Big Ten
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud throws while being pressured by Notre Dame safety DJ Brown during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

CFP Semifinal Welcomes Defending Champs and Buckeyes

The reigning National Champion No.1 Georgia Bulldogs return to the CFP Semifinals with hopes of defending their title against the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes in the CFP Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Georgia remained at the top of the SEC, defeating LSU in the SEC Championship to extend their win streak to 15 games dating back to last year’s CFP Semifinal. On the other sideline, Ohio State slips back into the CFP after missing the Big Ten Championship game but finishing the season 11-1.

Here’s a deeper look at both teams taking part in the second CFP Semifinal.

Bulldogs Begin Title Defense in CFP Semifinal

Georgia enters its third CFP Semifinal, and if history has anything to say about it, then the Bulldogs won’t go down easy. In its past two CFP Semifinal appearances, the Bulldogs are 2-0. They beat Michigan handily last year en route to a National Championship victory and beat Oklahoma back in 2018 in one of the CFP’s most memorable games.

https://twitter.com/GeorgiaFootball/status/1607420993668276224

Stetson Bennett improved on his National Championship campaign from last year and remained a crucial aspect of the Georgia offense. Bennett threw for 3,425 yards and 20 touchdowns, adding another seven scores on the ground. His stat line was good enough to earn him a seat in New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist. Even better, he has led his team to an undefeated season to this point and an SEC Championship.

Alongside him in the offense are a slew of talented running backs in the likes of Kenny McIntosh, Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton who each have over 500 rushing yards and at least six touchdowns. Add in the best tight end in the country, John Mackey Award winner Brock Bowers, and there is no doubt that this is one of the most, if not the most, potent offenses in the CFP.

The Georgia defense is not one to be taken lightly either. The Bulldogs are second in the nation allowing just 12.8 points per game, which is 5.2 points less than the next SEC team. They also lead the conference in yards allowed per game, allowing just 292.1 yards on average. Georgia has also only allowed a nation-best 77 rushing yards per game and it will hope to swallow up the Ohio State offense.

Ohio State Looking to Prove the Doubters Wrong

The Buckeyes slipped into the CFP thanks to USC’s Pac-12 Championship loss. There were a lot of questions as to whether or not Ohio State deserved the spot after failing to make the Big Ten Championship following its blowout loss to Michigan. With that being said, the Buckeyes grabbed the final spot, and hope to prove all of the doubters wrong by dethroning the defending champs.

Ohio State has a Heisman finalist of its own leading the offense. C.J. Stroud has thrown for 3,340 yards and 37 touchdowns, the latter of which puts him tied for fourth most in the nation. While Georgia’s defense is strong, Stroud has an exceptionally talented group on the offensive side of the ball. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka are both 1,000-yard receivers and rank in the top five in receiving yards amongst all Big Ten receivers. Not to mention Miyan Williams, who has punched in 13 touchdowns on the ground.

The Buckeyes’ defense ranks toward the middle of the Big Ten defensively. They’ve allowed 19.3 points per game and 303.9 yards per game which rank sixth and fifth in the conference respectively. There is still great talent on defense for Ohio State. The group is led by linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, who was selected first-team All-Big Ten after he finished third in the Big Ten with 112 tackles. Eichenberg is joined on defense by fellow first-team All-Big Ten team member J.T. Tuimoloau in addition to two other All-Big Ten selections.

National Championship Berth on the Line

Similar to Georgia, Ohio State has advanced past the CFP Semifinal twice, including in the inaugural 2014 CFP. The No. 1 team is 6-2 in semifinal games against the No. 4 team. However, Ohio State is one of those two teams that have won as the No. 4, and the Buckeyes went on to win the National Championship that same year.

The Peach Bowl has hosted the CFP Semifinals twice in history, with the No. 1 seed winning by more than 17 points both years. Only one of the No. 1 seeds that won in the Peach Bowl went on to win the National Championship, with Alabama losing in 2017.

There is little question as to why Georgia has been the No. 1 team in the nation since November 8. A potent offense matched with a crushing defense will certainly force the Buckeyes to play their best game of the year if they hope to compete for a National Championship berth.

However, Ohio State certainly has the talent on the offensive side of the ball to test the Bulldogs’ defense and challenge Georgia for a spot in the CFP National Championship.

Georgia and Ohio State kickoff in the CFP Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl from Mercedes-Benz Stadium on New Year’s Eve at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

About Matt Quartararo

Matt is a fourth-year journalism major specializing in sports media and is also completing a sports management certificate. Starting in the Fall 2023 semester, Matt has served as a sports coordinator with WRUF. He also participates in sports broadcasting, providing play-by-play for a variety of Gators sports.

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