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No. 9 Georgia vs. No. 8 Cincinnati: Peach Bowl preview, picks against the spread

Sam Cooper
·4-min read

Peach Bowl: No. 9 Georgia vs. No. 8 Cincinnati

Location: Atlanta | Time: Noon (Jan. 1) | TV: ESPN | Line: Georgia -6.5 | Total: 50.5

How these teams got here

Georgia (7-2): Georgia endured some quarterback issues in Week 1 against Arkansas, benching D’Wan Mathis in favor of Stetson Bennett. Bennett would lead UGA to a 3-0 start, including emphatic wins over then-No. 7 Auburn and then-No. 14 Tennessee. The Bulldogs then lost two of their next three to No. 2 Alabama and No. 8 Florida with Bennett struggling mightily in both losses. The loss to Florida gave UF the SEC East title, breaking a streak of three straight division crowns for the Bulldogs.

From there, USC transfer JT Daniels became the starting quarterback and led the team to a 3-0 finish. Now the Bulldogs are 7-2 entering bowl play and have looked significantly better with Daniels running the offense.

Cincinnati (9-0): Cincinnati emerged as the highest-ranked conference champion from the Group of Five leagues by going a perfect 9-0. The Bearcats beat Austin Peay and Army handily in non-conference play before cruising through most of their AAC schedule.

Cincinnati won its first five AAC games by an average of 31 points before closing out the year with three-point wins over UCF and Tulsa. The win over Tulsa was in the AAC title game and came via a walk-off field goal on a cold, rainy night at Nippert Stadium. Despite the undefeated record, the CFP selection committee had the Bearcats at No. 8, behind Oklahoma and Florida, teams that have combined for five losses.

Players to know

Georgia OLB Azeez Ojulari: While several members of the Georgia defense have decided not to play in this game, its top pass rusher will be on the field. Ojulari, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior, leads the Bulldogs with 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 2020. He also totaled 27 tackles and two forced fumbles over the span of nine games. He’ll be a big focal point for the Cincinnati offense.

Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder: The Bearcats have a few All-American caliber players in their secondary with cornerback Ahmad Gardner and safety James Wiggins, but Desmond Ridder going up against the Georgia defense is one of the most intriguing matchups in this game. Ridder has thrown for 2,090 yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions while completing 66.4% percent of his passes in 2020. He has also rushed for 609 yards and 12 scores while averaging 7.3 yards per attempt. He took massive strides from his performance in 2019, when he completed only 55.1% of his throws.

Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder looks for a receiver against Central Florida during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder has been one of the best QBs in college football in 2020. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

What’s on the line

Georgia: This is the fourth straight appearance in a College Football Playoff-affiliated bowl for Georgia under Kirby Smart. The Bulldogs beat Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl before losing in the national title game to Alabama back in 2017, lost to Texas in the Sugar Bowl in 2018 and then had a pretty dominant showing over Baylor in the Sugar Bowl last fall. This is UGA’s fifth Peach Bowl appearance. The program has a 2-2 record, with its last trip resulting in a 35-33 win over Virginia in 1998.

Cincinnati: Cincinnati is in the midst of arguably its best season ever. The Bearcats have seven seasons all-time with double-digit wins, but none of them finished undefeated. Back in 2009, Brian Kelly’s Bearcats went through the season 12-0 but were left out of the BCS title game. Kelly then left for Notre Dame and a Cincinnati team with an interim coach got blasted by Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

That is the last time UC played in a NY6 bowl game. The year before was the first NY6 bowl appearance, a 20-7 loss to Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. A win here and the Bearcats can feel some vindication for being No. 8 in the final CFP rankings.

Picks

Sam Cooper: Georgia -6.5

Nick Bromberg: Georgia -6.5

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