Making a case for why Georgia football and Oklahoma are more similar than meets the eye
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Georgia football and Oklahoma have more in common than meets the eye
If you asked college football fans to find a program that was the exact opposite of Georgia, some would likely say Oklahoma. And their arguments would have merit.
While Georgia has become known for dominating defenses, Oklahoma has been able to run up points on opponents regardless of who the quarterback is. As highly regarded as Kirby Smart is as a defensive mind, you could probably say the same thing for Lincoln Riley on the offensive side of the ball.
Georgia has gone about building its roster by signing elite recruiting class after elite recruiting class. Oklahoma has been more content to be a modest recruiting power yet still done a good job of developing individual talent, as evident by the multiple first-round draft picks in each of the past two drafts.
Even their areas of struggles couldn’t be more different. Most feel the offensive side of the ball is the reason Georgia hasn’t won a national title just yet, while for Oklahoma the problem has come on the defensive side of the football.
Having established all the differences between the two programs, this where we turn the argument on its head and point how similar these two programs are. Because while the two programs are going about it in different ways, Georgia and Oklahoma occupy the space of very, very good teams that are missing just one or two key ingredients away from winning a national title.
We’ll start by bringing up that Georgia and Oklahoma are led by two of the best young coaches in the game. Smart and Riley have both accomplished a whole lot in their short time in both Athens, Ga., and Norman, Okla. Georgia and Oklahoma both had strong traditions, and coaches, prior to the hiring of Smart and Riley. But the two have elevated each program since taking over in 2016 and2017, respectively.
They’ve also experienced similar defeats to effectively end their seasons in each of the past two years. In 2018, Georgia lost a hard-fought game against Alabama in the SEC championship game. That same Alabama team then pulled out a 45-34 win over the Sooners in the opening round of the College Football Playoff.
This past season, Georgia took suffered a 37-10 beatdown at the hands of LSU in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In the very same stadium just a few weeks later, the Tigers crushed the Sooners by a score of 63-28. To describe both losses as ugly would be a generous description.
Georgia and Oklahoma have shown they’re capable of getting to the final week of the regular season with a chance of winning their way into the College Football Playoff. The Sooners have no doubt benefitted from playing in the Big 12, while Georgia has had to face a much tougher SEC foe one game earlier. In each of the past two seasons, if you flipped Georgia and Oklahoma’s schedules, the two likely end up with the exact same results.
A deeper look at even the 2019 schedules showed that both teams unexpectedly dropped a game in the month of October — Georgia to South Carolina and Oklahoma to Kansas State. From there, the two teams each struggled to win easily for the rest of the season, even though they each did that before playing LSU.
Given how the last two seasons have ended for both programs, you would probably point to the 2017 season as each team’s best chance of winning a title. And these two teams met that year with Georgia pulling out a double-overtime victory against the Sooners in the Rose Bowl.
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Since that incredible game, neither program has reached those same heights. Georgia has seen its season up-ended in the SEC championship game while Oklahoma has found itself trailing by three touchdowns at halftime of each of the past two College Football Playoff games it has played in.
Entering the 2020 season, both programs figure to be ranked just behind the super-elite programs of Ohio State, Clemson and Alabama. And the problems that have dogged each of them for the past couple of seasons — Georgia on offense and Oklahoma on defense — seem to be their chief issues once again.
The two schools though are going about fixing their respective issues in different ways. Georgia overhauled its offense this offseason, bringing in new offensive coordinator Todd Monken as well as transfer quarterbacks Jamie Newman and JT Daniels in hopes of having an offense that produces more like Oklahoma’s has.
The Sooners are hoping that a second season with defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who earned high praise for his work at Washington State, will see continued improvement. Oklahoma did improve from 102nd in yards per play allowed to 63rd a season ago. But the other three College Football Playoff teams ranked in the top-30 of that category. Georgia ranked second in the nation in the stat.
Both programs will be breaking in new quarterbacks this season and it seems as if they’re taking a page out of each other’s playbook. As mentioned above, Georgia will likely be going the transfer quarterback route, something that Oklahoma has had great success with in the form Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts. The Sooners, on the other hand, will be starting former 5-star quarterback Spencer Rattler.
Oklahoma and Georgia are set to play each other in 2023. But given the trajectory of these two programs, there’s a chance they meet in the College Football Playoffs. Given the clash of styles, it probably would make for an excellent matchup, much like how the 2018 Rose Bowl was.
But if that meeting does happen prior to 2023, each side would likely hope that matchup is for the national title, as that will be the only way for each program to truly join the elite programs that they’re looking up at.
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- How to make 2020 the greatest season in college football history
- What various metrics tell us about the gap between Georgia football and Florida
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