Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
Baker Mayfield (6)
ROSE BOWL STORYLINES
1. Oklahoma brings the nation’s fourth-best scoring offense into the Rose Bowl and the College Football Playoff semifinal on Jan. 1 against a Georgia team boasting the fourth-best defense in the country. Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield threw 41 touchdown passes en route to 4,340 yards through the air to help the Sooners average 44.9 points per contest, but Georgia – led by linebacker and Butkus Award winner Roquan Smith – has held opponents to 158.3 yards passing per game while giving up just 13.2 points per contest. The winner could be who handles the other team’s strength the best: Georgia has not faced a passing attack the caliber of Oklahoma’s, but the Sooners’ offense has not lined up against a defense like the Bulldogs.
2. The Bulldogs are two wins from their first national championship since the 1980 season, in part because of an improved offensive line and the one-two punch of senior running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Chubb is second on the SEC’s all-time rushing list and sits at 1,175 yards on the ground this season while Michel is 52 yards away from 1,000, and both have rushed for 13 touchdowns. Having two strong running backs has paid big dividends for freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, who effectively has navigated the offense after taking over for the injured Jacob Eason on opening day.
3. Both teams reached the semifinals directed by young head coaches who earned their stripes as outstanding coordinators. There was plenty of uncertainty around the Sooners when longtime coach Bob Stoops suddenly stepped down in early June, but 34-year-old offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley has thrived after being thrust into the head coaching role. At Georgia, Kirby Smart returned to his alma mater in 2016 after directing defenses on multiple national championship teams at Alabama, and followed up last year’s eight-win campaign with the Bulldogs first SEC championship since 2005.
TV: 5 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Georgia -2
ABOUT GEORGIA (12-1, 7-1 SEC): Fromm’s confidence has increased throughout the season, and he ranks second in the SEC in passing efficiency and third with 21 passing touchdowns. Chubb and Michel front the offense, but freshman D’Andre Swift rushed for 597 yards and led the Bulldogs with 88 and a touchdown in the SEC title game victory over Auburn. The Bulldogs defense held opponents to 14 points or fewer 10 times, and ranks eighth in the country in defensive pass efficiency.
ABOUT OKLAHOMA (12-1, 8-1 Big 12): The Sooners dodged a bullet with running back Rodney Anderson, who gained a team-best 960 yards this season, when no charges were filed following a rape accusation. Mayfield’s top targets are tight end Mark Andrews, the Mackey Award winner who has eight touchdown receptions, and receiver Marquise Brown, who is 19 yards shy of 1,000 for the season. The Sooners defense allowed 144.2 yards on the ground and gave up 20 or fewer points three times in their last four games.