For the third time since 2017, the Georgia Bulldogs have made it to the College Football Playoff. Their semifinal matchup pits them against Ohio State, as the two teams will meet up for just the second time ever. This is Ohio State’s fourth appearance in the CFP Playoff, and they own a 2-2 record in the semifinal, coming away with one National Championship in the first year of the College Football Playoff. Georgia is 2-0 in semifinal games, beating Oklahoma in one of the best games in College Football history and clobbering the Wolverines last year on their way to their first National Championship since 1980.
Universally, this is the most highly anticipated matchup of the entire bowl season. Two storied programs with contrasting styles that should make for an ultra-competitive game. So who will come out on top before the clock strikes midnight on New Years?
Chase Irle’s Prediction
When I first saw these two teams matched up, I was ecstatic. Watching Georgia vs. Alabama for what feels like the tenth time in three years would have been old. This matchup feels fresh, and I’ve gone back and forth on how I believe it will play out.
My initial feeling was that Georgia will blow the breaks off of Ohio State, as they pretty much have against everyone over the last two seasons. It’s in their backyard, and giving Kirby a full month to prepare is almost unfair. However, the spread opening at just 6.5 in favor of Georgia and the rest of the SEC struggling in their bowl games has me a little wary. Is it possible this is one of those seasons where the SEC is just an average conference, and Georgia has taken advantage?
Stylistically, Ohio State has the offense to take advantage of some of the weaknesses Georgia has shown this season, particularly in the secondary. However, the same can be said about the Bulldogs and their offense. They might be the best overall attack in the country, and Ohio State’s defense is littered with holes, which was shown in their matchup against Michigan.
I see this as one of those games that starts slow as both teams feel each other out, but eventually, points will come in bunches by both sides. It wouldn’t shock me if Georgia pulled away, but I have them squeaking out a close one in what could become an instant classic.
Georgia 38, Ohio State 35
Alex Lord’s Prediction
In just about every facet of this game, I lean toward Georgia and Kirby Smart.
They play more disciplined, physical football. UGA ranks third in the country in third-down defense, allowing conversions just 26.7% of the time. Smart’s defense also only allows touchdowns on 32.1% of red zone trips, which ranks first in the nation. On the offensive side of the ball, the Dawgs are first in the country in red zone scoring, coming away with points on 97.2% of drives and not turning the ball over a single time in the red zone.
The Dawgs can win in multiple ways. We saw Georgia trample Oregon in the season opener 49-3 while throwing the ball 37 times. Then we saw the Dawgs outlast a feisty Kentucky team while running the ball 46 times. Georgia also holds the experience advantage.
On paper, this one shouldn’t be close. We saw what Michigan, who plays a similar brand of football, did to Ohio State. Georgia should manhandle them. However(!!!), the sharps are all over Ohio State +6.5, which makes me hesitate. I think this one is going to be a shockingly competitive game for that reason — Vegas always knows folks.
Georgia 31, Ohio State 27
Jake Gordon’s Prediction
I’ll have a front row seat for this one, and I’ll stick with what I have said since the beginning: I can see about 6-7 ways that Georgia can win this one, and Ohio State has 1-2 ways. Georgia is simply a matchup nightmare for the Buckeyes — Georgia can create tons of interior pressure, their corners are physical enough to hang with Ohio State’s talented wideouts, and Ohio State showed some horrible run fits against Michigan. Unlike Alabama in the SEC Championship, Ohio State’s receivers aren’t going to just torch UGA with speed. They are contested catch artists, and Kamari Lassiter and Kelee Ringo excel at the point of attack.
If Georgia is going to win, they need to take care of the football. I’d venture to say they have the worst turnover differential of any 13-0 team ever. Stetson Bennett has been fantastic in big games since the 2021 SEC Championship, and if he plays his best ball, it’s going to be difficult for Ohio State to keep up with Georgia’s offense. Georgia isn’t going to sit in zone and let Stroud pick them apart like LSU did. I expect Georgia to use Jalen Carter, Bear Alexander, Zion Logue, and Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins to generate a lot of interior pressure to force Stroud out of the pocket. Stroud isn’t a great runner and doesn’t throw well on the run. Expect Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Smael Mondon to blitz heavily. Sharps love Ohio State, but I’m not going to overthink this one. The fact that the line hasn’t moved concerns me, but my eyes and gut tell me Georgia pulls away late. Unless the Dawgs come out and lay an egg, they should dominate Ohio State with their superior size and speed.
Georgia 45, Ohio State 21
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire