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Georgia vs. Oklahoma: Odds and Score Prediction for Rose Bowl 2018

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2018

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 2: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners throws against the TCU Horned Frogs in the first half during the Big 12 Championship at AT&T Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

While you've been busy worrying about the well-being of Baker Mayfield, the Oklahoma Sooners and Georgia Bulldogs have been preparing for the Rose Bowl. 

The first-ever meeting between the historic college football programs will be the first of two national semifinals on New Year's Day. 

The Heisman Trophy winner is understandably one of the focal points of the contest, but he won't be the only star on the field who will decide the final result. 

Georgia has an impressive defense led by linebacker Roquan Smith and two star running backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, while the Sooners have a plentiful amount of weapons alongside Mayfield who could wreak havoc on the Bulldogs defense. 

          

Date: Monday, January 1

Time: 5 p.m. ET 

TV: ESPN 

Live Stream: Watch ESPN 

Odds: Georgia (-2.5); Over/Under: 61

             

Mayfield's Health Attracting Attention 

The absence of Mayfield at press conferences leading up to the Rose Bowl was the main talking point of everyone interested in the contest.  

In order to clear up any speculationand stop reporters from asking his teammates questions about him—the senior quarterback made an appearance on Saturday to let everyone know he'll be fine, per KOKH's Curtis Fitzpatrick: 

Curtis Fitzpatrick @cfitzfox

Baker Mayfield -“I’m not dying” Here is the video proof. https://t.co/KgpikAbXP2

Mayfield is going to face quite the challenge from the Bulldogs, who rank sixth in the nation in total defense. In the past, Heisman winners have experienced difficulties against top-10 defenses as ESPN's Peter Burns noted: 

Peter Burns @PeterBurnsESPN

Interesting stat: Baker Mayfield is the 8th Heisman winning QB to face a Top 10 defense in a bowl game. The previous 7 are a combined 1-6. Georgia has a Top 10 defense.

The 22-year-old enters the Rose Bowl as the second-best passer in the FBS with 4,340 passing yards. He's also second in touchdowns, and he could eclipse Missouri's Drew Lock for the top spot on that list if he throws for a quartet of scores.  

Mayfield has been the top performer in every big game for the Sooners this season, as he threw for 1,560 yards and 15 touchdowns in two wins over TCU and victories against Ohio State and Oklahoma State. 

Regardless of how sick Mayfield is feeling, he should be able to keep the Sooners in the game at the very least as they search for a berth to the CFP National Championship. 

               

Fast Start Required for Georgia's Running Backs 

In order to counter the impact of Mayfield, Georgia needs to keep the ball and win the time-of-possession battle through its running backs. 

Chubb and Michel are a load to handle no matter how talented the opposing defense is. 

Chubb has carried the ball the most in the first quarter, with 68 of his 191 carries coming in the opening 15 minutes for 416 yards and eight touchdowns. 

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Nick Chubb #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs the ball during the second half against the Auburn Tigers in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Michel has been a slower starter for the Bulldogs, but he's been more productive as the game goes on. The senior has picked up 355 yards and seven touchdowns in the third quarter. 

If the Bulldogs are able to use Chubb in the first half to wear down the Oklahoma defense, they could easily utilize Michel's fresh legs in the second half to finish off a victory. 

Chubb and Michel should be able to achieve a decent amount of success regardless of the quarter since they'll be going up against a unit ranked 53rd in rushing defense

Oklahoma has given up 144.2 yards per game on the ground and four yards per carry. If those numbers hold, Georgia will have a good chance of dictating the pace. 

                 

Jake Fromm Could be the Biggest X-Factor 

While most of the offensive focus has been on Mayfield and Georgia's running backs, the player who could make the most significant impact on the Rose Bowl is Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm. 

The 19-year-old doesn't have astonishing numbers like Mayfield, but he's been productive enough to help Georgia when called upon. 

The freshman also doesn't turn the ball over much, as he's thrown five interceptions on 230 passes and been picked off just once since the start of November. 

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 18: Jake Fromm #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs throws a pass during the first half against the Kentucky Wildcats at Sanford Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

In addition to the small number of turnovers, Fromm has been accurate in the pocket, as he's completed over 70 percent of his passes in the last two games.

If the Bulldogs are able to get their run game going in the first quarter, it will also help Fromm, as he could force the Oklahoma defense to bite on play fakes and hit one of his receivers on a deep ball. 

In each of Georgia's 13 games, he has connected on a pass of 20 yards or more. Expect that streak to extend to 14 as the Bulldogs try to keep the Sooners defense off balance. 

In an ideal situation, Fromm will complete a few deep passes while Chubb and Michel earn a few yards on almost every carry. If that occurs, the Bulldogs should be able to put a good amount of points on the board and keep the pigskin away from Mayfield.  

                 

Prediction 

Georgia appears to have the perfect weapons and strategy that could thwart the Sooners before Mayfield gets going. 

However, it's hard to pick against the best player on the field and someone who has shined on every big stage he's appeared on. 

Oklahoma 21, Georgia 17 

                

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All stats obtained from ESPN.com and Sports Reference.

Odds obtained from OddsShark.com

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