2018 Rose Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions Georgia vs. Oklahoma
Georgia Bulldogs vs. Oklahoma Sooners, Monday Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET
It's a crime that the Rose Bowl isn't the Big Ten vs. Pac-12 showdown that it is supposed to be, but at least this is a great matchup. In fact, It's the best matchup of this year's bowl calendar, and I don't think that it's particularly close. It's got everything you could want. A ridiculously potent offense from Oklahoma headed by a Heisman winner vs. a Georgia defense that is every bit as elite. A very one-dimensional Georgia offense that is great on the ground, against an Oklahoma defense that often views stopping their opponent as optional. Two very talented coaches who are on top of their game - and who employ dramatically different styles of play. And there's a very good chance that the winner of this game goes on to win a national title. This is one great game.
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Rose Bowl Betting Storylines
There is an important distinction to make - the Oklahoma defense can be bad, but it isn't always bad. In fact, often it is far from bad. In the middle third of the season they had some real struggles - most notably in the stunning loss to Iowa State and in the insane shootout against Oklahoma State. But in two of their biggest games they actually really played well defensively. J.T Barrett had a really rough day against the Sooners, and Ohio State scored just 16 points - a touchdown and three field goals - in Oklahoma's dominant win in their second game of the season. And the defense was even more impressive last time out in the Big 12 Championship Game against TCU. The Horned Frogs couldn't do anything other than get frustrated, and the Oklahoma defense even scored a touchdown. So, Oklahoma is capable of strong play against top opponents. The two questions, then, are whether they will be willing to put the work in here to play defense at that level here and whether it will be enough against this Georgia running attack. One concern for the Sooners' defense is the amount of time they may find themselves on the field. Oklahoma's offense tends to be explosive and efficient, while the Bulldogs wear teams down on the ground. If Baker Mayfield finds his game then the Oklahoma defense could spend a lot of time on the field, and that could become a problem as the game goes on.
I find Georgia coach Kirby Smart a fascinating figure in this one. He's a defensive savant and clearly a solid head coach as well. Aside from a short stretch as a grad assistant at Florida State, though, he has been an SEC guy throughout his career. This Oklahoma offense is as far from an SEC offense as you can get. Smart has obviously beaten some very good teams in his days at Alabama, so it's not like he is incapable of adjusting. Oklahoma is all about creativity and adjustment, though, and I don't know that in a small sample size with this much preparation I would give any kind of an edge at all to a defense trying to match up to what the Oklahoma offense could do. If Smart is able to contain and control this Oklahoma offense effectively enough to win then it will be a spectacular coaching job.
Rose Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Georgia favored by one point, and the number has since climbed to two points in early betting action . A solid majority of bets have been placed on the Sooners, so the line movement tells us that sharp money is hitting Georgia. The total opened at 60 points and still sits there, though it hit 59.5 briefly in some spots.
The Bulldogs are 5-1 ATS in their last six neutral-site games and 4-1 ATS in their last five bowl games. They are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 overall. They have gone "under" the total in 20 of their last 27 against teams with winning records. The Sooners are 17-5 ATS in their last 22 against teams with winning records and 5-1 ATS in their last six overall. They have covered the spread in their last four against the SEC, but they are just 2-7 ATS in their last nine neutral-site games. They have gone "under" the total in five of six bowl games and in seven of their last eight against the SEC.
Georgia vs. Oklahoma Rose Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
I'm a typical football fan in one big way - I respect defense, and I understand the importance and value of a great defense, but I would take offensive excitement every single time if given a choice. I like a fair bit about this Georgia team, but Baker Mayfield is the best player on the field by a pretty wide margin, and his offense has been remarkable this year. When given the option I am always going to back an offense like that - not that there are many offenses like this. I'd back Oklahoma anyway, but being able to back them as a small favorite is particularly compelling. Oklahoma is the pick - one I like a lot.
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