Georgia vs. Ohio State: 5 first impressions for Dawgs in Peach Bowl Playoff semifinal
It’s official: No. 1 Georgia will face No. 4 Ohio State on Dec. 31 in the Peach Bowl at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
It’s an intriguing matchup of arguably the nation’s two most talented squads. Georgia is certainly more complete, but the Buckeyes are elite at the skill positions.
With respect to the other two teams that made the College Football Playoff, Michigan and TCU, this feels like the most competitive matchup overall.
The nation at large may want to see a Michigan-Ohio State rematch for the national title. The Dawgs will have something to say about that.
Here are my first impressions of Georgia’s semifinal matchup with the Buckeyes.
1. Georgia’s reward for being No. 1? It must face its biggest threat first
Congratulations, Georgia. You just completed an undefeated regular season and topped LSU for an SEC championship. You are 13-0 and the near-unanimous choice as the No. 1 team in the country. For your efforts, we, the College Football Playoff selection committee, will match you up against the most dangerous team in the field.
That’s right, as a reward for having the best résumé to this point, Georgia must face Ohio State in the CFP semifinals. I want you to forget everything you think you know after Michigan defeated Ohio State last week.
The Buckeyes are still the biggest threat to Georgia in the field. And, like Georgia a season ago, it has some unfinished business against a rival that also happens to be in the final four.
This was the worst-case-scenario matchup for the Dawgs. But here we are.
2. Ohio State’s wide receivers pose a problem for Dawgs on the outside
The real matchup problem is on the outside. Ohio State’s wide receivers have size and athleticism, and they may be getting healthier by the time the teams meet on Dec. 31, as well.
Marvin Harrison Jr. will arguably be the best offensive player in this game. With over 1,100 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns this season, he has been the Buckeyes’ top threat. He is 6-4 and 205 pounds, a matchup nightmare for any team. That includes Georgia, as talented as they are in the defensive backfield.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba has played in only 3 games for the Buckeyes this season and none since Oct. 22. He has nearly 4 full weeks to get healthy, however, and he could be the X-factor in the Peach Bowlfff. A year ago, he put together a gaudy 1,606-yard receiving season.
If he and Harrison can line up on opposite sides and open up the Ohio State passing game, Georgia is certainly going to have its hands full.
3. Stetson Bennett and Co. will have a chance to put up some crooked numbers
While the Buckeyes may have some advantages against the Georgia defense, you can bet the Dawgs’ offense will have advantages of its own.
Ohio State’s defense didn’t just get torched all year. Its statistics are fine. It is No. 14 against the pass, 23 against the run, 13 overall, and 13 in scoring D. But don’t let those numbers fool you. The Dawgs can exploit Ohio State.
The Buckeyes have not faced an offense as versatile, explosive, or balanced as this Georgia attack. That includes Michigan.
The Wolverines were able to torch Ohio State on the ground. Running back Donovan Edwards put up 216 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing. Georgia has an even better offensive line and a stable of backs who should be fresh.
You can bet Georgia will want to control this game on the ground and limit Ohio State’s passing opportunities.
4. Under Kirby Smart, Dawgs have been great when they have extra preparation time
The Dawgs are a dangerous bunch when Smart and Co. have weeks to prepare.
Take a look at the season-opener against Oregon this year if you don’t believe me. Georgia won that one 49-3, making a really good Ducks team look like an FCS foe. Last year, given time to prepare for Michigan, Georgia was unstoppable in the CFP semifinal.
Look, the Buckeyes have the same time to prepare and there’s no question in my mind they will give their best effort against the Dawgs. But you have to expect to get the very best version of Georgia in this game.
And the best version of Georgia is better than every other team in the country this season.
5. The Dawgs will have a home-field advantage
Georgia has made Mercedes-Benz Stadium its second home over the past 5 or 6 years. It defeated Auburn there in the SEC Championship Game in 2017. It lost to Alabama in the CFP final in Atlanta a few weeks later. It lost to Alabama inside that building in 2018 and again fell to LSU in the SEC finale in 2019.
It played (and lost) again to the Crimson Tide there in the 2021 conference title game, blew out Oregon there to start this season, topped LSU on Saturday.
It will get yet another chance to play close to home in the Peach Bowl against Ohio State.
The Buckeyes will travel, there’s no doubt. But expect this crowd to be a friendly one for the Dawgs. That is a huge advantage when it comes to bowl games and national semifinals.
The Georgia faithful will show up, show out, be loud, and make life difficult all day for Buckeyes quarterback CJffffffffffff Stroud.