The Ohio State football team can beat Georgia by exploiting certain matchups and executing in the following areas in the Peach Bowl.
The College Football Playoff is hours away, and the Ohio State football team is being doubted. The Buckeyes are taking on the defending champion Georgia Bulldogs in Atlanta in the Peach Bowl on Saturday. Hardly anyone is giving Ohio State a chance to win the semifinal because of recency bias.
On November 26th, the last time Ohio State was on a football field, Michigan’s second half avalanche buried the Scarlet and Gray. The Buckeyes rarely get embarrassed at home but found new life when Utah won the PAC-12. Still, many believe nothing will change, and Ohio State will get the doors blown off them because Georgia is a better version of Michigan.
Here are three reasons why that’s not the case and how Ohio State is a problematic matchup for Georgia.
1. Embrace the Underdog Role as the Ohio State football team
If the Buckeyes wish to pull off the upset in the College Football Playoff, they must follow the succeeding recipe. It begins with channeling the outside noise and converting it to belief. Ryan Day’s team is in a unique position where there’s hardly any external pressure on the team to win the Peach Bowl. Rather, the pressure is internal from within the program because of the standard and brand of Ohio State football.
Internal pressure can be redirected as motivation and inspiration to play for one another aggressively with a willingness to open up the playbook and take risks. The players and coaches have quieted the outside noise and made it Ohio Against the World. Historically, the program is excellent as an underdog — 8-2 in its last ten games when doubted. The determining factor for that approach working is execution.
2. X-Factor CJ Stroud; Vertical Passing Game
Georgia does not have many weaknesses to exploit. However, the backend of the Bulldogs’ defense is susceptible to surrendering chunk yardage on downfield shots. Ohio State’s offense is one of the best vertical passing attacks in the nation, which circles back to the need to execute.
Marvin Harrison Jr. is the most supremely talented wide receiver in college football. He should have between 10-15 targets on Saturday, especially in big moments and crucial downs. Georgia will scheme for him, so one of Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming, Cade Stover, and Xavier Johnson needs to step up as a reliable target in addition to Harrison Jr. The script for Stover against Michigan was there, but the plays were not executed.
CJ Stroud is an elite quarterback with a clean pocket to dissect opposing defenses. There will be times on Saturday when he’s afforded that opportunity from his offensive line and others when he’ll face pressure from Jalen Carter and the interior of Georgia’s defensive front. Stroud must be consistently sharp all game and willing to scramble and extend plays with his legs. If the California QB begins running for first downs or 3-4-5 yards instead of forcing a ball downfield, the Buckeyes’ chances increase tremendously.
Extending drives and keeping Georgia’s defense on the field while simultaneously giving his own defense rest is critical for Stroud. One can argue it will be the difference maker in the game, especially if he leads the Buckeyes to a victory.
3. Limit High Impact Plays
Ohio State has not lost back-to-back games in nine years. The defense did not tackle well against Michigan, which translated to big play touchdowns. Jim Knowles has said all year that his scheme gives up between 3-5 chunk plays per game. When they happen, the Silver Bullets have to limit touchdowns, which they could not do in late November.
The same applies to Georgia for the Ohio State defense. If Stetson Bennett finds Brock Bowers or Darnell Washington, the Buckeyes cannot allow those quick momentum-shifting strikes. Expect Knowles to play two high safeties with a mix of zone coverage to limit the big plays and keep everything in front of the defense.
It will be a strength-on-strength matchup when Bennett and company are on the field. Statistically, Ohio State defends running backs and tight ends well in the throw game, which are the strength of Georgia’s passing offense. However, Bowers and Washington are unlike anything the Buckeyes have defended all year. Do not expect them to be shut down because that’s virtually impossible. Instead, Ohio State must limit their impact-plays during the game in order to win.
Kirby Smart’s team is complete, extremely physical, and experienced. But the talking heads are wrong in thinking this will be a blowout, and Ohio State doesn’t stand a chance. The Buckeyes, actually, have a very good chance if they play nine units strong and execute their calculated shots, and CJ Stroud consistently extends plays and drives. Expect a four-quarter chess match on Saturday night in Atlanta between Georgia and Ohio State.