The College Football Playoff starts on New Year’s Day on ESPN at 5PM EST. The Rose Bowl features the second ranked Oklahoma Sooners against the third ranked Georgia Bulldogs. While it is nice to win the Rose Bowl, the winner of this game has much more to play for. Winning the National Championship is the ultimate goal. Both teams deserve to be in the College Football Playoff without question, but which team will prevail? Below you’ll find a break down of the key matchups to watch in this game. I’ve chosen three key matchups that will make or break the title hopes for these two teams.
Baker Mayfield vs Jake Fromm
The most important matchup to watch starts at the games most important position. We’ve got Heisman winner, Baker Mayfield, against the true Freshman, Jake Fromm. These two teams would likely not be where they are without these two quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield has demanded our attention all season long, setting records along the way. Mayfield became the all time leader in yards per attempt (11.8) and passer rating (203.8). He also completed 71% of his passes, but no big deal.
On the other side, Jake Fromm has done everything his team has needed him to do, and he’s done it all as a true Freshman. Fromm was the most efficient quarterback in the SEC this season, having a passer rating of 168.2. We all know how tough SEC defenses can be. Both Mayfield and Fromm have had tremendous seasons, and I expect this game to be heavily decided by the arms of these two quarterbacks. It may come down to which quarterback can make the most plays, which would heavily favor Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has the ball in his hands more than Fromm, which will be discussed more in next matchup to watch.
As mentioned above, Oklahoma wins mostly at the hands of Baker Mayfield. While that is true, Oklahoma’s running game can’t be ignored. Rodney Anderson ran for 960 rushing yards while adding another 283 yards in the passing game. A player with 1,243 total yards has to demand some attention from a defense. With 162 attempts on the season, Anderson wasn’t given the ball a ton this year. Most of the time the ball was in the hands of Mayfield, but when Anderson got his opportunity, he made the most of it. Anderson ran for a 5.9 average, while catching the ball for an average of 17.7 yards. He also added 16 total TD’s along the way.
Now to Georgia’s running game. This is where I think Georgia has the advantage. Jake Fromm has been great, but I think a big part of his success has come because of the running game. Nick Chubb is a stud who ran for just under 1,200 yards this season while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Chubb also added 13 TD’s on the ground. At 225 pounds, Chubb is a powerful back who can run through just about anyone. Nick Chubb is a stud, but we can’t forget about Sony Michel. Averaging 7.2 yards per carry, Michel ran for just under 1,000 yards this season. He can keep the running game rolling when Chubb goes out. Having Chubb and Michel allows Georgia to always have a fresh running back in the game, making it tough on a defense.
Again, Jake Fromm has been great, but he definitely benefits from a great ground game. Not only does he benefit from it, but I think he needs it at this point. The way Georgia runs the ball takes so much pressure off Fromm. It opens things up for him. Baker Mayfield also benefits with a good ground game, but I don’t think he needs it. His experience allows him to do what he does even without it. Baker Mayfield will play great with or without the running game, but if Georgia can’t get the ground game going, things may be tough for Fromm.
Oklahoma’s Offensive Line vs Georgia’s Defensive Front
This matchup is all about the big guys who make it all go versus the guys on the other side who don’t let it go anywhere. Oklahoma has one of the best offensive lines in all of College Football. This offensive line has a couple future high NFL draft picks. Baker Mayfield makes plays, but he couldn’t do it without these guys. A lot of the offensive success we’ve seen from Oklahoma this year has been because of this offensive line, we just don’t recognize it because of what Mayfield is doing.
While Oklahoma has one of the best offensive lines, Georgia has one of the best defense’s in the country. Georgia’s defensive line has some big run stuffers. It could be difficult for Oklahoma to get a ground game going. As mentioned above, Baker Mayfield doesn’t need a ground game, but he does benefit from it. Anything you can do to slow Mayfield down even a little bit is going to help you. Georgia also has a good pass rush. Of course a sack is always nice, but in this game it’s not about sacking Mayfield. Putting the pressure on and forcing him to make bad throws is what they’ll be aiming for.
I gave the advantage to Oklahoma in the passing game, the running game advantage to Georgia, and I think the offensive line vs defensive front battle could go either way. There’s one thing that stands above the rest in this matchup, and that’s Baker Mayfield. He’s performed so well in every single game this year. Mayfield will be the best player on the field once again, and he’ll lead the Sooners to the National Championship game.