Keys to the Capital One Bowl

Josh Kendall breaks down the Capital One Bowl. Position analysis, keys to the game and more.

No. 11 Georgia (10-3) vs. No. 12 Purdue (9-3)
Kickoff: January 1st 1 p.m.
Stadium: Citrus Bowl (65,438), Orlando, Fla.
Tickets: Available at the gate for $65
Kickoff weather: High of 77, low of 57; partly cloudy; zero percent chance of rain
Odds: Georgia favored by 3 points
Injuries: Georgia -- Probable: TE Martrez Milner (ankle); Out: OL Bartley Miller (ankle). Purdue -- Probable: TE Jeff Bennett (knee).

Georgia rush offense vs. Purdue rush defense

The Bulldogs are coming off their worst rushing performance of the season. They gained only 50 yards, averaging 2 yards per carry, against LSU. Freshman Kregg Lumpkin continued what appears to be his slow march toward the starting spot with 54 yards. (The Bulldogs had only 50 yards as a team because of minus-49 yards due to sacks.) The Bulldogs have yet to have a 100-yard rusher in any game. "We didn't give our backs the opportunity to carry it enough to get 100 yards in a game, although they are allowed to run more than 5 or 6 yards at a time," Coach Mark Richt said. The rushing doesn't figure to get much better Thursday with guard Josh Brock nursing an extra sore shoulder and guard Bartley Miller out due to an ankle injury. Purdue starts three seniors on the defensive line and ranks 10th in the country in rush defense (95 yards per game).

Purdue rush offense vs. Georgia rush defense

Sophomore Jerod Void, 6-foot-2, 213 pounds, is already seventh on Purdue's career rushing touchdowns list with 23. He has 13 this season, one shy of the Boilermakers' single-season record shared by three players, including Mike Alstott. Georgia is 16th in the nation in rushing defense (105.7 yards per game) but is coming off its worst performance against the rush, giving up 293 yards on the ground to LSU. The loss of Darrius Swain for disciplinary reasons won't make Georgia's job any easier. Boilermaker senior center Nick Hardwick was named second-team All-Big Ten this season.

Georgia pass offense vs. Purdue pass defense

The Bulldogs will face the same dilemma they have most of the season, giving quarterback David Greene time to take advantage of matchups down the field. Purdue defensive end Shaun Phillips has 13.5 sacks and was named first-team All-Big Ten. On the other side is senior Kevin Nesfield, who has three sacks. The matchup of Phillips and Nesfield against the offense that surrendered more sacks (44) than any school in the SEC this year rightfully scares Richt. "I think they're probably licking their chops right now," he said. "If they've seen enough tape, they probably like the possibilities." The Boilermakers lead the Big Ten in sacks (30). If Georgia can protect Greene, it might have some chances downfield. The Boilermakers are without starting cornerback Jacques Reeves, who had started 25 straight games but isn't academically eligible. He will be replaced by sophomore Sean Petty. "We've seen enough to know he's a talented cornerback," Georgia coach Mark Richt said of Petty.

Purdue pass offense vs. Georgia pass defense

The Boilermaker coaches like the fact that Georgia hasn't faced much spread offense this season so look for Purdue to try the spread early. It could pose a problem for the Bulldogs, who have lost a starting safety and starting cornerback to injury this year and lost a backup cornerback to academics last week. Georgia is so thin at cornerback that Richt considered pulling starter Bruce Thornton out of a bowl-sponsored contest at Universal Studios to make sure he didn't suffer a freak injury. Purdue's passing attack starts with John Standeford and Taylor Stubblefield, who are first and second on the school's career receptions list. Standeford has been slowed slightly by injuries this year. Stubblefield leads the Big Ten with 6.5 catches per game. Quarterback Kyle Orton is a mirror image of Georgia's David Greene -- a 6-4, 223-pound pocket passer.

Special Teams

Georgia place-kicker Billy Bennett needs one more field goal to become the NCAA's all-time single-season leader. He already has 29. The all-time NCAA scoring mark is a possibility but not a good one. He needs 24 points to tie that mark. His counterpart, Ben Jones of Purdue, has hit more field goals this year (15) than anyone in the Big Ten but his 75 percent success ratio is near the bottom of the league standings. Purdue punter Brent Slaton averages 43 yards per kick, 4.6 more than Georgia's Gordon Ely-Kelso, but the Boilermakers don't cover the kicks well. Only two teams in the Big Ten have given up more punt return yardage than Purdue. The rest of the Boilermaker special teams ranks near the middle of the Big Ten rankings.


There are few clear advantages in this game because the teams are so similar. Both excel on defense and survive on offense. Purdue has been more consistent on offense, but the Bulldogs may have more big-play potential thanks to Fred Gibson. The best matchup, or at least most important, will the Boilermakers' pass rush vs. Georgia's pass protection. The matchup doesn't bode well for the Bulldogs, who haven't protected Greene all season. If Georgia can't throw the ball, it certainly won't be able to run against the nation's No. 10 rush defense. The Boilermakers' passing game will have to contend with Sean Jones and Thomas Davis, the best and probably hardest-hitting pair it has seen all season. Georgia 17, Purdue 7.

Key to the Game

Focus. Bowl games with little on the line like this one are often determined by which team comes to town ready to play and which has already seen its focus wander to next year. In two bowl games under Richt, Georgia has shown both tendencies. Last year, they were enthused by an SEC Championship and thumped Florida State 26-13. The year before, though, they played below their normal level and lost to Boston College. The Bulldogs have been on their best behavior on this trip, Richt said. "I think the guys have done a good job of working hard," he said. "I'm pleased with our approach so far."

Dawg Post Top Stories