Featured Video from Scott Steehn
For another look at today’s bowl game, please check out our short video:
Both of these blue bloods have young, talented rosters, so this could be a preview of two of the top teams in the country next season. This will be their first meeting since 1984 and they enter the Sugar Bowl under very different circumstances. Texas will be playing in its first New Year’s Six bowl game since the current format started in 2014 and they haven’t appeared in a bowl game of this magnitude since losing to Alabama in the BCS Championship following the 2009 season. On the other hand, Georgia is coming off of a crushing defeat in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama and subsequently watched as their College Football Playoff hopes were squashed in the process. For the Longhorns, this bowl game represents an important step in the rebuilding process, but for Georgia, the Sugar Bowl is nothing more than a disappointing consolation prize. Which team will be motivated to take advantage of the extra preparation time? It might be wise to bet on Texas head coach Tom Herman, who is 12-2-1 against the spread as an underdog with nine outright wins.
Good season after a rough start
Texas opened up their season with a disastrous start, falling for the second straight season to Maryland, 34-29 from Landover. Yet the Longhorns bounced back to win six straight before falling two consecutive games to West Virginia (42-41) on the final play and at Oklahoma State (38-35).
After upsetting Oklahoma, 48-45 in the Red River Rivalry on Oct. 6, the Longhorns came back and had to face the Sooners again in the Big 12 title game on Dec. 1 from Dallas. This time, the Sooners offense and eventual Heisman winner Kyler Murray were too much for Texas in a 39-27 victory. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger completed 23 of 36 for 349 yards with two TDs and a pick, while rushing for two scores for the Longhorns.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 1, 2018
Ehlinger, a 6-3, 235-pound sophomore is the perfect quarterback for Tom Herman’s spread offense. He’s big enough to run the football in the red zone (13 TDs, 418 yards) and athletic enough to anchor the running game. He also has 3,123 yards passing with 25 TDs and just five picks. He also has some huge weapons at wideout led by junior Collin Johnson (6-6, 220), who has 65 catches for 945 yards with seven TDs.
Defensively, the Longhorns are going to be tested by a great Georgia rushing attack. They did hold Oklahoma to 129 rushing yards and just 3.2 yards per carry in the Big 12 title game and that was the No. 11 rushing offense in the nation. They are solid against the run, allowing 135.9 yards per game (36th), but have struggled against the pass (265.2 yards per game, 115th).
Texas is playing a bowl outside the state for the first time since 2011.
“All bowl games are good bowl games because it means you had a successful season, said Herman. “But there is an added benefit to getting outside the state of Texas and seeing things that aren’t as readily available for you to see as a student-athlete. We do have quite a few players on our roster from the state of Louisiana so it’ll be a nice homecoming for them. The bowl experience for the student-athlete is supposed to be one where they can go and enjoy the fruits of their labor and enjoy something that may not be available to them had they not reached that bowl game. To get to do it at one of, if not the most prestigious and certainly most historic bowl games in college football history is a real treat, especially for our seniors.”
On offense, Texas has put up 415.9 yards per game (55th) but just 151.5 rushing yards per contest (94th).
A playoff team or not a playoff team?
If Georgia had knocked off Alabama in the SEC title game, people wouldn’t be asking the question. Or if they increase the playoff teams to eight next season, the Bulldogs would be in. But they didn’t beat Alabama, despite leading 28-14 late in the third quarter. They were outscored 21-0 from that point on, allowing backup quarterback Jalen Hurts to replace the injured Tua Tagovailoa and lead the Crimson Tide to victory with a passing and rushing TD.
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) December 5, 2018
That loss however, did not keep them out of the CFP. It was likely the 36-16 loss at LSU on Oct. 13 that was the issue. Yet putting up 454 total yards against the nation’s top defense was very impressive. Quarterback Jake Fromm completed 25 of 39 for 301 yards with three TDs. The defense, while struggling to stop Hurts at the end, did force two interceptions from Tagovailoa, who lost the Heisman that night with a 10-of-25 performance.
Fromm, a 6-2 sophomore, has quietly put together a solid season, completing 68.4 percent of his passes for 2,537 yards with 27 TDs and five picks. He’s not the threat to run like Ehlinger is. However, as usual, the Bulldogs have a slew of good running backs led by D’Andre Swift (1,037 yards, 10 TDs) and Elijah Holyfield (956 yards, 7 TDs).
They are also loaded at linebacker, led by senior OLB D’Andre Walker, who was injured in the SEC title game. Walker suffered a groin injury early in the fourth quarter but is expected to play in the Sugar Bowl. Walker has 7.5 sacks to lead the Dawgs and before the injury, he had five tackles, two TFLs, a sack, two QB hurries, a pass breakup and a forced fumble.
Of course, Georgia is disappointed in not making the CFP Playoffs but the players are looking forward to the game.
Said junior tight end Isaac Nauta: “It’s definitely not a lost season for us. We have another game to play and we’re looking forward to it. We’re looking forward to getting better throughout the month of December and winning the next one.”
On the season, Georgia is limiting their opponents to just 311.2 yards per game overall (13th) and just 180.5 passing yards (15th), which will be crucial in this game. On offense, they average 252.1 rushing yards (12th) and 227.2 passing yards (69th).
- 1-5 ATS last 6 after accumulating more than 280 passing yards in their previous game.
- 4-1-2 Over last 7 overall.
- 5-2 ATS last 7 neutral site games.
- 6-2-1 ATS last 9 after a SU loss.
- 13-6-2 ATS last 21 vs. a team with a winning record.
Updated on Jan 1 at 12:55am EST
Update prepared by our editoral staff
Public Money / Line Movements
Georgia has gone from -10.5 to -12 while getting 60% of the bets. Not much to read into that as far as the sharps go.
Injury / Weather Report
Texas’ Impact Injury Report
Georgia’s Impact Injury Report
Questionable— RB James Cook (284 Yards), DL Jordan Davis (25 Tackles, 1.5 Sacks)
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I like both teams but Texas should have no problem covering this game. Georgia poured everything they had into that Alabama game and their defense was exploited once Hurts came into the game. Ehlinger is an excellent quarterback, who should not be intimidated by this defense. Texas’ defense is also underrated as they improved over their last three games. No matter how good Georgia is, holding Oklahoma to 39 points isn’t a bad thing. I’ll take Texas to cover the points against a disappointed Georgia team who thinks they should be playing in the playoffs.
Prediction: Texas +13.5
Full-Game Total Pick
Texas is an over team even though their last three games went under. That’s because they faced Iowa State and Kansas in two of those games. Georgia is an actually an over team as they put up 27 or more points in six straight games and 34 or more in three of those. They have a tremendous running game and a passing game that is nearly as good. Texas can get you on the ground but they are mainly a passing team, which means there will also be some turnovers to help the over with long returns.
Prediction: Over 58