On Tuesday night in New Orleans, the Texas Longhorns season will come to an end against Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl. With a win, Texas will capture its first 10-win season since 2009, but doing so will be far easier said than done.
To that end, the Burnt Orange Nation staff got together to discuss what Texas will have to do to come out on top against the nation’s No. 5 team, and more.
The Bulldogs own a size and likely a physical edge over Texas, and you’ve heard by now how balanced and efficient they are. But what advantages does Texas have entering the Sugar Bowl?
Cody Daniel — Co-Editor: Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson are probably the best receiver duo Georgia will have seen this season, and if the Longhorns secondary comes to play, they should own the edge over the Bulldogs receivers.
Gerald Goodridge — Contributor/Podcast Host: It’s absolutely a size advantage against the Georgia secondary. Their tallest defensive back gives up four inches to a couple of the best 50/50 ball receivers in the country. Heading into the game, conventional wisdom said that Baker would play Johnson one-on-one and the UGA secondary would roll coverage to Humphrey. Now they have to rely on two talented underclassmen to match up against two future NFL receivers.
Wes Crochet — Contributor: As UT fans know by now, the two top Texas receivers, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson, can provide any college defense fits, and UT could lean on that strength against Georgia, which will be without its Thorpe Award-winning defensive back Deandre Baker after he decided to skip the bowl game. Texas also will look to utilize speed to counter the size of Georgia.
Collin Parker — Contributor: Texas will have a better and more versatile quarterback in Sam Ehlinger. Ehlinger, along with being a better passer than Georgia’s Jake Fromm, will be able to extend plays using his legs, gaining crucial first-downs and extra yardage.
Georgia’s offensive line is big, physical, and tremendously effective. How can Texas counter the Bulldogs’ size in the trenches and find some much-needed success around the line of scrimmage?
Cody: Aside from basic slants along the line, I think Todd Orlando will have to successfully dial up some exotic blitzes because head-to-head, Texas won’t win at the line of scrimmage without some creativity and luck. I also think we could see a lot of Malcolm Roach as a down lineman to add some extra beef along the line.
Gerald: I think Texas has to get creative in its scheme to create simple numbers mismatches. Putting linebackers in position to make a play along the edge, or bring the defensive backs up to blitz and in run support.
Wes: The guys up front will have to use their best pass-rushing techniques to fight off the big blocks. Behind them, the defensive line will need all the help it can get from the second and third levels filling gaps, and using speed to get around the blockers to the ball-carriers before big plays bust open.
Collin: Texas will need to draw up different stunts and techniques to provide any pressure. Speed around the edges will help, too, putting some pressure on Fromm and collapse the pocket.
Sam Ehlinger has gone head-to-head with notable quarterbacks time and time again and often times, he’s got the better of the matchup. Will he be able to out-duel Jake Fromm at the Sugar Bowl?
Cody: Statistically, I think he’ll have the edge. Unlike Fromm, Ehlinger doesn’t have an elite running game to rely upon, and more notably, Georgia’s secondary will be without star corner and Thorpe Award winner, Deandre Baker. The fact that Ehlinger will be forced to throw for Texas to find success offensively should naturally allow him to have a better game, at least statistically.
Gerald: If Texas wants to win this game, then Texas needs the Red River Sam Ehlinger to show up. His abilities on a run-pass option adds an incredible dynamic. If he is able to connect on the post patterns that he has overthrown all season, I think Ehlinger has a special game.
Wes: Ehlinger certainly can with the help of his playmakers around him and his ability to evade pressure with his legs. And considering the Georgia defense is 94th in the nation in sacks, Ehlinger could find himself with a handful of opportunities to test this Georgia defense downfield throughout the game.
Collin: Ehlinger throws almost 30 times per game to a 2,000-yard receiving duo, while Fromm throws just 20. Ehlinger has the obvious statistical advantage over Fromm in this game, especially knowing the Georgia will be without their best cornerback, Deandre Baker.
Texas’ offense features Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey, while Georgia features D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield out of the backfield. Which duo will have a bigger impact on the game?
Cody: I’d lean towards Humphrey and Johnson, simply because Texas absolutely needs them to have a huge day to have a chance. Without Deandre Baker, Georgia will feature a true freshman and a redshirt freshman at cornerback, and I think it’s just generally easier to game plan against a ground game than it is against two receivers who will soon make a lot of money off of 50/50 balls.
Gerald: I think the bigger impact will be Johnson and Humphrey. Texas is going to have to force-feed its two biggest threats early and often if they want to put up a good showing in New Orleans.
Wes: To avoid saying this is a coin flip, I’m leaning UT’s duo here maintaining the thought that the receiving corps led by Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey will be able to make some plays against the young Georgia corners.
Collin: Swift and Holyfield have combined for nearly 2,000 yards this season on over 300 attempts. The duo opens up an otherwise average passing attack for Jake Fromm. Johnson and Humphrey are historically productive, but without Swift and Holyfield, Georgia’s offense isn’t nearly as efficient or intimidating.
Aside from the quarterbacks, Texas’ two-headed monster at receiver, and Georgia’s elite running backs, who will be a key player for each team that isn’t being discussed much?
Cody: Texas’ entire defensive line needs to have a good game, obviously, but I’ll go with Gary Johnson. How well he’s able to anchor the second level should go a long way towards how well Texas does in defending Georgia’s elite running backs. For the Bulldogs, safeties Richard LeCounte III and J.R. Reed will have to be at the top of their game with Baker not playing. The good news for Georgia is that they’re one of the better safety duos in the country.
Gerald: I have a feeling that the focus on the Texas passing game is going to create some opportunities for Tre Watson and Keontay Ingram to create out of the backfield. De’Andre Walker leads the Bulldogs in sacks and tackles for loss, so he is a name to watch for the Bulldogs pass defense.
Wes: Andrew Beck and Devin Duvernay both have an opportunity to be key contributors in this game for Texas. Defensively, BJ Foster down around the box could provide the added impactful speed.
Collin: Georgia’s Mecole Hardman Jr. possesses natural speed, explosiveness, and big-play tendencies that make him a key player. Hardman could easily exploit an average Texas secondary using bubble screens or slant routes, taking pressure off of Georgia’s backfield.
Virtually every metric says Texas is going to lose this game. What will Tom Herman’s team have to do to overcome seemingly overwhelming odds and leave New Orleans with a win?
Cody: Texas is one of the best in the nation at stringing together lengthy drives, so keeping Georgia’s elite offense sidelined will be essential. Of course, LJH and Johnson having big days will be key, as will limiting Swift and Holyfield, and some turnover luck would certainly help. In short, Texas will need to look a lot like it did for the first three quarters of the Red River Showdown.
Gerald: Abuse the size advantage Texas has in the secondary. Johnson and Humphrey create matchup issues for every team they play, so force the Georgia defense to pick its poison and then dance with the one that brought you.
Wes: Fight off blocks, fill gaps, prevent Georgia from busting the game open by running at will. Offensively, I’d suspect Texas also uses its running backs as receivers in an effort to keep Georgia’s defense on its heels.
Collin: Texas played Oklahoma twice this season, also a top-five opponent who was favored over the Longhorns. They beat them in the regular season, but lost in the Big-12 title game. The difference was the turnover battle, which Texas won 3-0 in their victory and tied 1-1 in their loss. Texas can beat top-five teams like Georgia when they force turnovers and take advantage of extra possessions.
Prediction time: Does Texas secure the biggest win of the Tom Herman era and the program’s first 10-win season since 2009?
Cody: If this season is a sign of things to come, we’re in for yet another close game, but I don’t think it’s one that will end favorably for Tom Herman’s team. Georgia - 41, Texas - 34.
Gerald: My heart says Texas, but my head says Georgia 35-28.
Wes: Everything points to Georgia winning this game but Texas seems hungry for this one. Texas 31, Georgia 28.
Collin: The loss of Deandre Baker hardly closes a sizeable talent gap between the two. Georgia 31, Texas 17