It was a long and somewhat relaxing holiday break, but we were back in a big way this weekend taking in a combined 24 hours of football action between the RedZone finale as well as some great New Years Day Bowl Games.
It would be hard for any game this weekend, or all year for that matter to top Monday’s Rose Bowl between Georgia and Oklahoma. People expected a barnburner of a game between the two CFB powerhouses who before yesterday had never squared off in the long history of their programs; but holy shit. What a ballgame. In the end, #3 UGA booked its ticket to the national title game thanks to a blocked field goal and a walk-off TD run in the 2nd Overtime. We knew Georgia could run the football, but we weren’t fully aware that Oklahoma did not know how to tackle.
Georgia’s star studded backfield of Nick Chubb and Sony Michele sliced right through the Sooners all night long to the tune of 317 Yards and 5 TDs. Tough to win a game when you give up 54 points, but Baker Mayfield almost pulled it off, playing especially well in the first half. #6 came out slinging, putting up 31 first half points on one of the best defenses in America. After an inexcusable squib by OU allowed UGA to cut the lead to 14, Kirby Smart out-adjusted and completely out-classed the Sooner sideline during the halftime break. Adjustments allowed the Dawgs to come out and dominate the 3rd quarter of action. Mayfield went from looking like he was playing 7 on 7s, to running for his life as UGA quickly came back and took control of the game.
Baker regained his competence in the 4th with a monster 90 yard drive to tie it up, and then it was OU’s defense that made a play to take the lead down the stretch. But, once again their cupcake big 12 defense could not stop 19 year old Freshman QB Jake Fromm from tying the game up with a minute to play. With the game knotted at 45, Baker Mayfield had the opportunity of a lifetime, with 55 tics and 3 timeouts remaining. The Heisman trophy winner couldn’t get the job done, as the Sooner drive stalled before midfield leading to OT. He also failed to get the ball into the end zone in 2 overtime possessions which start from the 25 yard line, and the rest is history. Once you fail to get points on the board in the top half of a college football OT, you can kiss your chances goodbye. Sony Michele scampered for 20 into the end zone for his 3rd score to ice the game, and cover the 3 point number for Georgia. A bad beat for all of us who trusted Baker.
It was an instant classic and maybe the best college football game I can ever remember watching. It had twists and turns, lead changes, big plays from star players, and 2 overtimes. The overtimes themselves were not as exciting as regulation, but that doesn’t take away from how great the 4 hours of action was.
For those who needed a way to wind down after that excitement, there was no better way than to keep ESPN rolling for the Bama-Clemson trilogy. Talk about a snooze-fest. My money was on Bama here, because it took an all-time performance from Deshaun Watson last year to knock off the Tide, and he was standing on the sidelines with a guest-pass around his neck for this one. Dabo and the Tigers had to rely on Freshman QB Kelly Bryant, who had shown a complete lack of ability to throw the football all season long. Sure he has been great with his feet, but none of that success came against a defense of Alabama’s caliber.
Jalen Hurts did exactly what he always does for Saban, and that is enough to win football games. Despite the negative attention he receives, Hurts is 27-2 as a starter, and continues to find ways to make winning plays. His running ability combined with the plethora of 5 star backs Bama struts out there was more than enough to wear down Clemson over the course of the game. The Tigers hung tough for a while, but a pair of Bryant interceptions and a stretch of 14 points in 13 seconds put this game away.
With that, we get something that many people were afraid of and others excited for; an all SEC title bout. Few have a bigger issue with that than Ohio State and UCF fans after watching the Bowl Season unfold. The Buckeyes who won the Big 10 watched their conference go nearly perfect in postseason play, and capped their season off with a convincing victory over USC in the Cotton Bowl. Similarly, undefeated UCF knocked off Auburn in the Peach Bowl, the same team that beat both Title game participants handily this season.
While those squads and their fan bases may have some gripes, it is hard to argue with a Bama-Georgia final. The SEC powerhouses have not faced off this year, and this game has tons of star-power and story lines, few more intriguing than Nick Saban vs another former assistant. Nick is 11-0 all time against his ex-assistant coaches, but has yet to go up against one with all of the marbles on the line. Kirby Smart’s bunch looks like they might be the most well-rounded team in the country, especially if Jake Fromm can carry over his level of play from Monday evening. Call him a game manager, but Fromm was lights out against OU and has a major weapon out wide with Javon Wims to go along with his all world backfield.
While Bama’s defense is a different animal than Oklahoma’s, it isn’t unlike anything Georgia has seen navigating through the SEC all year. Health will be a big factor, with Bama suffering a few more injuries to key linebackers last night. Alabama will need all the help they can get, especially at that spot on the field if they want to slow Michel and Chubb.
If Bama pulls it out, it will be impossible not to put Nick Saban in a class by himself among Elite College football coaches all-time. The run he is on with Bama is historic and unprecedented and shows no signs of slowing down. He recruits like Calipari, and coaches like Belichick and there is no one on his level. Kirby Smart knows better than anyone how full his hands are, but we will see if he can whip up a game-plan to pull the upset. Despite being the higher ranked team, UGA opens the week as 4.5 dogs in Vegas. That is despite this game taking place just an hour from Athens, in the new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
No one can feel good picking against Saban, but to me as of right now, Georgia is the better football team, and they are getting points in their home state. This may change throughout the course of the week, but for now, my heart and my head is siding with the Dawgs. Should be a great weekend of football, and Lord knows there are only a few of those remaining.