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Post 5 questions heading into the Liberty Bowl

Friday December 31, 2010

Can Georgia score over 30?

It’s the stat you’ve been hearing about since late October: Georgia hasn’t scored fewer than 30 points since their trip out to Colorado.  It’s impressive that the streak has occurred during the meat of the SEC slate, and it’s been a result of the rapid development of Aaron Murray.  That production hasn’t always been enough for a win, though.  Georgia has dropped two of the seven games in which they’ve scored 30+.  They’ll go up against a UCF defense that could be better than most Georgia fans expect.  They’ve held both of their other AQ opponents, N.C. State and Kansas State, under 30, and they stifled June Jones’ SMU offense in their conference title game. UCF leads their conference in most defensive stats, and they’re top 20 nationally in both scoring and total defense.  They haven’t always been consistent, though.  They gave up at least 30 in three straight games to some sub-par conference opponents during the middle of the season.  DB Josh Robinson will be key in keeping A.J. Green from having a big day.

Can Georgia keep UCF under 30?

The flip side of Georgia’s productive offense is this: the Dawgs have given up at least 30 to their last three FBS opponents.  Giving up 30 to Auburn is no indictment of a defense, but the other two games aren’t feathers in Todd Grantham’s cap. Steve Spurrier mentioned yesterday that he had watched Florida try to rotate three quarterbacks this year.  “I think it worked in one game,” he said.  We all know which game that was.  Georgia Tech’s option offense can be explosive, but Duke did a better job keeping the Yellow Jackets in check.  Central Florida presents a familiar style of play that has caused Georgia problems: a mobile quarterback and an effective running game.  They don’t have the scheme of Mississippi State or the power running of South Carolina, but they can move the ball on the ground, move the chains with an efficient passing game, and their quarterback can scramble and turn third down stops into frustrating and drive-sustaining first downs. Georgia’s defense will have to focus on finishing off those third downs and getting off the field – something they’ve struggled with for much of 2010. 

Which freshman QB will have the better day, and will it matter?

The showdown between two of the nation’s best freshman quarterbacks is one of the big storylines of this game. Though the two have similar attributes in terms of a good arm and great mobility, their roles differ. Murray has become the unquestioned centerpiece of the Georgia offense.  Thanks to A.J. Green and a solid receiving corps, Murray’s development has turned an offense that was supposed to lean on the running game into an offense whose identity starts with the pass.  The numbers back it up:  Murray is on track to break 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns passing for the year.  He’s not just breaking records for Georgia’s freshman quarterbacks; he’s flirting with team records.  UCF’s Jeff Godfrey is also a productive passer, but his role is more about efficiency.  He’s the nation’s leader among freshman quarterbacks in efficiency, and he completes 68.4% of his passes.  He’s only thrown 13 touchdowns, compared with 24 for Murray.  That matters less because UCF can run the ball.  They’re 25th in the nation with 192.46 yards per game on the ground.  Godfrey doesn’t have to throw for 300 yards and 3 TDs in order to be effective; he just has to be efficient in those situations when he’s asked to pass, and he has to use his mobility to create yards on the ground or get out of trouble.  That’s just what he’s done this year, and it’s why UCF is where they are.

What impact will the weather have?

Storms are forecast for Memphis this afternoon, and rain can turn the best intentions of a game plan into a muddy slugfest.  There’s no end of discussion whether rain would help an offense or defense or slow everyone down, but it looks as if a wet track and a strong southerly wind will be a factor in this game. 

Can we expect the unexpected?

We’ve seen everything this bowl season from fake kicks to flea-flickers to the surreal ending of the Music City Bowl.  And that was just yesterday.  That’s not unusual; teams often pull out all the stops for their bowl game.  Big turnovers or special teams plays can either blow a game open or keep an underdog’s hopes alive.  Last year a series of plays from the return game and punting miscues turned the Independence Bowl from a nail-biter into a rout.  In a game with no turnovers and relatively benign special teams, you like Georgia’s chances in this one.  But what are the chances of ending up in that kind of game?

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