The Bulldogs (8-3) are facing Boston College (7-4) for the fourth time. Georgia won the first two contests in 1950 and 1951, but the Eagles took the most recent meeting, posting a 27-24 victory in the 1986 Hall of Fame Bowl.
After inexplicably being denied a higher-echelon bowl berth, the No. 15 Bulldogs are on a mission to prove they deserved higher billing and will look to take out their spite on unranked Boston College. The Eagles finished tied for third in the Big East Conference with Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh. However, they haven't done well when stepping up in competition. Boston College beat only one team with a winning record (45-7 over Pittsburgh on Oct. 20), and their seven victories came against opponents that averaged only 3.3 wins this season.
The Eagles' claim to fame is playing top-ranked Miami close in an 18-7 loss to the Hurricanes at home on Nov. 10 without star running back William Green, the nation's second-leading rusher, who was suspended for the game.
Boston College has something to prove of its own--that it can beat a ranked team. The Eagles have suffered 25 consecutive losses against ranked teams. The Eagles' last victory against a ranked foe was in 1995, 20-14 over No. 20 Virginia Tech. Boston College's has a 0-14 record against ranked teams under fifth-year coach Tom O'Brien.
Georgia tied for third place in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division with South Carolina this season, one game behind division winner Tennessee. But the Bulldogs won their final three games -- including their first victory over Georgia Tech since 1997.
Georgia defeated four teams with winning records: Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia Tech and Mississippi.
The Bulldogs have great offensive balance and should handle whatever the Boston College defense gives them. Georgia will rely a lot on senior running back Verron Haynes, who has rushed for 521 yards and four touchdowns in his past three games. If pounding with Haynes doesn't move the chains, then quarterback David Greene, the SEC Freshman of The Year (2,789 yards, 17 TDs, 9 Ints), can work to receivers Terrence Edwards and Fred Gibson (six touchdowns apiece).
Boston College will try to confuse Greene with a variety of blitzes and multiple looks, and Georgia will use its running game to open up play-action passing. No doubt, the Eagles' offensive game plan will revolve around William Green (265 rushes, 1,559 yards and 15 TDs), and the Bulldogs have struggled this season against great running backs. Green may be the best one they faced. Therefore, it is imperative for the Bulldogs to contain him and try to force the Eagles to beat them through the air.
Boston College has neither an overpowering offensive line or a powerful passing attack. However, the Bulldogs must make up for the absence of all-star cornerback Tim Wansley, who broke his leg on a punt return in a 35-7 win against Houston on Dec. 1. Eagles' quarterback Brian St. Pierre has enough arm strength to test the Bulldogs' secondary.
Junior linebacker Tony Gilbert will lead the effort to stop Boston College's offense. Gilbert is one of only eight players since Georgia's SEC Championship year of 1976 who have led the Bulldogs in tackles in consecutive regular seasons. He had 96 tackles last season and 99 this year.
Georgia gets the edge in the kicking game. Strong-legged Billy Bennett made 17 of 25 field-goal attempts, and was more accurate from long range, hitting 7 of 10 from beyond 40 yards with a long kick of 55 yards. Punter Jonathan Kilgo averaged 43.8 yards.
Georgia set a school record this season by recording at least eight wins for the fifth consecutive year. Mark Richt posted the best mark for a first-year Georgia coach since Herman Stegemen compiled an 8-0-1 record in 1920.
The Bulldogs are making their 37th bowl appearance, which ranks sixth best nationally. They have an all-time bowl record of 19-14-3. Georgia will be participating in its 18th different bowl game, more than any other school.
The Eagles have an all-time bowl mark of 5-7. They are making their third straight bowl appearance and beat Arizona State, 31-17, in the Aloha Bowl last season.
Georgia ripped Virginia 37-14 in the 2000 Jeep O'ahu Bowl.
Georgia and Boston College will get $750,000 apiece for playing in the Music City Bowl.
PREDICTION-I think there will be a fairly high amount of scoring in this game. Which team controls the time of possession will likely prevail. If Georgia wins this statistical battle by a wide margin, it will mean the Bulldogs did a good job limiting William Green's effectiveness and didn't turn the ball over (much). Boston College may have the best running back, but Georgia has the better quarterback, special teams and overall talent. The Bulldogs should claim the SEC's first Music City Bowl victory. Georgia 34, Boston College 25.
Tim Gardner can be reached at tim@DawgPost.com.