For the fourth consecutive season, Georgia will play in a major bowl game, as the ninth-ranked Bulldogs will battle No. 8 Bearcats from the University of Cincinnati in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Kickoff is set for high noon on New Year’s Day from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Georgia comes in at 7-2, falling to Alabama and Florida, the two combatants in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, an event the Bulldogs had appeared in the previous three seasons. Kirby Smart’s team comes in riding a three game winning streak, topping Mississippi State in Athens 31-24, and then rolling behind powerhouse running games in the two Columbia’s. The Bulldogs beat South Carolina 45-16 and Missouri 49-14. Unfortunately, Vanderbilt twice didn’t make the trip to Sanford Stadium in the year that is 2020, so Georgia didn’t have a chance to build on the win total and add to the momentum gained during the win streak and another stellar national signing day.
Cincinnati is in the midst of what is the greatest season in program history. The Bearcats improved to 9-0 with a thrilling 27-24 victory over Tulsa in the American Athletic Association Championship Game. Cole Smith is the Big Man On Campus. The Cincinnati kicker knocked through a 34-yard field goal on the final play of the game to deliver the championship and send Bearcats to one of the monster bowls against a high profile opponent.
This is the national stage, and beating the SEC blue blood would certainly go down as the biggest win in Bearcat annals.
The American Championship Game win over Tulsa marked the third ranked opponent the Bearcats have beaten this season. Cincinnati defeated then No. 22 Army 24-10 on September 26th, and smoked No. 16 SMU 42-13 in Dallas on October 24th.
Luke Fickell is in his fourth season as the Bearcats head coach, and has done a tremendous job. The one-year Ohio State interim head coach between Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer back in 2011 has the Bearcats thriving. Since a 4-8 record in his first season at Cincinnati in 2017, Fickell’s Bearcats have gone 11-2, 11-3 and now 9-0.
Smart’s resume is top flight. Following an 8-5 opening season of 2016, the Bulldogs went 13-2, winning the SEC and playing for the national title, 11-3, 12-2 and now 7-2.
The only other time Georgia played in four straight major bowl games was 1980-83, when the Bulldogs went 43-4-1 with the 1980 national championship, three straight SEC titles, a trio of Sugar Bowl berths and Cotton Bowl berth.
This will mark the third all-time meeting between the Bulldogs and Bearcats – the latter also the nickname of Smart’s high school alma mater Bainbridge. Georgia’s national champions of 1942 beat Cincinnati 35-13 at Nippert Stadium in Cincy. The Bulldogs SEC champs of 1976 beat the Bearcats Between the Hedges of Sanford Stadium 31-17.
If Georgia prevails, the Bulldogs senior class would register their 44th victory. That would match the 2005 class for the most wins over a four year period, though 1980-83 have the best record.
A certain top ten ranking awaits the winner.
Motivation will not be a problem for Cincinnati. For Georgia, which was upset by Texas in the 2019 Sugar Bowl after the Bulldogs were left out of the College Football Playoff, Smart changed the formula for the 2020 Sugar. Only players who wanted to be there traveled, and the Bulldogs beat Baylor to go 12-2 and finish No. 4.