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College Sports: 5 things Texas fans need to know about Georgia, like why its defense will be a challenging test for Longhorns

Here are five things Texas fans need to know about Georgia, the Longhorns’ Sugar Bowl opponent:

1. Jake Fromm is one of SEC’s best QBs

Texas has seen no shortage of good — and elite — quarterbacks this season. Such is life playing in the Big 12.

But the Longhorns will face another strong challenge on Jan. 1 against one of the SEC’s sharpest passers in Georgia sophomore Jake Fromm.

Fromm is fresh off one of the best games of his career in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama.

He holds the second-best QBR in the SEC this year at 175.81, trailing only Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. Fromm has passed for 2,537 yards, 27 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He’s also completed 68.4 percent of his passes, which leads the SEC.

Fromm will likely be high on NFL draft boards come this time next year with another season of experience and growth.

2. Georgia has two big-time RBs

Georgia has a dynamic rushing attack that features two 1,000-yard-caliber backs.

Sophomore D’Andre Swift and junior Elijah Holyfield each have had big years. Swift has rushed for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Holyfield has 956 yards and seven touchdowns. Also, each player is averaging more than six yards per carry.

Against Alabama, one of the best rush defenses in the country, Swift and Holyfield combined for 135 yards, a touchdown and each averaged more than four yards per rush.

Come New Year’s Day in New Orleans, this will arguably be the best backfield Texas has seen all season, one that has proven its mettle against stronger SEC defenses all season.

Georgia has the 12th-ranked rushing offense in the nation and averages 251.6 yards per game on the ground.

3. Bulldogs have one of nation’s best defenses

A major part of the SEC’s brand in recent years has been the quality of its defenses. Georgia has one of the toughest in the league, and this will be the Longhorns’ most challenging test of the year.

The Bulldogs rank No. 13 nationally in total defense are tied for 15th in scoring defense, limiting opponents to an average of 18.5 points per game.

Georgia is led by senior defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter, senior linebacker D’Andre Walker — who finished tied for fourth in the SEC in sacks with eight — and senior cornerback Deandre Baker, the nation’s Jim Thorpe Award winner for best defensive back.

Some bad news for Georgia’s defense, however, is that it will be without defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

Tucker was hired to be the new head coach at Colorado and won’t coach Georgia’s defense in the bowl game.

4. Kirby Smart has turned Georgia
into a national contender

Of smaller note, this won’t be the first time that Georgia coach Kirby Smart and Texas coach Tom Herman have met in the Sugar Bowl.

The two were on opposite sidelines in the 2015 Sugar Bowl, when Ohio State defeated Alabama 42-35 in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Herman was Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and Smart was Alabama’s defensive coordinator. The Buckeyes went on to win the national title that season.

Smart, a former Georgia defensive back, left the Crimson Tide a year later to take the head coaching job at his alma mater after it fired longtime coach Mark Richt. Since taking over, Smart has turned Georgia into a national contender and re-energized the program.

After an 8-5 season in his first year at the helm in 2016, Smart has gone 24-4. The Bulldogs won the 2017 SEC championship and reached the College Football Playoff, where they lost to Alabama in overtime of the national title game. Had Georgia beaten Alabama in this year’s SEC title game, it would have made the College Football Playoff again.

Texas coach Tom Herman praised Smart’s efforts at Georgia during the Sugar Bowl teleconference on Dec. 2.

“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.”

5. Georgia is the heavy favorite

The oddsmakers in Las Vegas have Georgia as the heavy favorite in the Sugar Bowl. After all, this is a team that was one win away from punching its ticket to the College Football Playoff.

The Bulldogs immediately opened as 14-point favorites, but since then the line has moved some. Georgia is currently an 11-point favorite. It’s the largest spread over the Longhorns all season.

This will also be the schools’ first meeting since the 1984 Cotton Bowl. That day, No. 7 Georgia escaped a low-scoring affair with No. 2 Texas, 10-9.

Before the announcement of the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl matchup, Texas and Georgia weren’t supposed to meet again until the 2028 and 2029 seasons. Last month, the two programs agreed to a home-and-home series for those seasons. The Longhorns will host in 2028 and the Bulldogs host in 2029.

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