ATHENS — Georgia football is marching toward the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, looking to cap off what would be a fourth consecutive Top 10 finish.
The No. 9-ranked Bulldogs (7-2) are a 7-point favorite over No. 8-ranked Cincinnati (9-0) in the noon kickoff at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.
Coach Kirby Smart confirmed prior reports on Saturday that All-American Eric Stokes and team captains Monty Rice and Ben Cleveland are among the Bulldogs who won’t play in the game.
But other seniors will play and be part of a 2017 signing class that’s trying to tie the school record for most wins by a class.
“I’m super proud of the guys that are (playing) and want to finish it off and are committed to Georgia,” Smart said. “And they are finishing it off the right way.”
Georgia and Cincinnati will hold several Zoom interview sessions on Monday and Tuesday, previewing what many anticipate will be one of the more intriguing bowl matchups of the postseason.
Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning will speak today, along with the following UGA players:
• LB Nakobe Dean
• CB Tyson Campbell
• DL Malik Herring
• DT Jordan Davis
The Bearcats aim to prove they belonged in the College Football Playoffs with their undefeated record, while the Bulldogs look to avoid anything resembling the infamous letdown of two years ago against Texas in the Sugar Bowl.
Smart said the words no coach ever wants to utter after that 28-21 loss to the Longhorns that night in New Orleans: “They played more physical than us, and it showed me that they wanted it more than we did.”
Smart said he hoped his team learned that “you better show up to play every game because the teams you’re playing at the end of the year are all capable of topping you.”
Many of the juniors and seniors that will take the field against Cincinnati were a part of that bowl trip, as well as a part of the group that showed it had learned its lesson by beating Baylor in last year’s Sugar Bowl.
Smart indicated last week the key to the game will be the players’ motivation.
“Coaches, it’s always important to us, it’s our livelihood,” Smart said. “But is it going to be important to the players? That’s the key ingredient.”
Here’s a look at some key notes entering what promises to be an interesting build-up to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl:
• Smart is 9-6 vs. Top 10 teams with No. 8 Cinnatti on deck and looks to break a two-game losing streak to Top 10 teams Alabama (41-24) and Florida(44-28).
• Cincinnati’s defense ranks in the nation’s top 15 in four categories: Interceptions (No. 2), pass efficiency (No. 2), scoring defense (No. 7) and total defense (No. 10).
• Georgia will be starting its fourth different offensive line combination with Cleveland not starting at right guard.
• Cincinnati All-American CB Ahmad Gardner is tied for second in AAC with 9 passes defended and tied for fourth with three interceptions
• Georgia is averaging 12.3 explosive plays (runs of 12+, completions of 16+) in the three games JT Daniels has played at QB. The Bulldogs averaged 7.8 per game the first six games.
• Cincinnati has forced a turnover in 19 straight games, the longest active streak in the NCAA
• Georgia is playing in its 24th consecutive bowl game, the longest active streak in the NCAA
Georgia football Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl