ATHENS — Georgia football opened as an 8-point favorite over Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, but the line quickly dropped and settled at 6.5-points, indicating the early money is going on UC.
The No. 9-ranked Bulldogs (7-2) bring the longest active streak of bowl appearances (24) into the noon kickoff on Friday, Jan. 1 against the No. 8-ranked Bearcats (9-0) in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Group of Five teams are 2-0 versus Power 5 teams in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, with UCF beating Auburn 34-27 three seasons ago, and Houston knocking off Florida State 38-24 in the 2015 game.
The prevailing thought is the underdog Group of 5 teams have something to prove when they play the bigger teams, like Georgia, who have players opting out of the bowl game.
Coach Kirby Smart has now led Georgia to four consecutive New Year’s Six Bowl games, and the program is going for what would be its fourth-straight Top 10 finish.
The Bulldogs’ outgoing seniors — those who aren’t opting out to prepare for the NFL — have a chance to tie the school record for most wins by a class (44, 2005 and 2019).
“I think it’s important for them that they finish off with a really good bowl game and a chance to finish Top 10, maybe higher,” Smart said. “A chance to tie or break the winning record of any senior class to play at Georgia. There’s a lot there left to play for. The large portion of our team is still going to be back for the following year. They’re working on becoming better at what they do.”
Cincinnati is one of two programs to finish in the top 20 in scoring offense, total offense and total defense this season.
Coach Luke Fickell, who previously served as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator, is 31-5 over the past three seasons.
The Bearcats lobbied for consideration to get into the College Football Playoff.
“Coach Fickell has done a remarkable job with two 11-win seasons the last two years and a perfect season this year,” said Smart, who is 9-5 against Top 10 teams.
“The hardest thing to judge this year is nobody really played across conference.”
The SEC played league-only games, so transitive properties are out the window.
Georgia will reportedly have 8 players opt out of the bowl game: senior team captains Monty Rice, Richard LeCounte and Ben Cleveland, along with Eric Stokes, DJ Daniel, Tre’ McKitty, Jermaine Johnson and Mark Webb.
Smart said he’s not yet certain who will and won’t play in the game.
“The guys that are out there are the ones we will coach and get ready to play,” Smart said.
Smart said the Georgia players would have a couple of practices in Athens before being given three or four days off during the Christmas break and then returning to a typical game week leading up to the Jan. 1 game.
SEC bowl games
South Carolina vs. UAB (-3.5), Gasparilla Bowl, Noon, Dec. 26
Florida (-3) vs. Oklahoma, Cotton Bowl, 7:15 p.m., Dec. 30
Missouri vs. Iowa (-14), Music City, 3:30 p.m., Dec. 30
Mississippi State vs. Tulsa (-1.5), Armed Forces Bowl, Noon, Dec. 31
Tennessee vs. West Virginia (-4), Liberty Bowl, 4 p.m., Dec. 31
Arkansas vs. TCU(-5), Texas Bowl, 8 p.m., Dec. 31
Auburn vs. Northwestern (-3.5), Citrus Bowl, 1 p.m., Jan. 1
Georgia (-6.5) vs Cincinnati, Peach Bowl, 12:30 p.m., Jan. 1
Alabama (-20) vs. Notre Dame, Rose Bowl, 5 p.m., Jan. 1
Kentucky (-3) vs. NC State, Gator Bowl, Noon, Jan. 2
Ole Miss vs. Indiana (-7.5), Outback Bowl, 12:30 p.m., Jan. 2
Texas A&M (-6) vs. North Carolina, Orange Bowl, 8 p.m., Jan. 2
Georgia football Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl