Georgia will play Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day in the first of two College Football Playoff national semifinals. Though it will be Kirby Smart’s second season as the coach of the Bulldogs, it won’t be his only meaningful postseason game in January 2018.
Georgia is set up to win its first national championship since 1980. Here are the reasons why the BUlldogs will not only topple the Sooners in Pasadena, California, but also either Clemson or Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship in Atlanta.
- It’s a cliche, but it holds true in Georgia’s case. The Bulldogs’ defense has been the stabilizing force of this year’s squad.
- It has allowed the offense to play inside its comfort zone for the majority of the season (save for the first Auburn game) and stands loaded with depth and versatility that will allow it to match up well with all three other CFP teams.
- Georgia is led by Butkus Award winner and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Roquan Smith at middle linebacker — a tackling machine in 2017. He had 113 tackles on the year and leads the SEC with 72 solo tackles (10.5 for loss) heading into bowl season and was named MVP of the Bulldogs’ 2017 SEC Championship Game win over Auburn.
- “Roquan took on a leadership role in the time in the spring when it was hard because he was injured,” Smart said. “He’s embraced that. He’s had two or three really good practices. He looks fast out there. Really competitive, playing fast.”
- It’s not just Smith, though. Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, Trent Thompson and the entire Bulldog defensive front seven has grown up since last year.
- They’re stout in the red zone, giving up touchdowns on 46.43 percent of their opponents’ red zone trips (No. 7 in the nation), and their 4.45 yards per play average ranks No. 6 in the country. Simply put, they don’t give up the big plays.
Georgia Bulldogs : College Football Playoff predictions
“Defense wins championships” is a cliche, and it has changed over the last few years. “Just enough defense” is more accurate. The definition of “just enough” changes based on the offense your own teams has (more on that in a minute) and the offenses a team is facing off against. The Bulldogs shut down an ultra-dynamic offense in the 28-7 win over Auburn in the SEC Championship Game, did the same in a dominating win 31-3 win over Mississippi State and held a Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushing attack that averaged 279.08 yards per game on the ground to just 55 (and 1.49 yards per play) at their house. The Bulldogs have “just enough defense” for any situation.