Two ranked teams will meet in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte on Dec. 30, as the No.13 Georgia Bulldogs (9-3, 6-2 SEC) face the No.21 Louisville Cardinals (9-3, 5-3 ACC). Neither school made the College Football Playoff or is competing in a former BCS bowl game, but both finished the 2014 season about where they were expected to be at the end of the year.
Georgia fans who had hopes of winning a national championship might be disappointed with the season, but it’s hard to say the team underachieved, especially since they play in the nation’s toughest conference. The Bulldogs began the season ranked No.12, and they won three of five games against ranked opponents. They suffered one loss to a team outside of the top 25, which ultimately prevented them from competing for a national title.
After a big win in their season opener over then-No.16 Clemson, Georgia jumped to No.6 in the rankings, even getting two votes for the No.1 spot. However, the benefits they reaped from their 45-21 victory were short-lived, as the Bulldogs lost at South Carolina, 38-35, in their following game. Georgia had a chance to defeat the Gamecocks on the road and jump even higher in the rankings, but kicker Marshall Morgan missed a 28-yard field goal with 4:24 left in regulation.
Despite their early-season loss, Georgia had a chance to make the playoffs until their Nov.1 matchup with Florida. They were upset at home by the unranked Gators, 38-20, allowing Florida to rush for 418 yards. The Bulldogs got a marquee victory over then-No.9 Auburn two weeks later, and suffered an overtime loss to No.12 Georgia Tech in their regular-season finale.
Louisville’s expectations weren’t as high as Georgia’s at the start of the year. The Cardinals were unranked in the preseason, though they did get 48 votes in the AP poll. They lost their only contest against a ranked opponent, but defeated two storied college football programs.
The Cardinals started the year with two impressive victories, beating Miami by 18 points and trouncing Murray State, 66-21. The two victories put Louisville at No.21, but their stay in the top 25 lasted just one week, following an upset loss at Virginia. The Cardinals attempted to make a fourth-quarter comeback, but they relinquished their lead with 3:42 remaining in the game and suffered their first loss of the season.
The biggest game of Louisville’s season came against Florida State on Oct. 30. The Cardinals took a 21-0 lead in the second quarter, with a chance to upset the No.2 team in the country, as well as a team that hasn’t lost a game since 2012. However, Jameis Winston’s three touchdown passes helped the Seminoles finally take the lead in the fourth quarter, and they never looked back.
Georgia and Louisville finished the season with the same overall record, though Georgia came closer to reaching the conference title game. The Cardinals finished one game behind Clemson and three games behind Florida State in the Atlantic Division. Georgia finished just one game behind Missouri in the SEC East, even though they beat the Tigers on Oct. 11.
Now, the two teams will battle for a chance to end the season with 10 wins. Georgia leads its eighth-ranked offense against the No.18 scoring defense in the nation. The Bulldogs haven’t lost a step in running back Todd Gurley’s absence, as Nick Chubb has taken over and played like one of the best running backs in the country. Louisville looks for another big win, having defeated the likes of Miami and Notre Dame in 2014.
Point Spread: Georgia by 7 points
Over/Under: 56.5 points
Prediction: Georgia over Louisville, 31-28