Georgia begins its title defense in one of Week 1’s premier games, as the 3rd-ranked Bulldogs host No. 11 Oregon on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
As if Georgia’s first game back in their home state since winning a championship isn’t enough of a storyline, new Oregon coach Dan Lanning was the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator last season. Lanning will need to engineer a major upset if he wants to start his Ducks tenure with a win.
Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Saturday’s matchup in Atlanta.
Oregon vs. Georgia Odds
Georgia enters as the overwhelming favorite at -850 on the moneyline, with the over/under set at 53.5 points. The Bulldogs are 16.5-point favorites, as oddsmakers expect this to be more than a typical Georgia defensive battle of the past.
Oregon vs. Georgia Prediction & Pick
My pick: Oregon +16.5, Under 53.5 Points
Under 53.5 points is an attractive pick here. Georgia lost plenty of talent on both sides of the ball to the NFL, but Kirby Smart has some outstanding players returning and has proven he can replenish talent. While the defense isn’t expected to have as historic of a year as it did in 2021, the Bulldogs still have three projected first-round picks in Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith, and Kelee Ringo. It wouldn’t surprise me if the defense is a step ahead of the offense, which is what we saw last season when Georgia opened the year with a 10-3 win over Clemson.
PFN Top 100 CFB players for 2022:
5) Jalen Carter, DT, @GeorgiaFootball
Standing 6'3, 300 pounds, you better believe that Jalen Carter is stronger, faster, more athletic, larger, more dominant, and smarter than you.pic.twitter.com/ZBUfSUYQ3S
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) August 25, 2022
Even after helping the Bulldogs win a title, Stetson Bennett is a limited quarterback. The same can be said for Bo Nix, who is expected to start for Oregon after transferring from Auburn. With a defensive-minded head coach and two big-time defensive standouts in Noah Sewell and Christian Gonzalez, I expect the Ducks’ defense to shine more than its offense.
Georgia should certainly win this one, but a low-scoring affair might allow Oregon to cover +16.5.
Oregon vs. Georgia Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Oregon vs Georgia below.
Stetson Bennett vs Bo Nix
Both quarterbacks in this game have taken their share of criticism from SEC fans. Stetson Bennett, while very much imperfect, proved doubters wrong by guiding Georgia to a national title. Bo Nix, on the other hand, was far too inconsistent at Auburn and will now try his hand in the pacific northwest.
If Nix has anything going for him, it’s experience and familiarity. Nix knows SEC defenses well and certainly knows Georgia’s defense, even if the man who coordinated the defense he faced last season is now his head coach at Oregon. That doesn’t mean we’re going to see Nix come into Atlanta and seriously threaten Georgia, but it may give Oregon’s offense an advantage others in the Pac-12 wouldn’t have.
Can Oregon Establish the Run Game
Dan Lanning’s familiarity with Georgia will also be useful for the Ducks, but you could say the same about Kirby Smart’s familiarity with Lanning. While talent should ultimately prevail in this game, these Georgia connections could allow Oregon to cover a spread that spans more than two touchdowns.
Both of these offenses lost the bulk of their production on the ground from last season. Georgia tends to operate with a committee in the backfield, but much of Oregon’s success will depend on how sophomore Byron Cardwell performs after averaging 6.8 yards/carry in limited action last year.
If Cardwell can get something going on the ground and take the pressure off of Bo Nix, this game can stay competitive into the second half. If not, I’m not sure I trust Nix and an uninspiring group of receivers to threaten Georgia in any way. The Ducks do have offensive line experience on their side: every projected starter is a fourth or fifth-year player. That’s key against such a powerful front seven.
At the end of the day, the team with far more talent (and the crowd advantage) is probably the one that comes out on top. Georgia’s defense is still impressive, and Bennett gives the offense some continuity after improving throughout last season. This just might be a slightly quieter, more defense-driven game than oddsmakers are anticipating.
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