2016 TaxSlayer Bowl
Penn State Nittany Lions vs Georgia Bulldogs
EverBank Field – Jacksonville, Florida
Saturday, January 2, 2016, 12:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Georgia -7 (-105)
Current Line: Georgia -6 (-115)
Opening Total: 43
Current Total: 43
Opening Money Line: Georgia -260 / Penn State +220
Current Money Line: Georgia -240 / Penn State +200
The 7-5 Penn State Nittany Lions take on the 9-3 Georgia Bulldogs in the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville. Penn State won the only other meeting against Georgia in the 1983 Sugar Bowl to claim their first national title.
Penn State finished fourth in the Big Ten East Division at 4-4. The Nittany Lions are coached by James Franklin. Penn State is 28-15-2 all-time in bowl games, including 1-2-1 in the Gator/TaxSlayer Bowl Penn State hasn’t played in this game since 1976. The Nittany Lions won the Pinstripe Bowl 31-30 in overtime last year against Boston College.
Georgia and coach Mark Richt agreed to part ways after 15 seasons. Richt was originally going to coach the bowl game but he accepted the head coaching position at Miami-(FL). Receivers coach Bryan McClendon will serve as the interim coach. Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was hired as the head coach for next year. He will work both jobs until after next week’s national championship game between Alabama and Clemson. Georgia tied for second in the SEC East at 5-3 with Tennessee behind 7-1 Florida.
Georgia is 28-19-3 all-time in bowl games, including 2-1-1 in this bowl. The Bulldogs are playing in a bowl for the 13th straight season. Georgia beat Louisville 37-14 last year in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
Penn State has road losses at Temple 27-10, Ohio State 38-10, Northwestern 23-21, and Michigan State 55-16 in the last game of the regular season, plus a home loss to Michigan 28-16. The Nittany Lions have lost three straight games. Penn State has home wins over Buffalo 27-14, Rutgers 28-3, San Diego state 37-21, Army 20-14, Indiana 29-7, Maryland 31-30 and Illinois 39-0.
Penn State was a 7.5 point underdog against Michigan State and the total was 43.5. The Spartans took an early 20-3 lead including a 77 yard fumble return for a touchdown. Penn State would cut it to 20-10 by halftime, but they would get closer. The Spartans expanded the lead to 34-10 in the third. Penn State scored a touchdown in the fourth to make it 34-16, but MSU scored the last 21 points of the game. Penn State had over 400 total yards but also had four turnovers. The Nittany Lions are 4-8 ATS and the total is 5-7 this season.
The Bulldogs have a home loss to Alabama 38-10 and at Tennessee 38-31, along with a neutral site loss to Florida 27-3 in Jacksonville. Georgia has home wins over UL-Monroe 51-14, South Carolina 52-20, Southern 48-6, Missouri 9-6, Kentucky 27-3 and Georgia Southern 23-17, along with a road wins over Vanderbilt 31-14, Auburn 20-13 and Georgia Tech 13-7 in the last game of the season. The Bulldogs have won four straight games.
Georgia was a 3.5 point favorite against rival Georgia Tech and the total was 48.5. The Bulldogs took a 13-0 lead in the fourth quarter. Georgia Tech scored a touchdown with 3:24 left to make it 13-7. The Yellow Jackets would get the ball back with 16 seconds left after a Georgia punt, but an interception on the last play of the game ended hopes of an upset. The Yellow Jackets had only 276 total yards, and also had 3 turnovers. Georgia is 5-7 ATS and the total is 3-9 this season.
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Penn State is outscoring teams 24-22 this season. The Nittany Lions are #25 in points allowed and #100 in scoring out of 128 teams. Penn State averages 344 total yards per game on offense including 209 passing and 135 rushing yards. The Nittany Lions are #107 in rushing and #107 in total offense nationally. On defense, Penn State is allowing 324 total yards per game including 175 passing and 150 rushing yards. The Nittany Lions are #14 in total defense and #8 in pass defense. Penn State has forced 22 turnovers and has 17 of their own. The Nittany Lions average 41 penalty yards per game and opponents average 61. PSU is 55/184 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 68/190. The Nittany Lions have forced 44 sacks and allowed 39 this season. Penn State is 39/42 scoring in the red zone with 23 touchdowns and opponents 31/34 with 25 touchdowns.
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg has completed 53.3% of his passes for 2,386 yards with 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He could declare early for the NFL draft after this game.
Running back Saquon Barkley has 165 carries for 1,007 yards with 7 touchdowns, plus 15 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown. Akeel Lynch has 54 carries for 278 yards with 2 touchdowns, along with 4 catches. Brandon Polk, Nick Scott and Mark Allen will also get some carries. Each has a rushing touchdown. Scott also threw a touchdown pass.
Receiver Chris Godwin has 63 catches for 968 yards and 5 touchdowns. DaeSean Hamilton has 40 catches for 509 yards and 5 touchdowns. Geno Lewis has 14 catches for 143 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus a touchdown pass. Kyle Carter and Mike Gesicki each have 13 catches. Saeed Blacknall has 7 catches for 241 yards and a touchdown. Three defensive players are listed on the injury report.
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Georgia is outscoring teams 27-17 this season. The Bulldogs are #8 in points allowed nationally. Georgia averages 381 total yards per game on offense including 187 passing and 194 rushing yards. The Bulldogs are #102 in passing and #35 in rushing. On defense, Georgia is allowing 298 yards per game including 146 passing and 152 rushing yards. The Bulldogs are #6 in total defense and lead the nation in pass defense. Georgia has forced 21 turnovers and has 18 of their own this season. Georgia averages 46 penalty yards per game and opponents average 34. The Bulldogs are 50/155 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 62/198. Georgia has 21 sacks and has allowed 13 this season. The Bulldogs are 32/41 scoring in the red zone with 17 touchdowns, and opponents are 20/31 with 15 touchdowns. Georgia has 3 punt returns for touchdowns and two defensive touchdowns, and has also allowed two defensive/special teams touchdowns.
Quarterback Greyson Lambert has thrown for 1,844 yards with 11 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, and also has a rushing touchdown. Back-up Brice Ramsey has thrown for 247 yards and a touchdown with 2 interceptions. Junior Faton Bauta has thrown for 154 yards and 4 interceptions.
Running back Sony Michel has 199 carries for 1,076 yards and 7 touchdowns, along with 25 catches for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns. Nick Chubb had 92 carries for 747 yards and 7 touchdowns, plus 4 catches for 32 yards and a touchdown. He suffered a torn ACL against Tennessee and is out for the season. Keith Marshall has 54 carries for 288 yards and 3 touchdowns along with 4 catches and a touchdown. Brendan Douglas has 36 carries for 140 yards along with 4 catches. He is out with a wrist injury.
Receiver Malcolm Mitchell has 53 catches for 751 yards and 4 touchdowns. Terry Godwin has 31 catches for 345 yards and a touchdown, plus 40 rushing yards and a touchdown. Reggie Davis has 12 catches for 187 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Jeb Blazevich has 13 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. Isaiah McKenzie has 10 catches for 123 yards. He is questionable with a foot injury. No other receiver has more than eight catches. Seven defensive players are questionable or out Saturday.
Penn State is 5-2 ATS after allowing 40 points or more, 7-3 in non-conference games, 1-4 against teams with winning records, and after scoring less than 20 points, 1-5 overall, and 0-4 after a straight up loss.
Georgia is 14-6 after allowing less than 170 passing yards, 5-12 after scoring less than 20 points, 1-4 after a cover, and 1-5 against teams with winning records.
Georgia is a better team with more talent. Still, there are a lot of distractions with all the coaching changes. Even interim coach McClendon will join the South Carolina staff as co-offensive coordinator. This will be a very low scoring game as both teams struggle on offense and have dominant defenses. I like Penn State to keep it close, but Georgia escapes with a win.