Friday December 31: Liberty Bowl in Memphis, TN at 3:30 pm eastern
#25 Central Florida Knights (10-3) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (6-6)
UCF wins their conference and plays a 6-6 SEC team, which is a fairly typical occurrence.
Vegas line/spread: Georgia by 6 1/2 (over/under 53.5).
The 6-6 Bulldogs are nearly a touchdown favorite over the 10-win Knights. Interestingly while the spread has remained constant the over/under is down by two points—probably due to Georgia's running back problems.
|Game-comparisons||win %||vs. spread|
Records aside, Georgia ranks much higher in the Strength Power Rating; they're #28 to UCF's #43. The vast majority of game comparisons fell the Bulldogs' way, even after the spread is taken into account.
Strength Power Rating: Georgia 29, Central Florida 22
Georgia's big advantage is on offense, where they rank 22nd to UCF's #64. The Knights actually have the better scoring defense (28th to 38th) but it's not enough to make up the difference in offenses. The Strength Power Rating favors to Bulldogs by an amount roughly similar to the spread.
Georgia ranks #26 by yardage to #56 for Central Florida. The Bulldogs defense rates particularly well at #18, while UCF is just behind at #26. Again Georgia has a big advantage in adjusted total offense, 38th to just 81st for the Knights. Georgia should have around 350 total yards, with UCF just under 300, and a ten point spread when converted to a points estimate.
The per-attempt yardage score estimate is a bit closer but much higher-scoring. The teams have nearly equal per-attempt passing yardages, but Georgia averages a full yard per carry extra (about 4 ypc to 3 ypc for UCF) when their offenses and defenses are pitted against each other.
Yardage + turnovers + kick returns projection: Georgia 28, UCF 13
Georgia gets a projected big bonus from turnovers, more than five points total. This comes from ranking 15th in turnover margin, usually netting an extra turnover per game against the average foe. And Central Florida is below average (#77) when it comes to turnovers. In an average game the Bulldogs should force nearly two turnovers, and UCF just 0.5 turnovers, giving Georgia 5 1/2 points or so.
A bit of this advantage goes away when kick returns are considered. There's no different in the punting game: UCF has a better fielding unit but Georgia has better coverage, and they cancel out. The Knights are a better on kickoffs, however. Both teams have great coverage, but UCF is the top-rated team in kickoff return average; Quincy McDuffie is #2 in the nation with 32.7 yards per return and two touchdowns. It only means about 1/2 point in the projection, since big plays on kick returns are highly variable, but it's something to consider as a possible momentum-changer.
Overall, Georgia gains 5 points from projected big play opportunities.
When UCF has the ball
|UCF rushing offense: #38
||Georgia rushing defense: #33
It's a good matchup in the running game between these teams. Central Florida has three players with over 500 yards: Ronnie Weaver (890), QB Jeff Godfrey (546), and Latavius Murray (533), and each of them has 10 or more rushing TDs. The Bulldog rush defense should be up to the task and hold them below 150 yards, but it will be a challenge.
|UCF passing offense: #95||Georgia passing defense: #17 per att: #71|
|UCF interceptions thrown ranking: #56||Georgia interceptions picked ranking: #35|
|UCF quarterback protection rank: #56||Georgia pass rush rank: #56|
Freshman Jeff Godfrey has been an efficient passer, completing 68% for the Knights for just over 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns. Georgia's pass defense has an unusual disconnect between the per-game and per-attempt ranking, but expect Godfrey to throw for about 150 yards.
Huge production isn't expected from the UCF passing game, as it's meant to be conservative and support the running game. Godfrey has just 6 interceptions but UCF's ranking is just average because A) two other passers have added three interceptions, and B) the teams UCF plays aren't particularly good at making picks. Georgia is pretty good, and should get a pick during the game. In terms of sacks, UCF's O-line has given up 20 (18 on Godfrey), so Georgia should have a couple in the bowl game.
When Georgia has the ball
|Georgia rushing offense: #51
||UCF rushing defense: #36
Washaun Ealey is the team's #1 back with 751 yards and 11 TDs, and with Caleb King combined for nearly 1,200 yards. Both average over 5 yards per carry. UCF appears to have a great rushing defense at first blush—they're #10 in the nation in raw average—but when corrected for their opponents it's only #36. Apparently they face many poor rushing teams. But they're good enough to hold Georgia to about the same 140 yards that their own offense might generate on the ground, and probably less if King is ineligible (see Injuries).
|Georgia passing offense: #41||UCF passing defense: #23 per att: #42|
|Georgia interceptions thrown ranking: #12||UCF interceptions picked ranking: #71|
|Georgia quarterback protection rank: #59||UCF pass rush rank: #45|
Georgia starts a freshman QB too, but they've made passing as big as the run in their offense. Aaron Murray has 2,851 passing yards and 24 TDs on the season. Of course, he's got A.J. Green (771 yards, 9 TDs) and Kris Durham (612 yards) to throw to, which helps. Four others have over 100 receiving yards. Central Florida has a good pass defense and though Murray should go over 200 yards, it probably won't be that much more.
Like his UCF counterpart, Murray has thrown only 6 interceptions. But the Knights aren't very effective in taking the ball away, so it's doubtful that they'll get a pick on Murray this game. Sacks are another matter; they should have decent pressure and get to Murray a couple of times during the game. Pressuring the quarterback rather than going for interceptions should be their strategy if they want to slow down the Bulldog passing game with big plays.
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (2)
Wins vs. top 25 teams (0)
Losses (3); to losing teams (0)
- South Dakota 38-7
- North Carolina State 21-28
- @ Buffalo 24-10
- @ Kansas State 13-17
- UAB 42-7
- @ Marshall 35-14
- Rice 41-14
- East Carolina 49-35
- @ Houston 40-33
- Southern Miss 21-31
- @ Tulane 61-14
- @ Memphis 37-17
- Southern Methodist 17-7
Central Florida had a great year and won their conference title, but they were lucky to face SMU instead of Tulsa. The 7-6 Mustangs were only the 2nd bowl-bound team they beat all year; the other was 6-6 East Carolina.
Aside from those teams they beat eight teams with losing records, not exactly a killer résumé. On the plus side they didn't lose to any losing teams, falling to BCS conference foes NC State and Kansas State in close contests as well as Southern Miss. Their offense was fairly inconsistent, looking average most of the time with a few terrible games (Buffalo and Southern Miss).
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (3)
Wins vs. top 25 teams (0)
Losses (6); to losing teams (1)
- Louisiana-Lafayette 55-7
- @ #20 South Carolina 6-17
- #8 Arkansas 24-31
- @ #21 Mississippi State 12-24
- @ Colorado 27-29
- Tennessee 41-14
- Vanderbilt 43-0
- @ Kentucky 44-31
- @ Florida 31-34 OT
- Idaho State 55-7
- @ #1 Auburn 31-49
- Georgia Tech 42-34
Georgia started 1-4, which wasn't totally unexpected. Looking at the teams they faced 1-3 should have been foreseen, and in the pre-season Colorado looked better than they turned out. Still, 1-4 didn't please the fans by a long shot.
When they started winning an offensive explosion led the way: 41 against Tennessee, 43 on Vanderbilt, 44 at Kentucky. This started on A.J. Green's 2nd game back and carried through to the end of the season, so there might be some correlation there. Meanwhile, though, the defense started to falter with the Kentucky game and seemed to continue the decline all the way through the Georgia Tech win.
For Georgia, Caleb King is questionable and probably out for the game due to academic issues (UPDATE: King is confirmed out). This obviously hurts Georgia's running game as King has been just as effective as Waushan Ealey and it places more burden on Ealey. Further, fullback Shaun Chapas is out, so run blocking will suffer too. UCF doesn't have any major losses.
Psychology: UCF -1 Georgia +5
- UCF's season: +2 wins; Georgia's season: -1 wins
- UCF's momentum: +1; Georgia's momentum: +2
- UCF glad to be there? -4; Georgia glad to be there: +4
- UCF lost final game: -0; Georgia lost final game: -0
- UCF coaching situation: +0; Georgia coaching situation: +0
I'm not sure if the numbers above accurately reflect much about the emotion of the game. Central Florida is penalized for having to play a 6-6 teams when they've got 10 wins, but since it's Georgia from the SEC, I doubt they feel all too short-changed. And while Georgia must feel good about reaching a bowl game after starting 1-4, they normally expect to be playing on New Year's Day. Maybe Georgia still gets a 2 point edge, or maybe it's a wash. I'd have to know more about what the players are feeling in this case.
If King doesn't play, the Bulldogs' balance will probably shift even more to the pass. Most people—even coaches I'm sure—tend to look at raw yardage rankings and if you saw that UCF was #10 against the run and #46 against the pass, what would you do? Especially if your team is #72 in rushing? My guess is the Bulldogs are thinking pass even if King is available, and will be moreso if he isn't.
Georgia will have a tougher time passing than they think, especially if they don't establish the run. That would allow Central Florida to apply pressure on the quarterback, their best shot of disrupting Murphy.
However, Georgia's offense has been on a roll for more than half the season, and the receivers are the key. If Georgia does things right they can have a good game through the air. And UCF's offense doesn't appear to be a huge threat. Georgia's defense has been sluggish lately but they can compete on running plays and should do well against the pass, too.
The great intangible is attitude and emotion. It's hard to tell who is going to be "up" for the game but that team will have a good-sized advantage. But I have to ignore emotion since I can't tell which way it's going to go. If emotion is fickle, changing a lot during the game, things could turn on big plays such as interceptions or kick returns.
What I do think will happen is extra scoring. Georgia's offense has been rolling and their defense hasn't, so both teams will see a few additional points.
Prediction: Georgia 32, Central Florida 24
More previews, odds, and predictions: View the complete 2010-2011 bowl game schedule.