College Football Playoff: East Coast bias least favors OU


Oklahoma is the higher ranked team in its College Football Playoff matchup against Georgia in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, but you’d never know it by what you read or hear.

The Big 12 Conference champions finished second in the final Playoff rankings, one spot above No. 3 Georgia, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) champions. But that’s where the favoritism toward the Sooners seems to end.

Never mind that Oklahoma defeated both Alabama and Auburn in its last two matchups with teams from the SEC. The SEC is stronger all around, and its teams play the toughest defense in the college game, and that’s why no college football conference matches up with the SEC, or so the chest-beating proponents of the high and mighty SEC will have you believe.

And there are quite a few radio and TV college football analysts that are drinking out of the same bottle. At present, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is thought of as a stepchild of the SEC insofar as college football aristocracy, but with the recent success of Clemson, Florida State, Miami and others, the ACC is quickly establishing itself as one of the better power conferences.

Outside of the light-up-the-scoreboard, bombs-away brand of football played in the Big 12, the conference doesn’t command a whole lot of respect in terms of line-’em-up, hit-you-in-the-mouth, play-tough-nosed- defense football. In fact, most college experts believe the term “defense” is an oxymoron in the Big 12. If you can outscore your opponent – which, in the end, is the main objective of the game – who’s going to worry about defense.

The Playoff game between Oklahoma and Georgia is being billed in the postseason media build-up as the country’s best offensive team (Oklahoma) going up against one of the nation’s top-four defensive units. And the edge, so far, is going in favor of the Georgia defense being able to stop Baker Mayfield and the nation’s most explosive offense.

I wouldn’t be so sure of that, and here’s why. Georgia is the best defense that Oklahoma will face this season. The Bulldogs are allowing just 270.9 yards per game in total defense, fourth best in the nation. By the same token, however, the Sooner offense, led by Associated Press Player of the Year in college football Baker Mayfield, will be the best offensive team Georgia has gone up against this year. That matchup alone – Georgia’s defense vs. the Oklahoma offense – is worth the price of admission alone.

It isn’t that the Sooners haven’t faced good defensive teams this season on the way to a 12-1 record and the Big 12 championship. They have, and they have done well against them.

Ohio State is eighth in the country this season in total defense, giving up an average of 292.3 yards per game. In Oklahoma’s 31-16 win earlier in the season, the Sooners produced 490 yards of total offense, most of it through the air.

In two games against TCU’s 19th-ranked defense, averaged nearly 500 yards of offense and over 200 yards rushing against the nation’s No. 4 defense against the run. The Sooners outscored the Horned Frogs 79-37 in the two games. TCU ranks 12th in the nation in scoring defense (17.6 points per game). Georgia is tied for second nationally in scoring defense (13.2 points per game).

The best offensive teams Georgia has faced this season are Missouri, the seventh most productive offense among the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, Notre Dame (24th) and Auburn (27th). Auburn had 488 yards of offense in a regular-season rout of Georgia, but was held to just 259 total yards in losing to the Tigers in the SEC Championship last Saturday.

None of the three aforementioned 2017 Georgia opponents holds a candle, however, to the offensive balance, explosiveness and multiple playmakers the Georgia defense will see from Oklahoma.

Georgia is tied for second in the FBS in scoring defense, allowing an average of 13.2 points per game. Only once this season have the Sooners scored less than 29 points and they have exceeded 40 points nine times in 13 games in averaging 44.9 for the season, good for fourth best nationally.

The Georgia run defense ranks 12th in the country, yielding 112.8 yards per game. By contrast, TCU owns the nation’s No. 2 rushing defense (99.8 yards per game), yet Oklahoma averaged 209 yards running the football in its two wins over TCU,

Perhaps the biggest offensive-defensive matchup in the Playoff game between Oklahoma and Georgia, however, will be when the OU Air Raid attack takes aim on the Georgia pass defense. The Sooners’ 367.4 passing yards per game, No. 3 in the FBS, will face perhaps its strongest challenge of the season. Georgia is allowing only 158.3 passing yards per game, second best in the nation.

The online sportsbook has established Oklahoma as a one-point favorite in its Jan. 1 Playoff game with Georgia, but several other sportsbooks have the Bulldogs as favorites, by as many as 2 1/2 points.

ESPN’s Football Power Index doesn’t like the Sooners chances either. The FPI gives Georgia a 53 percent chance to defeat Oklahoma and also gives OU the lowest odds of winning the national championship: The FPI likes No. 4 seed Alabama (35 percent), Georgia (24 percent), Clemson (23 percent) Oklahoma (18 percent).

Maybe the Sooners will feel disrespected by this. Do you think? Let’s hope they do, because they tend to play better when they get that extra fire in their belly.