The City of Atlanta will be the center of attention Friday for the annual Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. The Cincinnati Bearcats, champions of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) will face the Georgia Bulldogs of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). For some people, they will say this is a lightweight vs. heavyweight matchup because of the Bearcats being from the AAC and being outmatched against a Georgia squad that appears bigger and more physical, at first glance.
Homefield advantage is a big thing as well. Georgia’s campus is 90 minutes away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium while the Bearcats are almost 7 hours away. Many expect a big turnout from Bulldogs fans because of the convenience of location even with limited fan attendance.
All of these things may favor Georgia; however, that’s why they play the game. Players will have to make plays. Coaches will have to coach and put players in position to make plays. In the end, one team will be victorious and will outscore the other.
Here are key players for both teams to be successful:
This is a no brainer and an obvious player that has to have a great day. Ridder is the leader of the Bearcats offense and is a dual threat. He is a great and explosive runner and can give defense a lot of problems when the Bearcats offense is hot. He is balanced and the numbers prove it, throwing for 17 touchdowns and rushing for 12. If the Bearcats are victorious in this game, one of the main reasons will be because of Ridder.
Doaks is the complement to Ridder and a crucial part in this offense. The main runningback and leading rusher on the Bearcats with 673 yards in nine games has been tremendous this season. Although he has only seven touchdowns on the season, his success makes others better.
Ridder will need a receiver to go to when put in third and long situations. Whyle is a reliable target and leads the team in receiving yards with 318 yards. The numbers is not appealing as you would think but the key to the Bearcats offense is being able to keep the Bulldogs off-balance and pass when needed. In a game like this, you will need your receivers to step up and I believe Whyle is one of them that can.
Jackson is the second leading receiver on the Bearcats behind Whyle with 309 yards. He is also another receiver that can step up for the Bearcats. He can add more touchdowns to his season total in this game if he can beat the defensive backs of the Bulldogs.
Coby Bryant and Ahmad Gardner
I mentioned these two cornerbacks together because they will have the tough assignments of covering and containing Georgia receivers in George Pickens, Kearis Jackson, and Jermaine Burton. Both are known corners that are embracing the challenge of facing receivers of this magnitude. Gardner and Bryant have three picks on the year. This is one of the key matchups in the game because their play will dictate how the Bulldogs will call plays. If they have great performances, the Bearcats could come up with an upset.
White is arguably the best linebacker on the Bearcats defense and can have a big impact in the run defense. He has 74 tackles on the year and two interceptions. The Bulldogs are going to test the strength of the Bearcats in the trenches and White is one that can make plays.
Daniels is the man for the Bulldogs since taking over the starting position against Mississippi State. The offense has been hot in their last three games averaging 41.6 points a game and that is due in large part to Daniels. If he continues his play, Georgia’s offense will continue to thrive and have a huge day. Daniels has thrown for nine touchdowns on the year and has thrown for at least two in the three games he has played. If he has trouble against the Bearcats defense, it will be challenging for the Bulldogs’ offense to be successful.
Running backs: Kendall Milton, Kenny McIntosh and Daijun Edwards
Zamir White is the leading tailback with 740 yards and 10 touchdowns this season and I believe he will be great in this game. Running back James Cook will not play today due to the death of his father, this will open up more opportunities for Milton and McIntosh.
Milton can be another power back that wears down the Bearcats with his power attack. Although he has yet to score a touchdown on the season, if given more opportunities, the Bulldogs can lean on him more.
McIntosh provides well-needed speed out of the backfield for the Bulldogs. A combination of him and White will keep a nice balance in the running game.
Edwards is a running back that hasn’t had many opportunities like Milton but can be the guy in this game. He is proven to be a reliable receiver out of the backfield, something Cook also is.
Eric Stokes Jr. opting out is a huge loss for the Bulldogs’ offense. Although it is a loss, that means that Campbell will have to step up his play. Campbell has four pass deflections and one interception on the season to go along with 26 total tackles (17 solo) on the season. This is a huge opportunity for Campbell to prove why some believe he is one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC and a highly touted NFL draft pick.
Defense: Malik Herring and Jordan Davis
These are two defensive linemen that decided to play in this bowl game to send the seniors out the right way. Herring is a guy that can easily create havoc on the Bearcats quarterback and offense on the edge at times. He is one of the seniors playing in this game that wants to show what he has to bring.
Davis is a huge bonus for the Bulldogs defense in this game as he will be able to stop the run as the Bulldogs defense was created to do. The junior defensive lineman is known for stuffing running holes and limiting an opposing team’s rushing attack. In this game, he will have an impact on what the Bearcats try to do which is run the football.
Prediction: Georgia 41, Cincinnati 28
Verdict: I believe this is a game where many are counting out the Bearcats. I think their offense is one of the best in the country and will be able to put up points. The Bulldogs offense is just too hot right now and they are the bigger and more physical team. The rushing attack of the Bulldogs will pay dividends in the end and will help Daniels settle in and keep him out of harm’s way. I expect White, Burton, and Pickens to have a big game and be the deciding factor in the end. Georgia will score late to get to 41.