Here is what I’m NOT worried about as we face that School Up North:
1) For all the talk about the Ohio State passing game, it really boils down to just a handful of players. Which should make it easier on the Bulldog secondary. All those blowout wins, facing inferior B1G team, you’d think they would have a bevy of pass-catchers with gaudy numbers. Not so. Over the 12 game season (because they weren’t eligible for their conference championship), only 5 times did 8 different receivers catch a pass. Georgia had 9 or more different receivers in the first 7 games. Even with the Georgia offense struggling, and eking out close wins in low-scoring affairs, Monken is still able to dial up completions to many more receivers (9 vs. Kent State, 10 vs. Missouri). And on the season, only 9 silver helmets caught more than 5 balls in total (Georgia had 13 different receivers with 5 or more receptions).
2) The Buckeyes gave up 28 touchdowns and 11 field goals this season. the Bulldog defense surrendered a total of 17 touch downs and 17 field goals.
In only one game did OSU prevent the opponent from crossing the goal line – Arkansas State. Georgia successfully defended its end zone 5 times. And in 7 of the 13 games, Georgia allowed 1 or fewer total scores by the opponent. Ohio State achieved that once all season – and that was Northwestern. In horrible rainy and windy conditions. We should be able to run our offense, and look forward to points on the scoreboard.
3) Ohio State does have a nice running game by any conceivable measure. Plenty of attempts, lots of yards, a few dozen scores. All signs point to a team that can run the ball on any defense. But in a game they won going away (vs. Iowa), the Buckeyes only gained 66 yards on 30 attempts. Now Iowa has a top 15 rushing defense, and they are historically good at shutting down a ground game. But you know who else is good at shutting down a ground game? Your SEC Champion and defending National Champion Georgia Bulldogs.
They are down a major contributor in Junior RB TreVeyon Henderson, who underwent surgery earlier this month and will miss the playoffs. And if you’re into rumours, leading RB Miyan Williams was absent from practice this week and did not attend the scheduled press interview session. I don’t think it will, but if this makes Ohio State one-dimensional... yeah, I’ll take that.
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch. So here’s what does worry me about facing the school that was once laughably proud to claim Urban Meyer as both a coach and alumnus:
1) Ohio State’s offense can move the ball on anybody: #7 in total offense, 3,500 passing yards, over 14 yards per completion, etc. But they haven’t faced quite the defense they will see Saturday night. And with Kirby Smart’s particular brand of bend but don’t break, it could come down to the red zone. OSU has 55 scores in 58 attempts, 75% of the time getting into the end zone. And that is in only 12 games. Because, you know, Ohio State did not play in their conference championship game. But moving on, the Georgia defense saw 28 red zone visits by opponents, and allowed 17 scores of which only 9 were touchdowns (less than a third).
So who is going to win the battle of the red zone? The third ranked red zone offense in Scarlet and Grey? Or the #1 red zone defense in Red and Black?
2) So even if Georgia is the winner down close to the goal line, what else do the Buckeyes have up their sleeve? I’ll tell you - The Big Pass Play. OSU had passing touchdowns of 30 yards or more 14 times in 12 games. Of the 38 total receiving touchdowns, a third of them were greater than 30 yards.
They racked up more passing touchdowns in their first 6 games than Georgia had all season. OSU had two games with 5 passing touchdowns, and two games with 6. And after all, of all the teams we faced with their explosive passing offenses, CJ Stroud is the only quarterback to finish higher than Stetson Bennett IV for the Heisman Trophy. And Stroud is pretty good under pressure – 2nd in the nation facing a blitz with a 67% completion rate. Throwing to Buckeye wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. is, frankly, a nightmare for any defensive back.
This is also coming off the worst Georgia pass defensive performance (LSU) since the 2021 SEC Championship Game. It does remind one of facing the Tennessee offense with a healthy Hendon Hooker, so there is some precedent, and some hope. But it is still a scary thing to face and will require our boys to focus and execute.
3) Nothing to lose. That is a recurring theme when facing the current behemoth Kirby Smart has molded in the Classic City. Georgia is usually favored, and usually heavily, even against stout competition. So these overmatched opponents have nothing to lose – they have been told they probably will lose. But this time it’s different.
This time it’s a coach, and a quarterback, who have been labeled as unable to win the big game. I’m sure that’s mostly because OSU head coach Ryan Day is 1-2 against Michigan, CJ Stroud is 0-2, and they haven’t even been able to play in the conference championship together. Ohio State, led by these two, were gifted an unexpected chance by receiving a playoff berth. And they’ve been resting and plotting since Thanksgiving to seize that chance, play loose, and throw everything against the wall. Because they have nothing to lose. And teams like this, with a loaded roster of future Sunday regulars, are dangerous.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the Bulldogs of Georgia versus the Buckeyes of Ohio State. And as always…