2022 Ohio State University
The College Football Playoffs have finally arrived. A season full of ups and downs comes to its grand finale. Game two of the night will feature the reigning College Football Champion in Georgia, who have sat atop the College Football Playoff polls all season long, and the underdog Ohio State Buckeyes, who come in not favored for the first time this season. It is the first time they have not been favored since the 2020 National Championship game. The Buckeyes will travel in the Bulldogs backyard in Atlanta, Georgia for the 2022 Peach Bowl.
Ohio State and Georgia have met just once in the 153 years of the sport, and that came way back in 1993. It was a game in which the Bulldogs won 21-14 over the Buckeyes in the Citrus Bowl on New Years Day. Kirk Herbstreit -- who will be the color commentator for the 2022 matchup -- was the starting quarterback in that game for the Buckeyes. Georgia played the more physical game and won off the strength of their ground game, a strategy they still play by nearly 30 years later.
The Bulldogs have had the one of the best defenses in the nation the last two seasons, a defense they used a year ago to win a National Title. Their defense has regressed slightly, as they allowed just 10.2 points per game a season ago and are now allowing 12.77 points per game. However, it was their offense in 2022 that took the biggest jump. Quarterback Stetson Bennett was one of the Heisman Finalists this year and finished with 3,425 yards, 20 passing touchdowns, seven rushing touchdowns and just six interceptions. Their offense also boasts the best tight end in the nation in Brock Bowers, who has totaled 19 touchdowns over the last two seasons and averages about 15 yards per reception. They will also bring in their own duo of running backs in Kenny McIntosh and Daijun Edwards, who combined for 1,390 yards and 17 touchdowns on over five yards per carry.
Despite an improved offense in 2022, Georgia's defense still boasts some talented athletes. Their top defensive lineman Jalen Carter might be the most important player for Georgia. He locks down the center of their line, and while he has only pulled in three sacks on the season, he is a massive force that requires a minimum of two offensive lineman to slow down. His presence opens up the rest of the defense to put up big numbers and also stops opposing teams ability to run the ball up the middle.
Their top linebacker, Jamon Dumas-Johnson, leads the team in tackles with 64 this season and also has a team high three sacks. If anyone gets past the big man in Carter, they won't make it far before having an encounter with Dumas-Johnson. When teams have decided to throw against Georgia this season, it has been Christopher Smith that has been their lockdown player. He leads the team with three interceptions and five pass deflections.
Ohio State will certainly have their hands full on both sides of the football this coming Saturday, but they have some of the top athletes in college football on their side of the ball as well, boasting their own Heisman finalist in C.J. Stroud, who put up an impressive 37 touchdowns and six interceptions, one of the best wide receivers in football in Marvin Harrison Jr., who has over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. However, the firepower doesn't end there. Fellow 1,000 yard wide receiver Emeka Egbuka also finished with nine touchdowns, and this duo will have to be at the forefront of the Buckeye attack if their offense is going to be successful against the stout Georgia defense.
While the ground game has been a focal point of what the Buckeyes want to do this season, they haven't been the best at it in big games. Second leading rusher TreVeyon Henderson will miss the playoffs after undergoing season ending surgery on his foot that he injured way back in September and attempted to play on it for the rest of the year. Leading rusher Miyan Williams has been under the weather this week but is expected to be 100% healthy and ready to go for Saturday's matchup. He led the team with 817 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns this year while averaged 6.5 yards per carry, which was Top 10 among backs this season in all of College Football.
The Buckeyes have their own defensive standouts who must be big factors in the playoff semifinal. Tommy Eichenberg was a welcomed sight to behold at the linebacker position after years of poor performances for Ohio State at that position. In Jim Knowles system, he grabbed 12 tackles for loss and 112 total tackles. He also had 2.5 sacks and a pick-six during the regular season. Their may not be a more well rounded defensive player in the nation than Eichenberg.
Michael Hall Jr. is Ohio State's standout on the interior of the defensive line. He was off to a phenomenal start to the season before suffering an injury against Toledo that left him with a lingering shoulder injury that limited his abilities the rest of the season. Alongside the young star is the sensational breakout star J.T. Tuimoloau, who has flourished into one of the most exciting pass rushers Ohio State has seen in years.
While the secondary for Ohio State has had their struggles, if the stars mentioned above get their job done, they should be able to hold up long enough against the passing attack of the Bulldogs. Their ability to do so comes down to Jim Knowles and his game plan to stop Georgia's offense. His game plan against Michigan didn't work, and it became obvious in the second half that he was reluctant to change his plan when it stopped working.
Ryan Day has made a name for himself because of his ability to adapt to any situation and make sweeping changes at any point in the game, but Knowles does not change. This has caused a rift between offensive and defensive strategies throughout the season. While both sides have had their ups and downs, they must work in unison to take down what some are considering a team that has the makings of the next great dynasty in college football.
This will be a battle at every level. Both teams must play as close to perfect as possible from start to finish in order to win this game. All throughout this season, Ohio State has been near perfect on their first drives of the season. Their scripted game plan works nearly every time, and it seems likely they will score at least once in the first quarter. The question is the Buckeyes defense. They let up big plays from time to time but rarely allow long drives.
Georgia is going to have to find big time playmakers in this game, which should give them some early struggles. If Bennett can get the ball to Bowers on a consistent basis, then they will be able to move the ball and score. After one quarter of play, I expect this game to be tied 7-7, with touchdowns from Bowers and Williams in the first.
With both teams having superb run defense and neither team truly having a back that truly threatens the defense as a home run hitter, this game will be won off of big plays, something that should be in the Buckeyes favor. However, as seen in the TTUN game, the Buckeyes were unable to throw the ball consistently. Georgia has seen similar problems throughout the year, but they always seem to get it done no matter what. This second quarter will belong to them as a result, and I predict they will lead at halftime by a score of 14-10.
If Knowles and Day work together and make the proper adjustments, they can take the third quarter. Georgia is too strong to be held to a field goal at any point in this game, so Ohio State must stop them before reaching past the Buckeyes own 35-yard line. They can do it; it is just a question of if they will.
The Buckeyes will finally see Marvin Harrison Jr. break free in the second half and a big grab from him in the end zone will give the Buckeyes the advantage they need, except he will not just do it once, as two big touchdowns will give the Buckeyes a 24-21 lead going into the fourth.
The final quarter will come down to who wants it more, a question Ohio State has had to answer all season long. They answered the call against Penn State, coming up with a massive fourth quarter win. They answered it again in bad weather against Northwestern, and then once more in a hostile Maryland environment, halting a late comeback attempt, but they fell short against their rival at the end of the season, a game in which they were outscored 21-3 in the fourth. Ohio State has the means and the ability to win this game, but Georgia has continued to show countless times this season they are well prepared for a fight.
Score Prediction: OSU Wins 38-35
Everything about this game is a big question mark. Both teams can win by 20, lose by 20 or give everyone watching the game of the century. Two Heisman finalists and countless amounts of talent that will be playing on Sundays in the NFL. Kirby Smart and Day are two of the best coaches in College Football today, and this game has the makings of an all-time matchup. Both teams will know who lies ahead as the other semifinal game will take place beforehand in the Fiesta Bowl at 4:00 p.m. ET between TCU and Michigan.
Betting Line: Georgia (-6.5), Over/Under (62)
As mentioned above, the Buckeyes are underdogs for the first time since they last made an appearance in the playoffs when they lost in 2020 to Alabama in the National Championship. Georgia won the title in 2021 over Alabama and have wins this season over Oregon, LSU and Tennessee.
The spread is too close to call. Many people have bought in big time to Ohio State's loss to their rival to end the season and believe the Dawgs will roll over the Buckeyes in Atlanta, but every Buckeye fan knows it's a bad idea to count the Buckeyes out. Don't take the spread or the over. This should be a defensive onslaught and though my prediction eclipses the line of 62 points, it feels unlikely that either of these defense's will truly allow a game like this to occur.
How to Watch & Listen
TV: 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
- Chris Fowler (Play-by-Play)
- Kirk Herbstreit (Analysis)
- Holly Rowe & Laura Rutledge (Sideline)
Radio: 97.1 (The Fan) FM/1460 AM
- Paul Keels (Play-by-Play)
- Jim Lachey (Analysis)
- Matt Andrews (Sideline)
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