The New Year’s Day bowl schedule comes to an end with the Allstate Sugar Bowl between the no. 5 Georgia Bulldogs of the SEC and the no. 7 Baylor Bears of the Big 12. Game time is set for 8:45 EST on Wednesday, January 1 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Georgia opened favored by 7.5 points, although the Bulldogs are now listed as 6-point favorites. The over/under for the game is set at 41.5 points. Click here to check out a full list of this year’s bowl game betting odds and game previews for each game.
Baylor may have had the most impressive and surprising season of any team in the country. Keep in mind the Bears went 1-11 two years ago in Matt Rhule’s first season in Waco. Baylor took a big step forward last year, going 7-6 and winning the Texas Bowl. Somehow, the Bears took another monumental leap forward this season, finishing the year 11-2 and in the top-10.
Some may criticize Baylor’s schedule, especially with the Bears winning so many close games during a down year for the Big 12. However, the only team to beat Baylor this year was Oklahoma, doing so twice in a pair of close games. In the end, the Bears were only a couple of touchdowns away from potentially being undefeated and playing in the College Football Playoff. Baylor is now in a bowl game for the ninth time in the last 10 years.
Meanwhile, it’s a case of deja vu for Georgia. Last year, the Bulldogs lost in the SEC Championship Game and received a consolation invitation to the Super Bowl after being left out of the CFP. Unfortunately for Kirby Smart’s team, this season played out in a similar fashion. The Bulldogs won the SEC East for the third straight season, only to get crushed by LSU in the SEC title game, causing them to fall out of the top-4.
The Bulldogs will now look to avoid the same fate as last season when they lost to Texas in the Sugar Bowl despite being heavily favored. Despite that loss, Georgia has a great bowl history. Including the CFP two years ago, Georgia has been to a bowl game every year since 1997, holding a 16-7 record during that time.
This will be the fifth all-time meeting between Georgia and Baylor. All four previous games have taken place in Athens and been won by the Bulldogs, with the most recent game coming in 1989, making this the first Baylor-Georgia game in 30 years.
With the line of this game dropping below a touchdown, I feel comfortable laying down the points and taking Georgia to cover. Obviously, the Bulldogs laying an egg in last year’s Sugar Bowl coming off a loss in the SEC title game is a little concerning. But I don’t think Smart will allow that to happen two years in a row. I’ll trust Georgia to win by a touchdown and cover.
It’s no secret that Georgia wants to run the ball, and when they do so effectively, they’re tough to beat. D’Andre Swift is a handful for any defense, gaining more than six yards per carry this season. But even Georgia’s backup running backs are capable of producing behind a strong offensive line.
Baylor, meanwhile, didn’t face too many pro-style offenses that want to run the ball downhill. This will be a new challenge for them. When the Bears faced an elite rushing team in Oklahoma State, they gave up 281 rushing yards and three touchdowns. That doesn’t make me confident about the Baylor defense slowing down Swift and the Georgia rushing attack.
It’s also important not to overlook Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. He had some rough games late in the year, especially against LSU in the SEC title game. However, there are few quarterbacks in the country with more experience. Even if his completion percentage isn’t ideal, Fromm avoids mistakes and won’t hurt his team. The Bulldogs also have a young group of receivers who should benefit from additional practice time leading up to the bowl game.
On the other side of the ball, the Baylor offense will have to face one of the best defenses they’ve seen all year. The Bears were efficient and balanced offensively this year, but not necessarily explosive. I’m not sure if the Baylor offense will be able to find consistent success against the Georgia defense. Until the SEC Championship Game, no team scored more than 17 points Georgia in regulation. The likes of Notre Dame, Florida, and Auburn all failed to top that point total, so I wouldn’t bet on Baylor be able to do it either.
To be honest, Georgia’s motivation after last year’s disappointing effort in the Sugar Bowl is my only question. During the season, the Bulldogs beat eight bowl-eligible teams, all by at least six points. If both teams play their best game, I’m confident that Georgia will win and cover.