Buckeyes looking to wreak CFP havoc. 5 things to know about OSU's Peach Bowl matchup with Georgia
The Ohio State Buckeyes are back where they wanted to be — well, more or less. There are no bad spots in the 4-team College Football Playoff field, but admittedly, the Buckeyes might have preferred not to face Georgia. But here they are anyway, still alive for the national title, set to face the Bulldogs in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Here are 5 things to know about the matchup.
1) Bowl history
It’s OSU’s 5th CFP berth, and the Buckeyes are 3-3 so far. But it’s their first trip to the Peach Bowl. While OSU has made appearances in the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, Citrus, Outback, Cotton, Holiday, Liberty, Orange, Gator and Alamo bowls, this is a new experience for the program. Ohio State had made 9 Fiesta Bowl appearances, but with TCU nabbing the No. 3 spot, the Buckeyes will head to Atlanta for an 8 p.m. start on Dec. 31.
2) Series history
OSU is 0-1 all-time against Georgia, with the only previous meeting a 21-14 Georgia win in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day, 1993. The No. 8 Bulldogs bested the No. 15 Buckeyes, with Georgia’s backfield featuring QB Eric Zeier and RB Garrison Hearst.
The teams were scheduled to play a home-and-home in 2020 and 2021, but it was a casualty of a Big Ten/Pac 12 scheduling agreement that caused the Buckeyes to pull out of the games back in 2012. The teams have a new agreement to play a home-and-home in 2030 and 2031.
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Of course, the more recent and direct connection between the programs is Justin Fields, who played sparingly as a recruit at Georgia in 2018 before transferring to Ohio State and leading OSU to a 20-2 mark in 2 years as a starter. Fields threw 4 touchdowns at Georgia and 63 more as a Buckeye.
3) The coaching matchup
Kirby Smart has faced the Buckeyes once before, and it’s not a positive CFP memory for the Georgia head coach. The 2014 OSU squad reached the Sugar Bowl against Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide, which included Smart as defensive coordinator. Ohio State, with Cardale Jones at quarterback, shredded Smart’s defense, piling up 42 points and 537 yards. OSU is 2-6 against SEC opponents in bowls in the 2000s, with the only other win a vacated Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas following the 2010 season.
4) Mini scouting report
It’s not as if these teams are strangers, but a few early thoughts stand out.
Georgia QB Stetson Bennett is touted as a dark horse Heisman candidate after a season with 3,425 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. UGA has 3 rushers with over 500 yards for the season and a pair of 50-catch receivers (including all-everything TE Brock Bowers).
Allowing 30 points and 502 passing yards to LSU in the SEC title game drops the Bulldogs to 2nd in the nation in scoring defense and 9th in yardage allowed. That said, LSU’s 500+ passing yards are miles ahead of the 271 that were the most UGA had allowed previously this season in a game. UGA’s defense has allowed just 42 plays of 20+ yards all season, exactly the same as Ohio State’s defense.
5) Upset chances
Five of the 8 CFP fields have included at least 1 semifinal in which the lower seed pulled an upset. And actually, the 3 times that both No. 1 and No. 2 advanced, No. 2 then pulled the upset for the title. So upsets certainly happen in the Playoff. 2017’s Playoff included both No. 3 and No. 4 winning their semifinal matchups … and No. 4 then beating No. 3 for the title.
But 2014 will be Ohio State’s template for this postseason. Amidst significant controversy, Ohio State was the last team in the initial CFP field but then beat No. 1 and No. 2 to win the inaugural CFP national championship. So not only can it be done, but the Buckeyes can do it. Now, can they do it again? With Michigan as a No. 2? Could be the perfect end to an almost perfect OSU season.