Georgia Bulldogs: Should they be favorite over Penn State?


The Georgia Bulldogs are a 7-point favorite over the Penn State Nittany Lions in the TaxSlayer Bowl on January 2nd. Should UGA be giving Penn State that many points?

The 9-3 Georgia Bulldogs will face the 7-5 Penn State Nittany Lions down in Jacksonville in the TaxSlayer Bowl on January 2nd. With the college football bowl season underway as of today, is the spread giving Penn State too many points? Is Georgia really a 7-point favorite?

One of the key parts to understand who will win their holiday bowl is what team wants to actually be there. In some cases it is more obvious, but with all the upheaval surrounding the Georgia Bulldogs football program the last month, are we sure that interim head coach Bryan McClendon will have the Dawgs inspired to take down Penn State in our holiday bowl game?

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UGA may boast a 9-3 record in 2015 with a strong possibility of getting to 10 wins in back-to-back seasons, but I have to admit that I’d feel more confident about the game with Penn State if the Dawgs didn’t have interims as the head coach and at both coordinator positions.

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With the dismissal of former head coach Mark Richt, now with the Miami Hurricanes, wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon will serve as the interim head coach. Tight ends coach John Lilly will assume the offensive coordinator role for the second straight season, as former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer abruptly left the program after Richt’s firing. Outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer will take over for former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who went back to his alma mater to become the next defensive coordinator at Alabama.

It seems like Las Vegas is putting too much stock in regular season records. UGA may have the better of the two when compared to Penn State, but how would Georgia have fared in the Big Ten East this year? Penn State had to play Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State. UGA lost to Tennessee and Florida in the SEC East.

While I do respect Penn State’s James Franklin as a good head coach and quarterback Christian Hackenberg as a passer, I wonder if McClendon and his interim staff will get the Dawgs inspired enough to combat Franklin’s charismatic leadership style. Franklin while at Vanderbilt got his team fired up to play in otherwise meaningless bowl games, as the Commodores rarely made it to a holiday season bowl. After a two-year bowl ban in 2012-13, bowls aren’t taken for granted with the Nittany Lions anymore.

Though Penn State will have not have their offensive coordinator in this bowl game, UGA may not show up for this game as the team is so focused on next year. Not giving Franklin your undivided attention has already proven costly to the Georgia Bulldogs before. Remember the Ramik Wilson Targeting Game in Nashville in 2013. UGA sleepwalked to a rare SEC East lost to Vanderbilt that season.

With an interim staff, look for the Dawgs to favor conservative play calling in the bowl game. Sure, we will see quarterback Greyson Lambert throw to the tight ends more with John Lilly calling the offensive plays, but don’t expect Kevin Sherrer to use corner or safety blitzes when designing defensive schemes. He’ll use his outside linebackers in the 3-4 to establish pressure on Hackenberg and little more.

While I realize that point spreads in college football tend to favor larger ranges than they do in the NFL, with an offense that has struggled so much this season and so many pieces leaving on the coaching staff, I just don’t see how the Georgia Bulldogs should stand as a touchdown favorite in a neutral-site bowl game.

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Bowl games, though the final score may prove otherwise, often are between two comparable teams. Could the Georgia Bulldogs get to 10 wins again this season? Sure, but I’d feel more confident about the Dawgs beating Penn State by either a field goal or four points rather than by a touchdown. This spread has been around seven to 6.5 points since the bowl game’s initial scheduling, so don’t expect the spread to change all that much, if at all, in the next two weeks. Go Dawgs!