Jan. 2 will be a very important and interesting day for the Georgia Bulldogs. They will play in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Penn State, and it will be the first time since 2000 that Mark Richt won’t be roaming the sidelines.
Instead, it will be wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon who will serve as the interim head coach. He and his staff will try to get the Bulldogs to 10-3, which would be the third time in four seasons that the Bulldogs have won at least 10 games.
The Bulldogs have played well to end the year, as they have won four consecutive games and allowed opponents to score only 10 points per game over that stretch.
The Nittany Lions have lost three straight games to end the year, including a 55-16 loss to Michigan State.
The Bulldogs are seven-point favorites, according to Odds Shark. It would not be surprising if the Bulldogs have their best game of the season against a struggling Penn State team.
Here are five bold predictions for the Bulldogs when they face Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
The Bulldogs Will Score 35 Points
When it comes down to it, 35 points is not a lot for a college team to score. However, it’s a lot for the Bulldogs, as they have only scored more than 30 points five times this season.
In fact, despite winning the final four games of the season, the Bulldogs did not score more than 27 points during that stretch. And the fact that Penn State only gives up 21.7 points per game does not play into the Bulldogs' favor.
However, the run game for Georgia should come up big because it averaged 194.3 yards per game. Sony Michel has been consistent this year, and with more than a month to rest and prepare, he should have a big game, which should lead to some opportunities in the passing game.
Greyson Lambert Will Throw 3 Touchdown Passes
Speaking of the passing game, Greyson Lambert will have an opportunity to end an up-and-down season on a high note.
Lambert’s numbers in the regular season aren’t bad as one would think, as he completed 64.4 percent of his passes and threw 11 touchdowns to two interceptions. His problem was that he did not perform well in the biggest games of the season, which led to the Bulldogs missing out on the SEC title game for the third consecutive year.
And Lambert is facing a Penn State team that features Carl Nassib, who leads the country with 15.5 sacks. So Lambert will have his work cut out for him.
However, he will be able to hit short passes to counter the Nittany Lions’ pass rush. That should lead to some opportunities to hit his receivers and tight ends in the red zone.
Sony Michel Rushes for 175 Yards
Michel is not the running back Nick Chubb is. However, Michel proved that he can be an impact running back in the SEC this season.
The sophomore running back rushed for over 130 yards in three of the last four games. He really started to find his rhythm in the last two games, as he rushed for 132 and 149 yards, respectively.
Penn State has not been strong against the run, as it allowed 149.7 yards per game and has also allowed 18 rushing touchdowns. So Michel will have a chance to have the best rushing day of his career because his speed will be a tough matchup against the Penn State defense.
The Bulldogs Will Get 5 Sacks
The Bulldogs defense was strong this season, as it finishes No. 1 in the country in passing defense. However, it only posted 21 sacks, which was the 10th-best total in the SEC.
Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins are guys who were supposed to sack the quarterback constantly this season, but due a slow start and injuries, their numbers took a minor dip this season.
The Nittany Lions allowed 39 sacks this season, so the Bulldogs will have a great opportunity to get pressure on quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
Jordan Jenkins is relentless. https://t.co/I4Cxcgpeug— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) December 11, 2015
The Bulldogs have only notched four sacks in the last three games. But the duo of Jenkins and Floyd will be too much for the Nittany Lions to handle, and that should lead to those two getting the majority—possibly all—of the Bulldogs' sacks on Jan. 2.
The Bulldogs Will Pitch a Shutout
As good as the defense has been for the Bulldogs this year, it has not been able to get a shutout this season. There’s a very good chance the Bulldogs will blank Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl because of how they played toward the end of the season.
In the Bulldogs' last four games of the year, they only allowed 10 points per game. And in their final game of the year, the Bulldogs held Georgia Tech scoreless through three-and-a-half quarters.
The Bulldogs are facing a Penn State team that finished 11th in the Big Ten in scoring offense, averaging 23.7 points per game. It doesn’t really run or throw the ball well, so getting a shutout is a high possibility for the Bulldogs.
Then again, shutting out an opponent is never an easy thing to do.