Good day, UGA. Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. In today’s edition, we begin looking ahead to Georgia’s Liberty Bowl matchup against TCU. We’re going to Memphis, y’all!
Don’t sleep on TCU
The speculation is over. Georgia is headed to Memphis to play TCU in the Liberty Bowl at noon on Dec. 30. Although this isn’t going to be a bowl that gets much attention nationally, UGA and TCU seem to be fairly evenly matched, and it should be a good game.
This edition of the Horned Frogs obviously isn’t as good as the 2014 and 2015 teams, which won 12 and 11 games, including a two bowls, respectively. But it’s safe to say TCU is a bit better than its 6-6 record implies. TCU finished fifth in the Big 12, with losses to each of the four teams that finished above it: Oklahoma, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Of the Frogs’ other two losses, one came in double overtime to Arkansas and the other was a three-point loss to Texas Tech. The Texas Tech loss is by far the worst of the season, but even that has its silver lining. The Frogs held Tech – the No. 2 scoring offense in the country, averaging 45 points per game – to just 27 points.
But don’t think that just because this TCU team is a few steps down from its predecessors that it will be a pushover. Gary Patterson is one of the best coaches in college football. (Later in the week, I’ll have more on him, his coaching philosophy and why I would have loved to have seen him hired by Georgia.) When his program is down, it’s only down for a small period of time. This season looks similar to the 2012 and 2013 Frogs, who won seven and four games apiece after Andy Dalton helped lead TCU to four consecutive 10-win seasons. Those teams lost a lot of talent and it took a bit to reload.
The same thing is happening now in the wake of Trevone Boykin’s departure last season. The Frogs have 14 seniors and 34 freshmen. TCU is reloading. By next year or the year after that, TCU will be back to delivering 10 wins and competing for the Big 12 title. Good news for Georgia that it’s playing the current, crappier version of TCU, right? Maybe, but maybe not. Bowls games are generally when you see young teams start to turn the corner. They get a month of bowl practice and coaches shift their focus away from upperclassmen and toward underclassmen. TCU has all kinds of potential, and it could start showing it in the Liberty Bowl.
Normally on Mondays I recount Georgia’s best players from the preceding Saturday. But since there was no game over the weekend, I figured I’d tweak this section a little. Instead of the five best Georgia players this week, I’m going to run down the five best TCU players this season:
- Travin Howard, ILB — Howard is built similarly to Roquan Smith. He’s smaller than most linebackers but makes up for that with the quickness to go from sideline to sideline and sniff out runs and shorts passes. In 2015, Howard converted to linebacker from safety and responded by leading TCU in tackles that year. In his second season at the position, he repeated the feat, leading the Frogs with 125 tackles, 70 solo during this campaign. Any time you see a UGA ballcarrier tackled, expect Howard to be nearby.
- Kyle Hicks, RB — Aside from quarterback Kenny Hill, no other player has been more important to TCU’s offense than Hicks. The tailback leads the team with 954 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. But what makes Hicks stand out are his contributions to the aerial game in TCU’s pass-heavy offense. With 42 receptions — which went for 396 yards and 2 touchdowns — Hicks is Hill’s top target this season. Shutting him down will go a long way toward stopping TCU’s offense. Of course, that’s much easier said than done. Just look at what he can do:
- Josh Carraway, DE — Carraway is best known for his performance against Baylor in the de facto 2015 Big 12 Championship Game. In that outing, Carraway scooped a fumble and returned it 56 yards for the score, helping TCU snag the win. The senior has led the Frogs in sacks this season with 8 to his name so far. With how porous UGA’s offensive line has been this season, he could add another one or two to his tally before his TCU career is over.
— TCU Football (@TCUFootball) August 30, 2016
- Nick Orr, S — Orr is a really good all-around safety. He ranks third on the team in total tackles with 84 this season and also leads the Frogs with 4 interceptions. Whenever Georgia decides to throw the ball deep against TCU, Jacob Eason needs to look out for Orr or the ball could be headed in the other direction.
- Kenny Hill, QB — You most likely know Hill best for brief stint as Johnny Manziel 2.0 at Texas A&M in 2014. But after he was eventually beaten out for the starting gig, he transferred to TCU, where he’s had a solid season. He has more than 3,000 yards passing and 15 touchdowns to go with 537 rushing yards and 9 scores. His biggest flaw is that he’s interception prone, throwing 13 this season.
- Honorable mention: KaVontae Turpin – He isn’t one of the five best TCU players on a game-to-game basis, but he can be the most dangerous player on the field on any given touch. Turpin racked up 126 receiving yards against Arkansas and also has an 81-yard punt return for touchdown this season.
Same story, different year for Georgia hoops
Georgia basketball lost to likely tournament team Marquette, 89-79, Sunday afternoon in Athens. The loss will feel familiar to anyone who has followed Georgia basketball the last few seasons. UGA always seems to lose against good out-of-conference opponents, the exact kind of games you must win to qualify for the NCAA Tournament out of a weak SEC.
So far this season, Georgia has played three teams that seem tournament-bound and have lost all three. Now, one of those was against Kansas, which UGA never had a good shot to win, but Clemson and Marquette were both winnable games that Georgia should have produced better results. Those losses are a bad sign by themselves, but the fact that the Bulldogs haven’t even had a chance to fight for a win in the final minutes doesn’t bode well either. Georgia kept the Clemson, Marquette and Kansas (to an extent) games close for stretches, but they were all able to pull away and win by good margins.
Once the new year rolls around and Georgia begins its SEC slate, I expect Georgia to improve and finish the season with around 20 wins, just as it has done the last few years. But without a couple resume-boosting out-of-conference wins to hang their hat on, the Bulldogs will need a spectacular SEC run to qualify for the tournament. And if Georgia is a bubble team once again and just misses making the field, the loss on Sunday and the others like it will be a big reason why.
— DawgNation (@DawgNation) December 4, 2016
- Kirby Smart discusses TCU, and Georgia’s bowl practice schedule (Seth Emerson, Dawg Nation)
- What to expect from the Liberty Bowl (David Ching and Mitch Sherman, ESPN)
- How Kirby Smart voted in the coaches top 25 poll (Seth Emerson, Dawg Nation)
- UGA targeting junior college prospects to add to highlyranked recruiting class (Marc Weiszer, Athens Banner-Herald)
- Three stats that tell the story of the 2016 season (Kyle Funderburk, Fansided)
- What we learned: Marquette (Brandon Sudge, UGA Sports)
Shout out to this bulldog, out here living its best life.
"My parents took my dog on vacation for the first time and it's literally like they have a new child" pic.twitter.com/WgSB91h4f0
— Baby Animals (@BBAnimals) December 3, 2016