The Georgia Bulldogs (9-3, 5-3 SEC) look to win double-digit games for the second year in a row when they take on the Penn State Nittany Lions (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) in the Taxslayer Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville on Saturday.
The Bulldogs finished second in the SEC East but it wasn’t enough to save Mark Richt, who was let go after 15 seasons and 145 victories. The Bulldogs will attempt to win the bowl game with interim coach Bryan McClendon and missing both their offensive and defensive coordinators. New head coach Kirby Smart is still working with Alabama as their defensive coordinator as they navigate the College Football Playoff.
Georgia began the season blowing out opponents on their way to a 4-0 start. A defeat to Alabama was the first of three losses in four games, with Tennessee and Florida also getting the better of the Bulldogs. Georgia became bowl-eligible with a 27-3 win over Kentucky to begin a four-game streak to end the season.
Star running back Nick Chubb was lost for the season in the Tennessee game but Georgia could still try to run the ball with Sony Michel, who has averaged 114.3 yards per game since Chubb’s injury. This game pits two stout, top 15 defenses but Penn State allowed 152.1 rushing yards per game in conference play and gave up 18 rushing touchdowns during the regular season.
In their last bowl appearance, Georgia won the 2014 Belk Bowl 37-14 over Louisville.
Penn State began the season with a tough loss to Temple but rebounded with five straight wins, winning four of them by double digits. The streak ended with a 31-10 loss to then-No. 1 Ohio State but another rebound was in order for a one-point win over Maryland that would make the Nittany Lions bowl-eligible. A 39-0 victory over Illinois would be their last win of the season as Penn State lost their final three games to Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State.
In what could be Christian Hackenberg’s last game as Penn State quarterback, the third-year starter will need to take care of the ball against one of the SEC’s top defenses. Georgia ranked No. 3 in the SEC in yards allowed (298 per game) and No. 8 in the nation in scoring defense (16.9 points per game). Hackenberg tossed 16 touchdowns to five interceptions but has struggled against some of the better defenses he’s faced like Northwestern and Michigan.
Penn State won the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl 31-30 in overtime over Boston College, their only bowl appearance under James Franklin. The SEC is 19-10 against the Big Ten since 2010.
Start Time: 12:00 p.m.
TV Channel: ESPN
Betting Odds: Georgia -6.5