Seventy-five years have passed since the last time Georgia went to the Rose Bowl.
That drought will come to an end as No. 3 Georgia will take on No. 2 Oklahoma in this year’s game in Pasadena, California, which also serves as a semifinal matchup for the College Football Playoff. With the Rose Bowl historically pairing teams from the Big Ten and the Pac-12, there haven’t been many, if any, opportunities for Georgia to slip in.
Now that the Rose Bowl is part of the playoff rotation, the Bulldogs will head West for its first-round matchup.
On Saturday, Georgia punched its ticket to the fourth-ever College Football Playoff by defeating Auburn 28-7 in the SEC Championship. The Bulldogs got the win despite suffering a 40-17 defeat to the Tigers only three weeks prior to this rematch. The Bulldogs (12-1) put in an inspired defensive performance and held the Tigers (10-3) to only 259 total yards.
After the win, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said he wouldn’t worry about where the selection committee placed his team in the field, just as long as it was in the top four.
“We don't concern ourselves with rankings. We never have,” Smart said. “What does it really matter? If you're one through four, you're in the tournament. That was our goal and that's what we've achieved.”
The only other time Georgia went to the Rose Bowl was following the 1942 regular season. On Jan. 1, 1943, the Bulldogs defeated UCLA 9-0 in the game dubbed “The Granddaddy of them All.”
While Georgia first played football in 1892 and Oklahoma in 1895, this will be the first time the two historic programs will compete against one another. Oklahoma won the Big 12 championship with a 41-17 victory over TCU Saturday afternoon. The Sooners (12-1) are led by quarterback Baker Mayfield, who is considered the Heisman Trophy front-runner. Mayfield has completed 71 percent of his passes for 4,340 yards, 41 touchdowns and five interceptions this season.
Georgia has been paced by running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in a senior-led ground game. Both Chubb and Michel decided to bypass the NFL for their senior seasons for a chance at winning the SEC and competing in the College Football Playoffs.
“It's just crazy, man. Just unbelievable experience,” Chubb said. “This is why the guys came back for it. I remember just talking to the senior class, I mean, back at camp, we'd be in the room with a little private meeting, and we just talked about what we want to do, and it all paid off. This moment right here, this is what we worked for.”
The winner of the Rose Bowl will advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship a week later in Atlanta on Jan. 8. The other semifinal game is the Sugar Bowl, which features No. 1 Clemson and No. 4 Alabama.
On a conference call late Sunday afternoon, both Smart and Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley both noted that they used to watch the Rose Bowl with their families growing up. For Riley, a first-year head coach with the Sooners, it feels like a “dream” to be a part of it.
“I can always remember watching it and hearing Keith Jackson call it,” Riley said. “It seems like it was always a great game. That was always one of those places that you put on the bucket list, as far as wanting to go to that game one day, be involved in that game one day.”