Game Preview: Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl – CFP Semifinal – (1) Georgia vs (4) Ohio State
The moment when the clock struck 0:00 in the PAC-12 Championship game, and USC players and coaches walked off the field defeated, there were three cities that cheered the most: Salt Lake City, UT, Las Vegas, NV, and Columbus, OH.
Let’s ball…— Marvin Harrison Jr. (@MarvHarrisonJr) December 3, 2022
Marvin Harrison Jr, and the rest of the Buckeye team were watching that game, sitting outside of top 4 in the 5 spot after losing to Michigan just one week before. The next day, TCU lost to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship game, and that all but solidified what everyone knew after Friday’s PAC-12 Championship Game, that the Buckeyes were going to the Playoffs.
On Selection Sunday, they ESPN crew cut through a lot of the theatrics with who would be 1 and 2, as both Georgia and Michigan finished their seasons undefeated conference champions, and would take those seeds. The next question was would TCU’s loss move them down or would they stay still and face Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl. When the Horned Frogs named popped up next, Ohio State came in at the 4 seed, and the field was set. I am sure that before the Buckeyes logo and graphic popped up that fans were already booking flights to Atlanta, and that any tickets that were available were bought up to sell out Mercedes Benz Stadium.
The narrative for Ohio State going into this match-up has so many parallels to the 2014 Semi-Final against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. A 4-seed underdog Big Ten team playing an SEC champion in their backyard, and the narratives from nearly all journalists claiming Ohio State doesn’t belong. A top offense going against a Kirby Smart defense, which has a Heisman candidate on their offense. As a fan of college sports narratives, this has been a fun path to feel some sort of confidence in the set up, and there is even a chance that Ohio State could play Michigan for the National Championship Game, but the reality is that they can not overlook this Georgia team, and all focus needs to be on how they can core against this defense, and slow down two of the best tight-ends in the country.
This will be the first time the Buckeyes will play in the Peach Bowl, and the second time playing Georgia ever. As someone who has been following the game through social media since I was not able to get credentialed in Atlanta, I will say the media and activities for this bowl has been top notch. You man follow and have read my previews before where I like to post the hype videos leading up to the game, but the Peach Bowl made one themselves. December 31st, New Years Eve, this game cant come soon enough.
Know the Opponent:
Head Coach: Kirby Smart (5th season)
2022 Record: 13-0
Location: Athens, GA
Ohio State Preview
Undeserving. Soft. Failures. These are words that people outside of the program used to describe this team and players around 4pm on November 26th. The Buckeyes lost their second game in a row to Michigan, and would be sitting at home awaiting their fate for the Post-Season, while the Wolverines would head to Indianapolis to defend, and reclaim, their Big Ten Champions title against a Purdue team that had a head coach one foot out the door. The mood in the Woody was bleak, but the Buckeyes still showed up the next day for workouts and film, and according to those close to the program, had a very passionate practice thanks in large part to J.T. Tuimoloau’s speech that refocused the team. When they saw Utah win the PAC-12 Championship over 4 seed USC, the mood changed, and the focus was back on track.
They have three goals to start every season: Beat the Team Up North, Win the Big Ten, Win a National Championship. The first two goals were dashed with the loss at home to Michigan, but the third goal became obtainable officially on Selection Sunday. As Ryan Day and the players have said throughout the media interviews leading up to the game, the Buckeyes have a second lease on life, and they know that they cant hold anything back anymore against a strong Georgia team who has been efficient on both sides of the ball.
Ohio State playing their best football has a good chance to win this game. The keys for them to win are simple, but will need to execute. Ohio State needs to score in the redzone. They are probably going to be able to get yardage in the passing game, and they will need to win the 50/50 balls against the Georgia secondary. But when they get to the redzone, they need to score touchdowns and not field goals. The Georgia offense is very efficient, and the Buckeyes defense will have their hands full on trying to slow them down. Expect Georgia to score, but the Buckeyes will need to match touchdowns-to-touchdowns because fields goals will not keep them in this game.
The second key to winning is to let your passing game set up a run game. They are going against a very good front 7 who hold opponents to 77 yard a game running the ball. Even with Miyan Williams and Matt Jones back from injuries, running between the tackles could be a fools errand. Surprisingly, and much to the disdain of Buckeye fans, Bubble screens have been effective against Georgia, so they will need to get their blocks established.
The last key to winning is to win the turnover battle. They cannot afford turnovers or giving the ball back to the Bulldogs in favorable positions. This also includes unnecessary penalties, which cost the Buckeyes field position against Michigan. If the Buckeyes can play mistake free football, they have a really good opportunity to win.
𝐜𝐡.𝐗𝐈𝐈𝐈 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐨𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐲 🎥🔥🍿 pic.twitter.com/934CqlfcRt— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) December 29, 2022
Two time Heisman Finalist CJ Stroud has passed for 3340 yards with 37 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. We have seen him open up the run game a little bit the last few game starting with the Northwestern game, and he has 74 yards rushing this season. He has tried to make plays with his arm with the talent around him, and he will need to be accurate against this Bulldog defense.
Miyan Williams will be back this game and has 817 yards rushing with 13 touchdowns on 126 carries. He is back from injury and even with missing practiced on Monday and Tuesday this week due to a stomach bug, he will be ready to go Saturday night. TreVeyon Henderson will not play, and had foot surgery for an aliment that has been bothering him all season, but he has been with the team and helping the running backs out. Behind Williams for this game will be Dallan Hayden, who did not get a lot of carries against Michigan, but still ran for 510 yards on 102 carries and 5 touchdowns. Chip Trayanum kept his switch to running back, after having had played the position at Arizona State, and he got the most carries against Michigan. He is 15 carries for 92 yards and could find himself worked into the game as a pass blocker or outside tackle run plays.
The unfortunate news going into this game is that Jaxon Smith-Njigba will not play this game, and has opted for the NFL Draft due to the lingering injury that would not have been healed for this game. Marvin Harrison Jr though has stepped into that role and has been fantastic this season as the leading receiver with 72 catches for 1157 yards and 12 touchdowns. Emeka Egbuka has been a great second option with 66 catches for 1039 yards and 9 touchdowns. Julian Fleming has been the third top yardage wide-out with 29 catches for 462 yards and 6 touchdowns. Cade Stover will get a lot of chances to attack the middle of this defense and has 35 catches for 399 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Bulldogs do not need any extra motivation going into this game as the defending National Champions. They have won every game this year, with dominating performances against Oregon, Tennessee and LSU. They did have some close games against Kent State, Missouri, and Kentucky, which I am sure the Buckeyes have been studying those games a little more closely on how to attack this Georgia team. The Bulldogs are a favorite not only to win this game, but also the National Championship, which would continue the SEC dominance since the 2006 BCS era in crowning the kings of college football.
Kirby Smart has taken a lot of what he learned from Nick Saban, and has taken Georgia to heights that Mark Richt had not been able to achieve despite a similar record within their first 5 seasons as the head coach. He has brought in top 3 recruiting classes since taking the reigns, and his defensive DNA is evident this year even after losing so many players to the NFL draft last year.
The step up though from last year would be in the offense, who have been one of the most efficient teams in the country, and move the chains with more chunk plays that can turn into bigger plays thanks to the talent that have on the field. The do not have an explosive run game, but they can make you pay using the passing game with their running backs which they like to rotate three running backs to keep everyone fresh.
The Georgia Bullgods don’thave a hype video released at this moment, but when you win like they can, you might not need a hype video.
Heisman Finalist Stetson Bennett leads this team with 3425 yards passing with 20 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He also has rushed for 184 yards on 47 carries 7 touchdowns. What he brings with him though is a confidence and experience that will be a key component in this match up.
The top running back is Kenny McIntosh, who has 709 yards on 137 carries and 10 touchdowns. He is also the third leading receiver with 37 catches for 449 yards and 1 touchdowns. Daijun Edwards is second on the team with 127 carries for 681 yards and 7 touchdowns, and has 80 yards receiving. The third running back they like to play is Kendall Milton who has 72 carries for 533 yards and 6 touchdowns and 64 yards receiving with a touchdown.
The two best players on this offense though are their monster tight-ends in Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington. Bowers has 52 catches for 726 yards and 6 touchdowns. He also has 93 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns. Washington has the body type of Lebron James, and is the 4th leading receiver with 26 catches for 417 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ladd McConkey is the top wide out, who has 51 catches for 675 yards and 6 touchdowns, and was injured during the SEC Championship game, so he is questionable going into this one.
CJ Stroud. The two-time Heisman finalist is likely playing his final chapter at Ohio State, and this opportunity can help erase any negative negative he has created for his Buckeye legacy. With a good chance that the run game will be limited, the junior will have to make plays with his arm, and try to get chunk yards to keep the offense on track.
Jalen Carter. The Bulldog defensive end is the best player on the field, and can disrupt the game when he feels like it. The Buckeyes will need to game plan around him, and try to make sure he is double or triple teamed if they want to try and run their offense.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game
2. This game will be only the second time ever that Georgia and Ohio State have played against each other, the first time in 1993 where the Bulldogs won 21-14.
The Buckeyes versus the Bulldogs is a match up that has been years in the making, and we are finally getting a chance to see it. For two historic teams, the fact that this is their second ever only meeting is a travesty to the sport, but the 2022 editions of both teams have the most talented rosters in the country and if you look at the eqffecianecy ratings, there are two of the most efficient teams on both sides of the ball. Ohio State is on their second lease on life and playing in an indoor stadium plays to the strengths of the make up of this Ryan Day team, but Kirby Smart’s Georgia defense is going to make it tough for the Buckeyes to get anything going in the run game, and will try to make Stroud win the game with his arm and arsenal of wide-receivers. To me, the biggest difference in this game is if Ohio State can score in the redbone, and if they can, this will be an epic clash. If they can’t, then they will need to play a perfect defensive game to give themselves a chances. With the embodiment of the underdog, and playing in a fast track stadium, a healthy Buckeyes can pull the upset against a Georgia team who has not been tested against a team all season with equal talent.
Ohio State 42 – Georgia 39
Photo Credit: Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl Graphics