ground game averaging 5.8 yards per carry with 31 touchdowns on the season. It’s the sort of tandem in combination with Mayfield that can hurt Georgia’s bend-but-don’t-break approach.
Look for the better quarterback to elevate his side as he starts to follow in the footsteps of someone such as Deshaun Watson and other recent greats.
Rose Bowl 2018 Prediction: Oklahoma 34, Georgia 30