New Year’s Day is traditionally a big day for college football and New Year’s 2019 will be no different. Four of the biggest bowl games in the sport will be played that day, ending with the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. This year’s contest features a scrappy Longhorns team battling the runner-up from the 2018 season in the Georgia Bulldogs.
Spread: Georgia -13
The Longhorns are fighting an uphill battle in this one as the oddsmakers have them as nearly two-touchdown underdogs to the ‘Dawgs. The good news is, Tom Herman always seems to get his teams to play well when they enter a game as the underdog. That showed up in their record against the spread this season when they went 2-1-1 in that position, winning two of those games (TCU, Oklahoma) outright. The Longhorns were strong all year in their ability to move the ball on offense, but they didn’t produce much in the way of explosive plays (1.07 IsoPPP; 112th FBS).
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger had a solid sophomore season, throwing for over 3,100 yards and rushing for over 600 while racking up 38 combined touchdowns. Ehlinger benefited from the size of his primary receivers Lil’Jordan Humphrey (6’4″) and Collin Johnson (6’6″) who made plenty of plays on jump balls this season. They will face a Georgia secondary that won’t have corner DeAndre Baker who is skipping the bowl game in order to prepare for the NFL Draft. Texas’ rushing attack relied a lot on Ehlinger’s ability to make plays with his legs, but backs Tre Watson and Keontay Ingram have complemented him nicely. Defense was the Longhorns calling card at the beginning of the season but things got a bit rockier down the stretch against the better offensive teams in the Big 12 (Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, West Virginia).
That doesn’t bode well going up against Georgia’s offense that flattened people outside of a loss to LSU earlier in the year. Even against Alabama, Georgia was able to run effectively with the combination of D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield. Jake Fromm continued his efficiency as a passer, completing 68 percent of his passes while averaging over eight yards per attempt and the Bulldogs racked up nearly 40 points per game because of it. The one struggle area came inside the 10-yard line where the Bulldogs were one of the worst teams in the nation at finishing drives. The Longhorns were fairly successful on defense inside the ten so that could be an interesting matchup to watch.
Defensively, Georgia was one of the nation’s best at preventing explosive plays, though opponents were able to consistently move the ball. The senior quartet of Natrez Patrick, Juwan Taylor, D’Andre Walker and Jonathan Ledbetter in the front seven caused plenty of problems for opposing offensive lines, but the ‘Dawgs clearly missed the play of all-world linebacker Roquan Smith, now a member of the Chicago Bears.
We mentioned Texas’ record against the spread as an underdog earlier, Georgia was okay as a favorite, checking in at 7-5. The biggest problem Texas is likely to have is stopping the running back pairing of Swift and Holyfield, which is why Georgia is my pick. Georgia -13; Over 58.5
Local Expert Take: Bill Jones, CBS 11 Sports Anchor
“Texas gets the Sugar Bowl bid despite four losses this season and Jake Fromm and the Bulldogs will be too much to handle. Texas has a strong secondary, but not enough offense to beat Georgia despite those two tall wideouts in Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson. Georgia runs its record to 12-2 with a 38-20 win over the Longhorns.”