Two teams who did not have the seasons they were hoping for will meet in Memphis for the Liberty Bowl. Georgia (7-5) will take on TCU (6-6) in the 58th edition of the game. It will be Georgia's fourth appearance in the game, with its last appearance coming in 2010 (a thrilling 10-6 loss to UCF) and TCU's second appearance (the first being a 17-3 win over Colorado State in 2002).
It will also mark the fourth time these two schools have played. Georgia has won the previous three meetings with the last tangle being a 38-10 win in 1988. So it's been awhile.
Date: Friday, Dec. 30
Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium -- Memphis, Tennessee
Georgia: Kirby Smart's first season was supposed to be one in which the Bulldogs competed for an SEC East title, but things didn't go as planned. The season started out well enough with a 3-0 start but warning signs where there as the Bulldogs struggled to get by both Nicholls and Missouri in the first three weeks. Georgia then lost four of its next five SEC games with the lone win coming against South Carolina. UGA recovered to finish 4-4 in SEC play, but the regular season ended on a sour note with a 28-27 loss to Georgia Tech at home on Senior Day.
TCU: Considering the Horned Frogs lost key players from last year's team like Trevone Boykin, a slight step backward in 2016 was to be expected. What the Frogs did not see coming was a 6-6 campaign that included blowout losses to teams like West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. In fact, the best team (by record) that the Horned Frogs beat this season was a 6-6 Baylor team. Now TCU looks to avoid its first losing season since 2013. A loss in this game would leave the Horned Frogs with a losing record for only the third time in Gary Patterson's 16 seasons at TCU.
Players to watch
Georgia: While the season didn't go as planned, Georgia did get some good news this month when its two stud running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel announced their plans to return next season. This year, the duo combined to rush for 1,741 yards and 10 touchdowns. Chubb needs only 12 yards against TCU to reach the 1,000-yard mark on the season for the second time in his career.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are led by linebackers Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick, who finished first and second on the team in tackles, respectively. Patrick missed Georgia's final three games of the regular season with a shoulder injury, but Smart is "hopeful" he'll be able to play against TCU. Two other Georgia linebackers, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy, led the team in sacks with four apiece.
TCU: They don't call TCU quarterback Kenny Hill "Kenny Thrill" for nothing; the problem is those thrills have peaks and valleys. There's the Hill that can make a big play when his team really needs it -- and threw for over 3,000 yards while rushing for over 500 (with 24 total touchdowns) -- and then there's the Hill with 13 interceptions. Odds are you'll see a bit of both in this game, as has been the case all season. Running back Kyle Hicks had 12 touchdowns and needs 46 yards to break 1,000 on the season. In the passing game, receiver Taj Williams provides the big-play threat as he caught 39 passes this season, averaging 18 yards per reception.
Defensively, the Frogs have two linebackers that have broken the century mark in tackles this season in Travin Howard (125 tackles) and Ty Summers (113). Josh Carraway and Denzel Johnson can disrupt your game plan, as both finished with 11 tackles for loss. Carraway led the team with eight sacks as well, and he's one of four Frogs defenders to finish with at least 3.5 sacks this year.
With such a small spread in this game, it's essentially a coin flip, and I believe the game will actually reflect that spread. These are two similar teams and odds are that this game will be decided by a play or two either way. There's a good chance that play will be a turnover, and given his history, I wouldn't be surprised if it's TCU's Kenny Hill with that ill-timed turnover. That's why I'm going to go with Georgia to win the Liberty Bowl. Pick: Georgia -1.5