As of Thursday morning, most books had Georgia (13-0 straight up, 7-6 against the spread) listed as a 6.5-point favorite vs. Ohio St. in the College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year’s Eve at Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Kirby Smart’s team has won 12 of its 13 games by double-digit margins this year. The Bulldogs have only been single-digit favorites once, covering the number in a 27-13 win over Tennessee as 9.5-point home ‘chalk.’
Has UGA had a couple of duds this season? Yes, it wasn’t very motivated in a 33-0 win over Samford as a 53-point home favorite in Week 2. Likewise, the Dawgs allowed Kent St. to hang around for three quarters before pulling away for a 39-22 win as 44-point home favorites.
The biggest egg came the following week at Missouri on Oct. 1. The Tigers led nearly the entire game and had multiple double-digit advantages before UGA rallied to capture a 26-22 victory.
However, Smart’s team has showed up with authority in all of its big games. Before Oregon went on an eight-game winning streak with seven victories by double-digit margins, the Ducks took a backyard assbeating from Georgia by a 49-3 score in the season opener.
When the Bulldogs went to Columbia to face South Carolina in front of a raucous crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium on Sept. 17, they absolutely bludgeoned the Gamecocks in a 48-7 pimpslap. In mid-October, Georgia trounced Auburn 42-10 and blasted Vanderbilt, 55-0.
In its annual showdown with Florida in Jacksonville on Oct. 29, UGA raced out to a 21-0 lead it was 28-3 at halftime. Although the Gators fought back and made it a one-possession game with 17 unanswered points in the first 12 minutes of the third quarter, the Bulldogs responded with back-to-back touchdown drives to pull away for a 42-20 win.
In a vintage letdown scenario after the win over Tennessee (and two weeks after beating arch-rival UF), Georgia went into Starkville and collected a 45-19 win. Then at the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta last week, the Bulldogs took a 35-7 lead on LSU late in the second quarter en route to a 50-30 win.
Ohio St. (11-1 SU, 5-6-1 ATS) is currently mired in a 1-4 ATS slump. The Buckeyes trailed at Penn St. with nine minutes left before pulling away for a 44-31 win. Northwestern finished the season on an 11-game losing streak, but Ryan Day’s team didn’t take its first lead over the Wildcats until midway through the third quarter in Evanston on Nov. 5. OSU won 21-7 thanks to a Miyan Williams two-yard touchdown run with 4:21 remaining.
In a Nov. 19 game at Maryland, the Terrapins were only down by three points when the Buckeyes got a field goal with 42 ticks left to extend their lead to 36-30. They won 43-30 thanks to a defensive TD with nine seconds remaining.
Then in the regular-season finale at home as a nine-point favorite, Ohio St. lost to Michigan for a second straight year by double digits. The Wolverines went into Columbus and captured a 45-23 win.
Ohio St.’s defense has only faced three offenses with a pulse. Those opponents were Penn St., Maryland and Michigan. The Nittany Lions, Terrapins and Wolverines scored 31, 30 and 45 points, respectively. And, lest we forget, Michigan was without its best offensive weapon, RB Blake Corum, for all but the opening possession of the game.
Ohio St. did get a cute 31-26 win over Bobby Petrino, Ryan Mallett and Arkansas at the Sugar Bowl in 2010. In 2014, the Buckeyes beat Nick Saban’s Alabama team 42-35 in the CFP semifinals on their way to winning their most recent national championship.
However, Ohio St. has lost 11 of 13 games against SEC opponents in the postseason. We aren’t counting 1986 and 1998 bowl wins over Texas A&M because the Aggies didn’t join the SEC until 2012, but we are counting the win over the Razorbacks 12 years ago even though that victory was vacated by the NCAA.
In Ohio St.’s 11 losses to SEC foes in bowl games, six of the defeats have been by margins of 14 points or more. When the Buckeyes faced Florida in the 2006 BCS Championship Game, they were limited to 82 yards of total offense and lost 41-14.
One year later at the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans, OSU lost 38-24 to LSU. Just two years ago, Alabama trounced the Buckeyes by a 52-24 count in the CFP finals.
Before that win by ‘Bama in blowout fashion, I went on more than a half-dozen radio shows and said that the Crimson Tide would absolutely destroy the Buckeyes. Over the next three weeks, I’ll be doing to the exact same thing in discussing the looming beatdown Ohio St. fans know they’re going to take from Georgia.
This single-digit number that’s somehow less than seven is an absolute gift. The moment I saw the number, I immediately placed my largest wager of the season on the Bulldogs.
When the adjusted numbers — such as UGA -14.5 for a +220-ish payout and/or UGA -17.5 for a +300 return, etc. — come out later this month, I’ll be betting a few of those, too.
This is a complete mismatch, and that would be the case regardless of where the game was played. The fact that it’s in Atlanta, where UGA has already beaten Oregon and LSU by a combined score of 99-33 this year, isn’t even really a part of our equation here, but it sure as hell doesn’t hurt our cause.
If you haven’t made it to the window yet, what are you waiting for? Georgia is going to win by at least three TDs and probably more.
Ohio St. 20