By Mike Bachini, CBS Connecticut
Connecticut (CBS) – Today there are five games starting at Noon. I am breaking today’s preview into two parts, two games in part 1 and three games in part 2. Today’s slate consists of the final battle between non Power Five teams (South Alabama vs. Air Force) and the first New Year’s Six Bowl (Florida State vs. Michigan) plus a few other games with some interesting storylines.
Friday, December 30th
Autozone Liberty Bowl – TCU (6-6) vs. Georgia (7-5) Noon ESPN
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee
Line: TCU -3
Bowl Fun Fact: The Liberty Bowl is the 7th oldest Bowl. Its first year was in 1959 when Penn State beat Alabama 7-0.
TCU Points For: 31.7 Points Against: 27.8
Georgia PF: 24 PA: 24.1
This season was a little bit of a disappointment for Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs. Even though a lot of veteran players moved on after last season, there wasn’t supposed to be too much of a drop off. A lot of excitement surrounded the arrival of QB Kenny Hill from Texas A&M. Hill was electric in his first few starts 2 years ago, throwing for 17 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions and leading the Aggies to a 5-0 record. He looked like the next coming of Johnny Manziel. A few games later he lost the QB job to Kyle Allen (who also eventually transferred to Houston). Hill showed flashes at times, but otherwise had a relatively pedestrian first season with the Horned Frogs.
Hill did a little more with his legs this season as he rushed for 9 touchdowns. He was sometimes a little too loose with the football though, with 13 interceptions including 3 against Kansas. His best game came in a week five loss against Oklahoma where he threw for 449 yards and 5 touchdowns. RB Kyle Hicks is a good complement to Hill. He rushed for 954 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Josh Carraway and Denzel Johnson each had 11 sacks on the season.
There were some highs and some lows for the Georgia Bulldogs this season in head coach Kirby Smart’s first season. They opened the season 3-0 with a big win against North Carolina in week 1. They then lost 4 of their next 5, including a wild finish against Tennessee, to fall to 4-4.
They then turned the season around with three straight wins over bowl teams (Kentucky, Auburn and Louisiana Lafayette) before falling by 1 point to arch rival Georgia Tech at home in the last week of the season.
Georgia is led by their star RB’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Both have dealt with various injuries throughout their careers, but both juniors are looking to finish the season on a high note. Chubb was coming off an ACL tear last season and started the season strong with 222 rushing yards against North Carolina and looked like the possible first round draft pick that many experts thought he could be. He then hit a wall, only rushing for more than 100 yards once in his next 8 games. He finished the season strong, with at least 85 rushing yards in his last 4 games, eclipsing the 100 yard mark twice.
Michel broke his arm in the offseason riding an ATV and missed the opener and then was eased back into action in his next 3 games only totaling 23 carries in those games. He finished the season with 170 yards rushing and a TD against Georgia Tech.
Georgia needed true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason to step up so defenses wouldn’t focus all of their attention on stopping Chubb and Michel. He proved capable at times, and also looked like an 18/19 year old playing in the SEC at times. He finished the regular season with a respectable 15 touchdowns to 8 interceptions.
Both teams are trying to finish off average seasons on a high note. This game should be close and could go either way.
Georgia 27 TCU 24
Friday, December 30th
Hyundai Sun Bowl – Stanford (9-3) vs. North Carolina (8-4) 2PM CBS
Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas
Line: Stanford -3
Bowl Fun Fact: The Sun Bowl is tied for the 2nd oldest bowl game with the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl.
Stanford PF: 26.4 PA: 20.2
North Carolina PF: 33.1 PA: 24.9
I don’t think the Sun Bowl has gotten this much press in a long time, if ever. The Sun Bowl (along with the Citrus Bowl) has been two of the most talked about non New Year’s Six bowl games this season. The reason as I’m sure you’ve heard is because dynamic RB Christian McCaffrey announced weeks ago that he would not participate in this bowl game to better prepare himself for the NFL draft. Immediately people took sides on the issue. One side was happy for McCaffrey and believed he had every right not to put himself in harm’s way for a “meaningless” bowl game. What if McCaffrey hurt himself and lost millions of dollars in this game? The other side believed that he took the cowards way out and was being selfish, and not thinking about his teammates or the fans. Both sides of the argument have been extremely vocal and there is no convincing either side to change their minds. It’s an issue that will be brought up again when reviewing the Citrus Bowl.
Will Stanford look past the distractions and move forward without McCaffrey? It won’t be easy, there is a reason McCaffrey wants to prep for the NFL, because he will be an NFL running back next year. Last year’s Heisman finalist really does it all. Who replaces him? Well that player is Bryce Love. Love got some action earlier in the season when McCaffrey was dinged up, performing well in his opportunities averaging 7.4 yards per carry. It will be a good preview for the sophomore as next year he will be the main guy.
After Stanford lost 10-5 in week 7 to fall to 4-3, Stanford made a quarterback change. They turned the offense over to Keller Chryst and he ran away with the job. Stanford went 5-0 to finish the season and Chryst threw for 9 touchdowns with only 1 interception along the way.
North Carolina was all over the place this season. They lost winnable games against Georgia, Duke and North Carolina State. But they also beat Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh. It’s basically a coin toss which North Carolina team will show up. Will it be the team that beat Florida State on the road on a last second 54 yard field goal?
Or will it be the team that followed up that emotional win with a 34-3 loss the next week at home against Virginia Tech? Or will it be the team that won on the road at Miami following the dud against Virginia Tech? Head Coach Larry Fedora probably doesn’t even know.
North Carolina is a little banged up on offense. They lost one of their better WRs Mack Hollins after seven weeks. He had a touchdown in four straight weeks between weeks 2 and 5. They will also be playing without their top RB Elijah Hood. North Carolina announced on December 22nd that Hood will not play in the Sun Bowl for “Medical Reasons”. Hood rushed for 898 yards and 9 touchdowns this season. The Tar Heels will have QB Mitch Trubisky though. Trubisky was extremely effective throwing the ball this season. He dropped back to pass 408 times and only threw 4 interceptions. WR Ryan Switzer (91-1,027-5) is his favorite target.
This is another game that is hard to predict. Will Bryce Love fill the void that McCaffrey left? Will North Carolina play to their best ability, or will they fall flat? I expect this game to be a close one as well.
Stanford 33 North Carolina 27
Yesterday’s record 3-0, overall record 14-13
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