In just their fifth meeting ever and first since 1980, Georgia and Texas A&M face off in one of the most appealing matchups in the 34-year history of the Independence Bowl
The line opened with Georgia as a 7-point favorite and has held constant. The total opened at 64 but has since climbed two points as most bettors expect a high-scoring affair.
Although nearly three-fourths the betting public likes the Bulldogs -7, the Aggies and their moneyline odds (+245) and the over are overwhelming wagering favorites.
No meaningful players will miss the bowl for either team, although Georgia expects to return impact players safety Bacarri Rambo and wide receiver A.J. Green from injuries.
Green, arguably one of college football’s best players, suffered a shoulder injury and has missed the last three-and-a-half games.
Run, Dawgs, Run
As Georgia’s offensive line steadily improved the latter part of the season, the Bulldogs’ rushing attack began to produce. After averaging less than 3.4 yards per carry through its first six games, Georgia gained more than 5.5 per rush the last half of the year.
"We had a lot of success [running the football]," said freshman Washaun Ealey, who leads the Dogs with 639 rushing yards. "I hope we do it a lot in the future."
The “future” should start against Texas A&M; the Aggies are allowing more than 4.5 yards per carry.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt has said an effective rushing attack was the key to keeping the Aggies from monopolizing the football; Texas A&M averages 80.1 offensive plays per game, second most in the FBS.
Motivation and missing pieces
After playing in a January bowl in six of the last seven years, the Bulldogs are having to settle for a minor bowl. If Georgia could have won an additional game, it likely would have gone to the Outback Bowl. Instead, its 7-5 record and a presumed lack of traveling fans slipped the Dogs down to the Independence.
Texas A&M is just happy to go bowling after missing the postseason in four of its previous seven seasons.
Following Georgia’s regular season, three defensive assistants, including the defensive coordinator, were fired and decided not to coach in the bowl. Defensive line coach Rodney Garner, a graduate assistant, and program coordinator will fill in for the departed coaches.
Mistakes and miscues
Georgia shot itself in the foot all season with penalties and turnovers; the Bulldogs are 119th in the FBS in turnover margin (-1.42) and are being penalized 8.3 times for 70 yards per game.
In only two of its 12 games has Georgia had a better turnover margin than its opponent—against Auburn and Georgia Tech—and in just two games less than 40 penalty yards—against the same two opponents, the Bulldogs’ two most meaningful wins this season.
Texas A&M has forced more than twice as many turnovers as Georgia has (21/10). Senior Jordan Pugh leads the Aggies with three interceptions and lineman Von Miller, besides leading the nation with 17 sacks, has forced four fumbles. No other Aggie has forced more than one.
Texas A&M’s Jerrod Johnson is the perfect type of quarterback—a tremendous passer who often relies on his running—to give Georgia’s defense fits.
The Bulldogs don’t necessarily yield lots of yardage but, in often granting opposing offenses favorable field position, give up lots of points. Johnson and the Aggie offense’s up-tempo attack have scored 31+ points in nine of 12 games.
In his last game, the Aggie quarterback accounted for 439 total yards on 47 plays and guided A&M to 39 points on a Texas defense ranked third in the nation and allowing only 13 points per game.
"We feel we can match up with anyone in the country," Johnson said.
During Georgia’s current 12-year consecutive bowl streak, the Bulldogs are 10-2 SU and 8-4 ATS in bowls.
After going 6-3 SU and 6-3 ATS in bowl games from 1976-1990, Texas A&M is 2-10 SU and 5-7 ATS in its last 12 bowls, including 1-5 ATS in its last six.
Since its loss to Alabama a year ago, Georgia has given up 34 or more points in 10 of 21 games. During that same time, the Dogs are 6-15 ATS.