Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: What is the biggest key to an Ohio State victory over Georgia?
Jami’s Take: A Persistent Running Game
This is one of those rare, beautiful football seasons where I truly believe on any given day, any team in the top 10 could have taken down any other team depending on which way the wind blew. Hopefully, this works in the Buckeyes’ favor tonight against Georgia in the Peach Bowl, where the Bulldogs are favored (but not by much).
Ohio State can’t count on the wind blowing in our favor, though. We’ll need near-perfect execution on the field, and the ultimate key to victory lies in the Buckeyes’ ability to establish the run.
Now “Establish the run” is a bit watered-down, especially against a team like Georgia. OBVIOUSLY the Buckeyes need to be able to run the football well against a top opponent - this is not exactly revolutionary stuff. Running backs Miyan Williams, Dallan Hayden, and Chip Trayanum (who switched to the RB position from linebacker due to late-season injuries) hold the keys to the kingdom in many ways.
But in the Buckeyes’ case, it also doesn’t go without saying that the run game doesn’t start and end with the running backs.
In past years, part of OSU’s domination was wrapped up in the fact that at any point, the quarterback might go for a little jog (sometimes straight to the endzone). It made them very hard to defend. We haven’t seen much of that from Heisman finalist C.J. Stroud, who let me be clear – is as capable of running the ball as past quarterbacks, if not as comfortable.
But the other issue we’ve seen in the Buckeyes’ run game is that they get a little panicky if their opponent shuts it down for a play or two. An immediate stop or loss of a few yards on two or three plays does not a whole game make (or break), and yet, we’ve seen OSU abort mission when they come up against good defensive stops a few plays in a row.
Now, I’m not saying the Buckeyes should keep running the ball if it’s absolutely NOT working the entire game. But Georgia has a good defense. They’re going to stop a few plays. If the Buckeyes are going to win this game, it’s absolutely crucial that they keep running even if Georgia gets a big stop.
Persistent running is going to be huge against this Bulldog squad. I’m talking down-in-the-mud, fighting-for-every-last-yard running. OSU needs to be pounding the Bulldogs constantly, which means the running backs also can’t be afraid to play a really physical football game. I want them winning physical battles against the safeties and defensive linemen.
If OSU can get the running backs moving down the field, even in short or intermediate spurts, it will open up the possibility for Stroud to take a few long shots from mid-field or the back of the red zone, and possibly connect for some major scoring plays. We know there are holes in the Bulldogs’ pass defense, seeing as they allowed 502 passing yards in the SEC Championship game against LSU. So if the Buckeyes can use the run to keep their options open and position Stroud to go long, they just might win the war.
Matt’s Take: Keeping C.J. Stroud Free from Pressure
Here’s the thing, there are A LOT of things that will have to go right for the Buckeyes to win the Peach Bowl tonight, but to me, the game will not be decided by how Jim Knowles’ defense handles UGA’s pair of dynamic tight ends, or even if Miyan Williams and the Buckeye’s stable of backs are able to establish the run (although, I do agree with Jami that this will be crucial). Instead, I think the biggest thing that Ohio State needs to do in order to win, is keep quarterback C.J. Stroud clean.
The best part of OSU’s team on either side of the ball is obviously their passing game with two-time Heisman finalist Stroud and Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, and Julian Fleming. But with a defense as stout as Georgia’s it would be foolish to expect OSU to operate at the same level that they have all season. But, for the Buckeyes to have the best chance to succeed on that side of the ball, Stroud will have to have a solid game, and given what we’ve seen from him over two seasons, for that to happen, he has to have time to throw the ball.
This isn’t exactly a hot take, but QBs are better when they aren’t facing pressure than when they are, and that has been evident with Stroud during his entire time in scarlet and gray. When he has pressure in his face, Stroud has had a bad habit of falling backward and not committing to his fundamentals, often resulting in poorly thrown balls.
Georgia’s defense, led by unanimous All-American defense tackle Jalen Carter, will likely look to create a pass rush with just four or five up front and it will be incumbent on the offensive line to keep the Dawgs at bay. UGA doesn’t wrack up a ton of sacks or tackles for loss — the Dawgs are 73rd nationally with two sacks per game and 51st in TFLs with 5.85 — but they won’t need to necessarily get home to disrupt OSU’s offensive flow.
So, if the Buckeyes want to have any shot to utilize its incredible array of offensive weapons, they will have to give Stroud time and opportunities to survey the field and get the ball out in rhythm.
Who has the right answer to today’s question?
This poll is closed
Jami: A Persistent Running Game
Matt: Keeping C.J. Stroud Free from Pressure