#13 Georgia v. #21 Louisville
Bank of America Stadium — Charlotte, NC
December 30, 2014 — 6:30 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
If you miss this game, you’re missing the first matchup of top-25 teams in the 2014-15 postseason. And that would be especially foolish if you bothered tuning in for the day’s undercard game in another NFL stadium in Nashville. It’s also the first time that this game is a factor in the SEC-ACC rivalry, after years of pitting the ACC against the Big East/AAC. If you need any more motivation, the Belk Bowl features a pair of schools that are each seeking their 10th victory of the season. Both teams bring top-25 defenses to Charlotte, and neither team is a slouch offensively. The game has all the ingredients necessary to become an instant classic, with some interesting dynamics that create for a unique situation all around.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
After years of featuring celebrated quarterbacks such as Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray, the Bulldogs fully embraced the running game this season. The passing game under new starter Hutson Mason was subpar by Georgia standards, managing fewer than 200 yards on average through the air. The ground game more than picked up the slack, as the team suffered no ill effects from the Todd Gurley suspension and the Todd Gurley injury. Nick Chubb led the way with nearly 1300 yards rushing and a dozen scores for a group that averaged 255 yards per game. The defense allowed just 334 yards and 21 points per game. Despite that, the Bulldogs dropped games against 6-5 Florida and 6-6 South Carolina to cost them a shot at the SEC title. They’ll look to gain revenge for a loss to ACC school Georgia Tech in the regular season finale and claim the ninth season of Mark Richt’s 14-year career in Athens with at least 10 wins.
Bobby Petrino returned to Louisville this season after eight years away, leading the program into the ACC a decade after he’d been at the heart of the team’s move from Conference USA to the Big East. Interestingly for a Petrino team, the Cardinals’ calling card was not a high-powered offense but a defense that put up even better numbers than Georgia. Louisville allowed 40 fewer yards per game and gave up one less point per contest than the Bulldogs, a top-20 defense by all measures. Defensive back Gerod Holliman led the nation with 14 interceptions in 12 games, tying the NCAA single-season record set by Washington’s Al Worley in 1968. One more pick, a possibility against Mason, wold give Holliman sole possession of the record.
What is Likely to Happen
The Cardinals are going to keep this game tight throughout the game, with Holliman breaking the NCAA interception record as he snags a Hutson Mason pass sometime in the first half to set Louisville up with a short field and an early lead. Richt’s offense will adjust in the second half, with Nick Chubb fueling the effort against an increasingly-tired Louisville defense. The Cardinals will get a competent effort on offense, but the lack of a solid ground game will cost Louisville dearly as Petrino’s offense is forced to settle for a field goal one too many times. Chubb will burst through the line for a late go-ahead score, and Georgia walks away with just its second bowl victory in the past five years.
Georgia 31, Louisville 27