Earlier today, I picked Georgia to win the Rose Bowl 31-24. I also picked the Falcons to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, which looked really smart until the Falcons got really dumb.
As you doubtless know, I’ve been wrong a time or two (hundred). So, in the attempt to cross-check my conclusion, I asked two national writers – meaning: no regional bias – I hold in high regard who they thought would win. (I’d tell you their names, but I don’t want to steal their thunder in case they’re of a mind to write a pick column themselves.) Both said, without hesitation …
National Writer No. 1: “I really don’t see how Oklahoma wins.”
National Writer No. 2: “I talked to some scouts, and Oklahoma has about three good players on defense.”
National Writer No. 1: “Did you see Baker Mayfield yesterday? He looked like he’d lost 10 pounds.”
I did see Mayfield, and he did bear the look of someone who’d been ill. And he isn’t a big guy – he’s 6-foot – and he’s not a drop-back passer. He mostly runs around until he finds someone open, and I’m sure his conditioning has taken a hit. (He was drinking coffee with lemon yesterday.)
Truth to tell, I’d have picked Georgia if Mayfield had been the picture of health. To me, Oklahoma is the weakest playoff qualifier. I do not trust teams with bad defenses. I do not expect bad defenses to rise up against top-shelf competition. I expect bad defenses to wilt.
And so, I can attest, do two of my fellow scribes. If memory serves, they both covered the Orange Bowl two New Year’s ago, as did I. With Mayfield at quarterback, the Sooners led Clemson 17-16 at the half and didn’t score again. The Tigers won 37-17. (Yes, both OU running backs – Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon – got hurt.)
Even though Clemson was the No. 1 seed, No. 4 Oklahoma was favored, which never made a lick of sense. This time the Sooners are the No. 2 to Georgia’s No. 3, but the Bulldogs are favored. That makes sense to me, and not just to me.