Arts & CultureFlag Football

Ohio State Is One of the Few Teams That Can Match Up With Georgia

C.J. Stroud is one of the best quarterbacks in college football. Credit: Zoey Holmstrom

Georgia has only played Ohio State in football one time. It was the 1993 Florida Citrus Bowl. The Dawgs won 21-14 to cap off a 10-2 season, the program’s best since the Herschel Walker years of the early ‘80s.

In the 30 years since that Citrus Bowl, these two programs have established themselves as part of the gentry that rules college football. The Buckeyes had six seasons with 10 or more wins between 1962–1992. (However, they didn’t begin playing 10 games in a season until 1968). In the 30 years since that Citrus Bowl, Ohio State has 23, including 10 consecutive, not counting the COVID-shortened 2020 season.

It took Georgia a while longer to establish itself. We had to sit through Ray Goff and Jim Donnan before the glory of the early Mark Richt era. We finally went to new heights under Kirby Smart, culminating with the national championship last season.

So Georgia and Ohio State have been part of the pack of blue bloods at the top of the sport for a while. But in the last half-decade or so, with Smart in charge at Georgia and Ryan Day building off the foundation set up by Urban Meyer, these programs put themselves in an even more exclusive group. Along with Alabama, the Dawgs and Buckeyes are part of a triumvirate that dominates the sport in terms of recruiting and talent acquisition. The trio has held down the top three spots in the 247 Team Talent Composite every year since 2018.

Which brings us to the upcoming Peach Bowl between the Dawgs and Bucks on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta, where we’ll finally get the one big game we’ve been deprived of in this era of college football. In Georgia’s recent run, we’ve faced blue bloods such as Oklahoma, LSU, Clemson, Michigan and, of course, Alabama. But the matchup that has eluded us for decades is happening, and the only way it could be bigger is if it was happening a week later in Los Angeles.

Suffice to say, I’m pumped about this one. It’s not only a chance to finally go head-to-head with one of the few teams that can match up with us from a talent perspective, it’s a step toward crowning us as the team of the era. To be the best, you have to beat the best. If we beat Ohio State and go on to win another national championship, the last two seasons will have been as unimpeachable a run as we’ve ever seen in the sport.

If we beat Ohio State. We’re favored, but there’s still that “if” there. We’ll have the home-field advantage playing in Atlanta, but we haven’t faced a team this season with the sheer depth of talent as Ohio State. It’s one of two teams who can make a case for being as talented as we are, and we spent the better part of a decade banging our heads on a wall trying to figure out a way to beat the other one. I don’t think it’ll be easy, and if it is, we’re much better than I thought.

Buckeyes QB C.J. Stroud is a problem. He’s one of the best three quarterbacks in college football, and would probably be a Heisman winner had Ohio State beaten Michigan in either of the last two years. While not a good runner, there isn’t a better pure passer in college football. He’s surrounded by the best receiving corps in college football, featuring Marvin Harrison Jr.—yes, the son of that Marvin Harrison—and Emeka Egbuka, both of whom have more than 1,000 yards receiving. The Dawgs will get a reprieve because of injuries to star skill players Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Trayveon Henderson, both of whom missed most of the season with injuries and announced recently they will be unable to play in the postseason.

Although not the same scheme, we have played another team with many of the same offensive features: Tennessee. Therein lies the blueprint for beating Ohio State. On defense, match up man-to-man with those great receivers and bring the heat. Blitz all night. Make Stroud run or make a quick pass to a covered man. If the defense can prevent the game from becoming a shootout, I have faith in the offense to score enough to cover whatever margin is needed.