The fifth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs will meet the #15 Texas Longhorns in the 2018 Sugar Bowl on New Years’ Day. This will only be the second game that pits the two blue-blood programs against one another, with the other coming in 1984 where Georgia ruined Texas’ national title hopes. The stakes are lower, but there is still a lot to play for.
Georgia (11-2) missed out on the College Football after their loss against Alabama in the SEC championship game, but the Bulldogs can use this bowl as a building block heading into Kirby Smart’s fourth season. Quarterback Jake Fromm leads a balanced offense that averaged 39.2 points per game, and Jim Thorpe Award winner Deandre Baker leads a defense that allowed 18.5 points per game.
Texas (9-4) lost the Big 12 Championship to Oklahoma, but the Longhorns are back in a big-time bowl game in Tom Herman’s second season. Texas had a 4-2 record against ranked opponents this season, and this would be a chance for Sam Ehlinger to put a topper on a successful season. The Longhorns averaged 31.3 points and allowed 26.2 points a game.
Two Different Paths
Georgia proved in its painfully close loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship that it’s certainly one of the four best teams in college football. But that loss, combined with the 36-16 loss to LSU, was enough to keep them out of the playoffs. This was a bit of a reloading season, and it wasn’t always smooth, but there’s no nitpicking just how good the Bulldogs really were. Outside of the clunker in Death Valley, Georgia won all of the other 11 regular season games by double-digits. The closest anyone but LSU and Alabama came to this team was Missouri, and it lost 43-29.
On the other side, it’s been a wildly inconsistent and entertaining year for Texas. The Longhorns managed to lose to Maryland, and they beat Oklahoma. They lost two wild and crazy shootouts against West Virginia and Oklahoma State, but they were able to rumble past a strong Iowa State ballclub. They’ve played close game after close game with nine of their games being decided by seven points or fewer before losing to Oklahoma in a thrilling 39-27 Big 12 Championship – with an offense that showed just enough explosion to keep up with the conference’s juggernaut attacks, and a defense that could power down the weaker ones. Not to say Texas is not disappointed, but they did not have a playoff bid to play for in their conference championship. A New Years’ Six bowl was their goal, so their team should be fired up to play.
Keys To The Game
- Texas WRs vs Georgia DBs.This is worth the price of admission alone. Lil’Jordan Humphrey (1,109 yards, nine touchdowns) and Collin Johnson (945 yards, seven touchdowns) are big-bodied receivers who pose a challenge for Georgia’s secondary, who was led by Baker. The potential first-round pick has decided to sit out the Sugar Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. The Bulldogs allowed just 180.5 passing yards per game this season, but they will have to mainly rely on freshmen in this game. Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell will need to step up. Georgia’s safety play is exceptional with J.R. Reed and Richard Lecounte III. Ehlinger thrives on the big play, but this will be the best secondary he has faced all season.
- Longhorns’ run defense. Texas improved against the run this season, allowing 151.2 yards per game along with 3.88 yards per attempt. Georgia, however, has five players with at least 40 carries who averaged 6.0 yards per attempt this season, including James Cook (6.9), D’Andre Swift (6.7), Elijah Holyfield (6.5), Justin Fields (6.3) and Brian Herrien (6.0). That takes the pressure off Fromm. Herman said this rushing attack won’t be anything too formidable. Texas has had a great year, but Herman might need to stay quiet for the next few days. He has not seen a group of backs quite like this one.
- Texas O-line vs Georgia Front Seven. Georgia finished the season 101st nationally in sacks and last in the SEC. In the second half of the season though, the defense has stepped up, especially in the SEC Championship. There was constant pressure on Tua, who eventually had to leave the game. Texas has been very consistent in pass protection, only allowing two sacks a game. Ehlinger can sling it. Georgia cannot afford to give him time to throw or he will tear their defense apart.
Who Will Win?
This game could end up being one of two things. Texas could hit their turning point and establish they are officially back. On the other hand, Georgia can make a statement and cement themselves as part of college football’s elite. Texas has everything to gain right now, and Georgia could come out flat after being heartbroken versus Alabama. I believe Georgia comes out to make a statement to the playoff committee and prove they are a top four team. Georgia’s rushing attack will prove to be the real deal against Herman. Georgia wins 38-21.