This season I have been breaking down a few of college football’s biggest games each week and giving out at least one bet I like from each matchup. 

Let’s take a look at the college football playoff matchup between Ohio State and Georgia. 

Ohio State vs Georgia Spread, current line:

Ohio State vs Georgia Best Bet Prediction:

If I had to pick against the spread, I would lean towards taking the Buckeyes, but my preferred bet is to take the over on Ohio State’s team Total at 27.5 points

» Bet it now: Ohio State over 27.5 points

When Ohio State is on Offense

Ohio State runs a balanced offense, with a 52% pass rate in neutral game situations, per Campus2Canton

The Buckeyes were without running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams against Michigan, but Williams will return from the playoffs. 

Henderson entered the season as the starter, but Williams was the more productive runner this season. 

Although the 5’9”, 225-pound Williams is built like a traditional downhill runner, he was the most explosive ball carrier in Ohio State’s backfield this season. Williams gained 10 or more yards on 21% of his carries, compared to 13% for Henderson. 

The run-game battle in the trenches should a good one based on these opponent-adjusted numbers from Sports Info Solutions:

  • Ohio State ranks seventh in yards before contact
  • Georgia leads the nation in yards before contact allowed

The Georgia defense excels at creating early contact, and has contacted running backs at or behind the line of scrimmage on 49.3% of carries, the nation’s seventh highest rate. However, fighting through early contact is also a strength for Williams 一 he ranks fourth in the FBS with 3.5 yards per attempt when hit at or behind the line.

In the passing game, C.J. Stroud often has time to throw from the pocket behind an offensive line which ranks 24th in the nation in opponent-adjusted pressure rate allowed, per Sports Info Solutions. 

The Buckeyes offensive line, anchored by tackles Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones, has been particularly strong in big games. Here’s a look at a few notable performances:

  • Michigan generated a 32% pressure rate against others, but 28% versus Ohio State
  • Penn State generated a 40% pressure rate against others, but 23% versus Ohio State
  • Wisconsin generated a 36% pressure rate against others, but 22% versus Ohio State

Georgia’s defense ranks 13th in opponent-adjusted pressure rate generated over the course of the full season. However, in the five full games since losing edge-rusher Nolan Smith to a season-ending injury, the Bulldogs rank 42nd by that metric. 

Prior to his injury, Smith led the team with a 20.2% pressure rate, per Sports Info Solutions. 

Without Smith, here’s a look at the team’s leading pass-rushers in terms of quarterback pressures:

  • Jalen Carter: 11 pressures, 7.4% pressure rate
  • Mykel Williams: 11 pressures, 10.0% pressure rate

Although Georgia’s defense performs well under virtually all circumstances, its secondary has been somewhat vulnerable when the pass-rush fails to get home. 

When the opposing quarterback is pressured, Georgia ranks 10th in yards per attempt allowed (4.3), but ranks 31st when unable to generate pressure (7.2).

Expect Georgia to use a high rate of two-high safety coverages to slow down Ohio State’s passing attack 一 and specifically in an effort to contain Marvin Harrison Jr.

Outside the red zone, Georgia uses two-high safety coverage at the nation’s 16th highest rate (38%) and played its highest rate (57%) against Tennessee’s explosive attack, according to Sports Info Solutions. 

When defenses are in single-high coverage outside the red zone, Harrison sees a 37% target share, but that rate drops to 23% against two-high coverage. 

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When Georgia is on Offense

Georgia is often discussed as a smash-mouth, run-heavy offense, but this unit uses a 51/49 run-pass split in neutral game situations, according to Campus2Canton. 

In the run game, the Bulldogs offensive line should hold an advantage based on these opponent-adjusted metrics from Sports Info Solutions:

  • Georgia ranks sixth in yards before contact
  • Ohio State ranks 39th in yards before contact allowed

However, Ohio State does excel at creating early contact in the backfield, with the fifth highest rate of contact at or behind the line of scrimmage (50.2%)

If the Buckeyes can consistently create early contact, they could cause problems for the Georgia run game. Bulldogs starting running back Kenny McIntosh averages 1.9 yards per attempt when hit at or behind the line of scrimmage, ranked seventh in the SEC. 

When Stetson Bennett drops back to pass it will be a battle of strength versus strength in the trenches based on these opponent-adjusted numbers from Sports Info Solutions:

  • Georgia ranks fifth in pressure rate allowed
  • Ohio State ranks eighth in pressure rate generated

Bennett handles pressure well, but the Georgia passing game becomes more conservative when he’s facing consistent heat. 

Here’s a look at his average depth of throw (aDOT) from the three games in which Bennett was pressured on at least 25% of his dropbacks, via Sports Info Solutions:

  • Versus Missouri: 31% pressure rate, 8.5 aDOT
  • Versus South Carolina: 30% pressure rate, 5.6 aDOT
  • Versus Kentucky: 29% pressure rate, 5.3 aDOT

The Kentucky and South Carolina games represented two of the three lowest aDOTs of Bennett’s season. 

One of Bennett’s greatest strengths is his ability to avoid negative plays versus pressure 一 he’s generated -1 EPA or worse on just 23.2% of his snaps versus pressure, the nation’s third lowest rate. 

If you’re expecting Georgia to have an easy time throwing downfield against Ohio State, you might be putting too much emphasis on a handful of plays from the Michigan game. 

Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy was just 3-for-10 on throws 10 or more yards downfield. Those three completions produced 153 yards and two touchdowns, so they were critical plays, but the Buckeyes defense was not consistently allowing receivers to run free. 

Final Thoughts on Ohio State vs Georgia Best Bets

It’s hard to find an area where the statistics demonstrate a substantial edge for either side, so I’m leaning towards Ohio State against the spread. However, it’s also hard to forget Michigan’s second half performance against the Buckeyes defense 一 especially since Georgia is capable of playing a similar physical style to the Wolverines. 

With that said, there are plenty of reasons to trust Ohio State’s offense to put up some points on Georgia.

My preferred bet in this matchup is the over on Ohio State’s team total at 27.5 points.

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