New Year’s Day in Atlanta, will the Dawgs be ready?

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New Year’s Day in Atlanta, will the Dawgs be ready?

Photo: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

Dawg fans seemed concerned after the selection process Sunday afternoon. Most fans’ number-one concern boils down to how motivated the team will be with several veteran players opting-out to prepare for potential pro careers.

Athletic Director Greg McGarity and Head Coach Kirby Smart issued the usual thankful statements yesterday:

         “We are delighted with the selection of our team to represent the University of Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl,” said UGA J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity. “Even though we have played in Atlanta on several occasions, we’ve not had the opportunity to play in this game since 2006.  Even under the circumstances of 2020, it will be a new experience for our players and as many of our fans who are able to attend.  It’s a great opportunity to play in a first-class stadium, and we look forward to competing against an undefeated Cincinnati team.”

“The challenges of this season have been many for every team, and I’m certainly excited for our team and especially our seniors to have the opportunity to play in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which is annually one of the premier New Year’s Six games during the holiday season,” said UGA head coach Kirby Smart.  “This is close to home and a venue we are very familiar with; however, none of our players and only a couple of our coaches have had the opportunity to participate in this game.  We’re also looking forward to the challenge of playing a quality opponent in Cincinnati. Coach Fickell has done a remarkable job with two 11-win seasons the last two years and a perfect season this year.” 

 Georgia has made five previous appearances in the Peach Bowl.  Georgia’s last appearance in the Atlanta game was Dec. 30, 2006, when the ‘Dogs defeated Virginia Tech, 31-24. The other four: defeated Maryland, 17-16, on Dec. 28, 1972; lost to Syracuse, 19-18, Dec. 30, 1989; lost to Virginia, 34-27, Dec. 30, 1995; and defeated Virginia, 35-33, Dec. 31, 1998.

This will be Georgia’s 57th post-season appearance—fourth most of any team in the country. The Bulldogs’ all-time post-season record is 32-21-3. This is also the 24th consecutive season the Bulldogs have earned a bowl appearance, which ranks as the longest current active streak in the country.

Georgia’s senior class is 43-9 in their career with two bowl wins (Rose, Sugar), three SEC Eastern Division championships, a 2017 SEC title, 2017 College Football Playoff national runnerup, and a pending trip to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.  The 43 senior class victories are one short of 44 earned by the 2005 and 2019 classes.

Georgia (7-2 overall, 7-2 SEC) ranks ninth in the College Football Playoff rankings and will be making its fourth consecutive New Year’s Six bowl appearance under head coach Kirby Smart. The Bulldogs field one of the nation’s top defensive units allowing only 322.8 yards and 19.9 points per game, which ranks 15th and 21st in the nation. Georgia ranks first nationally in rushing defense, allowing only 69.3 yards on the ground each game, and is sixth in defensive touchdowns (three).  Offensively, the Bulldogs rank 10th in third down conversion percentage (49.2 percent), 22nd in passing yards per completion (13.87) and 32nd in scoring offense (33.2 points per game). Georgia running back Zamir White is 17th in the nation in rushing touchdowns (10), 27th in total touchdowns (10) and 31st in rushing yards (740). Meanwhile, Bulldog quarterback JT Daniels has started the final three games of the season, posting impressive numbers by completing 54 of 81 passes for 839 yards and nine touchdowns to only one interception.     

Cincinnati (9-0 overall, 6-0 AAC) enters the game ranked eighth in the College Football Playoff rankings after securing the program’s first AAC championship. The Bearcats will be making their first appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl since 2010 and are balanced on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Bearcats are second in the country in both passes intercepted (15) and team passing efficiency defense, 21st in passing yards allowed (192.3 yards per game), 18th in red zone defense, 14th in turnovers gained (19), 20th in rushing defense (122.1 yards allowed per game), 13th in total defense (314.4 yards allowed a game) and seventh in scoring defense, only yielding 16 points a game. Cincinnati is 14th in rushing offense (225 yards per game), 15th in scoring offense (39.3 points per game) and 19th in total offense (467.2 yards per game). The Bearcats are led offensively by quarterback Desmond Ridder who ranks 20th in completion percentage (66.4 percent), 19th in passing efficiency (156.4), 27th in passing touchdowns (17), 28th in passing yards (2,090), 12th in points responsible for (174) and 10th in rushing touchdowns (12).

Ticket inventory through the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl’s ticket office is already sold out, marking the 22nd time the Bowl has sold out in its last 24 games, dating back to 1997.

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