It’s not a Playoff game, but it’s a darned fun bowl trip, so it’s time to switch gears and focus on the Sugar Bowl, where Georgia will meet the Texas Longhorns on New Year’s night.
It’s Georgia’s first trip to the Sugar Bowl in 11 years, and there are worse places than New Orleans to ring in 2019. Georgia doesn’t have much history with Texas — only four games — so this is a rare matchup of college football elites that should be fun.
Here are five things to know about the Longhorns:
1. How the Longhorns got here
The Sugar Bowl has tie-ins with the SEC and the Big 12, and since Alabama and Oklahoma are in the College Football Playoff, we get this matchup of the second-best teams in each league.
Texas finished the season 9-4, losing its rematch with Oklahoma 39-27 on Saturday in the Big 12 title game. The Longhorns gave Oklahoma its only loss back in October. Their losses were to Maryland, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Georgia, of course, is 11-2, with losses to LSU and Alabama.
Tom Herman has the Longhorns heading in the right direction after a near decade of ineptitude. He was 7-6 a year ago and is two games better — so far — this year. This is Texas’ first major bowl berth since winning the 2009 BCS National Championship Game over USC.
2. Their best offensive player is QB Sam Ehlinger
Texas struggled to run the ball all year, so it relied heavily on quarterback Sam Ehlinger to win games. He threw for 3,125 yards and had 25 touchdown passes to only 5 interceptions. He went 10 games in a row this season without throwing a pick.
The sophomore from Austin, Texas, is 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, and he doesn’t mind running the ball and running people over in the process. He ran for 418 yards and 13 touchdowns this year, accounting for more than half of Texas’ 21 rushing touchdowns. He has been called a right-handed Tim Tebow by a few analysts.
3. Their best defensive player is Charles Omenihu
Charles Omenihu is a beast. The 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive lineman led the Longhorns in sacks with 9.5 and had at least a half-sack in eight of their 13 games. He was named the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.
They don’t play a lot of defense in the Big 12, but don’t let that fool you when it comes to Omenihu, the senior from Rowlett, Texas. He’s explosive off the ball and will command some occasional double teams. Another guy to watch out for is defensive back Caden Sterns. He had 4 interceptions this year and was named the Big 12’s Defensive Freshman of the Year.
4. Their history with the SEC
There’s not a lot of recent history with the SEC. The Longhorns beat Missouri last year 33-16 in the Texas Bowl to finish its 2017 with a winning record at 7-6. They lost to Arkansas 31-7 at the end of the 2014 season. They played a home-and-home with Ole Miss in 2012-13, splitting the series.
Their biggest rival in the SEC, of course, is Texas A&M, but they’ve refused to play each other since A&M bolted for the SEC in 2012. They have played Georgia twice in bowl games, losing 10-9 in the 1983 Cotton Bowl and winning the 1948 Orange Bowl 41-28.
5. Worth noting … the coolest name ever
Yep, the coolest name ever has to belong to Lil’Jordan Humphrey, the junior wide receiver for the Longhorns. The first time I watched a Longhorns game that he played in, I kept wondering why the announcers were calling Jordan Humphrey “little” every time they mentioned his name. Then I finally got it.
It’s not just the name that will catch your attention. He’s a tremendous receiver. He has 79 catches this season for 1,109 yards and 9 receiving touchdowns. He has also run for a score, so he will definitely have the attention of Georgia’s secondary.