ATHENS — Georgia is headed back to the Liberty Bowl, to face an opponent it hasn’t seen in a long time. Especially in a bowl.
Georgia and TCU will play in Memphis on Dec. 30 at noon, it was announced on Sunday afternoon, confirming many earlier reports.
This game will match two teams that began the season ranked but didn’t finish that way: TCU (6-6) was No. 13 in the preseason AP poll while Georgia (7-5) was No. 18.
“Being his first year, probably just some growing pains,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said of Kirby Smart and Georgia. “For us, it used to be 6-6 might’ve been exciting but we believe in winning championships, just like the University of Georgia does. That’s what Kirby’s trying to get to now, that’s why the University of Georgia brought him back.”
This will be the first meeting between the two schools in 28 years, the fourth overall, and the second in a bowl: Georgia beat TCU in the Orange Bowl in 1941. That was also Georgia’s first-ever bowl appearance. The teams also met in 1980 and 1988, both games in Athens, both Georgia blowout victories.
On paper, this match-up is good-on-good when TCU has the ball, and not so much when Georgia does.
The Horned Frogs rank 23rd nationally in total offense, while the Bulldogs have the nation’s 16th-ranked defense.
When the Bulldogs have the ball, it’s the nation’s 89th-ranked offense against TCU’s 74th ranked defense.
Patterson, speaking on a teleconference after the bowl announcement, summed up the state of his team this way:
“Blocked field goals, missed field goals, a couple overtimes have been (the downfall) for our football team. So for us, to get a chance in December here to regroup, and get a little healthier, and find out where we’re at as a team, and get some of our offensive weapons back, I think we’re pretty excited about that. Especially knowing we’re going to play a pretty good football team in Georgia.”
Georgia might be going against a former SEC quarterback: Kenny Hill began his career at Texas A&M, the heir apparent to Johnny Manziel, but struggled and transferred. This year Hill started every game, ranking fifth in the Big 12 with 255.2 passing yards per game, but also led the league with 13 interceptions.
Hill was nicked up for the regular season finale against Kansas State, so Foster Sawyer started, but Hill entered during the second half.
TCU running back Kyle Hicks has 954 rushing yards and is second in the Big 12 with 12 rushing touchdowns.
“The opportunity to play an outstanding team in TCU is an exciting challenge for our coaches and players,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said in a statement. “This will be my first trip to the game as a player or coach but the Liberty Bowl has a long history of providing a quality bowl experience that I’m sure our players and fans will enjoy. We will face a quality Big 12 opponent in TCU and I’m sure Coach (Gary) Patterson will have them at their best on December 30. We are anxious to begin practice and preparations for the trip to Memphis.”