A series of random things that popped into my head over the weekend:
- Those of you trying to convince yourself that Georgia is walking into a similar situation to the 2008 Sugar Bowl need to disabuse yourselves of that notion. For one thing, Oklahoma boasts three first-team AP All-Americans on offense and one defender who made the second team. For another, unlike Hawaii’s, Oklahoma’s schedule isn’t a mirage. Quite the opposite: Sagarin rates the Sooners’ strength of schedule higher than Georgia’s; ESPN has Oklahoma first in strength of record and Georgia third; and Brian Fremeau’s FEI has Georgia narrowly leading Oklahoma in strength of schedule. Oklahoma is a tested (at least as tested as the Dawgs), credible opponent and don’t kid yourself otherwise.
- One thing I do believe is underplayed is how dominant Georgia has been throughout the course of the season. I mentioned before that the Dawgs have more wins by 21 or more points than any of the teams in the CFP field. For more evidence of that, compare Bill Connelly’s percentile performances between the two teams: Oklahoma has three over 90%; Georgia has eight. (On the other hand, Georgia has that ugly 14% against Auburn on its résumé, while the Sooners’ worst showing was a 57% mark against Kansas State.) Anyway, if the schedule strengths of the two are similar, what does it say that Georgia has been more dominant in the outcomes?
- Something else being underplayed are the special teams. Oklahoma’s rank 56th in Bill’s S&P+. Georgia’s are (gulp!) first. FEI doesn’t show the Dawgs being as dominant, but it still shows Georgia with the advantage. One area to keep an eye on may be punt returns. Georgia ranks 34th in opponents’ punt returns, while Oklahoma is 128th. Maybe it’s Mecole’s time to shine.
- That, in turn, probably factors into the wide gap Bill finds in starting field position: Georgia’s offense ranked 26th; Oklahoma’s a much more daunting 114th. Again, this may turn out to be another little thing that winds up mattering more than we thought.
- You can see from IsoPPP that the Sooners’ offense is more explosive than Georgia’s, but their defense is also far more prone to give up the big play than is Mel Tucker’s group. If there’s a shoot-out, there’s no reason to think Georgia will lack the fire power to stay with Oklahoma.
- Speaking of giving up big plays, this post at Georgia Sports Blog makes a good argument that Oklahoma is going to try to exploit that in much the same way Auburn did, substituting Mayfield’s prowess in the short passing game for what Malzahn does on offense with Auburn’s running game, to set up the big play. Georgia made fantastic adjustments for the SECCG that put Stidham on his heels after the first quarter. The question is, with a month’s worth of prep time, can Smart and Tucker dial up something similar for Mayfield? A more specific question may be how well the linebackers handle pass coverage. A Georgia defense from a few seasons back would have been eaten alive by the Oklahoma passing game, but this year’s bunch at least has a fighting chance.