ATHENS — The Cincinnati football team cannot wait to get in the ring and prove itself against SEC stalwart Georgia.
“We’re all guys I think that always have chips on our shoulders, (and) we want to go out there and fight,” Bearcats’ defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman said this week during a Zoom press conference.
“…. this isn’t a charity event for us. We’re not here to go out there and enjoy being at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. We’re here to go out and win a football game. We’re preparing. We have a whole bunch of guys with that mentality, are going to prepare their butts off the next two days, go out there on Friday and swing as hard as we can.”
The No. 9-ranked Bulldogs (7-2) are a touchdown favorite over the No. 8-ranked Bearcats, who enter today’s noon showdown at Mercedes-Benz Stadium intent to prove they belonged in the College Football Playoff.
“I feel like it would mean a lot to us if we were to beat Georgia,” Cincinnati All-American cornerback Ahmad Gardner said. “It would put us, like, on the map. You know what I’m saying? All around the country, all the recruiters and scouts and everything, they will know that we have, what it took to beat that team.”
Bearcats linebacker Joel Dublanko said he and his teammates are ready to get rough with the Bulldogs, who enter the game down eight players who have started games on account of injuries and opt-outs.
“The style of football that we pride ourselves on is tough and nasty,” Dublanko said. “We’ll play that brand against a team like Georgia.
“I know that the SEC is obviously known for being bigger. I think being able to play that brand of football, offensively, defensively, special teams-wise, then win that game, would mean a lot …. just putting us on the map.”
Gardner, who hails from Detroit’s Martin Luther King High School, agreed the Bearcats can measure up.
“The first thing is I believe we’re tougher than a lot of Power 5 teams all around the country,” Gardner said. “We work very hard.”
Georgia has had trouble against teams that have been able to get physical with them, particularly at the line of scrimmage in losses to Alabama and Florida, and a 14-3 win over Kentucky.
In Cincinnati, Coach Kirby Smart’s team will be facing perhaps the most inspired team it has lined up across from all season.
“Coach Fick talked to us yesterday, in the last hundred years we’ve only had two opportunities to play in games like this,” said safety Darrick Forrest, a battle-tested safety from Columbus, Ohio. “We have to make the best of our opportunities. I feel like everyone wants to make the best of this opportunity. There’s still things that are like in our back pocket.
“For sure we need to go out there and get this for our program, for our city, just for everybody.”
Georgia football Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
DC Marcus Freeman and safety Darrick Forrest