Here is everything you need to know about the College Football Playoff semifinal match up between the Oklahoma Sooners and Georgia Bulldogs in our Rose Bowl preview and prediction.
Date: Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, California
TV: ESPN | Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Maria Taylor, Tom Rinaldi
Radio: Sooner Sports Network | Toby Rowland, Merv Johnson, Chris Plank, and Ted Lehman
Radio: Sirius 84/XM 84
Fun facts: An Oklahoma Rose Bowl win would result in the Sooners’ fifth national championship game appearance of the 2000s. Only Alabama (five) has played for more national titles this millennium than OU (four). Also, a win against Georgia would make Lincoln Riley just the fifth head coach in FBS history (third since 1892) to win at least 13 games in his debut season. He would join Penn’s George Woodruff in 1892 (15-1), Yale’s Walter Camp in 1888 (13-0), Boise State’s Chris Petersen in 2006 (13-0) and Houston’s Tom Herman in 2015 (13-1).
Nick Chubb & Sony Michel, running backs
Chubb finished the season third in the SEC with 1,175 rushing yards, while Michel ranked 9th in the conference with 948 rushing yards. They both averaged at least six yards per carry. These two put the Bulldogs’ offense on their backs for most of the season and will look to do the same on Monday afternoon in Southern California.
Roquan Smith, linebacker
The junior linebacker led a dominant group finishing fourth in the SEC with 113 tackles and tops in the SEC with 72 solo tackles. Smith also had 5.5 sacks on the season and 10.5 tackles for loss. Smith and fellow linebacker D’Andre Walker will look to cause chaos in the Sooners’ backfield.
Baker Mayfield, quarterback
As if the bulls eye could get any bigger on Baker Mayfield’s back, it did when he went on to win the Heisman Trophy. Mayfield has had one of the most illustrious careers in college football history and is looking to cap it off with a National Championship. Mayfield was the most efficient passer in the country and tossed 41 touchdowns to just five interceptions, while averaging 339 passing yards per game.
Obo Okoronkwo, defensive end/outside linebacker
Okoronkwo is the most important and the best player on the OU defense. The #1 goal of this defense will be to stop the running game of the Bulldogs. Okoronkwo had 71 tackles this season with 8 sacks (3rd in the Big 12) and 17.5 tackles for loss (2nd in the Big 12).
Oklahoma offense vs. Georgia defense
This is the marquee match up in this game, hands down. Here are some numbers: Oklahoma leads the country in total offense (583.3 ypg), yards per play (8.4), passing efficiency rating(206.9), pass completion percentage (71.8) and percent of possessions ending in a touchdown (47.2), and leads the Big 12 in rushing offense (215.9 ypg). Georgia ranks second nationally in passing defense (170.1 ypg), fourth in scoring defense (13.2 ppg) and total defense (270.9 ypg), and 12th in rushing defense (112.6).
So, who gets the better of the other? Oklahoma has faced far more stout defenses (TCU, Texas, Ohio State), than Georgia has faced stout offenses (Auburn, maybe? … and?). So the bigger question to me is not, “Can OU score on Georgia?”, it’s “Can Georgia slow down OU?”
Force Jake Fromm to win the game
If Oklahoma is going to lose this game, they want to lose it knowing true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm had the game of his life. Fromm only averaged 167 passing yards per game, with just 21 touchdown passes on the season. But what Fromm did well is that he didn’t make the big mistake. In their toughest games against Notre Dame, Auburn and Auburn again, Fromm threw just one interception. Oklahoma’s pass defense came on strong as the season progressed as young cornerbacks Parnell Motley, Tre Brown and Tre Norwood came on strong as the season progressed. OU finished fourth in the Big 12 in pass defense efficiency. If they can force Fromm into a big mistake, it’d be a huge momentum swing for the Sooners.
OU offensive line
This circles back around to the first “key storyline”. The OU offense vs. Georgia defense is the macro version. But the micro version is whether or not the OU offensive line can hold up against Georgia’s front seven. OU has three juniors, including Orlando Brown, who will likely be a top 10 NFL Draft pick in a few months, along with one senior in center Erick Wren and the lone sophomore is right tackle Bobby Evans. But this unit is good as any offensive line in the country and does not get enough credit. We know how good the front seven is for the Bulldogs, but Georgia hasn’t had to face an offensive line like they will see on Monday.
Oklahoma 35, Georgia 24
Georgia hasn’t seen an offense anywhere close to what Oklahoma is going to throw at them. Who’s the best offense the Bulldogs faced? Auburn? Notre Dame? There’s a lot of hot SEC garbage on this Georgia schedule that has inflated their stats.
Georgia faced three offenses ranked in the Top 50: Auburn, Mississippi State and Missouri. Of them, we just saw Missouri get manhandled by a bunch of Texas second stringers.
Oklahoma has faced four defenses ranked in the Top 50: TCU, Ohio State, Texas and Iowa State. TCU and Texas won bowl games already this week. Oklahoma’s strength of schedule compared to the “mighty SEC” isn’t getting the credit it deserves for reasons unknown.
Then there’s this fun fact, Oklahoma owns the SEC. Bob Stoops took these games against the SEC personally and there’s no doubt he’s passed that on to Lincoln Riley. Oklahoma has played four games against SEC teams over the last five seasons and has won each of the four by at least seven points and by an average of 15.3 points). The Sooners downed No. 3 Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl to end the 2013 season, beat Tennessee 34-10 in 2014 in Norman, outlasted No. 23 Tennessee 31-24 in double overtime in 2015 in Knoxville, and handled No. 17 Auburn 35-19 in last year’s Sugar Bowl.)