The Peach Bowl matchup between No. 1 Georgia and No. 4 Ohio State at Mercedes-Benz Stadium is set to be a thrilling showdown. Let’s dive into the key details of this highly anticipated game.
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When Georgia has the ball
Compared to their national championship team last year, Georgia boasts a more balanced offensive attack. They excel in both rushing and passing, with quarterback Stetson Bennett having a standout season. Bennett achieved career highs in completion percentage (68.1%) and passing yards (3,425), placing him fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Georgia’s backfield is also formidable, with multiple players contributing rushing touchdowns and a total of 533 yards on the ground. However, there are concerns about the availability of top receiver Ladd McConkey and starting right tackle Warren McClendon, both of whom suffered knee injuries in the SEC Championship game. On the defensive side, Ohio State has shown vulnerability against big plays, allowing Michigan to score five touchdowns of 45 yards or longer and conceding over 400 yards to Maryland in their previous game. Ohio State must tighten their defense to have any chance of upsetting Georgia.
Image: Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) scrambles. (AP Photo)
When Ohio State has the ball
Georgia’s passing defense, ranked 49th in the country, presents an opportunity for Ohio State. However, Ohio State’s success will depend heavily on their ability to contend with Georgia’s fearsome front seven, led by defensive lineman Jalen Carter. The return of sturdy right guard Matthew Jones from injury will provide support for quarterback C.J. Stroud. Nevertheless, Ohio State faces a daunting task when it comes to running the ball as Georgia boasts the best rushing defense in the nation, allowing a mere 77 yards per game. Moreover, Ohio State will be without two key offensive weapons: wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and running back TreVeyon Henderson. The responsibility falls on Stroud and dynamic receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. to deliver standout performances.
Image: Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (18) runs the ball. (USA TODAY Sports)
Both Georgia’s kicker, Jack Podlesny, and Ohio State’s kicker, Noah Ruggles, have proven to be reliable, with only five missed field goals between them this season. Ohio State punter Jesse Mirco ranks in the top 10, averaging 45.59 yards per attempt. Watch out for Ohio State safety Lathan Ransom, who managed to block two kicks this year.
Edge: Ohio State
Kirby Smart has done a remarkable job with Georgia, overcoming the loss of 10 starters and maintaining their dominance. Smart’s team has outscored opponents by an astonishing 509-166 and held their eight SEC opponents to just 97 points. Georgia’s success is a testament to their exceptional recruitment and talent development. On the other side, Ohio State coach Ryan Day needs a strong performance following back-to-back heavy defeats to Michigan. Ohio State only made it to the playoffs due to USC’s loss in the Pac-12 title game.
Players who could decide the game (non-quarterbacks)
Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia: Bowers is an elite tight end who poses mismatch problems for defenses. He combines strength that overpowers defensive backs with speed that outmaneuvers linebackers. Bowers has made significant contributions throughout the season and has been particularly impactful in recent games, scoring touchdowns in three out of the last four games.
Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia: Carter is arguably the best defensive player in the country and a highly-rated prospect for the upcoming NFL draft. Standing at 6 feet 3 inches and weighing 300 pounds, Carter is an imposing force on the field. Despite frequently facing double- and triple-teams, he consistently disrupts plays and makes an impact with seven tackles for loss, three sacks, and two forced fumbles.
Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State: Harrison Jr. is the game’s most dangerous playmaker, known for his explosive abilities. With six games of over 100 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches, he ranks fourth in the nation. Given Georgia’s susceptibility to deep passes, Harrison Jr. could prove instrumental in Ohio State’s offensive efforts.
The odds don’t accurately reflect Ohio State’s potential in this matchup. Although they are only six-point underdogs and have suffered just one defeat all season (against another playoff team), they are not given enough credit. Expect quarterback C.J. Stroud to exploit Georgia’s weaknesses in the passing game. Ohio State’s defense will put up a fight and keep the game close deep into the fourth quarter. However, in the end, Georgia’s connection between Stetson Bennett and Brock Bowers will secure a long scoring drive and propel the Bulldogs back to the national championship game.
Georgia 38, Ohio State 28
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