Two of the most storied programs in college football — the Oklahoma Sooners and Georgia Bulldogs — will face off in the most historic venue in the sport for a berth in the National Championship Game. Can you ask for anything better than that?
How will Oklahoma’s offense fare against one of the best defensive teams in the country. How will Georgia’s run-heavy offense do against a steadily-improving OU D? This probably the most interesting postseason college football matchup America has seen in several years, and both of these fan bases are going to drive each other — and themselves — crazy over the next four weeks in the lead-up to The Granddaddy of Them All.
How do I think it will go down? Well, I think Oklahoma has a great shot to advance, but CBS Sports analyst and noted SEC homer Barrett Sallee seems to disagree:
AUDIO: Bowl preview: Sorry Baker Mayfield, you and your offense are not going to be ready for what Georgia's defense is going to bring to the table in the Rose Bowl https://t.co/AfI3SPJEUI— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) December 4, 2017
Full show https://t.co/FbAIeYk1Qd pic.twitter.com/Z6zVtQWV7g
Predictable SEC bias aside, most folks around the country — including Georgia fans, believe it or not — seem to believe that the Rose Bowl will be an entertaining contest. I actually used to call Atlanta home, so I look forward to having extended college football discussions with Dawg fans once again. They’re an incredibly passionate and usually pretty knowledgable fan base. You’ll come across plenty of idiots from every fan base on message boards or Twitter, but UGA fans are definitely better than LSU and Florida fans for the most part. Enjoy your interactions this month and try not to get too worked up!
Anyway, the Sooners have somehow never played the Bulldogs on the gridiron, so here’s a little bit of information to tide you over for the time being.
Five Names to Know
- Roquan Smith - On Sunday night, the junior linebacker became the first player in Georgia history to take home the Butkus Award after recording a team-leading 113 tackles. He’s also a major disruptor in the backfield as he’s tallied 10.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and 17 QB hurries this season. Standing at 6’1” and 225 pounds, Smith isn’t the biggest linebacker by SEC standards, but don’t let that mislead you. The guy is an incredibly quick and physical linebacker who will potentially be a first-round pick come springtime.
- Nick Chubb - The senior running back passed Darren McFadden for the second-most rushing yards in SEC history during Saturday’s win over Auburn. He now sits at 4,599 and only trails Herschel Walker on the UGA and SEC lists. At 5’10” and 225 pounds, Chubb packs quite a punch but is also quick enough to break off big runs.
- Sony Michel - Georgia’s other senior running back is the lightning to Nick Chubb’s thunder, averaging 7.2 yards per carry this season. Both backs have 13 rushing touchdowns in 2017.
- Dominick Sanders - Sanders has been one of Georgia’s primary ball-hawkers during his time in Athens, grabbing 15 interceptions throughout his career.
- Jake Fromm - After an injury to former No. 1 HS QB Jacob Eason midway through the first quarter of the season opener vs. Appalachian State, the true freshman was thrust into the starting role and hasn’t relinquished it since. It’s not too common for a quarterback with his lack of experience to be a steadying for for the offense, but that’s exactly what he’s been in 2017. The Warner Robins native has thrown 21 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 63 percent of his passes. He’s not relied upon to make a ton of difficult plays, but he has the arm talent and accuracy to make things happen if need be.
After a 31-10 win to open the season against Appalachian State, Jake Fromm was tasked with quarterbacking a team to a win at Notre Dame in his first career start. He did just enough to keep the Irish defense honest in a 20-19 win, which catapulted UGA into the early CFP conversation.
Two weeks later, the Bulldogs passed a major test both offensively and defensively in a 31-3 win over then-undefeated Mississippi State. However, the Dawgs then went seven weeks without playing another ranked opponent, defeating the likes of Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina and Missouri. When they finally did face a ranked team, the Auburn Tigers handed them a 40-17 loss on the Plains. They then closed the regular season with convincing wins over Kentucky and Georgia Tech before getting revenge against the Tigers in the SEC Championship Game.
By the Numbers
Offensive S&P+: 35.5 (18th)
Defensive S&P+: 17.9 (8th)
S&P+ Margin: 18.4 (3rd)
Total offense per game: 434 (37th)
Passing: 170.1 (110th)
Rushing: 263.5 (11th)
Points per game: 34.9 (23rd)
Yards per play: 6.75 (13th)
Offensive efficiency (ESPN): 86.4 (5th)
Defensive efficiency (ESPN): 88.7 (2nd)
Total defense per game: 271 (4th)
Passing defense: 158.3 (2nd)
Rushing defense: 112.6 (12nd)
Wins vs. top 25 (CFP): 3-1
Third-down conversions: 46.7% (8th)
Fourth-down conversions: 58.3% (43rd)
Georgia Football History
Wins: 807 (11th)
Win percentage: .652 (13th)
Bowl appearances: 53 (4th)
Conference championships: 15 (37th)
Consensus All-Americans (prior to 2017): 31 (20th)
First-round picks: 32 (18th)
Weeks in the AP Poll: 561 (13th)
1980: The Bulldogs, Herschel Walker and Lindsay Scott, finished with a 12-0 record following a 17-10 victory over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. The Bulldogs were the only undefeated, untied team in D1-A that season.
1942: Although the Bulldogs did not finish No. 1 in the AP Poll, they did finish No. 1 in several other polls utilized at the time. Georgia defeated UCLA in that season’s Rose Bowl to finish with a record of 11-1.
Heisman Trophy Winners
Herschel Walker (1980) - The SEC’s all-time leader in rushing yards set that record in only three seasons of collegiate football. Walker was part of a national championship team in 1980 and won at least a share of the SEC title in all three of this seasons. As a junior, Walker rushed for 1,752 yards and 16 TDs en route to an award that he probably deserved to win in both his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Frank Sinkwich (1942) - The UGA senior gained 795 yards rushing and set the SEC passing record with 1,392 yards in 1942. He scored the team’s only touchdown in a 9-0 Rose Bowl victory while playing the game with two sprained ankles. In 1941, Sinkwich played the majority of the season with a custom-made facemask to protect a broken jaw.
Memorable Moments in Program History
Belue to Scott - 1980
Georgia vs. Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl
Uga - UGA has what is quite possibly the best live mascot in all of college athletics. In 1956, Sonny Seiler brought his English Bulldog to UGA’s home opener. It was requested that the dog be the team’s mascot, and Ugas have come from the same lineage ever since. Uga is usually a good dog, but there was one notable exception in 1996. Perhaps Baker Mayfield should tread lightly on Jan. 1.
Uga has had a few fill-ins throughout the years, including Otto, who was called upon in 1986 after his brother, Uga IV, injured his leg while jumping off a hotel bed prior to a game against Vanderbilt.
Between the Hedges
The the hedges encircling the field at Sanford Stadium — which stand at five feet tall and five feet wide — are easily the most notable feature of Georgia’s home venue. However, the stadium itself is pretty magnificent, seating 92,746 Georgia fans. It’s also widely regarded as one of the loudest stadiums in the country.
Located about an hour from Atlanta, Athens is one of America’s premier college towns. Its bars and restaurants are fantastic, but it’s probably known for its music scene more than anything else, which has been the case since the late 70s/early 80s. Artists such as R.E.M., Widespread Panic, The B-52’s, Jason Isbell, Drive-By Truckers and countless indie, folk and bluegrass artists have honed their craft in Clarke County over the years, and the music venues are aplenty.
To get a feel for the opposing fan base, head on over to Dawg Sports, SB Nation’s UGA site. We’ll definitely be doing a Q&A with them in the near future. You can also follow them on Twitter at @dawgsports.