It’s finally here. The College Football Playoff has arrived, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to break it down for you. You can find matchup previews for every bowl game on our site, including the Michigan vs. TCU game in the other Semi Final matchup. In this article, I’ll break down the matchup between Ohio State and Georgia at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. This article will include my official prediction, betting odds, and analysis on the spread and over/under. Let’s get to work.
Ohio State Buckeyes Vs. Georgia Bulldogs Odds
I’m updating this on the night of December 30th, and the spread has moved universally to Georgia -6. It opened at 6.5 points in favor of the Bulldogs. Public money poured in on Georgia, pushing it to 7 points, and it has come back down to 6. These moves might seem irrelevant to you. They aren’t.
The over/under for this game is set at 62.5 points, with the over seemingly the slightly more preferred wager. DraftKings is reporting around 65% of the handle and 58% of the bets on the over at the time I’m writing this. The total went over in just 5 of Georgia’s 13 games this year (38.5%) compared to in 9 of Ohio State’s 12 games (75%).
Homefield advantage is worth about two points in college football, and while this game isn’t technically in Athens, Mercedes Benz Superdome is in New Orleans, which is about a six or seven hour drive from Georgia’s campus. The Bulldogs will also be playing their third game of the season in this stadium, and they should earn at least a point of home field advantage here. Therefore, the spread says Georgia is about 5.5 points better than Ohio State.
Ohio State Buckeyes Vs. Georgia Bulldogs Prediction & Pick
Georgia is favored for a reason – they’ve been here before. Of course, much of last season’s championship roster is still intact, but they also will be comfortable in this stadium as they’re set to play in New Orleans for the third time this season. However, after plenty of soul-searching, back-and-forth deliberation, and talks with my therapist, I believe Ohio State is the side here.
The Buckeyes will be ready for this moment. Head coach Ryan Day called it a second lease on life. Ohio State was thought of before the season as one of three favorites to win the championship along with Alabama and Georgia. For much of the year, it looked as though we were careening towards a Georgia OSU championship. This matchup is coming early due to the Buckeyes’ loss to Michigan, but that game is also creating value in the line here.
Ohio State knows what it needs to do. Jim Knowles will have had a full month to coach up his defense and prepare them for this moment. C.J. Stroud, Marvin Harrison Jr., and Emeka Egbuka can take advantage of a Georgia secondary that proved to be leaky at times. The Ohio State offensive line can win against a Georgia pass rush that isn’t nearly as dominant as it was last year.
I believe the Buckeyes will come out firing to start, and I love them to cover the first half spread +3.5. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Buckeyes ride a couple of big passing plays to an early halftime lead, and that could be enough to fuel them to an eventual win.
However, I believe the best bet to make in this game is on the over. As I’ll break down below, both offenses have notable advantages in this game that they can lean on. These teams combined to allow just 32 points per game this season, and they both play at a well below-average pace.
Still, explosive plays will rule the day here, and I believe we’re going to see a high-scoring affair in New Orleans. I’d play this over up to 65 points as that’s a relatively key number in college football totals, but you can also try to wait for a better number live if you’d like.
Ohio State Buckeyes Vs. Georgia Bulldogs Key Matchups
C.J. Stroud vs. Georgia pass rush
When C.J. Stroud has time in the pocket, he’s as good as any quarterback in the country. Among quarterbacks with at least 50 dropbacks from a clean pocket, he leads the Power Five with a sparkling 134.7 passer rating. However, he isn’t nearly as productive under pressure.
Stroud’s completion percentage drops from 71.2% in a clean pocket to 40.6% under pressure, and he has seven turnover-worthy plays on just 80 dropbacks under pressure per PFF. That TWP rate is the fourth-highest among P5 quarterbacks with 80+ pressured dropbacks.
The Ohio State offensive line has mostly been excellent at keeping the pocket clean for Stroud. They rank 15th in PFF’s pass-blocking metrics and they’re fifth in sack rate allowed. Offensive tackles Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones, both of whom are top-rated NFL prospects, have had particularly excellent seasons.
The onus will be on Georgia to generate pressure on Stroud. The Bulldogs rank just 111th in sack rate this season, but part of that is by design. They don’t blitz often, and they’re typically comfortable sitting back in coverage and forcing opposing quarterbacks to make tight throws.
Still, with star edge rusher Nolan Smith suffering a season-ending torn pec muscle earlier in the year, the Bulldogs are a little light in terms of star pass-rush talent. Future top five NFL pick Jalen Carter will be relied upon to generate pressure, and his 89.9 PFF pass-rush grade was the second-best of all interior defensive linemen in the Power Five.
Jalen Carter will be a nightmare for Ohio State’s offensive line pic.twitter.com/hFGnfR3LAn
— Kendell Hollowell (@KHollowell_) December 28, 2022
Matching Carter will primarily be center Luke Wypler, who ranks second among P5 centers in PFF pass-blocking grade. However, he hasn’t faced a pass-rusher nearly the caliber of Carter, and I’d give the edge to Carter in that matchup as he’s torn through all SEC linemen in his way this season.
Ohio State wide receivers vs. Georgia secondary
If Carter and the pass-rushers aren’t getting home consistently, Georgia will need to start blitzing. They’ll obviously have a plan in place for what that looks like in order to not lose integrity on the back end, but it will rely on their cornerbacks holding up in coverage against Ohio State’s superstar wide receivers.
With Jaxon Smith-Njigba on the sidelines for most of the year, Marvin Harrison Jr. became the team’s WR1 and perhaps the most dominant wide receiver in the country. His 90.0 PFF receiving grade was the best in the P5 and on par with recent stars such as Ja’Marr Chase, CeeDee Lamb, and Tee Higgins.
Marvin Harrison Jr. is the definition of elite pic.twitter.com/U6Dw7RHIcQ
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) November 12, 2022
Harrison Jr. finished the season with 72 catches for 1,157 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he wasn’t alone. Emeka Egbuka joined him with 66 catches for 1,039 yards and nine touchdowns, and they made up perhaps the best wide receiver tandem in the country this season.
Georgia’s secondary was outstanding overall, ranking fourth in pass play EPA and eighth in pass play success rate allowed. Christopher Smith and Kelee Ringo were All-SEC defensive backs, and both started in the championship win over Alabama last year. Ringo had the game-clinching pick six.
However, for all of Georgia’s talent on the back end, they did rank just 44th in passing explosiveness allowed, and were vulnerable to big plays through the air at times. We saw it in the conference championship when Kayshon Boutte, Malik Nabers, and Jaray Jenkins all had touchdown receptions of 30+ yards for LSU.
Ohio State is dealing with injuries in its running back room with TreVeyon Henderson out and Miyan Williams just returning to practice on Thursday. Georgia’s run defense is excellent, anyways, ranking top five in EPA and success rate allowed and second in average line yards.
So while Ohio State ranks seventh in offensive line yards, we might see them go with an ultra-pass heavy attack here. The onus will be on the Georgia defensive backs to hold strong in coverage, and their inconsistency in doing so provides some hope for Ohio State’s passing attack.
Georgia’s pass-catchers vs. Ohio State’s secondary
Ohio State’s secondary was exposed against Michigan in that embarrassing loss earlier this season, and they ranked just 116th in passing explosiveness allowed this year. Some of that can be attributed to the transition to Jim Knowles’s system in his first year in Columbus, but it’s also just a product of a mediocre group of secondary talent.
Georgia is fully capable of using the same formula that Michigan did in that earlier game. The Wolverines committed to the run in the first half and saw the Buckeyes bring more and more defenders closer to the line of scrimmage before slicing them up with explosive passes – they had passing touchdowns of 69, 75, and 45 yards.
The Bulldogs have two aliens at tight end in Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington. Bowers had 52 catches for 726 yards and six touchdowns this year, and he’s arguably the most dynamic tight end in the country. Washington isn’t as frequently used in the passing game, but he’s very capable in his own right.
Late in the 2022 CFP National Championship, #UGA extends its one-point lead over Alabama on a third-down, Stetson Bennett-to-Brock Bowers touchdown covering 15 yards.
For Bowers, a freshman, the 15-yard score is his school-record 13th TD reception of the season. pic.twitter.com/1yPypsWOdr
— Patrick Garbin (@patrickgarbin) August 19, 2022
Ohio State fans will point to the first game of the season when they held Michael Mayer to five catches for 32 yards. However, there’s no denying that Stetson Bennett is far more capable at delivering on-target passes than Tyler Buchner, and Notre Dame didn’t have nearly the caliber of ancillary targets for the Buckeyes to worry about.
Ladd McConkey had an excellent season at wide receiver, finishing with 51 catches for 675 yards and five touchdowns. However, AD Mitchell could be the unexpected hero here. He opened up about how his high-ankle sprain derailed his sophomore season after a standout freshman year, but now healthy, he’s ready to make a big impact.
If the Buckeyes start bringing more defenders into the box to defend against Georgia’s run game, their secondary will be in trouble. Defensive backs Cameron Brown and Denzel Burke will need to be virtually perfect in coverage, and I simply don’t buy that they’re capable of being that consistently enough to fully slow down the Georgia offense. Brown, for example, allowed a perfect passer rating in coverage against Michigan.
Georgia offensive line vs. Ohio State defensive line
A large part of what made Georgia’s offense so successful this season was their dominant offensive line. The Bulldogs tied for second in the FBS with just seven sacks allowed, and Stetson Bennett was only pressured on 17.8% of his drop backs this season. Ohio State will have to find ways to generate pressure in this game to knock Bennett off his game.
Ohio State ranked fifth in PFF’s team pass-rush grades and first in standard downs sack rate. Zach Harrison and J.T. Tuimolau are the players to know here, as they combined for 11 sacks this season. With Ohio State’s difficulties defending explosive passes, those two will need to consistently win on the outside in order for the Buckeyes to generate pressure without sending extra help.
JT Tuimoloau today:
6 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFLs, 2 INT, 1 TD, 1 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 W
— Buckeye Videos+ (@BuckeyeVideos) October 29, 2022
Opposing offenses also had a difficult time stopping Georgia ball-carriers in the backfield as they ranked sixth in havoc allowed. Ohio State didn’t have a defense that lived in the backfield, but they ranked 30th with 82 tackles for loss. The Buckeyes also ranked 9th in opportunity rate allowed and 16th in average line yards, highlighting the improvement upfront in the first year with Knowles as the defensive coordinator.
Jim Knowles called a ton of zero blitz concepts against Michigan, and the defense was burned repeatedly by big plays over the top. While I expect some aggressive play calling on defense from Ohio State, they won’t survive with the same lack of sound coverage on the back end. Therefore, it’s crucial for their defensive line to win against Georgia’s offensive line upfront, and I believe they can do so, particularly through Harrison and Tuimolau.
The Verdict: I’m betting this game in three different ways. It’s a college football Semi Final game – why not? The first is the over like I mentioned above. I think we see both teams get comfortably into the 30s in scoring here, and Georgia will need to keep up with Ohio State’s explosive passing offense in order to emerge victorious.
I’m also taking Ohio State in the first half +3.5. I believe there’s a strong chance that the Buckeyes could actually be leading at halftime here on the back of aggressive first-half play-calling on both sides of the ball. Georgia will send three or four rushers to start, which will give C.J. Stroud time to sit back and complete downfield passes to the team’s dominant wide receivers.
Finally, I’m taking a full unit on Ohio State +6.5 and a half unit on their Moneyline. There’s simply too much value at the current numbers, and I will take advantage here. I’ll be looking for an opportunity for a good price on a Georgia ML live to pair with my Ohio State ML for complete coverage on both sides, but I ultimately believe this is a field goal game, so there’s strong value with the underdog.