James Harrison Didn’t Sign Up to “Be a Cheerleader” – Former Steelers Linebacker Shares His Story

james-harrison-new-englandFormer Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison has taken a lot of heat this week after his release from his former team. Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey said that Harrison “chose to leave.”

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that Harrison slept “in a recliner during position meetings and snoring loudly while outside linebackers coach Joey Porter tried to teach.”

Obviously these stories cast Harrison in a negative light shortly after his release from the Steelers. It also doesn’t help matters that he signed with another top AFC competitor in the New England Patriots.

But the 39-year-old linebacker recently shared his version of the story through Instagram. You can see the Instagram post below along with the shady things Harrison did before his release.

Instagram Post from Harrison on the Steelers Situation

“If anybody thought I signed a two year deal with a team in the NFL at age 39 to sit on the bench and collect a check and a participation trophy, they’re mistaken. I didn’t sign up to sit on the bench and be a cheerleader. I was clear about that when I signed, and I was told I would be on the field when I signed. When I was asking for reps in camp, I got none. I got lip service though: we know what you can do – you don’t need the reps. But I know what my body needs in order to be in shape to compete, and I said so, but still zero reps.

james-harrison-pittsburgh-patriots“At the beginning of the season, when it was clear I didn’t have a role anymore, I asked to be released. Throughout the season, I was told week in and out that I’d be used. I wasn’t. I started getting frustrated about the whole thing. I asked to not be dressed or take unnecessary practice reps if I wasn’t going to play. That’s what happened for a [couple] weeks, then we had a game week that I got solid reps in practice and everyone assumed I would play. I got to the stadium four hours early as usual, and my locker was empty. Nobody said anything to me about being inactive, just an empty locker. I asked to be released again. I was told no.

“A couple weeks later, they dress me for the game so I assume I’m going to play, and I get zero repos. Stood on the sideline the whole game. I asked to be released again, I was told no. Then a few days later, they released me. I was never told I would be brought back, it was: If I bring [you] back, be in shape. I cleared waivers, and they didn’t call. New England called. Also, to be clear, ask Ryan [Shazier] if I came to see him in the hospital. I didn’t help Bud [Dupree] or T.J. [Watt]? As TJ if I helped him.

“Maybe I didn’t handle my frustration the best that I could’ve. If you haven’t learned anything about me over the last 16 years, I’m a competitor to my core. I live and breathe competition. I do what it takes to keep my body and my mind ready to be on that field. I do it for me, I do it for my family, I do it for my team and I do it for the fans. Nothing else to it. At the end of the day, they made a business decision and so did I.”

More Stories on Harrison’s Misdeeds in Pittsburgh

The Instagram post by Harrison certainly offers a different light on the recent events. It sounds like he was promised some type of role, then treated like a deep reserve when TJ Watt and Bud Dupree developed quicker than expected.

james-harrison-patriotsNevertheless, this doesn’t make up for some of the things that Harrison allegedly did in the waning weeks of his Steelers’ career.

Pouncey was particularly annoyed that Harrison hasn’t gone public about his demands for a release.

“He wanted out. It wasn’t like the team said, ‘Oh, we’re going to let go of James Harrison.’ James Harrison wanted out,” said Pouncey.

“It’s funny to read the stories. This is something he wanted to do. It wasn’t like they got together and said, ‘We’re going to go cut James.’ No, that’s not what happened. And he needs to come out and admit that.”

Paul Zeise, who hosts the Pittsburgh radio show 93.7 The Fan, quoted Dupree as saying that Harrison didn’t provide any leadership to he or fellow rookie Watt.

“I looked up to Deebo [Harrison’s nickname] and wanted to learn from him but he didn’t want to be a mentor to us, like he didn’t want T.J. and me to be better than him,” Dupree said, through Zeise.

Is Harrison Sharing Steelers’ Secrets with the Patriots?

The media has run with a conspiracy theory that Harrison is sharing all of Pittsburgh’s secrets with his new team. QB Ben Roethlisberger’s wife kicked this rumor off.

james-harrison-pats“My wife and I were talking about it last night,” Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Gazette. “She was asking me if he knew our no-huddle stuff. I said I don’t think he knows a lot of it. I’m sure he’s heard some of the same things for a lot of years now so maybe some of it. But that’s a long way off.”

If New England is pumping Harrison for information, Patriots coach Bill Belichick certainly isn’t admitting it.

“I mean, look, at any team — this is the National Football League. Players change teams,” Belichick told the press. “We have David Harris. I mean, this isn’t some kind of unprecedented event. That’s just not what it is. We face somebody that’s been on our team every week. We have somebody on our team that was with another team that we play against.

“That’s the way it is every week. This is the National Football League. We’re not talking about college now where players don’t change teams. This is professional football. It’s like that every year. It’s like that every week. It’s like that on every team. I don’t know. I don’t see it as some big historical event.”

2017/18 NFL Futures

As Belichick said, players changed teams all the time. So Harrison being on the Patriots doesn’t suddenly give them a massive edge against Pittsburgh in a potential AFC Championship showdown.

But it certainly doesn’t hurt either. And New England is still favored on our GTBets.eu sportsbook to win both the conference title and Super Bowl. That said, let’s look at the current futures.

AFC Championship Futures

New England -120
Pittsburgh +265
Jacksonville +750
Kansas City +950
Baltimore +1200
LA Chargers +5000
Tennessee +6000

2017/18 Super Bowl Futures

New England +200
Minnesota +490
Pittsburgh +575
LA Rams +1000
New Orleans +1000
Philadelphia +1000
Jacksonville +1400
Carolina +1800
Kansas City +2000
Atlanta +2500
Baltimore +2500
Seattle +4500
LA Chargers +10000

Rockies Sign Wade Davis to $52 Million Contract – Highest Ever Salary for a Reliever

wade-davis-cubsThe Colorado Rockies are really focusing on their already-strong bullpen. They just signed relief pitcher Wade Davis to a three-year, $52 million contract. This deal also includes an option for a fourth year, which would push the total contract to $66 million.

The guaranteed money will have the Rockiest committing $17.33 million to one of the game’s best relievers. The 32-year-old was widely considered the top free agent relief pitcher on the market.

It’s obvious that Colorado sees value and what Davis has done over the past few seasons. Pitching for the Chicago Cubs last season, he finished with a 2.30 ERA, 32 saves, and 79 strikeouts in 58.2 innings.

Perhaps what won the Rockies over is how well Davis played in a division-series-clinching road game against the Washington Nationals. He struck out three batters over 2.3 innings to help Chicago advance.

Davis was also a key part of the Kansas City Royals team that won the World Series in 2015. He took over for closer Greg Holland following an injury and didn’t miss a beat. Davis will once again take over for Holland, who’s now with the Rockies and coming off Tommy John surgery.

Colorado Lands Another Top Reliever

Colorado was once dismissed among top free-agent pictures, due to how its thin air allows more long balls. However, the Rockies have had a lot of luck drawing outstanding relievers this winter.

Aside from signing Davis to a three-year deal, they also inked contracts with Jake McGee and Brian Shaw. Both deals are worth three years and $27 million. This brings the total value of Colorado’s free-agent bullpen signings to $106 million.

Add in salaries for Adam Ottavino, Mike Dunn, and Chris Rusin, and Colorado has invested around $45 million into their bullpen for the 2018 season.

Davis Becomes Highest Paid Reliever in History

wade-davis-signs-rockiesChicago Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman previously held the record for the largest contract among relievers, with a five-year deal worth $17.2 million. But Davis will trump this because he’s earning $17.33 million over the next three seasons.

One can argue that he’s earned this status, given that he joined Chapman, Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel, and Kenley Jansen in a conversation for the game’s best relief pitcher.

Davis has been on the rise ever since 2014, when he transitioned from a struggling starter to a reliever in Kansas City. He came to the Royals in the Jake Shields deal, and quickly impressed with a 1.00 ERA in his first season there. Davis only got better the next season, posting a better ERA and not giving up a single home run.

He regressed slightly for the Cubs in 2017, surrendering six home runs in 58 2/3 innings. Nevertheless, Davis was still a highly valued member of the Cubs.

It’s a given that Chicago tried their best to re-sign their star reliever. But perhaps no team other than the Yankees would come even close to the contract that Colorado is giving him.

Colorado Looking to Improve Upon Last Year’s Wild Card Appearance

By most accounts, the Colorado Rockies had a pretty successful season. They finished with an 87-75 record, good for third in the NL West.

Despite only finishing third in their division, the Rockies earned one of the NL’s two Wild Card slots. They lost to division rival Arizona in this game, which ended their season.

Colorado featured an average bullpen last year, ranking 17th with a 4.51 ERA. But given the aggressive reliever signings that they’ve made this off-season, the Rockies stand to improve upon this mark in the 2018 campaign.

Davis will certainly go a long way towards helping them close out games.

Mike Tomlin Unsure if Steelers Starters will Play Against Cleveland

mike-tomlin-steelersThe Pittsburgh Steelers have already clinched a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. But they’re still alive to claim the top seed in the AFC. They need to beat the Cleveland Browns, and hope for a New England Patriots’ loss for this to happen.

Given that New England is heavily favored to beat the 5-10 New York Jets, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is considering resting his starters against the Browns.

“I’m undecided as I stand here right now,” Tomlin told the media. “It’s obvious that those types of discussions are in play.”

If Pittsburgh rests their starters, it means they believe that the Patriots will beat the Jets. This would also accomplish the goal of avoiding any injuries in what could be a meaningless regular season game.

Likewise, the 0-15 Cleveland Browns will have a much better chance to avoid becoming just the second team in NFL history to go 0-16.

Should Tomlin Rest the Starters Against Cleveland?

“We will play to win that football game,” Tomlin said when asked about his lineup. However, this can also mean that he simply wants his second and third units to get Pittsburgh a victory.

The good news for the Steelers is that sending out the backups against Cleveland doesn’t guarantee a loss. After all, the Brownsleveon-bell-vs-new-england have been just as woeful as ever this season.

But if there’s any chance that the Jets can’t beat their division rival, Pittsburgh would look bad if they rest starters and lose against the Browns.

Tomlin will be taking an educated gamble, though, if he rests his starters. The chances of New England losing a home game to New York are very slim. The Pats have six of their last seven contests at Gillette Stadium. They’re also favored by 15.5 points on our GTBets.eu line.

Steelers Have Dealt with Injury Problems in Previous Playoff Runs

antonio-brown-calf-injury“Who we choose to employ or utilize or activate, we are in the process of discussing,” Tomlin explained.

“The expectation will be what it is. The people we put on the field will be expected to play and play winning football.”

One of the topics that no doubt crept into these discussions is how Pittsburgh has had some key injuries during previous playoff runs. In fact, they’ve been without one or more of their top offensive weapons in each of the last three seasons.

Running back Le’Veon Bell hyper-extended his left knee in the final game of the 2014 regular season. Pittsburgh lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs that year.

The Steelers were again without Bell in the 2015 campaign, when the star running back injured his left knee against the Cincinnati Bengals. Pittsburgh got some revenge by beating Cincinnati in a playoff game the same season. However, receiver Antonio Brown suffered a concussion in the Bengals playoff game. He was unable to play in a divisional round loss to the Denver Broncos the following week.

Bell also left the 2016 AFC Championship game after just six carries due to a hamstring injury. The Patriots ended up winning this game 36-17.

Brown hurt his calf muscle against New England just two weeks ago. However, he’s expected to return by the divisional round.

Tomlin would be Wise to Sit Starters

Ben Roethlisberger, Pernell McPheeConsidering the low odds of the Jets beating New England, and Pittsburgh’s previous struggles with late-season injuries, Tomlin would be wise to rest his starters.

They just had a reminder of their injury troubles when Brown exited the Patriots’game in the second quarter. And star linebacker Ryan Shazier won’t play again this season after suffering a major spinal injury in the first week of December.

If Tomlin is going to play starters, he should at least sit Bell and activate free-agent signing Stevan Ridley. After all, Bell has been the player most affected during or before previous Pittsburgh postseason runs.

Having Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback should be enough against the Browns. Ridley and backup James Connor can handle the carries in Bell’s place.

Of course, it would be a good idea to have Roethlisberger sit in favor of backup Landry Jones. Big Ben has dealt with his share of injuries during the past few seasons. If Jones is playing really badly, then the team always has the option to bring Roethlisberger into the game later.

Pittsburgh Needs to Avoid Worrying about Playoff Seeding

New England is certainly a tough team to beat in Foxborough. That’s why it would be great for Pittsburgh if they could get the No. 1 seed. However, the top seed might not matter if they lose another key offensive player before the AFC Championship. In fact, they might even struggle to make it out of the divisional round under this scenario.

Tomlin’s key focus should be on making sure his starters are healthy in a couple of weeks, rather than worrying about winning the upcoming game.

The truth is that the Steelers still have a chance to win this contest, even if Jones, Connor, and Ridley are playing key offensive roles. That said, Steelers fans should hope that Tomlin decides to rest his starters.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns Odds Week 17

Point Spread
Cleveland +10.5 (-107)
Pittsburgh -10.5 (-113)

Over/Under
Over 38 (-105)
Under 38 (-115)

Jacksonville Jaguars to Play Starters in Week 17

leonard-fournette-jacksonvilleThe Jacksonville Jaguars have clinched the AFC South and locked up the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs. They can’t move up either, because the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots have sealed first-round byes.

That said, one can’t blame the Jaguars if they rest their starters in the final week of the regular season. But head coach Doug Marrone doesn’t have any plans to rest his starters in Week 17 against Tennessee.

And Marrone told the press that this has nothing to do with Jacksonville’s 44-33 loss against San Francisco last week.

“Make no mistake about it, just so there is not a lot of talk during the week. When the players come in [Wednesday], we are talking about how we are going to play to win and do everything we possibly can to win this game, period,” said Marrone.

“I am not even thinking about what happens beyond that, and that is the way we are going to go about our business this week.”

doug-marrone-jacksonvilleThis has to be music to the ears of the Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, and Buffalo Bills. All three teams are currently competing with Tennessee over the final two AFC playoff spots.

Tennessee (8-7) must win against Jacksonville to earn its first playoff spot since 2008. The Ravens (9-6) also control their own destiny and are guaranteed a playoff slot if they beat Cincinnati.

Both the Chargers and Bills need help to make the postseason. And they’ll get this help if Jacksonville is able to beat the Titans.

Easy Decision on Playing Starters

Marrone had no trouble making a decision to put his starters out on the field against Tennessee. Of course, this is a little surprising to hear, given that his top two receivers (Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns) have ankle injuries, and starting running back Leonard Fournette has missed games due to ankle and quad injuries.

jacksonville-jaguars-defenseNevertheless, Marrone will continue using an approach that emphasizes breaking each game down into quarters, and winning each quarter. He doesn’t want to throw this game plan out the window by playing subs throughout the final game.

“I knew that it was going to be a question. I knew that it would be asked. When we go over the games and everything and I said, ‘We are going to bounce back and we are going to work our asses off this week and we are going to go out and win this game and win this quarter,'” Marrone explained.

“That was pretty much the conversation, and there wasn’t, ‘Are you sure?’ There wasn’t any wavering from anyone of what we want to do and what we want to accomplish this week. We are 100 percent all-in on winning this football game.”

Jacksonville Must Bounce Back After Bad Game

Even though Marrone says that the San Francisco game has nothing to do with playing his starters, they can certainly benefit by playing good football against Tennessee.

blake-bortles-jaguarsJacksonville was able to clinch the AFC South thanks to the L.A. Rams’ victory over the Titans. However, they weren’t able to seal the division on their own with a victory over the Niners.

Things looked bad from the outset, as the Jaguars trailed 10-0 after the first quarter. The defense gave up 38 points, along with 131 rushing yards. They also allowed San Francisco QB Jimmy Garoppolo to complete 21-of-30 passes, resulting in 242 yards and two touchdowns.

The offense wasn’t much better, with quarterback Blake Bortles throwing three interceptions (including a pick-six) and running backs T.J. Yeldon and Fournette combining for 2.7 yards per carry.

Yet another downside to the Jaguars’performance is that they committed a season-high 12 penalties, including three for unsportsmanlike conduct or unnecessary roughness.

Taking everything into account, using the final regular season game as a test could help Jacksonville bounce back and be better prepared for their first-round Wild Card game. It also won’t hurt matters that they’ll be playing at Jacksonville, instead of across the country.

The Jaguars first-round playoff opponent won’t be determined until key games in Week 17 are decided.

Jacksonville vs Tennessee Odds Week 17 (from GTBets.eu)

Point Spread
Jacksonville +3.5 (-116)
Tennessee -3.5 (-104)

Moneyline
Jacksonville +168
Tennessee -193

2017 NFL Playoff Picture Heading Into Week 17

tom-brady-deflate-gateEvery year the last week of the NFL regular season brings plenty of drama. That’s because there are usually multiple teams in both the AFC and NFC competing for a final playoff spot.

Beyond this, there are also teams jockeying for first-round byes and home-field advantage in the Wild Card rounds. The 2017 NFL season is no different because much remains unsettled going into the final week of the regular season.

That said, let’s discuss what playoff spots and seeding need to be determined this week.

AFC Playoff Picture Week 17

The AFC is the most unsettled conference in terms of which six teams are getting into the postseason. The results of games involving the Bills, Chargers, Ravens, and Titans will determine the final two AFC playoff participants.

The other thing that still needs to be determined is whether the Patriots or Steelers will earn the No. 1 overall seed. Here’s a look at what must happen before the AFC playoff picture is settled.

1. New England Patriots (12-3)

The Patriots must beat the New York Jets (5-10) to secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Given how New England recently dismantled division rival Buffalo (8-7), who’s in the thick of the playoff hunt, they shouldn’t have much trouble with New York at home.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3)

antonio-brown-steelersPittsburgh lost Antonio Brown for a few weeks. But they had no trouble dominating the Houston Texans (4-11) by a score of 34-6. This clinched a first-round bye for Pittsburgh, which is crucial as they wait for Brown to recover by the divisional round. The Steelers also have a shot at No. 1 in the AFC, if they can beat Cleveland (0-15) coupled with a New England loss.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5)

Jacksonville’s hopes of a first-round bye vanished with Pittsburgh’s win. But the AFC South champ also has a home game locked up in the Wild Card round.

alex-smith-kansas-city4. Kansas City Chiefs (9-6)

The Chiefs are the AFC West champions and will host a home game in the Wild Card round no matter what. It’s very likely that Patrick Mahomes will see his first official action this week.

5. Baltimore Ravens (9-6)

Baltimore is automatically in if they beat division-rival Cincinnati. But even if they lose, they’ll have other paths into the postseason. However, it’s highly unlikely that John Harbaugh’s team is focusing on ways to back into the playoffs.

marcus-mariota6. Tennessee Titans (8-7)

Tennessee has lost three games in a row, yet still remains in a qualifying position. But they have to end the losing streak this week to secure their playoff spot. This won’t be easy, given that Jacksonville has no plans to rest its starters.

7. Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)

L.A. must start by beating the Oakland Raiders (6-9) this week. They also need the Titans to lose to get into the postseason. The Chargers don’t have to worry about Buffalo, because they hold the tie-breaker here.

8. Buffalo Bills (8-7)

Buffalo is still alive by a thread. But they need to win on the road against Miami (6-9), then hope for losses by the three teams ahead of them since they hold no tie-breakers.

NFC Playoff Picture Week 17

eagles-offense-2017One thing that’s clear in the NFC is that Philadelphia is the No. 1 seed. However, the Eagles are also vulnerable after losing QB Carson Wentz for the season. That said, other top seeds like the Vikings, Rams, and Saints must think they have a good chance, even on the road.

The only playoff team that needs to be determined is the No. 6 seed. Both the Seahawks and Falcons are battling for the final NFC playoff slot, which I’ll cover below.

1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)

Nick Foles played excellent in a Week 15 win against the New York Giants. However, he was much worse last week in a 19-10 victory over the Raiders. The Eagles’ front seven and the running game must carry this team as they move on without Wentz. The good news, though, is that they’ll be playing home games throughout the NFC playoffs.

2. Minnesota Vikings (12-3)

Minnesota shut down the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers to move closer towards a first-round bye. They’ll clinch this with a victory over the Bears. The Vikings can also earn a bye with a Saints win, Panthers loss, or Rams win. Given that just one of these things need to happen, expect Minnesota to be resting during the Wild Card week.

todd-gurley-rams3. Los Angeles Rams (11-4)

The Rams have made a fantastic turnaround this season under head coach Sean McVay. And McVay is now the youngest coach to make the playoffs. The NFC West champions have an outside chance at a first-round bye, although they’ll likely be participating in the Wild Card round.

4. New Orleans Saints (11-4)

Despite an 0-2 start, New Orleans is now in the playoffs. They can also clinch the NFC South with a win over the Buccaneers (4-11) or a Panthers loss. New Orleans has a complete team that could be a serious contender in the NFC.

5. Carolina Panthers (11-4)

New Orleans Saints v Carolina PanthersCarolina kept their hopes alive for a division title by beating the Bucs. They now must win at Atlanta and hope for a Saints loss to win the NFC South. The Panthers can even climb up to the No. 2 seed, assuming the Vikings, Rams, and Saints all lose. Of course, this is unlikely to happen, so they need to simply focus on beating Tampa Bay.

6. Atlanta Falcons (9-6)

Atlanta was shut down in New Orleans last week. This sets them up for a scenario where they need to beat Carolina or have Seattle lose to make the playoffs. Given how Atlanta has stumbled so many times dating back to last year’s Super Bowl loss, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them get bumped out.

7) Seattle Seahawks (9-6)

Seattle looked dead in the water after a 42-7 blowout loss to the Rams. However, they battled back with a win over Dallas. Now the Seahawks need a win over Arizona (7-8) combined with an Atlanta loss. The road seems possible, but Seattle must focus on beating Arizona at home first.

Georgia vs Oklahoma: 2018 CFP Odds & Predictions

baker-mayfield-oklahomaThe No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs and No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners face off in the Rose Bowl, which is a weird setting for a Big 12 and SEC team. The last time that the Rose Bowl didn’t feature either a Pac-12 or Big Ten team was 2002, when Miami destroyed then-Big 12 member Nebraska 37-14.

With all their talent, Oklahoma is unlikely to suffer a similar fate as the Cornhuskers. But can they get by the second-seeded Bulldogs to make the national title game? Let’s find out by looking at the odds from our GTBets sportsbook along with the keys for each team winning this game.

2018 College Football Playoff Odds for Rose Bowl (Jan 1 at 5:00pm ET)

Georgia vs Oklahoma Point Spread
Georgia -1 (-120)
Oklahoma +1 (+100)

Over/Under
Over 60 (-110)
Under 60 (-110)

Key Factors for Georgia

This season certainly hasn’t been easy for Georgia. Starting quarterback Jacob Eason hurt his knee in this season opener and missed a significant amount of time.

jake-fromm-georgiaFew expected the Bulldogs to be in this position, given that true freshman Jake Fromm took over the offense. However, Fromm quickly engineered a victory over Notre Dame in his first start. He’s also played pretty well throughout the entire season.

George ran out to a 9-0 start, only to have Auburn end their perfect season. The Bulldogs didn’t hang their heads, though, getting revenge on the Tigers in the SEC Championship.

This victory was especially impressive given that Georgia won in a 28-7 blowout. They were also able to end Alabama’s dominance over the conference.

The Auburn game is a perfect example of why Georgia stands a chance of beating any team in the country, including the Sooners. They outgained the Tigers 421-259 in yardage, won the rushing battle 238-114, and also forced two turnovers while giving up none.

Overall, Georgia has outgained and outrushed 12 its 13 opponents. Their defense has also held 10 teams to 14 points or less.

The Bulldogs are a complete team that’s in the College Football Playoff for a reason. They’re not going to wow you with stars and award finalists. But they can overwhelm you as a collective unit.

The big key for Georgia will be how their defense holds up against Mayfield and Oklahoma. Georgia features the fourth-best defense in the nation, and they’re ranked second nationally to Alabama in passing yards allowed her attempt (5.58 yards).

Missouri’s Drew Lock showed that it’s possible to pass on this secondary. However, J.R. Reed, Dominick Sanders and Deandre Baker will all be at the top of their game for this high-profile contest.

Key Factors for Oklahoma

Every conversation regarding Oklahoma begins with their quarterback, Baker Mayfield. The Austin, Texas native came to the Sooners as a mere walk-on. Four years later, he’s now the biggest star in college football and has a chance to lead his team to a national title.

baker-mayfield-vs-georgiaOf course, Oklahoma is about more than just one player. Their offense produced the highest scoring output in the nation at 44.9 points per game.

However, the Sooners had few believers at the beginning of the season. It wasn’t until they beat Ohio State convincingly on the road that they gained serious attention.

People would lose faith again when Oklahoma lost to Iowa State in October. But this Cyclones team has proven to be pretty good. Nobody is doubting the Sooners now, especially the way they’ve rattled off seven wins in a row.

Oklahoma capped off their strong regular season with a 17-0 victory over the TCU Horned Frogs in the Big 12 Championship. They outgained TCU 461-317, including a 218-83 rushing advantage. If Oklahoma can get this kind of ground support against Georgia, it’s likely that they move onto the CFP Championship.

Another key for the Sooners will be how their offensive line protects Mayfield. Odds are that they’ll hold up, given that they’ve done a good job of blocking for Mayfield and the running backs all season.

Prediction on Georgia vs Oklahoma

Between this game and the Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Clemson, I see this one being the least closest.

Georgia has no doubt had an excellent season, especially when considering that they lost their starting quarterback early. But it’s arguable that they’re not even the best team in the SEC, let alone the nation.

I think that the Bulldogs’ defense can slow Mayfield a bit. But the likely Heisman candidate will probably still light up the Rose Bowl.

In what’s being billed as a matchup of offense vs. defense, I like Mayfield and the Sooners’ offense by a comfortable margin.

Final Score Prediction: Oklahoma 36, Georgia 19