Ohio State is tough to stop, but the Bulldogs were supposed to be the one team that can do it consistently. I picked the Buckeyes to win the Peach Bowl because of Georgia’s problems with long passes. I was wrong by the 2 inches or so of space between Brock Bowers’ thumb and the sideline.
I expect Georgia’s defense to perform much better against TCU, but if that doesn’t happen, the Horned Frogs are good enough to take advantage.
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is a more accurate passer than TCU’s Max Duggan. Duggan is a better runner. If the Bulldogs deploy extra defenders against the pass like they did against OSU and don’t shut off Duggan’s running lanes, then he can burn them by running for the first-down marker or farther.
TCU is adept at long passes, too. They’ve had 59 gains of 20 yards or more through the air, per cfbstats.com. That includes 30 gains of 30-plus yards and 17 for 40-plus yards. Star wide receiver Quentin Johnston has 13 catches for 30-plus yards. That’s more than Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison, who was having his way with the Bulldogs before leaving the Peach Bowl with a potential head injury.
Georgia hardly ever gives ground against the run, but the Buckeyes churned out 153 yards on 24 carries (excluding yards lost on sacks). The Bulldogs didn’t allow many big runs, with Stroud’s 27-yard dash being a notable and potentially game-losing exception. But Ohio State ran the ball effectively enough to stay on schedule with down-and-distance. The Buckeyes did that on 12 of 27 rushes (48%), which allowed them the breathing room to take shots downfield.
TCU is a better running team than Ohio State. The Horned Frogs have the same kind of explosive passing game. I just don’t think TCU’s offensive line will hold up as well as Ohio State’s did against Georgia. Also, the Horned Frogs rely heavily on quick passes to the perimeter, and the Bulldogs erase those plays with their speed and sound tackling.
At least that’s how it usually goes. Maybe that can’t be taken for granted now that Georgia’s defense is trending down. UGA’s defensive DNA is to allow next-to-nothing. Against LSU, it was bend-but-don’t-break. Against Ohio State, it was repeated breakdowns until making just enough plays at the end.
The Bulldogs beat Ohio State despite their defense, not because of it. Georgia’s offense saved the day. That’s why I didn’t understand why Smart was sharply critical of quarterback Stetson Bennett’s play in the Peach Bowl.
Bennett had some bad moments, but he wasn’t out there constantly losing wide receivers in coverage. Bennett wasn’t responsible for the lack of a consistent pass rush. He didn’t have anything to do with Stroud running free to put Ohio State in position to try a go-ahead field goal in the final minute.
All that was on Smart’s defense. In the Peach Bowl, there was little sign of the physical advantage that Georgia’s defensive front supposedly had against Ohio State’s offensive line. We had a month of assurances that Georgia’s defensive backs had worked out their issues with allowing long passes. Then Stroud consistently found open targets deep when he had the time, which happened more often than usual against Georgia.
Stroud passed for 348 yards on 34 attempts with four touchdowns. His big night made Georgia’s defensive struggles against LSU no longer seem like a matter of relaxing in garbage time. Also remember that Georgia Tech’s third-string quarterback completed two passes of more than 30 yards against the Bulldogs, with drops ruining a couple of more potential long gains. Georgia’s season-long problem with allowing deep passes has accelerated.
Now comes TCU, another opponent that’s good at going deep. The Horned Frogs may hit a couple of long pass plays against Georgia, but they won’t sustain enough drives to win. I believe Ohio State is one of only two teams that can do that to the Bulldogs. Alabama is the other.
If I’m wrong about that and TCU can do it, too, then the Bulldogs will have a tougher time than I expect in Southern California.