Ohio State’s blueprint for winning the College Football Playoff championship will be staring the No. 4 Buckeyes in the face when they play No. 1 Georgia in a semifinal game at the Peach Bowl on Saturday in Atlanta.
The Buckeyes (11-1) are coming off a 45-23 thrashing by second-ranked Michigan on Nov. 26 in Columbus, Ohio. They are only in the playoffs thanks to Southern California losing to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game, enabling Ohio State to be awarded the final spot.
Critics would say the Buckeyes don’t deserve a shot at the Bulldogs (13-0) after being manhandled by the Wolverines for the second year in a row.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day said his players understand their underdog role – the Bulldogs are consensus 6.5-point favorites for the New Year’s Eve clash.
“I see a team that realizes that not a lot of people give us a chance,” he said. “We know what we’re in for, we know what the challenge is. Years and seasons and life doesn’t always go the way you plan. It’s about how you react to it and how you respond to it.
“As much as that (Michigan) loss hurts, we’re not going to overreact on it. It’s not worth it. We have a game against Georgia ahead of us that we’re focusing on.”
Day has never coached in the Peach Bowl, and he understands Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs have the perceived “home” edge in Atlanta. Smart played in the Peach Bowl twice and has also been a coach in the game.
This is Georgia’s second game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta this month. The Bulldogs whipped LSU, 50-30, on Dec. 3 to claim another SEC title.
All the Buckeyes wanted was another opportunity to redeem themselves, just as Georgia did a year ago. The Bulldogs lost 41-24 to Alabama in the 2021 SEC title game but as the No. 3 seed in the CFP downed No. 2 Michigan 34-11 before defeating No. 1 Alabama 33-18 for the national championship.
The Bulldogs have continued to dominate, beating LSU for their first conference crown since 2017.
“I feel like this year, coming off of a conference championship win we have worked harder than we did last year coming off of a loss,” Georgia wide receiver Kearis Jackson said. “It’s crazy because people may look at it as we’re complacent, we’re happy, it’s just another box we wanted to check, one of our goals. Our season is not complete yet. We still have goals that we want to reach. The Peach Bowl is the next thing we want to accomplish.”
The winner Saturday plays either Michigan or TCU for the championship in Inglewood, Calif., on Jan. 9.
BULLISH ON BULLDOGS
The public isn’t buying into Ohio State’s second chance. The line opened at 7.0 points at BetMGM and has only shifted slightly to 6.5 with Georgia drawing lopsided action with 82 percent of the bets and 85 percent of the money backing the Bulldogs.
The same spread line at BetRivers also has seen one-sided action with Georgia backed by 71 percent of the bets and 66 percent of the money. The line is at 6.0 at DraftKings with the Bulldogs garnering 79 and 88 percent of the spread action, respectively.
Since the four CFP teams were announced, Georgia also leads at DraftKings with 56 percent of the bets and 58 percent of the money to win another title at -125. Ohio State (+350) is last with just 10 and 8 percent of the action, respectively.
Over 62.0 Total Points (-110 at BetRivers): The line is slightly higher at 62.5 at the other two sportsbooks, but the Over has been popular across the board despite the Bulldogs sporting the nation’s second-ranked scoring defense (12.8) and the Buckeyes 13th at 19.2. Ohio State is second in scoring offense with 44.5 points a game compared to the Bulldogs’ 11th (39.2).
Georgia TE Brock Bowers Receiving TD (+100 at DraftKings): This has been one of the most popular player props at the sportsbook. The recipient of the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end, Bowers has six touchdowns among his 52 catches this season.
Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr. Receiving TD (-105 at DraftKings): Buckeyes QB C.J. Stroud led the nation in passer efficiency rating. He threw for 3,340 yards, 37 touchdowns and six interceptions but will be without receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and running back TreVeyon Henderson due to injuries. Harrison Jr., who had 72 receptions for 1,157 yards and 12 touchdowns, will need to step up big time despite being a primary focus of Georgia’s defense.
Ohio State was dominated in the trenches by Michigan and will face an equally stiff test on both sides of the ball. The Buckeyes have plenty of talent to make this a highly entertaining game but ultimately will not be able to withstand the Bulldogs’ edge in physicality for four quarters. –Georgia 35-28
–Field Level Media