Penn State vs. Georgia in the TaxSlayer.com Bowl
The Bowl match-ups are now decided, with the mighty Penn State Nittany Lions (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) headed to Jacksonville, Florida for their post-season finale. The TaxSlayer.com Bowl — formerly known as the Gator Bowl — will pit the Georgia Bulldogs (9-3, 5-3 SEC) against our boys in blue and white, in a distant echo of the 1983 Sugar Bowl, the only other meeting of the two teams. The game will take place in EverBank Field — formerly known as the Gator Bowl — the only known football stadium with its own swimming pool, at noon on Saturday, January 2, 2016, and will be televised on ESPN.
This year’s pairing is a bit less interesting than the last one, as it certainly does not involve a national title. In 1983, a one-loss Penn State team featuring Todd Blackledge, Greg Garrity, Sr., and Curt Warner defeated the Bulldogs, whose stars were running back Herschel Walker and long forgotten quarterback John Lastinger, by the final score of 27-23 to become national college football champs that year.
I get to say that Penn State leads the all-time series 1-0, which is coincidentally the very same record Penn State head coach James Franklin is wishing for the week of the TaxSlayer.com Bowl.
The stakes are lower this year; however because the two teams have met only once before, it should be fun. Although Georgia has lost thrice this year, the losses were to quality SEC opponents: Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida. Penn State struggled to produce offense throughout the season, ranking 106th nationally in total offense, but they’ll be facing a defense that ranks 8th. Even worse, Georgia ranks 9th in third down conversion defense whereas Penn State — well, you know.
The best hope for Penn State will be a lack of defensive effort by the Bulldogs, as is typical for some teams engaged in meaningless bowl games. It will be fun to watch the Georgia offensive line, which has allowed only 13 sacks all year, square off against the Nittany Lions’ front seven, who are co-leaders nationally, with 44 sacks. Team loyalty aside, the game might be watchable for that reason alone.
With Georgia’s prime running back, Nick Chubb, sidelined due to injury, the PSU defense will try to make the Bulldogs one-dimensional, forcing them to pass. (AS will tell you that there are three things that can happen when you throw the ball and two of them are bad.) The Penn State defense will have to be stout to offset the Nittany Lions’ anemic offense.
Both schools have coaching changes that could affect the course of the game. Fired Georgia head coach Mark Richt repatriated to Miami, whereas Penn State former offensive coordinator John Donovan is rumored to be still hanging around the campus somewhere. Presumably, James Franklin will be calling plays for Penn State in Jacksonville, but that is only this turkey’s conjecture. For Georgia, wide receivers coach Bryce McClendon will call the shots on the sidelines.
The betting line opened with Georgia established as a seven-point favorite. More on the game later. I just wanted to be the last to tell you where the Lions were going!