It’s official. Georgia will play in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31.
What became apparent eight days ago became official late this afternoon, when the Liberty Bowl formally announced that Georgia will play in the New Year’s Eve game in Memphis. The opponent will be Central Florida, coached by former Georgia Tech coach George O’Leary.
The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and be televised by ESPN.
Georgia’s invitation to the Liberty had been expected since the Bulldogs clinched bowl eligibility by beating Georgia Tech on Nov. 27. In an interview about an hour after that game, Liberty Bowl executive director Steve Ehrhart made it pretty clear his bowl intended to invite the Bulldogs (6-6).
The only thing that could have derailed the Dogs’ invitation might have been if the SEC had not put two teams in BCS bowls.
Central Florida clinched its berth in the Liberty Bowl on Saturday by beating SMU 17-7 in the Conference USA championship game. The Knights are 10-3 and ranked No. 24 in this week’s coaches poll.
The Liberty Bowl will feature two dynamic young quarterbacks: Central Florida freshman Jeff Godfrey and Georgia redshirt freshman Aaron Murray. They rank Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the nation in passing efficiency among freshmen this season — Godfrey at 165.28 and Murray at 162.72. Murray has passed for 2,851 yards and 24 touchdowns, Godfrey for 2,042 and 13 touchdowns. Godfrey also has 546 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.
Georgia is in a bowl game for the 14th consecutive season.
This will be the Bulldogs’ third trip to the Liberty Bowl and their first in 23 years. The Dogs lost to N.C. State 14-7 in the 1967 game and defeated Arkansas 20-17 in the 1987 game on John Kasay’s 39-yard final-play-of-the-game field goal.
While head coach at Georgia Tech from 1995-2001, O’Leary faced Georgia seven times, posting a 3-4 record vs. the Bulldogs. His Tech teams won three in a row against Georgia from 1998-2000. In the only meeting of an O’Leary-coached Tech team vs. a Mark Richt-coached Georgia team, the Bulldogs won 31-17 in 2001.
Check back to AJC.com for a full report on the local and national bowl picture later tonight.