Take solace UGA fans. It’s not your fault the NCAA suspended super star WR AJ Green for the first Four Games of the year. It’s not your fault that the Bulldogs subsequently lost all three of those Games. All things considered, playing in the Liberty Bowl isn’t so bad. If the Bulldogs aren’t excited about being here it could hinder them as the 10-3 UCF Knights certainly are. They enter this Game as Conference USA champs and the #25 ranked team in the country. A win here would cap a great season. A win for the Bulldogs would set the tone for next year. Let’s take a look at some of the key factors for the Autozone Liberty Bowl.
The Bulldogs opened as a 7 point favorite and the line has moved slightly to 6.5. The Knights boast an incredible 9-3 ATS record this year. The Bulldogs are 4-7 ATS. UCF is averaging 33.8 PPG compared to 34.3 PPG for Georgia. The Bulldogs defense is allowing 23.1 PPG which isn’t as good as UCF’s 18.0 PPG. The Knights are exceptional against the run allowing 110.4 rushing yards per Game. As a whole the defense gives up 318.1 total yards per Game. The Bulldogs defense isn’t as strong at 334.4 total yards per Game.
Georgia will seek to do most of its offensive damage through the air. Freshman QB Aarron Murray is a wunderkind of sorts and will be among the best QBs in the SEC with some seasoning. This year he has passed for 2,851 yards and 24 TDs. He has been extremely efficient in his last three Games, passing for 3 TDs and no INTs in all of them. His #1 weapon is WR AJ Green. The senior is an absolute and will go in the first round of the NFL Draft. The junior has 49 catches for 771 yards and 9 TDs despite sitting the first Four Games of the year. He caught 9 passes for 164 yards and 2 TDs against Auburn. Sophomore RB Washaun Ealey could be the key to the offense. He has struggled in the latter part of the season, but ended the regular season with a 118 yard 2 TD effort against Georgia Tech. If he plays a big Game the Bulldogs will have an enormous shot to win this thing.
The UCF Knights are also led by a freshman QB. Jeffrey Godfrey ended the year with a good run, passing for 552 yards and 5 TDs without an INT in his last 3 Games. The Miami, FL native is a double threat as he can also scramble for big yardage. He has 13 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs this year. RB Ronnie Weaver will be pivotal for the Knights offense. The junior has 185 carries for 890 yards and 11 TDs. The Knights have a very balanced offense. If one facet of the offense isn’t doing well they can rely on the other. Despite this, it is ALWAYS important for the run to get going so it can set up the pass. Weaver has Four 100+ rushing yard Games this year.
The Georgia defense has been absolutely atrocious down the stretch. In their last 5 Games 4 opponents were able to get 400+ total yards. Georgia Tech got them for 512 yards. They will have to step up and play a good Game for the Bulldogs to get a win here. The Knights have done a great job on defense in their last few Games. They held SMU to 317 yards and sacked the QB 5 times. This will be a huge test for UCF’s defense. Stopping an SEC offense with Aaron Murray and AJ Green in the lineup is far from easy.
When you break this Game down by the numbers it comes up as being closer than the current posted line. Of course you have to take into ACCount Schedule strength here. You simply can’t compare the two. UCF played a cupcake Schedule compared to a brutal SEC Schedule for Georgia. On the positive side, UCF held their own against 9-4 NC State and also held high scoring Kansas State to 17 points in a 17-13 loss. Their other loss came at the hands of Southern Miss, 31-21.
The motivational edge goes to UCF here. We have mentioned in other write ups the built in edge that exists when a lesser known program like UCF takes on a traditional college football power like Georgia. These UCF kids want to prove they belong in the big time. But the motivation doesn’t end there. UCF is also in search of it’s first Bowl win ever. This will be their 4th appearaNCe in a bowl Game and no doubt the best team they have fielded. Furthermore, UCF is making a bid to join the Big East ConfereNCe. A lopsided loss likely kills that chance. A win, or even a close loss will do wonders.
Lastly, you have to question the Georgia motivation. This team had their sights set on the SEC title as well as making a splash on the National scene yet they end up 6-6 and in a Bowl Game against a team most have never heard of.
We’re coNCerned with the differeNCe in Schedule strength here. However, UCF has proven it can play with higher quality conferences this year. This is a good, fundamentally solid football team with a solid defense and a young QB you’ll be hearing plenty more about in the future. We’re going to go ahead and take UCF as a Key Release here. We want +7 on this Game and think we may see it by Game time as the favorite money comes in on the Bulldogs. So sit tight and monitor the line. We’ll lay up to -120 to get the +7 here if we have to.
3* Key Release Central Florida +7 over Georgia