The NCAA post-season kicks off December 19, with 33 games being played in a three week span. Seniors will get their last hurrah, and teams will attempt to end their season on the winning side, in the hopes of improving recruiting that follows afterwords. The Sportmeisters will preview each of the 33 games that lie ahead, and provide our predictions as well. Let’s get to it!
Independence Bowl, December 28th, 5:00 PM, Shreveport, LA
Georgia (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (6-6)
About Georgia : The Bulldogs play in arguably one of the toughest conferences, the SEC, and it showed in their performance this season. Showing signs of consistency, Georgia won three of their first four, then lost three of the next four, then won the final three of four, including an upset over then No.7 Georgia Tech. Georgia faced four teams in the top ten, and ended up going 1-3.
Offensively, Georgia was a far cry from last years squad with Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno. However, a returning contributor was top Sophomore WR A.J. Green, who had 751 yards and six touchdowns in only nine games played this season.
Senior QB Joe Cox had the enviable task of filling in for the departed Stafford, and while his numbers were respectable (2426 yards, 22 touchdowns), he had his share of mistakes. His 16 interceptions were a big reason Georgia finished last in NCAA FBS with -1.42 turnovers a game.
Junior LB Rennie Curran led the team with 123 tackles, almost twice as much as anyone else. Georgia will need a big game from their offense, and a showing from their inconsistent defense, if they expect to win.
About Texas A&M : The Aggies started their season off a different team from the 2008 4-9 campaign, winning three in a row. However, they lost three in a row right back to fall to 3-3. Two more wins followed, but Texas A&M would lose three of their last four, barely making bowl eligibility at 6-6.
Their offense is made of something amazing, finishing fifth in NCAA FBS with 465.33 yards a game. Both the passing and rushing game finished in the top 25 of their respective categories.
Junior QB Jerrod Johnson was a tear for A&M, throwing for 3217 yards and 28 touchdowns, and picked up another eight touchdowns on the ground. Sophomore RB Cyrus Gray and Freshman RB Christine Michael combined for 1519 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Defensively, the unit gives up 431.33 yards a game (107th in NCAA FBS) and 32.67 points a game (104th in NCAA FBS). Junior LB Von Miller is the lone bright spot however, leading the nation with 17 sacks. A&M will win more with their offense than their defense, and should expect a high scoring matchup if they want to contend.
The Matchup : Georgia is 25-16-3 in their long history. They have won three in a row while making a bowl game for 13 straight seasons.
Texas A&M is 13-17, riding a three year losing streak in bowl games. This is their first bowl game since 2007.
This game promises to be an offensive blowout. Georgia is dealing with their own defensive turmoil, as they have fired Defensive Coordinator Willie Martinez, along with Coaches Jon Fabris and John Jancek.
This puts extra pressure on Head Coach Mark Richt. Going against a Texas A&M squad with defensive struggles of their own, if they can limit the turnovers, they will reduce the pressure on their own defense. Miller will get his licks, attacking from his hybrid defensive end/linebacker position.
Georgia was able to slightly neutralize the Georgia Tech triple-option, so the abilities of Johnson should come as no surprise. However, Johnson usually sets the pace, and as long as he has the ball, the potential to score is in the air every down.
The Prediction : Defense may win championships, but Texas A&Ms offense wins the game, 56-42.