It's déjà vu down in the Big Easy for the Georgia Bulldogs, who return to the Sugar Bowl after a 2019 campaign fraught with similar road bumps from last season. After finishing 11-1 again this year, Georgia lost in the SEC Championship and is once again headed to face an up-and-coming, hungry foe out of the Lone Star State.
Last year, an uninspired Bulldogs squad, despondent about missing out on the College Football Playoff, lost a close one to the ambitious Texas Longhorns. This time around, No. 5 Georgia (11-2) will battle No. 7 Baylor (11-2), who've emerged as one of the surprise teams of the 2019 season in coach Matt Rhule's third year. After inheriting a dumpster fire of a program, known lately more for scandals than victories, Rhule has engineered a complete turnaround-taking the Bears from a 1-11 record in 2017 to 11-2 just two seasons later.
Georgia is coming off a 27-point blowout loss to LSU in the SEC Championship, while Baylor fell to Oklahoma 30-23 in overtime of the Big 12 title game.
Georgia Offense vs. Baylor Defense
Georgia's offense took a step back this season following the departure of former offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to Tennessee and the promotion of James Coley. Under Coley's watch, the Bulldogs' junior quarterback Jake Fromm has regressed after a stellar sophomore season and, as a result, so has the Georgia offense. The Bulldogs have only scored more than 27 points once in the past eight games, averaging just over 31 points per game this year. Last season, the Bulldogs scored less than 27 points only once in SEC play.
Fromm's performance has dipped since last season, most notably in his completion percentage, which has decreased by eight percent this year. He's joined in the backfield by D'Andre Swift, who's compiled over 1,200 rushing yards and seven touchdowns this season. Swift finished fourth in the SEC rushing yards, yet managed just 13 rushing yards against LSU in the SEC Championship game. With injuries depleting the Georgia wide receiving corps, Fromm will rely heavily upon George Pickens and Demetris Robertson, the only receivers remaining with over 300 yards this season. The duo has combined for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. Pickens, a freshman, was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship, scoring the team's lone touchdown after serving a first-half suspension.
On the flip side, Baylor's defense is not your typical Big-12 pushover. This stout unit allowed fewer than 20 points per game this season, ranking as the 16th best scoring defense in the nation. Outside of Oklahoma, the Bears have not faced many high-octane offenses, but this group is resilient. Junior defensive tackle James Lynch is the catalyst up front and has tallied 12.5 sacks this season, including two in the Big 12 Championship. Linebacker Terrel Bernard is one of the Big 12's leading tacklers (107). Baylor can get pressure and plans to harass Fromm all night long.
Baylor Offense vs. Georgia Defense
This is not the track meet offense fans may remember Baylor fielding for much of the Art Briles era in Waco, but it's better than most would think. The Bears have a top-20 offense, averaging over 35 points per game. Quarterback Charlie Brewer passed for nearly 3,000 yards before getting concussed in the Big 12 title game. By all indications, Brewer should be ready to go for the Sugar Bowl.
The Bulldogs have one of the nation's best scoring defenses, allowing just 12.5 points per game this season. Georgia was able to stifle nearly every offense it faced this season (except LSU), so the Bears' ability to score early and often will be paramount if they hope to vanquish the Bulldogs this time around.
Georgia seems to be going through the motions at this point in the season. They're out-manned, under-qualified, and do not have the feel of a legit team in coach Kirby Smart's fourth season. Baylor has something to prove, much like Texas last season, and will take advantage of Georgia's shortcomings.
Baylor 31, Georgia 24