By Galen Patterson
The 2018 Rose Bowl pits the second and third best teams in college football against each other in Pasadena.
University of Oklahoma is ranked number two in this year’s seating, while the University of Georgia is ranked number three.
However, the 2018 Rose Bowl Game represents more than just the semi-finals before the National college championship. This year’s Rose Bowl is an epic battle between one of college football’s best defensive teams vs. one of the best offensive teams.
Both teams have been recognized by the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) committee, a council of 13 coaches and experts in the field, for their efforts in the 2017 college football season.
BCS committee decisions are generally based upon the difficulty of the teams played and the win/loss ratio they accrue throughout the season. Both teams have had a tough struggle this year and emerged with a similar overall record of 12 wins and 1 loss.
The Oklahoma Sooners managed to win all their games away from their home stadium, but lost in their home territory once this year, to the Clemson Tigers, the number 1-ranked team this year.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Bulldogs won all of their home games and lost one game away at Auburn against the Auburn Tigers, who are ranked number 7 this year. This loss is a particularly important turning point for Georgia, as their deep-seeded rivalry with Auburn spans more than a century. The first meeting between the two teams was in late-February of 1892 and ended in an Auburn victory 10-0. Since then, the teams have faced off in more than 120 games.
Georgia has two main strengths this year, defense and their noteworthy ability to run the ball.
Fielding one of the best defensive teams in college football, the Bulldogs managed to stop every team they played against, with the exception of their age-old rival, but defense alone is not enough to secure victory and make it to the Rose Bowl. Georgia arguably has the best running game in college football as well.
“That’s our mindset going into every game. We’re going to run the ball. It really doesn’t matter how many people you put in the box, we’re still going to try to run the ball,” said Bulldog fullback Christian Payne in an interview with the Associated Press.
Oklahoma also has two strengths that has carried them this far, their offensive game and more specifically, their quarterback.
Oklahoma averaged 42 points-per-game this season, the highest average in the 2018 college football season. Their skill in scoring is multi-faceted and relies on the talent of their entire offensive line. However, having a good quarterback, making the right calls, is where those plays begin to unfold.
Oklahoma has managed to secure and develop quarterback Baker Mayfield over the course of his college education. Mayfield is this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, meaning he is widely recognized at the best player in college football, and is a graduating senior, indicating his performance has been time-tested and could very well be at its peak.
While Mayfield is this year’s Heisman champion and is on his way out of college football, Georgia’s quarterback, Jake Fromm, is already on next year’s Heisman list of candidates according to USA Today, but next year’s award is still an entire season away.
For both teams, this is their second appearance in the Rose Bowl, with the Sooners winning 34-14 against the Washington State Cougars in 2003. Georgia, however, has not appeared in the Rose Bowl since 1943, when they beat the UCLA Bruins 9-0.
Whichever team wins the Rose Bowl in 2018 will move on to the National Championship for college football, the college equivalent of the Super Bowl in the NFL, and will be the best team of the year.
With both teams suffering one loss, mastering opposite strategies of the game and pitting both a favored champion and prospective champion, more is at stake in the 2018 Rose Bowl Game than the ability to play in the National Championship.