The Georgia Bulldogs failed to make the College Football Playoff for the second straight year, but they do get a chance to play in a great New Years Six bowl. On January 1st, 2020 the Bulldogs are set to face the No. 7 Baylor Bears in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at 8:30 p.m. ET in New Orleans, LA.
After an 11-1 regular season, Georgia’s quest for another conference title ended on a bad note as they were thumped by the No. 1 LSU Tigers 37-10 in the SEC Championship in Atlanta. But the Sugar Bowl is still a great chance for them to end their season on a good note and finish with 12 wins.
Several key Bulldogs have elected to sit during the final game of the year as they prepare for the NFL Draft while there are several others that may not be able to suit up for other reasons. This gives a number of younger players a chance to shine. It also provides the coaching staff with a glimpse of what is to come next year. Last year, it was Azeez Ojulari and Divaad Wilson who had great performances against Texas.
Here are the five players that I think will play well with this opportunity they get.
Kenny McIntosh, RB
With Brian Herrien not practicing and not playing and the status of D’Andre Swift and James Cook unclear, that leaves Kenny McIntosh and Zamir White as Georgia’s scholarship running backs left for the Sugar Bowl. This could be the most playing time McIntosh has seen all year
The true freshman has seen action in 11 of 13 games this year and has rushed for 148 yards on just 19 carries (7.8 yards per carry). He also has two scores on the year including a 62-yard touchdown run against Arkansas State, which happens to be Georgia’s longest rush of the year to date.
McIntosh is the running back I think will get the load of the carries in the Sugar Bowl alongside White. McIntosh is a big back, listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 lbs by UGA, that make quick cuts and also play some good special teams as well.
Lewis Cine, S
Cine, another impressive true freshman, has played in 12 of 13 games this year and has tallied 13 total tackles. At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Cine is an athletic safety that will likely take the role of departing senior J.R. Reed next season.
In his first start against LSU, Cine had six total tackles. He also had three stops against Arkansas State and Missouri, respectively. Also against the Red Wolves, he had his first career collegiate interception and pass breakup.
Cine proved that he can play with some of the best receivers in the country against LSU. This could be a chance for him to prove himself again against a very explosive Baylor offense. Georgia coaches should be content their secondary will be in good hands again next season with Cine.
“Lewis has done some good things during the year. He’s really played well when he’s gotten the opportunity,” Kirby Smart said. “He did some good things in the SEC Championship game. He’s one of our faster players, and he helps matchup-wise.”
Warren Ericson, OL
The offensive line will see quite a shakeup against Baylor due to the departures of starting right tackle Isaiah Wilson and left tackle Andrew Thomas who announced their decision to declare for the NFL Draft last week and will not play in the bowl game. In addition to Thomas and Wilson, offensive guard Ben Cleveland will be absent due to academic ineligibility.
This is forcing new offensive line coach Matt Luke and the staff to make changes to the lineup and switch things around. However, the Bulldogs’ offensive line is deep with talent recruited over the last four years, and it gives guys like redshirt freshman Warren Ericson the opportunity to get some valuable snaps.
Ericson has played in five games this season and been a huge help this season when called upon. I believe that Trey Hill could be moved to one of the guard spots and that will leave Ericson to take snaps at center.
Tyrique Stevenson, CB
Tyrique Stevenson has been one of Georgia’s most dominant defensive backs this season. He has played in all 13 games totaling 13 tackles, with five pass breakups, and four quarterback pressures. His biggest tackle of the season came against Auburn in the third quarter when he came up with a sack on Tiger quarterback Bo Nix.
Stevenson is a 6-foot-0 and 200-pound athlete that coaches have come to love and trust this year. At the post-season team awards gala, he was named Co-Winner Defensive Player of the Year alongside other freshmen Nolan Smith and Travon Walker.
I don’t think we have even seen Stevenson scratch the surface of his full potential. The Sugar Bowl will provide us one more time in 2019 to see him ball out. I’m predicting that he will obviously see the field a lot, and maybe even get an interception or pass breakup in the game.
Julian Rochester, DL
Julian Rochester is the only player on this list that’s not a freshman, but he has only played in three games this year because he has battled returning from an ACL knee injury he suffered at the end of the 2018 season. Throughout his career at Georgia, Rochester has been a solid player the Bulldogs’ can rely on upfront on the d-line.
Rochester is set to take a redshirt this season and more than likely will return next year as a fifth-year senior. He can do as he has only played in three games this year and is allowed to play in one more game, his fourth, and still take a redshirt. In 2018, he started in 12 of 14 games recording 31 total stops. In 2017, he played in all 15 games. He had an impressive freshman year in 2016 too.
Rochester brings a lot of experience to this defensive line, and I don’t expect him to be a game-changer, but I do think he will record some tackle and provide veteran leadership. Looking forward to next year, Georgia will lose five seniors on the defensive line. I expect Rochester to return and help the young guys next year grow to become better players.