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College Football
Preview
Penn State vs Georgia
When: 12:00 PM ET, Saturday, January 2, 2016
Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida



TAXSLAYER BOWL STORYLINES

1. For the first time since 2000, Georgia will take the field without Mark Richt patrolling the sidelines when the Bulldogs face Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla. Interim head coach Bryan McClendon will direct the Bulldogs in the bowl game before Kirby Smart takes over at his alma mater, after Georgia fired Richt on Nov. 29. Preparations for the Bulldogs’ 19th consecutive bowl appearance have been different for a program accustomed to continuity, as most of the coaching staff is not expected to return for 2016.

2. The Nittany Lions have struggled offensively the past two seasons, ranking 106th and 114th in the nation in total offense and leading to the firing of offensive coordinator John Donovan. New coordinator Joe Moorhead will not take over until after the bowl game, leaving head coach James Franklin and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne to build the game plan against a Georgia defense ranked ninth in the country in points allowed per game (16.9). Penn State, which has lost three in a row, will rely on freshman running back Saquon Barkley (1,007 yards rushing, seven touchdowns) and junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg (2,386 yards passing, 16 touchdowns) to generate offense, but the offensive line must play better after allowing 39 sacks in 12 games.

3. Like Penn State, Georgia’s offense has struggled – in particular after Heisman hopeful running back Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury in early October. Junior quarterback Greyson Lambert (1,844 yards passing, 11 touchdowns) battled inconsistency, leading the Bulldogs to rely more on a running game now led by sophomore Sony Michel (1,076 yards rushing, seven touchdowns). The Nittany Lions, paced by defensive end and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Carl Nassib, lead the nation in sacks and are 14th in total defense (324.3 yards per game).

TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Georgia -6.5

ABOUT PENN STATE (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten): Barkley provides some promise at running back, averaging 6.4 yards per carry while averaging 100.7 yards per game, but Hackenberg’s NFL prospects suffered as he completed 53.3 percent of his passes, throwing as many interceptions (three) as touchdowns in the past three games. Nassib led the nation with 15½ sacks and tied for the national lead with 19½ tackles for loss, but the Nittany Lions allowed 35.3 points per game in their final three contests. Middle linebacker Jason Cabinda moved from outside linebacker after a season-ending injury to Nyeem Wartman-White in Week 1 and excelled, leading Penn State in tackles (92).

ABOUT GEORGIA (9-3, 5-3 SEC): Lambert will start in the Bulldogs’ second appearance in Jacksonville this season; he did not play in the first game, a 27-3 blowout loss to Florida that many believe sealed Richt’s fate. Michel has been impressive in picking up the rushing load for Chubb, but Georgia’s defense has anchored the Bulldogs’ better play down the stretch. Jake Ganus, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins combined for 220 tackles and 9½ sacks while forming one of the best linebacker corps in the nation, and the Bulldogs held opponents to 10 points per game in winning their final four games.



PREDICTION: Georgia 20, Penn State 16
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W‑L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf Conf
Penn State 7-5 L3 23.7 21.7 6-1 1-4 6-4 0-0 4-4
Georgia 9-3 W4 26.5 16.9 6-2 3-1 8-3 0-0 5-3
Last Meeting
Penn State Georgia
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
No previous meeting.
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Penn State N/A
Georgia N/A
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Penn State N/A
Georgia N/A
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Penn State N/A
Georgia N/A
Touchdowns Player TD
Penn State N/A
Georgia N/A
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Penn State C. Hackenberg 53.3 2386 16 5
Georgia G. Lambert 64.4 1844 11 2
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Penn State S. Barkley 165 1007 6.1 7
Georgia S. Michel 199 1076 5.4 7
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Penn State C. Godwin 63 968 15.4 5
Georgia M. Mitchell 53 751 14.2 4
Touchdowns Player TD
Penn State S. Barkley 8
Georgia S. Michel 10
Quickchart Matchup
Penn State Penn State Off vs  Georgia Georgia Def
Penn State 344 yards
Georgia 298 yards
Penn State 4.1 yards/rush
Georgia 4 yards/rush
Penn State 6.9 yards/attempt
Georgia 5.8 yards/attempt
Georgia Georgia Off vs  Penn State Penn State Def
Georgia 381.4 yards
Penn State 324.2 yards
Georgia 5.2 yards/rush
Penn State 3.8 yards/rush
Georgia 7.4 yards/attempt
Penn State 6 yards/attempt