In each of the previous 25 games, Ohio State has been the favorite to win. Saturday is not the case.
For the first time since the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship against Alabama, the Buckeyes are not expected to come out on top.
Despite many discounting No. 4 Ohio State’s chances in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, it hasn’t seemed to deter the Buckeyes as they look ahead to the tall task of knocking off defending national champion No. 1 Georgia, which is on an active 15-game winning streak.
“When you sign to come to Ohio State, you sign for games like this and opportunities like this,” third-year safety Lathan Ransom said. “Being the underdog, I think we should take pride in that. For me personally, I’ve been the underdog my whole life, so I almost prefer sometimes being the underdog.”
It’s been a tale of two seasons for both teams this year.
Ohio State started out firing on all cylinders offensively, boasting one of the best yard- and point-per-game totals in the country.
However, despite a 54-10 win against Iowa Oct. 22, questions started to creep in about just how dominant the Buckeyes were. They relied on a 28-point second half outpouring, aiding the lopsided look on the scoreboard after leading just 26-10 at halftime.
Since then — aside from a 56-14 win against Indiana Nov. 12 — Ohio State hasn’t seemed to dominate teams in the same fashion, missing out on the Big Ten Championship after losing to then-No. 3 Michigan for the second season in a row.
As for Georgia, the only blemishes on its resume came Sept. 24 and Oct. 1 in 39-22 and 26-22 wins against Kent State and Missouri, respectively.
The Bulldogs rallied to complete their second-straight undefeated regular season, winning the SEC Championship against then-No. 14 LSU in the same building they will play the Buckeyes: Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Saturday marks the third time this season Georgia has played on the surface that the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC call home, but second-year wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. likes it better that way.
“I think we kind of always thought it was Ohio against the world, even before this game, so nothing really changes,” Harrison said. “Me personally, I’m glad we can play them in Atlanta, in their kind of home arena. Kind of always like being the villain and the underdog going into the game, so I’m really excited to be able to do that.”
Third-year quarterback C.J. Stroud doesn’t think the Buckeyes are underdogs, though. He said they have been “counted out plenty of times,” but that they just need to “mask up and go play football” Saturday.
Second-year wide receiver Emeka Egbuka said there’s “never been a time” he’s felt a “severe disadvantage” to his opponent.
The only other time in the College Football Playoff era the Buckeyes were ranked fourth was in 2014 when Ohio State upset both Alabama and Oregon en route to hoisting the national championship trophy, something Egbuka pointed to Tuesday.
The odds are stacked against Ohio State, which is facing a Georgia defense allowing the eighth-fewest yards and second-fewest points per game this season, while having to overcome a likely Bulldog home field advantage.
Third-year running back Chip Trayanum said the Buckeyes just need to play loose Saturday.
“At this point we have nothing to lose, so we’re just here for a reason,” Trayanum said. “I think everybody counts us out, but at the same time, it’s what you take on the Buckeye name for. So, we’re all here to put our best foot forward and just go win the whole thing.”
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