#258 The University of Georgia Bulldogsvs.#257 Texas Christian University Horned Frogs
Written by Chris Kubala
Georgia Bulldogs (7-5 SU, 5-7 ATS, 5-7 O/U) vs. TCU Horned Frogs (6-6 SU, 3-9 ATS, 5-7 O/U)
NCAAF: Friday, December 30, 2016, Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee, 12 pm ET
Line: Georgia -1; Over/Under: 48.5
It’s a matchup between a pair of teams coming off disappointing campaigns as the SEC and the Big 12 square off in the Autozone Liberty Bowl. The Georgia Bulldogs close year one of the Kirby Smart era as they face the TCU Horned Frogs Friday afternoon. Georgia had won three straight before losing their finale 28-27 at home to archrival Georgia Tech on November 26. TCU dropped four of their final six games after getting routed 30-6 by Kansas State at home on December 3 in their finale. The teams have met just once previous: Georgia claimed a 38-10 home win on September 10, 1988.
Georgia was inconsistent at best in the first year of the Smart era, though some of that can be chalked up to inexperience at the quarterback position. Still, the Bulldogs started 3-0, lost four of their next five to fall to .500 and then won three straight before losing to Georgia Tech. When you look deeper into things though, there were warning signs that Georgia was going to struggle. The Bulldogs scuffled to beat Nicholls State by two, at home no less, in a game that they were favored by 50 points. They lost at Missouri, gave up a Hail Mary to fall to Tennessee and dropped a home game to Vanderbilt. Georgia had beaten the Commodores 19 of the last 21 times.
The Bulldogs are 91st in passing offense (195.9 ypg) and 44th in rushing with 186.5 yards a game. Georgia is just 106th in scoring offense (24 ppg) and 39th in scoring defense as they allow 24.1 points a night. Freshman Jacob Eason is 192 of 349 for 2,266 yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Last year’s starter, Greyson Lambert, is 7 of 12 for 56 yards. Nick Chubb leads the team with 207 carries for 988 yards and seven scores. Brian Herrien has 61 carries for 362 yards and three scores. Last year’s leading rusher, Sony Michel, has 137 carries for 753 yards and three scores. Isaiah McKenzie is a solid receiver as he leads the team with 40 catches for 530 yards and seven scores. Isaac Nauta (27 catches, 353 yards, 3 TD) and Terry Godwin (37 grabs, 394 yards) are other targets for Eason. Michel adds 20 receptions out of the backfield as a safety valve. Rodrigo Blankenship hit all 22 extra points and 13 of 16 field goal attempts with a long of 49. William Ham connected on his 10 extra points but was 3 of 7 on field goals with a long of 29 yards.
TCU had a disappointing campaign themselves, much to the chagrin of head coach Gary Patterson. The Horned Frogs had flashes of solid play but the month of October was a wasteland. A six point loss in a shootout to Oklahoma was followed by a one point win over a hideous Kansas team in a game TCU was favored by four touchdowns. The Horned Frogs went on the road and took a 34-10 whipping in Morgantown by West Virginia and then lost in double overtime to Texas Tech. TCU seemed to bounce back by blasting unraveling Baylor and Texas but was thrashed by both Oklahoma State and Kansas State. The Horned Frogs just didn’t seem to have it on a weekly basis and it cost them in some brutal beatings.
The Horned Frogs are 16th in the FBS in passing (278.3 ypg) and 44th in rushing with 196.7 ypg this season. TCU is 50th in the FBS with 31.7 points per game this season. The Horned Frogs are 59th in scoring defense as they allow 27.8 points per contest. Kenny Hill is 251 of 413 passing for 3,062 yards with 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He is second on the team with 537 rushing yards and nine scores. Hill has battled a foot injury and is questionable: if he can’t go, Foster Sawyer (26 of 55, 278 yards, TD, INT) would get the call. Kyle Hicks leads the team with 188 carries for 954 yards and 12 touchdowns. The team’s star receiver, KaVontae Turpin (30 catches, 295 yards, TD) missed a big chunk of the season with a leg injury. Hicks has a team high 42 catches out of the backfield while Taj Williams chips in 39 grabs for a team leading 702 yards and five scores. John Diarse has stepped up nicely with 31 receptions for 423 yards and a score. Ryan Graf hit all 20 extra points and 5 of 6 field goal attempts with a long of 46. Brandon Hatfield hit 25 of 26 extra points and 12 of 16 field goal attempts with a long of 40.
Both teams have had their share of issues this season and that’s a major reason this game is practically a pick ‘em at this stage. Georgia has a solid two-headed monster in the ground game with Michel and Chubb. Patterson has had time to scheme his defense to contend with that and try to force Eason to beat TCU with his arm. The Horned Frogs have to hope Hill is healed enough to start because the team really struggled with Sawyer against Kansas State. Injuries took a toll but the Horned Frogs are playing for pride. They win a tight contest and finish the year 7-6.
TCU’s offense has been inconsistent this season, but their defense has been solid. They face a Georgia team that has played well over their last four games. Defensively, they allowed just seven points against Auburn. TCU has gone under in three straight and six of their last seven games. The Horned Frogs are also 8-1-1 Under last 10 bowl games, while Georgia is 5-0 under last 5 neutral site games.
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Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.