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JT Daniels among the players with the most to gain in Peach Bowl matchup against Cincinnati
The Georgia starting quarterback has proven that he can play well against less than stellar defenses. He lit up the likes of Mississippi State, Missouri and South Carolina in Georgia’s final three games of the 2020 season. He’s a big reason why there is a lot of optimism for Georgia in 2021
But none of those defenses would qualify as elite. In terms of yards per play allowed, the best of those defenses is Mississippi State which is tied for 49th in the country in that category.
The Cincinnati Bearcats rank first in that mark. Luke Fickell’s defense gives up 4.32 yards per play, better than Clemson, Georgia and Alabama.
This will be the best defense Daniels has faced to this point in his Georgia career. While Cincinnati hasn’t faced an opposing team with as much natural talent as Georgia’s they’ve seen capable offenses against Central Florida and Memphis this season. Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman is also a candidate for the opening at LSU, which should tell you how well thought of he is.
Kirby Smart spoke about how the bowl game might provide a false sense of momentum going into next season. A good or bad performance won’t likely have much bearing on how Daniels actually performs going into next season.
“They’re going to talk about the next season, it’s going to be gloom or doom,” Smart said. “It’s going to be way up there if you win and way down there if you lose, and the truth, as they always says, resides somewhere in the middle. That’s not necessarily going to change for us.”
A strong showing though from Daniels will go a long way in shaping the offseason narrative around the Georgia program. So far, Daniels has done everything that has been asked of him to this point. Cincinnati though figures to be his most difficult task to date.
Georgia made it a point to get Washington involved in the game against Missouri. He posted a career-best day, catching two passes for 61 yards and drawing a pass interference penalty on another passing attempt. Though he’s been rarely targeted this season, when he comes down with the catch it’s usually for a big gain as he’s averaging 30.0 yards per catch this season.
There is also still the looming prospect of LSU tight end Arik Gilbert still potentially entering the transfer market, so Georgia could be further motivated to showcase what tight ends can do in this offense.
It’s not so much a question of whether or not Ericson plays but rather at which position. Starting center Trey Hill will play in the game as he is still recovering from two knee surgeries. Starting right guard Ben Cleveland will also not play in the game as he has opted out.
Ericson started at center for Georgia against Missouri and he actually filled in at right guard last year for Cleveland in the Sugar Bowl. In between those starts, he’s served as the sixth offensive lineman for Georgia, filling in wherever he needs to.
This game will be an audition for Ericson for the 2021 season to see what he could possibly do in an expanded role. Georgia is set to see left guard Justin Shaffer also graduate, though it is possible he could still come back.