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You’re Nuts: Way-too-early Ohio State-Georgia predictions

With the game nearly a month away, do we think the Buckeyes can upset the reigning champs?

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

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.

This week’s topic: Way-too-early Ohio State-Georgia predictions

Josh’s Take

Ohio State and its fans received an early Christmas present this past weekend when the Buckeyes were chosen to participate in the 2022 College Football Playoff. We can debate how much they really earned it all day long, but the fact of the matter is, they were the fourth-most deserving team. Now, with a second lease on life according to Ryan Day, it comes down to whether or not they can take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

All of OSU’s team goals for the season are still attainable — including a victory over TTUN. But first they must get by the defending national champions and winners of 27 games (so far) since the beginning of the 2021 season. Easier said than done? That doesn’t even apply here, Gene, because not a single soul in this entire world has even whispered the word “easy” in reference to this matchup. If anything, people are screaming the opposite!

That is because the Georgia Bulldogs, while mortal, do not bleed often. At least not recently. Meaning, they have been the dominant force in CFB , and shown very few weaknesses while running roughshod over top-tier opponents. The ‘Dogs (or Dawgs) have not been ranked outside of the top-3 (AP) since 2021 preseason votes were cast, boast eight victories over top-11 teams during that same timeframe, and generally play their absolute best when the lights are brightest. See: margin of victory over ranked opponents. One could even say Kirby Smart has his ‘Dogs hunting.

On New Year’s Eve, they will get to do so in their own backyard. Played in Atlanta, the Peach Bowl is home sweet home for UGA, but very unfamiliar territory for Ohio State. The Buckeyes, despite appearing in bowl games essentially every year since the beginning of time, have never participated in a Peach Bowl — let alone won a football game in the state of Georgia, as far as I could tell. The chips seemingly keep stacking against OSU, and that is something I believe Gene and I agree on.

What I am not sure we agree on, however, is our initial reactions to this matchup. While we did not take a deep dive into this matchup on Hangout in The Holy Land, we did address the elephant in the room. That elephant being: Georgia is probably the better top-to-bottom team right now. The Bulldogs opened a touchdown or near-touchdown favorites for that exact reason.

But whereas I think my co-host is near the point of no return with this Ohio State coaching staff and certain position groups, I see this game as playing with house money. Few expect the Buckeyes to win this one, which means they can – and should – play with reckless abandon. As a clear underdog, they should throw caution to the win, empty the bag of tricks, do all of that high-risk/high-reward stuff we often chastise Ryan Day for avoiding. This is it, Gene! Scared money don’t make money, and I think Day goes for broke in this one.

My way-too-early prediction for this Peach Bowl is that history repeats itself. There is precedence here for OSU, against a top-ranked SEC team even! You likely already know what I am talking about, but I don’t want to just come out and say it. Instead, I will hit you with some very specific predictions, and put a bow on it and the end.

First off, for one reason or another, I think Kyle McCord starts this game. The Buckeyes have won a natty with a backup quarterback before, so why not try it again? I think the New Jersey native goes something like 18-of-35 passing, but hits a few big ones when it counts. He will also add a running element, forcing UGA to at least consider the possibility of a QB draw or read option keeper. McCord hooks up with his boy Marvin Harrison Jr. for at least one score and earns the nickname 6-Gauge.

McCord will share the spotlight with Miyan Williams, who enters this game finally healthy. I think he gashes an otherwise impenetrable Bulldog front, racking up 230 rushing yards and Peach Bowl MVP honors along the way. His moment – the one which earns him a permanent place in Ohio State lore – will come in the fourth quarter, when after a short McCord conversion, he busts through the line of scrimmage and rumbles for a long, decisive TD. People will say he went 85 yards through the heart of Georgia.

Lastly, I believe the much-maligned OSU defense will force UGA’s Stetson Bennett to throw a few back-breaking interceptions. The otherwise dependable 30-year old QB is surrounded by loads of talent, but he will be forced to try and win this one on his own. After 12 games of borderline ineptitude, Tim Walton’s cornerbacks finally play a solid game, but they are not the players coming away with INT. Instead, two Ohio State safeties turn the ball over, and J.T. Tuimoloau scores on another pick-6. He does so while Steve Miller Band — Fly Like an Eagle blares throughout Mercedes-Benz stadium.

That, my friends, is how history will repeat itself. Reminiscent of the 2014 season, the Buckeyes beat the unbeatable and punch their ticket to a national title game. And I cannot wait to see it.

Gene’s Take

I dont even know where to begin after Josh’s storybook description of Ohio State’s Kyle McCord-led victory over Georgia. I’m not sure which statement is harder to believe — McCord getting the start in the game of Tim Walton’s corners playing their first good game of the season! But I digress...

My podcast cohost already laid out the narrative. Many don’t think the Buckeyes deserve to be here, but they will have the ultimate opportunity for redemption if they can go on to win the national title. This can go one of two ways. Ohio State recreates its 2014 magic with an upset win over an SEC powerhouse followed by a hoisting a championship trophy with a vengeful win over its biggest rival, or the Buckeyes recreate what happened in 2016 where they snuck into the College Football Playoff without a Big Ten title only to be blown out by Clemson in the first round. Which of these two scenarios seem more likely?

Unfortunately, for me it is the latter. While this Ohio State team is certainly much better than the one that was shut out by the Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl, I have zero trust in Ryan Day to prepare for or call plays in games against this caliber of opponent. He can come out and talk all he wants about being loose and aggressive moving forward, but I'll believe it when I see it. He didn’t learn his lesson after being blown out by Alabama in the national title game or after last year’s embarrassing loss to Michigan, so why should I believe this year will be any different?

Now, don’t get me wrong. Ohio State absolutely has the talent to win this game if their head coach doesn’t turtle up again. C.J. Stroud is still one of if not the best quarterback in the country, and the prospect of having perhaps a healthy Jaxon Smith-Njigba to pair alongside Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka as well as a healthy Miyan Williams is a tantalizing thought. Georgia has the best defense in the country for the second year running, but they have not seen an offense quite like Ohio State at full strength this year — given their head coach doesn’t dial up bubble screens and passes to the tight end in critical spots.

On the other side of the ball, Georgia’s passing offense is strong, but isn’t super explosive. The Dawgs’ top receiver is tight end Brock Bowers, and while he is far and away the best at his position in the country, Ohio State has done a good job this year defending tight ends. Georgia also very quietly doesn’t have the greatest rushing attack in the world. It is fine, but not the typical dominant Georgia run game we’ve grown accustomed to. Kenny McIntosh and Daijun Edwards both average a little over five yards per carry, but once again the Buckeyes have been strong against the run.

It looks to be very much a strength on strength battle here, with Ohio State’s dynamic offense — when the play-calling is adequate, at least — against Georgia’s stout defense. I’m not completely writing off the Buckeyes in this one, but after what I saw in Columbus a little over a week ago, I simply can't pick a Ryan Day team to win a game of this magnitude right now. At this current moment, my gut tells me that Ohio State makes it interesting, but ultimately comes up short in a 35-31 type of game.