The 2018 Rose Bowl will serve as a national semifinal between the no. 2 Oklahoma Sooners and no. 3 Georgia Bulldogs. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00 EST on Monday, January 1 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The game is being televised on ESPN.

Oddsmakers list the Bulldogs as 1-point favorites over Oklahoma. The over/under is set at 60 points. Click here for a full list of bowl game betting odds and links to game previews.

Rose Bowl Vegas Spread Preview: Georgia vs Oklahoma

Georgia enters the Rose Bowl fresh off their first SEC title since 2005. The Bulldogs finished the season 12-1, losing only to Auburn. Of course, Georgia got their revenge on Auburn in the SEC title game, beating the Tigers soundly to solidify their spot in the College Football Playoff. In just his second year as a head coach, Kirby Smart has Georgia in a position to play for the national championship.

Of course, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley has done the same thing in his first season as a head coach. Riley only took over the job in June after Bob Stoops suddenly retired. But it’s been a seamless transition for the Sooners. Oklahoma has an identical 12-1 record, losing only to Iowa State in early October. Since that loss, the Sooners have rattled off eight wins in a row, including a convincing win over TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game.

2018 Rose Bowl Free Betting Pick & Predictions: Georgia -1

With such a small spread, this game is essentially a PK. With that in mind, I’m going to lean toward Georgia. Obviously, Oklahoma will have the best player on the field in Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. However, I believe Georgia is a better and more well-rounded team. That will be the difference that allows the Bulldogs to edge out Oklahoma and advance to the title game.

Mayfield, of course, has a chance to carry the Sooners on his back. He was sensational all season, especially down the stretch. In the final four games of the season, Mayfield threw 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions. On the season, he completed 71% of his passes for well over 4,000 yards. It’s safe to say that Georgia hasn’t seen a quarterback with his abilities all season.

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However, outside of the quarterback position, Georgia has the edge nearly everywhere else on the field. it starts on defense, where the Bulldogs gave up just 13 points per game this year, good for 4th in the country. That doesn’t mean the Georgia defense will be able to completely shut down Mayfield and the Oklahoma offense. But the Bulldogs do have the type of athletes that can match up against Oklahoma’s skill players, which could make Mayfield’s job a little more difficult.

The Sooners may have averaged 45 points per game this season. But they rarely faced quality defensive teams. To be fair, they managed to score points against teams like TCU, Texas, and Iowa State. However, the Georgia defense is still a level above those teams. With plenty of time to prepare, I think the Bulldogs will be a formidable opponent for the Oklahoma offense.

There’s also the issue of the Oklahoma defense, which is average at best. In fairness, it’s hard not to give up a lot of points most weeks while playing in the Big 12. They also played a little better late in the year. But no team Oklahoma has faced this season has anything close to the backfield tandem Georgia has with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Both averaged over 6 yards per carry and scored 13 touchdowns this season. 

With an elite running game, the Bulldogs can create explosive plays, but they can also control the clock and keep Mayfield off the field. Also, don’t sleep on freshman quarterback Jake Fromm. He has a full season under his belt and played great down the stretch, throwing eight touchdowns with just one interception in his final five games.

Ultimately, I think Georgia is significantly better than Oklahoma both defensively and running the ball. They’re a more balanced team than the Sooners, and I think that will allow the Bulldogs to escape with a close win over Oklahoma.