Liberty Bowl preview: Can Dogs avoid first losing season in 14 years?
Please join the conversation on Jeff Schultz’s live blog during the game.
Previewing Georgia vs. Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl (3:30 p.m. Friday on ESPN):
- 1. Winning season or losing season? Georgia enters the game with a 6-6 record. A victory would keep give the Bulldogs their 14th consecutive winning season, albeit barely. A loss would give the Bulldogs their first losing season since a 5-6 record in 1996, Jim Donnan’s first season as coach.
- 2. A program-building game? Central Florida has made substantial strides in seven seasons under coach George O’Leary, winning two Conference USA championships and becoming nationally ranked for the first time (No. 24 in the latest coaches’ poll). A nationally televised bowl win over an SEC opponent would be a significant next step in the growth of the UCF program.
- 3. Battle of the freshman quarterbacks. UCF’s Jeff Godfrey and UGA’s Aaron Murray are the nation’s top two freshmen quarterbacks in pass efficiency rating. Godfrey, a true freshman, ranks No. 8 overall with a 165.28 rating and Murray, a redshirt freshman, No. 9 with a 162.72 rating. The 5-foot-11, 182-pound Godfrey is a dual-threat quarterback who has passed for 2,042 yards and 13 touchdowns and run for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns. Godfrey has completed 68 percent of his passes, Murray 62 percent of his.
A Georgia win would …
- Extend the Bulldogs’ bowl winning streak to five games.
- Give the Dogs a 6-2 finish to this season after a 1-4 start.
- Be the Dogs’ first victory this season over a ranked opponent.
A Central Florida win would …
- Be UCF’s first-ever victory in a bowl game after losses to Nevada in the 2005 Hawaii Bowl, Mississippi State in the 2007 Liberty Bowl and Rutgers in the 2009 St. Petersburg Bowl.
- Set a school record for victories in a season by the Knights, who are 10-3 entering the bowl.
- Be the Knights’ ninth win in 10 games since a 2-2 start this season.
Keep an eye on …
- For Georgia: Murray could break records held by Matthew Stafford, D.J. Shockley and Mike Bobo. Two touchdown passes would break Stafford’s UGA single-season record of 25, set in 2008. One touchdown pass or run would surpass Shockley for most total TDs accounted for in a UGA season, Murray already having matched Shockley’s 28 (24 passing, four running) in 2005. And Murray could clinch the UGA single-season record for pass-efficiency rating, bettering Bobo’s mark of 155.8 in 1997.
- For Central Florida: Bruce Miller was an all-county and all-region player at Woodstock High School, but he had no major-college scholarship offers until UCF discovered him. He has grown into the star of the UCF defense. The senior defensive end is the NCAA leader among active players in career sacks with 34. Two sacks on Friday would tie Miller with former Georgia star David Pollack for third place on the NCAA career sack list (since 2000, when the NCAA began keeping the stat).
The numbers game
- 26-16-3: Georgia’s all-time record in bowl games. (The Bulldogs rank fourth nationally in bowl victories and are tied for fifth in bowl appearances.)
- 1-1: Georgia’s record in the Liberty Bowl, losing to Jim Donnan-quarterbacked N.C. State 14-7 in 1967 and beating Arkansas 20-17 in 1987 on freshman John Kasay’s 39-yard field goal on the game’s final play.
- Previous meeting: Georgia escaped with a 24-23 victory at Sanford Stadium on Sept. 25, 1999, in the only previous football game between UGA and UCF. The Knights missed an extra point after scoring a touchdown with 5:21 to play but threatened to win the game on their final possession by driving to the Georgia 20-yard line. Two penalties and a sack pushed the Knights out of field-goal range, and a Jamie Henderson interception ended the game.
- Georgia is a 6 ½-point favorite.