The Liberty Bowl: Emerson's Look the Game

MEMPHIS - Seth Emerson's look at Georgia's game with Central Florida at the Liberty Bowl.

Georgia vs. Central Florida

Where: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tenn.

When: 3:30 p.m.


Last meeting: Georgia won, 24-23, in Athens in 1999


Georgia's running game will once again be limited, as second-leading rusher Caleb King is suspended for academics and starting fullback Shaun Chapas is out after ankle surgery. So yet again, the Bulldogs will probably only run the ball to keep the defense honest, and rely on its high-powered passing game. A.J. Green, in probably his last game in a Georgia uniform, figures to get a lot of targets from QB Aaron Murray, who will look to expand on the freshman passing records he's already set.

Central Florida's top weapon is quarterback Jeff Godfrey, the Conference USA freshman of the year. The 5-foot-11 Godfrey may be the shortest quarterback Georgia has faced this year, but he can run the ball, and dual threats have given the Georgia defense trouble at times this year. The Knights also have a couple good tailbacks, a big reason their running game is the strength of the team.

EDGE: Georgia.


Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham still had to do a lot of teaching of his 3-4 system during the season, so the month of bowl practice may have helped. But expect some things not to change: An aggressive blitzing approach, led by OLB Justin Houston, the SEC's sack leader.

UCF had the 10th-ranked run defense in the nation, and also ranked 18th nationally in total defense and 12th in scoring defense. A big reason is DE Bruce Miller, a Georgia native and the Conference USA defensive player of the year, who has 34 career sacks. The Knights also have two all-conference players in the secondary, CB Josh Robinson and FS Kemal Ishmael.


Special teams

Georgia's specialists – K Blair Walsh, P Drew Butler, KR Brandon Boykin - are all so good they've applied to the NFL for a draft evaluation. (Boykin is the only one seriously considering going pro.) The Bulldogs also have one of the nation's top kickoff coverage teams.

UCF has the nation's top kick return unit, led by Quincy McDuffie. But it's kicking game has been such an issue that head coach George O'Leary said Thursday that if Nick Cattoi doesn't make his kicks on Friday he wouldn't be around next year. "That's the way it is, that's the way it goes," O'Leary added.

EDGE: Georgia.


Georgia head coach Mark Richt has struggled the past few years, but he's 7-2 in bowls. He's also done a good job of making sure his team showed up against weaker opponents, the exception being at Colorado. He's also 1-0 against O'Leary, who was at Georgia Tech during Richt's first season.

O'Leary is 2-5 in bowls, the last of those wins coming in 1998, when he was at Georgia Tech. But his experience at Tech, and plenty against BCS-league opponents at UCF, means he should have his team plenty prepared for the difference in talent they'll be facing.

EDGE: Even.

Key matchup

Georgia WR A.J. Green vs. UCF CB Josh Robinson. Even though Robinson is 5-10, he should draw Green because the Bulldogs also have 6-4 Kris Durham. As usual, Green will also see a safety or quicker linebacker doubling on him. The question for UCF isn't whether it can stop Green, but whether it can hold him to a reasonable amount of damage.

EDGE: Georgia.

UCF's big running backs vs. Georgia's undersized line. This is one of the few areas on the field UCF has a size advantage. Starter Latavius Murray is 6-3 and 221 pounds, and backup Ronnie Weaver is 6-0, 209. If the Knights are able to run the ball consistently, that could open it up for Godfrey to do some damage.

EDGE: Even.

Prediction: Georgia 30, UCF 13

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