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2018 Bowl Coverage

Sugar Bowl First Look: Texas’ Offense To Be Tested Against Georgia Defense

Taking on the Dawgs will be no small task for Texas, but the ‘Horns do have a few advantages.

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Getty Images - Tim Warner

Despite similarities between the two blue blood programs, Georgia and Texas will take each other for the first time in a while when they meet on New Year’s Day to play in the 85th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl. Both of these squads were runners-up in their respective conference championships, but – as a quick glance of the statistical matchup shows – the Dawgs were more dominant throughout their 2018 run.

The average margin of victory for these teams – 4.9 for the Longhorns, 20.9 for the Bulldogs – certainly highlight that difference.

And indeed, Georgia leads Texas in yardage in most statistical categories. The starkest contrast is in rush offense, with Texas closer to the bottom of FBS and Georgia one of the best in the nation.

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As you would imagine, the Kirby Smart-coached team from Athens has the edge on defense – the Bulldogs have performed at elite levels there, as their .307 points per play reveal. The Longhorns, meanwhile, are far more average at .360 and 5.5 yards per play gained by opponents.

Of course, Texas was able to go 7-2 in their conference for a reason, and there are a few areas where both SEC and Big 12 runners-up are similar. One of those is in the turnover department, where the ‘Horns have actually taken care of the ball a bit better than the Dawgs, having given up one fewer turnover.

These two squads are also comparable is in their third down conversion rates, with both Georgia and Texas two of the best offenses in the country there.

MATCHUP UT UGA
Points Per Game 31.3 39.2
Points Allowed/Game 26.2 18.5
Yards Per Game 415.6 478.8
Opp. Yards Per Game 401.2 311.2
Points Per Play .411 .569
Opp. Points Per Play .360 .307
Yards Per Play 5.5 7.0
Opp. Yards Per Play 5.5 5.0
3rd Down Conversion % 46.28 47.86
Opp. 3rd Down Conversion % 43.94 33.96
Turnovers Gained 18 17
Turnovers Lost 11 12
Average Time of Possession 32:01 32:24

A lot of that has to do with the play of quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who set a Big 12 record for passes without an interception this season. The Texas offense is centered around the dual threat Ehlinger, who accounts for 272.4 yards offense per game using both his arm and his legs.

He’s part of the reason that the Longhorns’ passing offense is decidedly more productive than that of the Bulldogs, with Lil’Jordan Humphrey for Texas’ more than doubling the yardage of Georgia’s Mecole Hardman.

The Longhorns don’t have a group of running backs as dynamic as those of the Bulldogs, with sophomore D’Andre Swift the leader in the clubhouse for the Dawgs.

Quarterback Jake Fromm has had a stellar season himself, maintaining an efficiency that has contributed to his 175.8 quarterback rating.

PASS LEADERS C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT QB RATING
UT – S. Ehlinger 256/398 3,123 7.8 25 5 148.5
UGA – J. Fromm 186/272 2,537 9.3 27 5 175.8
RUSH LEADERS CAR YDS AVG TD
UT – T. Watson 167 695 4.2 3
UGA – D. Swift 155 1,037 6.7 10
RECEIVING LEADERS REC YDS AVG TD
UT – L. Humphrey 79 1,109 14.0 9
UGA – M. Hardman 34 540 15.9 6

Even though there are a few ways in which Texas has an edge on Georgia, it’s easy to see why the Bulldogs are a Top 5 caliber team. The Longhorns have won multiple single possession games this year, while Georgia has rolled many of the foes they’ve faced, and the numbers largely reflect that.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the point spread is currently at 13 in favor of the Dawgs in this one. Given Texas’ record as an underdog, though, this could be one of the better college football games of the new year. Of all the Big 12’s bowl opponents, Georgia might be the most susceptible to a letdown.

But there’s a reason that Kirby Smart’s crew won eleven games this season, and the Bulldogs defense will present the toughest test Tom Herman’s offensive staff has faced since getting to Austin.

Texas and Georgia kickoff at 7:45 p.m. from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA on January 1, 2019.

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