NEW ORLEANS — That familiar and traditional University of Georgia “G” will adorn the helmets of the Bulldogs in prime time on ESPN’s Wednesday night programming.
Georgia football will be on display for all to see against a determined Baylor bunch that has been climbing in the college football world.
Coach Kirby Smart puts his program up against Coach Matt Rhule in a battle of 44-year-old up-and-comers reaching high into the ranks.
Smart is considered by many to be the most likely to replace Nick Saban atop the SEC, while Rhule is and has been courted by NFL teams for head coach opportunities.
The Sugar Bowl, at 8:45 p.m. on Wednesday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, is filled with storylines, some that will become more prominent than others depending on how the game goes.
Here are the three biggest Georgia storylines leading up to the game:
1. Bulldogs players missing
It’s hard to get around it, a lot of Georgia players are missing and most not by their own choice.
Two of the four players voted permanent team captains chose not to come and be around their UGA teammates one more time, Andrew Thomas (NFL training) and J.R. Reed (foot injury/NFL training).
But more alarming are the players that aren’t in New Orleans for academic-related issues or failed substance tests. It has put a dent in the Bulldogs’ two-deep, and it will have Smart and his staff working harder to identify and develop leaders.
Smart has opted not to address the absences this week.
2. Jake Fromm’s future
The Georgia quarterback is one of a handful of pivotal players still considering his future, and whether to go pro and stay in college for another year.
Fromm’s NFL draft stock might not be the highest, but will it be any higher next season? The Bulldogs dealt with great attrition and inexperience at the receiver position this season — will Fromm want to sign up for another season of that?
Perhaps. It’s worth noting Fromm expressed strong feelings for his school and his teammates on Sunday when asked about the importance of playing in bowl games.
Fromm’s return would put UGA in position to win the SEC East Division again next season. Without him, it’s not nearly as likely.
Other key juniors mulling their futures who could be playing their final game: Richard LeCounte, Solomon Kindley, Monty Rice, Eric Stokes and Malik Herring.
3. D’Andre Swift’s game status
Swift has been the bell cow of the Georgia offense all season, carrying the team to victories against stacked 8-man fronts.
Georgia has other talented running backs, but none are in Swift’s league yet. The Bulldogs are a different team to defend with Swift in the backfield.
Swift has an injured shoulder that limited him to just two carries in the SEC Championship, and it led to the team’s lowest rushing total of the season. Swift’s status is compounded with Brian Herrien being among the players missing in New Orleans.
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