Previewing the Peach Bowl: Ohio State vs. Georgia
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This is the preview for the Peach Bowl:
Date: Saturday, December 31, 8:00 p.m. ET
Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, GA)
Betting splits: 90%of handle, 82% of bets on Georgia -6.5
For much of the season, Ohio State was considered one of the three strongest teams in the nation, along with Alabama and Georgia. An embarrassing fourth quarter in an ugly 45-23 loss to Michigan on November 26 has turned the Buckeyes into underdogs. The dog role is being embraced by quarterback C.J. Stroud and his teammates as they prepare to face the Bulldogs, the defending national champions, in their backyard in Atlanta.
Georgia, a 6.5-point favorite, is 31-1 in its past 32 games. Ohio State has been favored in 25 consecutive games since getting pounded 52-24 by the Crimson Tide in the national title game after the 2020 season. The Buckeyes, 3-2 as dogs in the playoffs, were the No. 4 seed in 2014 when they rolled over Alabama in a semifinal on the way to the national title. History and trends aside, Ohio State is probably fortunate to be in the playoff field and is playing with house money, so that aspect typically makes an underdog dangerous.
Stetson Bennett was viewed as a game manager when he initially became Georgia’s starting quarterback, but he has developed into more of a playmaker and had a breakthrough performance in last year’s championship game against Alabama. In the SEC title game in early December, Bennett passed for 274 yards and four touchdowns without an interception as the Bulldogs blew away LSU, 50-30. Georgia rushed for 255 yards on 44 carries in that game, and its defense allowed only 47 rushing yards. The Buckeyes, exposed as too soft defensively in their past two losses to the Wolverines, need to prove they can contain the run.
Stroud should have success through the air. LSU quarterbacks Jayden Daniels and Garrett Nussmeier combined for 502 passing yards against Georgia in the SEC title game. Stroud has completed 66% of his passes with 37 touchdowns and six picks this season, and Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka are big-time wideouts. The Buckeyes will be without NFL prospect Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who opted out yet had only five receptions in an injury-shortened season, and running back TreVeyon Henderson. Foot surgery will sideline Henderson, who is a significant loss.
Georgia was not overly impressive in a few games, notably against Georgia Tech, Kentucky and Missouri, and coach Kirby Smart tends to make questionable game-management decisions. Allowed a second chance after the flop against Michigan, Ohio State coach Ryan Day can operate under less pressure, and Stroud seems ready for the opportunity. The Buckeyes are probably the play, but wait to see if the line hits +7 again or buy the half-point from 6.5. Expect the dog to at least put a scare into the Bulldogs.
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