The last bowl game of the season before the national championship game will be the Allstate Sugar Bowl between the no. 5 Georgia Bulldogs and no. 15 Texas Longhorns. Kickoff is set for 8:45 EST on Tuesday, January 1, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Fans can catch all the action on ESPN.
According to this year’s bowl game betting odds, the Bulldogs are favored by 10.5 points over Texas. The over/under for the game is set at 58 points.
Georgia was painfully close to reaching the College Football Playoff for the second straight season. The Bulldogs had a two-touchdown lead over Alabama midway through the 3rd quarter of the SEC Championship Game. But they couldn’t hold the lead and capture their second straight conference title. As a result, the Bulldogs and their 11-2 record were edged out by Oklahoma for the final spot in the CFP. It’s now up to Kirby Smart and Georgia to put that behind them and focus on their first Sugar Bowl appearance since the 2007 season.
Of course, Texas also knows a thing or two about getting edged out by Oklahoma. After beating the Sooners during the regular season, the Longhorns were bested by Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game. Of course, with a 9-4 record, Texas is no doubt thrilled to be playing in the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 1995. With a win, the Longhorns will have their first 10-win season since 2009. A win would also be another big step forward to close out Tom Herman’s second season in Austin.
Despite the fact that both are proud and storied programs, Georgia and Texas haven’t met since the 1984 Cotton Bowl Classic. The Bulldogs won that game 10-9. However, Texas won their three previous meetings with Georgia, all of which took place prior to 1960. In short, seeing these two teams on the same field in a major bowl game is a long time coming.
This game is all about Georgia’s mindset. If they can’t shake off their disappointment from missing the playoff, the Longhorns are good enough to take advantage. However, if the Bulldogs are angry and eager to prove they should have been in the top-4, they have a chance to run Texas off the field. I’ll take my chances with the latter and look for Georgia to win by a couple of touchdowns and cover the spread.
Texas is a good team, but they’re not a great team. If you take away their win over Oklahoma during the regular season, their resume is a little short on impressive wins. There are reasons why they fell short in games against Oklahoma State and West Virginia. I think Georgia is capable of exploiting those weaknesses better than most Big 12 teams.
The problems for the Longhorns begin on offense. Texas averaged a measly 3.8 yards per rush this season. With a pair of talented backs in Tre Watson and Keaontay Ingram, not to mention a mobile quarterback in Sam Ehlinger, averaging less than four yards per carry is downright awful. It’s not as if the Big 12 is littered with quality defenses. There are a few, but not enough to hold the Longhorns to such a modest rushing total. Against a Georgia defense that did well to reload the talent in their front-7 after last season, I’m not sure I see Texas getting anything substantial out of their rushing attack in this game.
While Ehlinger got by without a top-flight running game to support him this season, surviving that way against Georgia is a little different. The Bulldogs limited opponents to around 180 yards per game passing and less than six yards per attempt this season. They also held six of the 10 bowl teams they played under 20 points, so they brought it defensively against quality competition. For a Texas team that failed to reach 30 points six times this year, I have serious concerns about how many points the Longhorns will manage in this game.
If Texas wants to stay within striking distance, their defense will need to play their best game of the season. In their seven games against bowl teams, the Longhorns gave up nearly 30 points per game. Mixed in with a few solid outings were several games in which the Texas defense completely failed to contain a high-powered offense, so the odds of the Longhorns playing like an elite defense against Georgia aren’t great.
To be fair, the Longhorns were good against the run all season, allowing less than four yards per carry. On the other hand, it’s safe to say they didn’t face a team that can run the ball like Georgia. Even against mighty Alabama, the tandem of D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield put in a decent day. Against Texas, I expect those two to be at their best, especially after both averaged better than six yards per carry during the season.
As long as the Bulldogs can run the ball consistently, things should open up for Jake Fromm, who’s coming off a 300-yard, three-touchdown performance against Alabama. Based on that performance, not to mention the poise and accuracy he showed all season, Fromm has a chance to carve up a Texas defense that isn’t accustomed to facing teams with as much balance between the run and pass as Georgia.
Again, this game is all about Georgia’s attitude. They are easily the better team in this game. As long as they are motivated to play, they should be able to handle Texas. It may not be a full-scale blowout, but I expect the Bulldogs to win this game comfortably and cover the spread with ease.