Despite a 9-4 record, Texas will represent the Big 12 in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. Oklahoma was announced as the 4th seed in the College Football Playoff earlier today, leaving the Big 12 runner-up as the conference representative in a New Year’s 6 bowl. The Longhorns will face off against SEC runner-up Georgia, who finished 5th in the final College Football Playoff rankings. The Bulldogs are 11-2, with losses to LSU in the regular season and Alabama in yesterday’s SEC Championship game. Here are a few quick initial thoughts on the matchup:
- Texas is matched up against one of the best 4 teams in the country. Georgia had Alabama, the best team in the country, on the ropes yesterday and should have walked out of Atlanta with a victory. Kirby Smart learned under Nick Saban for a long time, so it is no surprise the Bulldogs possess many of the similar traits that help make Alabama so dominate.
- Georgia is built to dominate the line of scrimmage. The Bulldogs offensive line is just as good, if not better, than Oklahoma’s. They have paved the way for D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield, who have combined for 1,858 rushing yards.
- Unlike most teams Texas has faced this year, Georgia won’t be looking to spread the field every play and have 2 minute scoring drives. The Bulldogs are balanced and wear down opposing teams with their physicality. For the Texas defense, this type of offense will likely be a welcome sight. Linebackers like Anthony Wheeler tend to be more productive because they aren’t being asked to play sideline to sideline against guys who run a 4.3 or 4.4. Similarly, a defensive tackle like Chris Nelson will be able to do what he is best at, anchoring the middle and eating up blockers.
- Defensively, the Bulldogs are stout against the run. If Texas was unable to move bodies in the running game against the Sooners, I wouldn’t expect the Tre Watson and Keaontay Ingram to run wild on New Year’s Day. It’s hard to see Texas having much success with pounding the ball between the tackles. They will likely need to involve the Sam Ehlinger (who will be coming off a full month of resting his ailing shoulder) in the QB run game and try to open up lanes inside by having success in the passing game.
- The last time Georgia faced a Big 12 team was Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl a season ago, and the Sooners offense moved the ball at will. While the Texas offense is not up to the caliber of Oklahoma’s, the Longhorns do have playmakers on the outside to give Georgia some problems.
- On paper, Georgia is more talented than Texas. It’s really not even close. The Bulldogs will likely open as at least a 10 point favorite in Vegas and it wouldn’t surprise me to see that number be higher. Tom Herman has an excellent track record as an underdog and the Longhorns have proven they play to the level of competition this year. This game will serve as a good measuring stick for the Longhorns and where they are as a program.
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