The College Football Playoff selection committee has spoken: Georgia is not among the four playoff teams and won’t have a chance to play for the national title.
Kirby Smart disagrees. But the Georgia coach said he and his team aren’t going to pout about the opportunity to play Texas in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.
“Look, I’m not crying over spilled milk,” Smart said. “We had our opportunities in the Alabama game and did not finish and did not take advantage of them. I certainly think we’re one of the four best teams in the country, but I also know we’re not in the playoffs and we’ll have an opportunity to do that next year.”
Georgia was oh-so-close to knocking off top-ranked Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game and earning a spot in the CFP’s four-team field.
Instead, the Bulldogs will settle for an intriguing matchup against the Longhorns in New Orleans. It’s the first time the powerhouse programs have played since squaring off in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2, 1984.
No. 6 Georgia (11-2, 7-1 SEC, No. 5 CFP) is led by D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield, an impressive tandem of running backs who have combined for nearly 2,000 yards on the ground this season. The Bulldogs’ only losses were to LSU during the regular season, and the 35-28 loss to the Tide on Saturday.
Smart said he expects his players will bounce back from the emotional loss.
“These kids recover faster than you think they do,” Smart said. “Obviously, there’s disappointment in last night’s result. But there’s also the opportunity to move forward with a young team on a national stage with our fans who follow us to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game.”
No. 14 Texas (9-4, 7-2, No. 15 CFP) enjoyed a breakout regular season and has a chance to win 10 games for the first time since 2009. The Longhorns lost to Oklahoma on Saturday in the Big 12 championship game.
Texas coach Tom Herman said the Sugar Bowl is “a definite reward” for the program and that the Longhorns will have to play extremely well to beat the Bulldogs.
“We know what they’ve been able to do,” Herman said. “They played in the national championship game last year. They were on the verge of getting to the playoffs this year. Kirby has that thing rolling and we are going to need our A-game to have the chance to beat them.”
Here are some other things to know about the Georgia-Texas matchup in the Sugar Bowl:
Ehlinger’s Big Targets
Texas sophomore Sam Ehlinger has had an excellent year, throwing for 3,123 yards, 25 touchdowns and just five interceptions. His two favorite targets are Lil’Jordan Humphrey (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and Collin Johnson (6-6, 220), who have the size and speed to potentially give Georgia problems.
Watch For Omenihu
Georgia’s defense will need to keep its eyes on defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, who was an All-Big 12 selection after making 16 tackles for a loss, including 9½ sacks. The 6-6, 275-pound junior could create issues for Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, who does many things well but is not considered a particularly mobile quarterback.
Fromm isn’t often mentioned among the nation’s elite quarterbacks, but against Alabama in the SEC championship he showed he can put up big numbers against an excellent defense. Fromm completed 25 of 39 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns against the Tide.
Smart vs. Herman
Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Texas’ Tom Herman are widely considered some of the nation’s top young coaches. Smart has a 32-9 overall record during his three seasons at Georgia, including back-to-back appearances in the SEC championship game and an appearance in last year’s College Football Playoff title game. Herman is 16-10 in his second season with the Longhorns, including a 12-6 mark in Big 12 regular season games.
In the Sugar Bowl
This is the 10th time Georgia has played in the Sugar Bowl and the first appearance since 2008, when it beat Hawaii 41-10. The Longhorns are back at the Sugar Bowl for just the fourth time and its first appearance since losing to Virginia Tech in the 1995 game.