WHO: No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. No. 3 Georgia (12-1)
WHAT: The College Football Playoff at the 104th Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual
WHEN: 5 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California
THE SKINNY: The Granddaddy of Them All will live up to that billing on New Year’s Day as the College Football Playoff once again returns to the most prestigious bowl of them all. This year’s matchup of two teams who do not regularly make their way out West promises to be extra special as it pits the best offense in the sport against one of FBS’ top defenses.
The Sooners are of course led by Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, the maestro of the team’s Air Raid attack that has been responsible for putting up more yards per play and per game than anybody. Adding to the intrigue of seeing the colorful signal-caller is the fact that he has been dealing with an illness in the week leading up to the game (but has been practicing). There are no doubts that Mayfield will play in the game but the best player in the country not being at 100 percent could be an issue against a defense that is second nationally against the pass.
Oklahoma is not all about their QB though as they have a host of All-Americans that have helped them reach this point as well. You can start with the guy protecting Mayfield’s blindside in left tackle Orlando Brown or his favorite target in tight end Mark Andrews but don’t discount the impact that end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo will have in this matchup either as he’s capable of shutting down opposing offenses as one of the best pass rushers in the Big 12.
Waiting for them will be the SEC champs, who used a familiar formula of excellent defense and a top-notch ground game to power their way into a semifinal. Led by All-American linebacker Roquan Smith, the Bulldogs allow just over 13 points per game and are as stingy as they come with the best front seven in the country. Fast and physical is a common refrain you hear when describing the unit and that should come as no surprise with a defensive-minded head coach in Kirby Smart and veteran defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
Offensively, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is the rare true freshman to guide his team to such a successful season but has been just what the team needed since taking over for the injured Jacob Eason in the season opener. While he lacks the gaudy passing stats of his opposite number, that’s not that big of a deal considering he has no qualms turning around and handing it off to the stable of tailbacks the Bulldogs have. That includes the prolific tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who may be the best tailback duo in college football history given their production the past four years.
It should all make for one of the most enticing matchups of the entire bowl season and that’s before you dig into the bigger aspirations both Georgia and Oklahoma have of capturing another national title next week in Atlanta. There’s a little bit of a history element involved as well as this will be the first meeting all-time between the two powerhouses and just the second trip to Pasadena for either side.
The Rose Bowl could play out a number of different ways but chances are high that it’s a close, hard-fought affair that sees the Sooners squeak out a close one in the fourth quarter thanks to their outstanding quarterback.
THE PICK: Oklahoma 33, Georgia 30
A postseason injury has forced Shane Buechele to undergo an offseason medical procedure.
Buechele suffered a torn abductor muscle in his hip/abdomen in the first half of Texas’ Texas Bowl win over Missouri and didn’t return in the second half. Nearly a month later, the football program has announced that the quarterback will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair the damage.
If rehab goes as planned, Buechele is expected to be on the field when the Longhorns kick off spring practice March 5.
As a true freshman in 2016, Buechele started all 12 games for the Longhorns. This past season was one marred by various injuries.
Buechele started the season opener for Texas, but ceded the job to Sam Ehlinger the next two games because of a bruised throwing shoulder. Returning to the starting lineup in Week 5, Buechele suffered an ankle injury in the win over Iowa State that allowed Ehlinger to start the next three games. In the last of those three games, Ehlinger suffered a head injury that left him in concussion protocol and opened the door for Buechele to start five of the last six games of the season.
Buechele and Ehlinger will be the two veterans battling for the starting job once spring practice kicks off in March.
It is going to take some more time to dive deep into the pros and cons of limiting the size of a football staff before the NCAA Division 1 Council decides what to do. In a statement released on Wednesday, the Division 1 Council has decided to table a legislative proposal focusing on setting parameters on the size of a football staff, meaning this topic should pop up again a year from now.
The proposal aims to cap the size of any football staff at 30 people and determine who may be eligible to participate in on-campus recruiting efforts. Those assigned recruiting duties, including head and assistant coaches, would then be required to pass an annual test on recruiting practices. At this time, however, there appears to be too much confusion and uncertainty about how the proposal would impact programs now. With so many questions about the proposal, it was best to put this one on the table and spend the next year examining how it could impact college football programs.
“I went to the American Football Coaches Association meeting, and there were a lot of questions about how this was going to work,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, the chair of the oversight committee, said in a release shared by the NCAA. “The coaches wanted to know who was going to be included, how they would be certified and who was exempted.”
This topic has already been floating out there since last spring, and with recent adjustments from the NCAA to allow for a 10th full-time assistant coach, it appears this will be the next step in the evolution of ruling how large a football staff can be.
The Miami Hurricanes opened the new year with a loss in the Orange Bowl in their home stadium, but the Hurricanes marked the bowl game down in their records as a neutral site game. Not so fast, says the NCAA. That loss to the Badgers will go down as a home loss for the Hurricanes.
Because the NCAA officially records the Orange Bowl as a home game for Miami any time the Hurricanes happen to play in the bowl game hosted in their home stadium, the wins and losses are reflected on Miami’s home record. This is true for any team playing a bowl game in their home stadium, including any time UCLA appears in the Rose Bowl or San Diego State in the Holiday Bowl or Poinsettia Bowl.
Prior to losing to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl this past season, Miami was riding nine-game winning streak in Hard Rock Stadium dating back to November 5, 2016. Miami will get a chance to hit the reset button on their home winning streak on September 8 with a home game against Savannah State.
Former LSU running back Kevin Faulk could be set to return to the Tigers program in a new role if the SEC will allow it. According to a report from The Advocate, Faulk is being lined up to join the LSU football support staff, but his addition must be thoroughly vetted first.
Because Faulk is a high school coach, LSU and the SEC must be certain he has no direct ties to any LSU football players on the roster. This is to ensure the staff change complies with a new NCAA rule prohibiting schools from hiring high school coaches for a two-year period when any player from that associated high school enrolls at the university. As long as there are no players on LSU’s roster with any ties to Faulk’s high school coaching within the past two years, the staff change should become official.
Having Faulk associated with the program would be good to see considering how much Faulk meant to LSU during his college career. Faulk rushed for a school-record 4,557 yards and 46 rushing touchdowns. Both are records that stand today despite some extremely talented running backs over the years. Since Faulk’s final season at LSU in 1998, Leonard Fournette has come the closest to Faulk’s career rushing total with 3,830 yards in three years. Fournette is also the closest to Faulk since Faulk played to the school record for career rushing touchdowns, with 40.
Supposing the staff addition does go through, Faulk will not be involved with any off-campus recruiting efforts or on-field coaching assignments, but he will assist with player development.