The upcoming Peach Bowl matchup between Ohio State and Georgia is a real battle of the blue bloods — one which features a freshly wounded underdog pitted against a foaming-at-the-mouth defending champion. This is not your typical OSU game, as the Buckeyes are (now, and for a change) the ones facing a far-superior football team... And I don’t believe that many diehard scarlet and gray fans would argue the opposite. So when it comes down to it, Ryan Day and his team find themselves in a rather precarious situation for this one, but the odds are far from insurmountable.
And why is that? Why should Ohio State be given a puncher’s chance? The answer is talent. And tons of it. OSU just so happens to have one of the most talented rosters in all of college football — perhaps even more loaded than their CFP opponents, the Bulldogs. The Buckeyes have more four and five-star recruits than most coaching staffs would know what to do with, and their on-field product often reflects that. The evidence is very, very real.
But talent only gets a team – this team, or any other team – so far. And this season, said talent took Day’s team to the precipice of an undefeated season, before poor coaching and/or execution doomed them against TTUN. There will be no margin for error this time around, if the rare underdogs hope to put an end to Georgia’s back-to-back bid.
While most (I think) would say that Ohio State’s offense is its best chance of putting an end to UGA’s reign, I would argue that stellar play on both sides of the ball will be of equal importance. Like, 50/50, right down the middle. Which means the OSU defense must step up. They (OSU) cannot afford to play well on one side but not the other.
Because the Buckeyes’ most potent weapon – the No. 2 scoring offense in all of college football – does not give them a decided advantage in this contest. Instead, C.J. Stroud, Marvin Harrison Jr., and others will encounter an equally dangerous entity: the Bulldogs’ No. 2 scoring defense. Since there is no great advantage to be had, I believe that this game (and its eventual outcome) will be heavily influenced by individual matchups.
One such matchup will be Georgia tight end Brock Bowers versus... somebody from the Ohio State defense. While I wish I had an answer as to who exactly will match up with this true sophomore (most often), the two-time All-American is simply unlike any other player OSU has encountered this season, making him incredibly difficult to plan for. Moving around like an H-back/TE/WR hybrid, UGA’s ultimate weapon can be a nightmare for opponents.
Regardless of which Buckeye bodies up Bowers on any given play, limiting his effectiveness will be paramount to slowing down the Bulldogs’ offense as a whole. And because Bowers is such a unique Swiss army knife and skilled football player, he has earned the distinction of this week’s Offensive Player to Watch.
Hailing from the wine mecca of Napa, California, Bowers was a highly coveted recruit coming out of high school. He had dozens of college offers, but chose Georgia over the likes of TTUN, Notre Dame, and USC. Because Bowers is a tad smaller (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) than the Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski-types, certain teams may have had trouble projecting his role at the next level. However, UGA experienced little difficulty in doing so and got him onto the field right away. Talent tends to overcome an inch here or five pounds there, and Bowers’ was on display from the moment he set foot in Athens.
As a true freshman in 2021, Bowers put the entire country on notice — immediately. In his first collegiate contest, he reeled in six receptions against a stout Clemson defense. He followed that up with 100 yards and two touchdowns in Week 2. The big games continued, one after another, as the Bulldogs deployed Bowers in a number of ways. He also produced 100-yard games against Kentucky, Georgia Tech, and Alabama last season, on his way to nearly 900 receiving yards. Again, as a true freshman TE! He added 14 total TD, setting all sorts of records and earning countless accolades in the process. A hell of a debut made even more impressive by his age and experience — or lack thereof.
Bowers has been just as impressive in 2022, even if his stats are down ever so slightly. He is still the engine that makes Georgia’s offense go, and that’s saying something given the fact that quarterback Stetson Bennett was a Heisman finalist. Bennett without Bowers is likely not the same caliber of player. But because the versatile pass catcher has been extremely durable, UGA and its fans have had little reason to worry about the offense on a weekly basis.
The 2022 Mackey Award winner heads into this New Year’s Eve bowl game with 52 receptions for 726 yards and six TD through the air. He has also added three TD and 93 additional yards on the ground, on only six rushing attempts. And this is a credit to both Bowers and the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator, Todd Monken. The latter has moved his TE around like a chess piece, creating confusion for opposing defenses, while at the same time utilizing Bowers’ versatile skillset.
He is a a sure-handed pass catcher, but also excels once the ball is in his hands. This can likely be attributed to his time as a high school running back. Regardless of how Bowers acquired the tools of his current trade, he can use them in a number of unique ways — no matter the pre-snap look and/or play design.
As a blocker, Bowers does more than hold his own. He might struggle with the occasional super-sized rusher, but that is no surprise given his stature. While not small by any means, he is also not an unmovable mountain (like his teammate and fellow TE Darnell Washington). However, Georgia does not ask Bowers to spend too much time as an in-line blocker, and when they do, he is able to use his impressive strength and leverage to keep edge rushers and linebackers at bay. So the “weakest” aspect of Bowers’ game is simply not a weakness, making him the total package.
This superstar is not only the best player at his position, but also one of the best players in all of college football. And he is not even draft eligible! More importantly for Ohio State, Bowers is the head of the UGA offensive snake. If the Buckeyes are able to cut him off, it would go a long way in their effort to upset the Bulldogs. It certainly will not be easy, but taking down a champion in order to claim a title of your own seldom is. Here’s hoping that OSU can put the clamps on a truly special player and come away with a huge victory.