No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs vs. No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes
Line: Georgia -6
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
When: Saturday, 12/31 at 8:00 p.m. ET
No. 1 Georgia will continue its quest for back-to-back national titles when it faces No. 4 Ohio State in the Peach Bowl on Saturday night in the second College Football Playoff semifinal.
The Bulldogs wrapped up a perfect regular season with a blowout win over Georgia Tech before adding their first SEC title since 2017 in a 50-30 blowout against LSU in Atlanta on Dec. 3. They will play their second game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium this month on Saturday against an Ohio State team that snuck into the CFP field following a blowout loss to Michigan on Nov. 26.
Oddsmakers opened Georgia as a 7-point favorite, but the early betting action dropped the line to -6.5, which is where it has remained for the most part until UGA was adjusted to -6 earlier today. Saturday night’s total opened at 61.5 and had been bet up to 63 before going down to 62.5 at most shops earlier today.
The Buckeyes were fortunate to make the field due to USC losing in the Pac-12 title game after they were handled by Michigan to close the regular season for the second year in a row. They were 9-point favorites in their rivalry tilt with the Wolverines, but they were dominated in the second half of a 45-23 final.
“I see a team that realizes that not a lot of people give us a chance,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “We know what we’re in for, we know what the challenge is. Years and seasons and life doesn’t always go the way you plan. It’s about how you react to it and how you respond to it. As much as that (Michigan) loss hurts, we’re not going to overreact to it.”
Outside of the loss to Michigan, Ohio State was dominant this season. The Buckeyes have the second-best scoring offense in the country, averaging 44.5 points per game. Heisman Trophy finalist C.J. Stroud put together a phenomenal junior campaign, throwing for 37 touchdowns and ranking third in the country with an 87.7 QBR.
Leading rusher Miyan Williams is going to play through an ankle injury that kept him off the field for most of the final two weeks of the season, but second-leading rusher TreVeyon Henderson is going to be ‘out’ due to a foot injury. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who ranks eighth nationally with 1,157 receiving yards, and wideout Emeka Egbuka (1,039 yards) are both healthy heading into this matchup, but Jaxon Smith-Njigba is sidelined.
“One of the most talented (receiver) groups we’ve faced,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “When you combine it with the talent of the quarterback, it really grows because he has the ability to get the ball to all parts of the field—vertically, horizontally, side to side.”
Meanwhile, Georgia is trying to become the first team in a decade to win consecutive national championships. The Bulldogs rank second nationally in scoring defense (12.8), while their offense is No. 11 (39.2). Veteran quarterback Stetson Bennett was a Heisman finalist after throwing for 3,425 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions.
He has gone 27-3 during his time as a starting quarterback and has one of the nation’s best weapons in tight end Brock Bowers, who won the John Mackey Award earlier this month. The Bulldogs also have three running backs who have rushed for 500-plus yards and five receivers with at least 300 yards in the passing game. Their offensive line has not allowed a sack in six games and has given up just seven all season.
Veteran offensive lineman Warren McClendon (MCL) and wide receiver Ladd McConkey (knee) are both ‘questionable’ to play on Saturday night. They have had 28 days to get healthy following their SEC title win, and they both hinted at being available in their respective media sessions earlier this week. Georgia is facing an Ohio State defense that allowed 29.7 points per game in its last three games.
The Buckeyes have rarely been underdogs in recent years, but they have gone 16-4 against the spread in their last 20 games as underdogs. They only covered the spread once in their final five games of the regular season, while Georgia is 8-2 ATS in their last 10 December games.
The Bulldogs have gone ‘under’ in 10 of their last 15 games, although they have gone ‘over’ in four of their last six games as favorites. Ohio State has cashed the ‘over’ in nine of its last 10 contests.
The pick: Georgia -6
There’s certainly a chance that this line winds up looking like an overreaction to Ohio State’s second half against Michigan, but I think the most likely scenario is Georgia winning by double digits. Ohio State only faced one team that finished the year in the top 10 and just three ranked opponents overall this season, getting outclassed by the Wolverines. Georgia showed up with its best performances against the best teams on its schedule, blowing out Oregon, Tennessee and LSU. That seems to be a common trend with championship teams, so I’m not going to fault the Bulldogs for some less-than-impressive showings against some mediocre opponents on their schedule. They are going to have an advantage on the line of scrimmage and have championship pedigree to rely on, while Ohio State was overvalued in the betting market down the stretch and has only covered the spread twice in its last eight games against SEC teams.