It’s an easy punchline given the Big 12’s video-game like scores and offensive outputs, but yes, Texas, as with any team that Georgia would face from its conference, has a defensive group that the Dawgs will have to contend with during the Sugar Bowl.
This unit, like many of its Big 12 contemporaries, is defined different than its units from the conferences previous life in the Big 8 or old Southwest Conference.
Paired with a potent enough offense, defenses like that of Texas of Oklahoma need to make a key stop at the right time, usually late in the game, to help seal a win. No finer example is shown than in the Red River Rivalry where the Sooners put up a lot of point and yards...but Texas got a defensive stop when it needed it in a 48-45 win.
The Longhorns have been up and down this year. At times, they have shown strides as a unit with Todd Orlando having come aboard to improve his group’s play.
Texas is ranked near the top of the conference for the most part - third in total defense at 401` yards per game, fourth in pass efficiency (135.0) and 135.9 yards per game placing them second in run defense. By comparison, that 401-yard average ranks Texas 68th nationally and three SEC teams, including Georgia are among the nation’s top 15 teams in scoring defense.
Look for Georgia to confront Texas up front head-on and take over the game in the trenches and prevent the Longhorns from needing that one crucial stop late in the game to have a chance to win.
The other half of that is how the Longhorns have played against top of the line offenses. A two-week stretch left a particularly sour taste in the collective mouths of the Longhorn defense, giving up more than 500 yards to Texas Tech and West Virginia.
Individually, the player that Sam Pittman’s group up front will have to account for is linebacker Gary Johnson. He has found multiple ways to make life hard for opposing offenses, ranking in the conference’s top ten in tackles (7.1 per game) and fifth and tackles for a loss with 15.5 overall.
Up front, Georgia will need to neutralize Charles Omenihu, who has found success pressuring the quarterback and shedding blocks inside with 16 tackles for a loss, third in the Big 12.
As with any Big 12 defensive secondary, this quick group will be well-tested from playing offenses forcing its safeties to cover lots of ground.
But as we saw in the Orange Bowl, being testes is one thing, being capable of making plays is another for a group led by Kris Boyd who has defending 17 passes this season and the ball-hawking Caden Sterns with four picks this year already as the freshman has been as good as advertised to this point.